13. Psalm 132. God's Promise to David


Audio (19:44)

Vincent Van Gogh, 'The Starry Night' (1889), oil on canvas, 39 x 36 in., Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City.
Vincent Van Gogh, 'The Starry Night' (1889), oil on canvas, 39 x 36 in., Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City.

Psalm 132 is considerably longer than the other Songs of Ascent. It celebrates one of the most remarkable promises in the Bible, what we know as the Davidic Covenant, and calls on God to fulfill it. Thus, you might classify this as a royal psalm, one that focuses on a king whom God has anointed.

"A Song of Ascents.

1  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.'" (Psalm 132:1-18, ESV)

The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7)

The core of the psalm is a prayer for the one currently reigning on David's throne.

"For the sake of your servant David, 
do not turn away the face of your anointed one." (Psalm 132:10)

Psalm 132 calls on God to fulfill the promises he made to David. Later in his reign, David had it in his heart to build a house for God, a glorious temple. Through Nathan the prophet, God told him that David's son Solomon would build the temple, but that God wanted to build a "house" for David. The Hebrew word for "house" can refer not only to one's physical dwelling, but also to one's family and dynasty.

"11b The LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 
12  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, 
I will raise up your offspring after you, 
who shall come from your body, 
and I will establish his kingdom.... 
14b  When [your son] commits iniquity, 
I will discipline him with the rod of men, 
with the stripes of the sons of men, 
15  but my steadfast love will not depart from him, 
as I took it from Saul,
whom I put away from before you. 
16  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.
Your throne shall be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:11b-12, 14b-16)

This amazing prophecy, known as the Davidic Covenant, promises that David's dynasty will last forever. Not just a long time, but forever. You see this promise repeated by other prophets and psalmists.156 Indeed, David's descendants, the kings of Judah, did continue to reign, father to son, son to grandson for nearly 500 years until Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in 587 BC.

The destruction of Jerusalem, exile, and apparent end of the Davidic line of kings was a huge shock to the people. In a royal psalm written during the Exile, you read a recital of the Davidic Covenant, followed by the cry:

"How long, O Lord?
Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?" (Psalm 89:46)

In the years that followed the Exile, a hope rose within God's people that David's descendant, the Messiah, would restore glory to the Kingdom. There are many hints of this throughout the prophets, encouragements to see God's people through difficult days.157 During the Intertestamental Period, in the last century or two before Christ was born, there was intense expectation among the Jews that a descendent of David would come as Messiah to deliver the people from their bondage.

Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise and hope. He is the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, the City of David, and crucified with the title "King of the Jews" fastened to his cross. He was raised from the dead and now rightly sits on the throne of David's kingdom over what we now call the Kingdom of God.158 Hallelujah!

We're not told when Psalm 132 was written, but I think it is likely to have been written for the dedication of the temple, since Solomon quotes it in his prayer at the dedication of the temple when the ark was finally brought to rest there (2 Chronicles 6:41-42).159

David Vow (Psalm 132:1-5)

Let's dig deeper.

"1  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.'" (Psalm 132:1-5)

David had built a fine palace for himself, but he was convicted that he hadn't built a grand palace or temple for Yahweh, the real King of Israel.

"See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, 
but the ark of God dwells in a tent." (2 Samuel 7:2)

But God tells him that his son will be the one to build the temple. As a warrior, David himself has too much blood on his hands (1 Chronicles 22:8). David secures the site for the temple on Mount Moriah (2 Samuel 24:18-25; 2 Chronicles 3:1; Genesis 22:14), prepares detailed plans for the building (1 Chronicles 28:11-19), and then stockpiles quantities of silver, gold, bronze, and precious stones for the building and its utensils (1 Chronicles 29:1-9). But it awaits Solomon to begin the actual construction.

Let Us Go to God's Dwelling Place (Psalm 132:6-9)

"Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah; 
we found it in the fields of Jaar." (Psalm 132:6)

Ephrathah or Ephrath is Bethlehem, the ancestral home of David, only a few miles south of Jerusalem (Genesis 35:19). Jaar may be a shortened form of the name Kiriath-Jearim, where the ark had rested for twenty years (1 Samuel 6:21-7:2). That's where David found it when he sought to bring the ark to his new capital at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).

