psalm 132… a prayer for the king

Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor,
all the hardships he endured,
2 how he swore to the LORD
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
3 “I will not enter my house
or get into my bed,
4 I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
5 until I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
7 “Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool!”
8 Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your saints shout for joy.
10 For the sake of your servant David,
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and my testimonies that I shall teach them,
their sons also forever
shall sit on your throne.”
13 For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
14 “This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
18 His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.”
When Brothers Dwell in U

What do you do if you know someone in difficulties? Well, one thing you will do is pray for them. What if he is a king? What if he is the Davidic king? Psalm 132 is a prayer for a Davidic king who is possibly in trouble… ‘do not turn away the face of your anointed one‘ (v1, 10). It is the last of the ‘songs of ascent‘ and so one of a number of psalms probably on the lips of pilgrims as they made their way up to the religious festivals in Jerusalem.

Had you asked any of the pilgrims where God resided they may well have replied that heaven was his dwelling place. He was enthroned in heaven (Ps 2) and earth was his footstool (Isa 66:1). He filled both and both were the domain of his rule. However, immediately they would add… yet in great grace he has chosen the temple at Jerusalem as his earthly home (v13). It is from Jerusalem his rule reaches out into all the earth. (Ps 9:11).

The Psalm is a royal psalm. Its subject is not only Jerusalem where God chose to dwell but the royal house of David which God chose to bless. It is a prayer that the Lord will look with favour upon the David tat he will not reject, the Davidic king designated as his ‘anointed one’ (vv1,10). Perhaps the king is in trouble or the psalm may be simply praying that the king will prosper (Ps 84:9). Similar words are petitioned by Solomon (2 Chron 6:41,42). Yet some Davidic kings were rejected. Indeed while every Davidic king was God’s anointed, the title ‘anointed one’ points ultimately to Messiah and the blessings promised are realised in him – but not before he knows divine rejection. So close is his identification with them that he not only vicariously bears his people’s sins, he experiences their history. And so, while the psalm no doubt had an initial context and a liturgical relevance yet, as with other psalms, whatever the initial context, the trajectory is messianic.

The Psalm divides into two parts, each expressing a reason why the Lord should come to the aid of the Davidic King. The first is David, his forefather’s, devotion to the Lord (vv1-10) and the second is the Lord’s devotion to David (v11-18). There are close parallels between each section. The first is David swears to the Lord (v2) and the Lord swears to David (v11). Other parallels are obvious when read.

Vv1-10. David’s oath to the Lord.

The writer recalls David’s oath-based commitment to build a house for the Lord (vv3-5). David has his own house, his palace, but the Lord and the footstool of his throne, the ark, have no significant house. This troubles David. The ark had been the symbol of God’s presence in power in the journey from Sinai to Canaan. The Lord had been a warrior for his people – the ‘Mighty One of Jacob’ (v5, Gen 49:24). The ark was the footstool of his throne a visible emblem of his prowess and rule (v8, 78:61). It went before the people each time they moved camp and sometimes led them into battle. Forty times it arose (v8) and forty times it came to rest (Nu 10:35,36; 33). Now the Lord and the ark are called to arise once more and journey to their rest in Jerusalem (v8). We should remember that when the Lord and the ark rest the people rest (2 Sam 7:1).

It is a critical point in Israel’s history. Her relationship with the Lord had not been good. Initially the ark had been at Shiloh the centre of worship (1 Sam 4:3). But corruption in the priesthood in the era of Eli led to the ark being captured by the Philistines (1 Sam 4:3). The glory had departed (1 Sam 4-19-22). When the ark was returned it traveled from place to place and was neglected during the reign of Saul (1 Chron 13:3). But by God’s grace things have changed. David, a man after God’s own heart, jealous for God’s glory, is anointed king. The Lord is with David and he wins battles. One strategic battle he won was taking Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a Jebusite fortress the last significant obstacle to conquering the land. It was believed to be impregnable yet David captured it and made it his royal city. David recognises that his success in battle was from the Lord (2 Sam 15:6-10). Consequently Jerusalem was David’s city for only a short time before he determined to bring to it the ark of the Lord. It was a significant act. It signalled a new beginning, a new era.

Jerusalem, not Shiloh, will be the new political and religious centre of Israel. The Lord will have his place at the very centre of national life (Cf. Ex 25:8,9). He must have his throne in their midst. And so amid great celebration the ark is brought to Jerusalem and placed in a tent on what would become the Temple Mount. The Lord is enthroned in Zion (Ps 9:11). Zion is not simply the royal city it is the holy city.

However, David is not content to leave the Lord in a tent he wants to build him a house, a temple. He feels the incongruity that he lives in a solid palace but the Lord lives in a flimsy tent (2 Sam 7:2). The Lord, jealously guarding his sovereignty, refuses him permission (2 Sam 7). Furthermore David was a man of war and an established temple (where God rests) belonged to a time of rest (2 Chron 22:1-18). David does not take umbrage,, as some might, instead he gives himself to the arduous task of collecting materials necessary for the temple’s future construction.

