Psalm 132 is a royal psalm, and the 13th song of ascent. This psalm is like psalm 89 in that it reflects God’s covenant with David. Once again we see the promise God makes to David about a royal house. The promise would eventually be fulfilled when the great king came, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is debate about just when this psalm was written. Some believe it was after the Babylonian exile and others believe it was written before Solomon dedicated the temple. For those who believe it was postexilic they point to the fact that the people were calling on God to remember His covenant with David. There was no king on the royal throne of David so the people were calling for God to remember His promise. Those who believe this was an early psalm point to the fact that Solomon quoted verses 8-10 in his prayer of dedication of the temple. Scholars look at this psalm and wonder if it was a litany designed for use at the temple dedication. They look at verses 1-5 as the worship leaders part, 6-10 for the people’s response, 10-12 as the leader quoting God’s words to David, and 13-18 as a choir part intended to recite God’s promises to Israel.
Psalm 132 celebrated the Lord’s faithfulness to David. When David wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem, the Lord granted the request and made Jerusalem His earthly home. The choice of Jerusalem marked God’s election of David’s line, of Zion, and of the priesthood. It is important to remember that the completion of the temple was no assurance of God’s blessing on Israel because the important thing was that the people first fulfill their responsibilities to the Lord. The psalmist begins with a call for the Lord to remember David. If this psalm is in fact postexilic then this call is very important. During the years between the return from exile and the birth of Jesus there would have been a growing desire on the part of godly people for the Lord to restore David’s kingdom in fulfillment of His promise. Calling the Lord the Mighty One of Jacob was a rare designation for the Lord. They remembered that David was insistent on building a house for the name of the Lord and for having a place In Jerusalem for the ark of the covenant to stay. It’s rightful place was in the holy of Holies of God’s sanctuary. The ark had been in several places before Solomon finally put it in the newly built temple. It moved from the tabernacle in the wilderness wandering to the crossing of the Jordan River as Israel entered into the promised land. It had been used as a good luck charm against the Philistines, but they had captured it. It also resided at the house of Obed-Edom for several months before king David finally brought it to Jerusalem.
Remembering what David had done was a big deal because without David there would have been no temple. David purchased the property on which to build. He amassed all the materials needed to make the house for the name of the Lord a magnificent place. And he set up the rules and regulations for temple worship once the temple was built. Verses 6-10 form a recollection of David’s moving the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. It seems that the ark was almost forgotten when it resided in Kirjath Jearim which is called the city of woods. The city was only eight miles north of Jerusalem so distance wasn’t the problem. Ephrathah is a reference to the region of Bethlehem which was David’s home town. There is no clear evidence of who got the ball rolling to move the ark but once is was In Jerusalem many people felt drawn to go there on pilgrimage. When Solomon put the ark of the covenant into the Holy of Holies, the glory of God moved in, just as it did when Moses dedicated the tabernacle in the wilderness.
The temple in Jerusalem was regarded as God’s footstool because His dwelling is in heaven. And His glory filled the temple. Again, the call for the Lord to arise, is a call to fulfill His promise and place a great king on David’s throne. Verse eight is taken from Numbers 10:33-36 and it reminds worshippers of God’s guidance and power exhibited in the days of Moses. The prayer for priests in verse 9 is answered in verse 16. The priests were to exhibit righteousness in their lives. A holy priesthood was important to the prosperity of Israel, but so was a nation dedicated to the Lord. Now, finally, the Lord could rest in His house after many years of wandering from place to place.
Covenant promises were a big deal to Israel and we see that in this psalm. If this was an early psalm then this was a reminder to the Lord that He had made a promise to David and they saw Solomon on the throne as the answer to that promise. He was God’s anointed. But it was for David’s sake, not Solomon’s that God blessed the king and the people. Many look at verse 10 as a clarion call for the coming of the Savior King…Jesus. What the people and the rulers often forgot was that if they wanted the blessings of God they needed to obey the law of God. And many of them did not. That is how they needed up in exile in Babylon. What we have today is this; the Father is faithful to His Son, and the Son is faithful to the covenant He made with His own blood. Verses 8-10 can be found in 2 Chronicles 6:41-42, spoken when Solomon dedicated the temple. The Lord swore an oath to David. His promise is unconditional but the covenant is not. We see language that says if…then. Those who break God’s covenant can expect the discipline of God’s judgement. The promise to David was specific in terms of God’s intended blessings on FAITHFUL sons, His chastening of wayward sons, and His ultimate fulfillment in the anticipated coming Son.
Psalm 132 reminds us that God not only chose Israel to be His people and David and his descendants to be His kings, but He also chose Zion to be the sight of His temple and His throne (the ark). David desperately wanted to build the house of the Lord but was forbidden. Instead, because of the disobedience of ordering the last census, and the resulting plague on the people, David purchased the property in which the temple would stand. He made an offering to the Lord here and when fire fell from heaven and consumed the offering David knew this was the place God had chosen. Many nations had temples but none of them had a temple in which the glory of the Lord dwelt…except Israel.
In verses 14-18 God spoke to the people and reaffirmed His covenant with Israel. Both the people and the kings were called to be obedient to the Lord if they expected to receive His blessing. The Lord promised to provide for His people. He promised to dwell with them, provide their food, bless their worship, and defeat their enemies. The psalmist records two special images, a lamp and a horn. These both speak of the Messiah’s authority and His righteousness. The lamp symbolized the king, the preservation of life, and the perpetuation of the royal dynasty. The Messiah’s kingdom will be established forever and His enemies will not be able to withstand Him. The Messiah is the anointed One whom God chose. He will never cease to provide light for the Lord’s people. The light will burn continually. The horn is a symbol of strength and power, and the sprouting horn of David is a picture of the coming of the promised Messiah. Sometimes the word sprout is translated as branch, and the word translated flourish or shine can also mean blossom . This too is Messianic. The end of this psalm points right smack dab towards Jesus.
So, while the psalm refers to the Lord’s covenant with David, it is really pointing its readers towards Jesus Christ who today is enthroned in the Holy of Holies in heaven. Peter tells us that WE are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people so that we mighty proclaim the praises of the one who called us out of darkness into His wondrous light. 1 Peter 2:9. The psalm isn’t just good news for the Israelites. It is good news for us too.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W