"Let us go to his dwelling place; 
let us worship at his footstool!" (Psalm 132:7)

With the temple now under construction, the psalmist invites his hearers to go to his new dwelling place -- the temple.160 But he realizes that for all its glory, the new temple and even Jerusalem are nothing to God. Solomon is quite realistic when the temple is dedicated:

"Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, 
how much less this house that I have built!" (2 Chronicles 6:18)

In Isaiah, God says:

"Heaven is my throne, 
and the earth is my footstool; 
what is the house that you would build for me, 
and what is the place of my rest?" (Isaiah 66:1)

Our grandest buildings are nothing to God. So in recognition of the greatness of God our psalmist invites us to "worship at his footstool!"161

The psalmist calls on God to:

"Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place, 
you and the ark of your might." (Psalm 132:8)

The words "arise," "resting place," and "ark" suggest that the psalmist is drawing from Moses' prayer from long before:

"35  And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, 
'Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, 
and let those who hate you flee before you.' 
36  And when it rested, he said, 'Return, O LORD, 
to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.'" (Numbers 10:35-36)

The holy of holies in the new temple will be Yahweh's "resting place."162 Compared to the previous mobile tabernacle or tent, the temple is designed to be permanent. God can "settle down here."

The dedication of the temple (if that is indeed what this psalm commemorates) will be a wonderful celebration!

"Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, 
and let your saints shout for joy." (Psalm 132:9)

Yahweh's Promise to David (Psalm 132:10-12)

The psalmist also asks God to bless David's descendant now seated upon the throne in Jerusalem by appealing to the David Covenant outlined above.

"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.'" (Psalm 132:10-12)

"Your anointed one" refers to the king, who is anointed with oil when he is crowned. Of course, David's descendant Jesus is the ultimate Anointed One, the Messiah (which is the Hebrew word for "anointed" (māshîaḥ, transliterated). He is the Promised One, the one who fulfills the very promise given in Psalm 132:12.

Yahweh's Blessing on Zion (Psalm 132:13-16)

Now the psalmist turns from the Davidic king for a moment to some prophetic promises given in the first person (God himself speaking) concerning the city of Jerusalem.

"13  For the LORD has chosen Zion;  he has desired it for his dwelling place:163  14  'This is my resting place forever;  here I will dwell, for I have desired it." (Psalm 132:15-16)

"Dwell" (ESV, KJV) could well be translated "sit enthroned" (NIV).164 Back in Deuteronomy, the phrase, "the place where God will choose," is repeated eighteen times,165 though the final location, Jerusalem, is not yet revealed. That will be God's choice, not man's:

"The place that the LORD your God will choose  out of all your tribes to put his name  and make his habitation there." (Deuteronomy 12:5)

After David has secured Jerusalem for his capital, God instructs the prophet Gad to tell him, "Go up, raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite" (2 Samuel 24:18); this is on Mount Moriah.166 This sacred location, where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2), becomes the site of Solomon's temple.

Back to Psalm 132. God now promises blessings on those who live in the Holy City where his temple is located.

"I will abundantly bless her provisions;  I will satisfy her poor with bread." (Psalm 132:14)

Yahweh offers to supply the needs of Jerusalem's residents.

"Her priests I will clothe with salvation,  and her saints will shout for joy.'" (Psalm 132:16)

The priests in the temple are "clothed167 with salvation." They don't carry out their ministry as rote actions, but as people who have experienced God's salvation and deliverance. We often see this metaphorical use of "to clothe" in the Bible to express taking on qualities so that you "wear" as your own (see verse 18a). For example:

"He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness." (Isaiah 61:10)

"Clothe yourselves ... with humility toward one another." (1 Peter 5:5a)

Now imagine "the saints"168 experiencing the kind of exaltation that prompts shouting or singing out of pure joy! The verb means, "cry out, shout for joy," sometimes used in a context of singing.169 In our passage, the Hebrew verb is repeated to increase the intensity of the statement -- "shouting for extreme joy," or something like that.