David’s loyalty to the Lord is evident. Initially he goes to great pains to bring the ark to Jerusalem and later devotes himself unsparingly to collecting materials for the future temple. David’s devotion to the Lord cost him considerably (1 Chron 22:14). It is to this sacrificial devotion the psalmist first appeals as he petitions the Lord to help David’s son (v1, 10). It was an appropriate plea since the Lord often treated Davidic kings more leniently than they deserved ‘for the sake of my servant David‘. Even when judgement became unavoidable, judgement will not be his last word ( 1 Kgs 11:11-40, 2 Kgs 8:16-24). And so the psalmist asks that the Davidic king will not be rejected (v10) knowing it is a prayer in tune with God’s own heart.

Vv11-18. The Lord’s oath to David

If the first half focuses on David and the ark the second half focuses on his descendants and the city. If David was loyal to the Lord then the Lord would exceed him in loyalty. He is no man’s debtor (Mk 10:30). If David expressed his devotion to the Lord in his desire to build him a house then the Lord expresses his commitment to David by promising that David’s house will be an everlasting dynasty ( v12; 2 Sam 7). Like David he underwrites his promise with an oath though unlike human oaths the Lord’s oath is a ‘sure oath’; it is certain. It is an extravagant promise. David’s rule will be forever. Kidner says, ‘It was a typically divine response to a well-meaning gesture, to refuse a perishable house and bestow an imperishable one.’ Anything we give to the Lord he returns a hundredfold.

The basic building blocks of the Davidic city and Davidic rule reach into the world to come; they shape the new creation. The language of the promise is covenantal and so absolutely certain. As with similar covenants it is both unconditional and conditional (Ps 89:30-37). It is unconditional in that the Lord promises to place one of David’s sons on David’s throne and place him there forever (v 11; 2 Sam 7:13,15,16). Nothing will prevent this purpose being fulfilled. It is conditional in that retaining the throne was predicated upon covenant obedience. (v12; 2 Sam 7:14). Only a son obedient to the covenant would reign forever. In Messiah that obedient son was found and the covenant secured (Lk 1:32,33; Matt 3:17).

However God not only chose David he also chose Zion. The ark did not arrive at Jerusalem simply because David desired it. As the psalms frequently point out the decision to make Jerusalem home was taken by the Lord (v13, 14, Ps 78:68; 68:16). From the beginning God had a special mountain, an abode or sanctuary (Ex 15:17). Moses had said God would choose a city in which to live (Deut 12:5,11). David in bringing the ark to Jerusalem and planning a temple was fulfilling God’s purpose. Jerusalem was the holy mountain city where he would dwell (tabernacle*) among his people forever. Of course the full realisation awaits a new heavens and new earth (Rev 21), however, God has already placed David’s son upon his throne (v11; Acts 2:11). Here is the sovereign choice of grace. Jerusalem was a small city built on a small mountain (Ps 68:16) but it was the first stage in the realisation of a new Jerusalem where the Lord chose to dwell among his people forever.

The Lord’s presence in Zion means blessing for its people, its priests and its king (v14-18). Again the unconditional and conditional nature of the promise comes in to play. In one sense this blessing is contingent upon obedience. In time, the disobedience of people, priests and king leads to God abandoning his temple and forsaking his city. The city will be destroyed and its people, priests and kings exiled. Covenant disobedience is punished. Yet God’s promise was unconditional (2 Chron 21:7). Failure along the way would not prevent the Lord fulfilling his purpose. His promise remained on course and certain. He would dwell among his people forever and bless them. Jerusalem will be a city of social justice – the poor have bread. It will be a city of righteousness and salvation reflected in the clothes of the priests (vv9,16) and a city of joy (v16, 48:2). It is in a redeemed Zion, an eschatological Zion, a holy city with a faithful king that God will dwell forever among his people in blessing. The Psalms in depicting an ideal Zion are looking to an eschatological Zion.

The psalmist has prayed for the Davidic king, God’s anointed. He prays that he may not be rejected. Messiah is rejected like the nation but only briefly. Like Israel he is raised (Hos 6:2; Matt 12:40). God will make a horn (symbol of power and strength) sprout for David (v17; Lk 1:69-75). He will always be a light (wonderful counsellor) to his people (v17; 2 Sam 21:17; 1 Kgs 11:36: Isa 9:6). His enemies – those that oppose the righteousness and truth of his reign – will be overthrown (v17) and his crown will shine – his reign will be glorious. From the two thrones of Zion (which ultimately become one Rev 22:3), the throne of God and the throne of the Davidic King, God’s rule extends over all the earth.

Longman says that when the Davidic dynasty came to an end with Zechariah and the Babylonian exile, the royal psalms began to be understood as messianic. Davidic promises blossomed into messianic hope. Undoubtedly the description of God’s blessing on city and king in this psalm points to a reality beyond the world as it was then and as it is now. Some aspects have begun to be realised. We have already come (by faith) to Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebs 12:22). The king is already enthroned and salvation has already begun but the full consummated kingdom is yet to be.

Meantime we can learn from this psalm that God is loyal to those who are loyal to him. He will honour those who honour him… and deny those who deny him (1 Sam 2:30; 2 Tim 2:12). If we suffer with him we will also reign with him. In the heavenly Jerusalem the royal house is democratised and all God’s people are kings (Isa 55:3). The pilgrims travelling up to Jerusalem (Jerusalem is always up) went expecting to be blessed. Wilcock nicely says, ‘we still await… the last great going up‘. We await the return of the Davidic king.

*’Tabernacle’ has a certain contingency to it. Freedom of choice is involved. Should it be inappropriate to ‘dwell’ he can leave as he did before the exile.

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