Looking forward to the Messiah (Psalm 132:17-18)

The psalm concludes with a prophetic declaration by God concerning David's dynasty.

"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." (Psalm 132:17-18)

This is a messianic prophecy. The origin of "horn" comes from Israel's shepherd roots. "Horn" becomes a kind of shorthand for the might and prowess exhibited by a powerful ram in battle. Metaphorically, "horn" refers to "power, military might."170 As horns bud171 and then grow in a young ram, so David's power will grow.

The image of a "lamp"172 represents someone who is able to find his way along a dark path, and lead the way to blessing. While David lives, he is seen as "the lamp of Israel" (2 Samuel 21:17), just as Yahweh is a "Lamp" who lightens our darkness (2 Samuel 22:29 = Psalm 18:28). Ultimately, at the conclusion of Revelation, the Messiah's glory floods the Holy City with light: "Its lamp is the Lamb" (Revelation 21:23). The promise is that David's crown173 will "shine" (ESV) or "be resplendent" (NIV),174 which is fulfilled in the glory of Jesus the Messiah or Anointed One who reigns over the Kingdom of God.

Jesus the Messiah

Jesus didn't often use the word "Messiah" (Hebrew māshîaḥ) or "Christ" (Greek christos), since it was a politically charged title in a Roman province that was seeking a military Messiah.

Indeed, he is the promised Messiah. But if Jesus had been widely perceived to be the Messiah, the people would have tried to make him king, as they almost did after he fed the 5,000 (John 6:15). And his ministry would have been shut down sooner, before he could teach the multitudes and train his disciples. So Jesus generally refers to himself as the "Son of man," an exalted but ambiguous title that comes from Daniel 7:14. Only a couple of times does he acknowledge being the Messiah. First, to the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4:25-26) and then to the Twelve. He asks his disciples,

"'Who do you say that I am?"  Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'  And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,  but my Father who is in heaven.'" (Matthew 16:15-17)

Later, after Jesus is arrested, Pilate asks him directly, "Are you the King of the Jews?", Jesus answers:

"My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world,  my servants would have been fighting,  that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.  But my kingdom is not from the world." (John 18:36)

For now, the Kingdom is largely hidden from the eyes of the world. We disciples are told:

"Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,  and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)

All the world sees of the kingdom now are the loving actions of Jesus' followers and the message of salvation proclaimed by his people. But there will come a Day when the sign of the Son of Man appears for all to see (Matthew 24:30).

"Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet,  and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,  'The kingdom of the world  has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,  and he shall reign forever and ever.'" (Revelation 11:15)

And, lo, the ancient promise made to David (that one of his sons will always sit upon his throne) will be fulfilled when Jesus the King comes in all his glory. And on that Day,

"Every knee shall bow,  in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Prayer

Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134), by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Available in PDF, and Kindle formats only US $2.99.

Father, sometimes when help seems to be delayed, we wonder if it will ever come. Awake in us a fresh expectation of your coming and reign. And help us to persevere in trusting the promises of God until they are completely fulfilled. Thank you for your amazing promise to David fulfilled in Jesus Christ the Son of God. Thank you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Meditation

Day 13 Meditation (Psalm 132). State the Davidic Covenant or Promise in your own words. How was this promise fulfilled in Solomon's time? How was it fulfilled in Jesus? How will it be fulfilled when Jesus returns? http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1912-13-promise/

Endnotes

Abbreviations and References

[156] Jeremiah 33:17; 1 Kings 2:4; 8:25; Psalm 89:29-37.

[157] Examples of messianic prophecies can be found in Numbers 24:17; Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 11:1-2, 6-9; 11:10-11; 53:3; Micah 5:2-4; Jeremiah 33:17; Ezekiel 37:24; Daniel 9:25-26.

[158] For more on the Davidic Covenant, see the discussion in my Life of David: Discipleship Lessons, chapter 9. http://www.jesuswalk.com/david/09_davidic_covenant.htm

[159] So Kidner, Psalms 73-150, pp. 448-449. Allen (Psalms 101-150, p. 207) disagrees, since he sees Chronicles written somewhat later. He says, "It is hazardous to assume that the psalm necessarily belonged originally to a commemoration of the dedication of the temple" (citing Weiser, Psalms, p. 779).

[160] The word translated "dwelling place" (ESV, NRSV, NIV), "tabernacles" (KJV) is the plural of mishkān, "tabernacle," from shākan, "to dwell" (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #2387c).

[161] "Footstool" is hadōm, "stool, footstool" (TWOT #474a). See also Psalm 132:7; 99:5; 1 Chronicles 28:2.

[162] "Resting place" in both verses 8 and 14 is menûḥâ, "resting place, rest," from the verb nûaḥ, "rest, settle down." The root signifies not only absence of movement but being settled in a particular place with overtones of finality, or of victory, salvation, etc. (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #1323e).

[163] "Dwelling place" in verse 13 is môshāb, "seat, dwelling place," from the verb yāshab, "sit, remain, dwell" (Walter C. Kaiser, TWOT #933c).

[164] "Dwell" (ESV, KJV), "reside" (NRSV), "sit enthroned" (NIV) is Qal imperfect of yāshab, "sit, remain, dwell." The root appears to mean "sit." Regarding Yahweh, it often appears with the idea of "sit enthroned" on the cherubim of the ark (1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 99:1). "In places where the Lord is said to dwell in heaven or in Zion, the thought is that he is enthroned." He is also "enthroned on the praises of Israel" (Psalm 22:4; Walter C. Kaiser, TWOT #922).

[165] Deuteronomy 12: 5, 11, 14, 18, 21, 26; 14:23; 15:20; 16:2, 7, 11, 16; 17:8, 10; 18:6; 23:16; 26:2; 31:11.

[166] 2 Samuel 24:18-25; 2 Chronicles 3:1; Genesis 22:14.

[167] "Clothed" is lābash, "dress, be clothed." Here it uses a Hebrew idiom of putting on godly qualities like clothing, to "wear" these qualities (TWOT #1075).

[168] "Saints" (ESV, KJV), "faithful" (NRSV, NJB), "godly ones" (NASB) is the plural of the noun ḥāsîd, "holy one, godly, saint." Harris comments, "Whether God's people in the OT were called ḥāsîd because they were characterized by ḥesed (as seems likely) or were so called because they were objects of God's ḥesed may not be certain" (R. Laird Harris, TWOT #698b). "One who is faithful, devout" (Holladay, p. 111).

[169] "Shout for joy" (ESV, NRSV), "shout aloud for joy" (KJV), "sing for joy" (NIV), is the Piel stem of rānan, "cry out, shout for joy." Here the verb is doubled, using the Infinitive Absolute, to intensify the idea. The word carried the idea of a shout of jubilation, a kind of holy joy. The word is used a few times in parallel "to sing." It is also used in a context of music (2 Chronicles 20:21-22), so singing may well be indicated. "The frequent employment of the term indicates decisively that the highest mood of Old Testament religion was joy" (William White, TWOT #2179).

[170] Leonard J. Coppes, qeren, TWOT #2072a.

[171] "Make/cause to sprout" (ESV, NRSV), "make to grow" (NIV), "make to bud" (KJV) is ṣāmaḥ, "sprout, spring up," and in the Hiphil stem "cause to grow, sprout" (Walter C. Kaiser, TWOT #1928; Holladay, p. 307).

[172] "Lamp" is nēr, a small bow-like object which contained oil and a wick to be lit to provide light (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #1333a).

[173] "Crown" is nēzer (from nāzar, "separate, consecrate"), of the high priest's headdress, here of a royal crown. The basic idea of the root is "separation," which could be positively understood as consecration, being set apart to God, that a crown might indicate (Thomas E. McComiskey, TWOT #1340a).

[174] "Shine" (ESV), "gleam"  (NRSV), "be resplendent" (NIV), "flourish" (KJV) is the Qal stem of ṣûṣ, "blossom, shine, sparkle" (TWOT #1893); "sprout, bloom" (Holladay, p. 304).

Copyright © 2020, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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