“If”, Psalm 132 vv11-12

“The LORD swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne—if your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.”” (Psalms 132:11–12 NIV)
We now move into the second half of the Psalm. Here we find God’s oath matches David’s. His promise is a response to the people’s prayers.
The promise to David’s line is in 2 Sam chapter 7,

“‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:11–16 NIV)
What an amazing promise. Would that David’s descendants had proved worthy of such trust invested in them by God.

God was patient with David (who died in 971BC) and his line. Solomon came next and succumbed to worldly wisdom, lust, compromise with other religions and materialism. His son, Rehoboam was responsible for the division between southern Judah and northern Israel. Jeroboam took off and established rival worship centres.
After several hundred years of God’s patience and many warning from prophets, Zedekiah ended up being the 21st and last king of Judah. During the Babylonian invasion (586 BC, which was 386 years after the death of David), Zedekiah is forced to watch his sons slaughtered, after which his own eyes are gouged out (Jeremiah 52:10–11). The temple is then destroyed, 2 King 25:1-12, Jer 39:1-10Jer 52:4-16.

David’s descendants did not remember their roots, God’s promises and the blessings that come from obedience.  Do we remember our roots?
As Peterson says in his book, ‘A long obedience in the same direction’, “We need roots in the past to give obedience ballast and breadth; we need a vision of the future to give obedience direction and goal.” A good memory of the past blessings wrought by obedience will fuel our hope for future promises of God to be honoured, and this will lead to a mature obedience in the present.
At all times let us remember Jesus,

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.” (2 Timothy 2:8 NIV)

“Anointed”, Psalm 132 vv9-10

“May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.” For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one.” (Psalms 132:9–10 NIV)
When we rejoice, do we do it David-style? He was the ultimate rejoice-master,
“David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” (2 Samuel 6:14–15)
David’s joy is a result of his obedience. Obedience is not an attractive concept to a lot of people, and it is not often associated with joy. But, as Peterson says in his book ‘A long obedience in the same direction’, “..obedience is not a stodgy plodding in the ruts of religion, it is a hopeful race toward God’s promises.”
David’s association with the ark was not always so joyful. His first encounter with the ark began in carelessness and ended in tragedy,
“When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’S anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. Then David was angry because the LORD’S wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” He did not take the ark to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.” (1 Chronicles 13:9–13 NIV)
Things are very different now. Those days are long behind. Now he and all of us can sing!  We do have times in our lives when God refines our faith & behaviour. Those times are tough, but good times of rejoicing are ahead when we can celebrate the maturity and fruit that are the results of God’s loving discipline,
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10–11 NIV)
God made many promises to David. He is named three times in this Psalm (vv10, 11, 17) and by implication seven times. Let’s have a brief look at the promises spelled out or implied in this Psalm.
All the good things that the Lord ever did for Zion and David’s line came as a result of the original oath (v11). God chose Zion (v13; also see Heb. 12:22), He chose to live in his city (v14, Ezk. 48:35; Rev. 21:2-3), He decided to bless Zion materially (v15) and spiritually (v16), and God’s ultimate purpose, the coming of the Messiah and his triumph (vv17-18) is also referred to here in this Psalm.
Solomon (the ‘anointed’ one here) is looking back on the vows and work done by David, and calling God’s attention to the promises. Let us also look back on God’s promises to us in prayer and rejoice in those that have already come to fruition, and those yet to come.

“Arise”, Psalm 132 v8

“Arise, O LORD, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.” (Psalms 132:8 NIV)
‘Arise, O Lord’ was the phrase uttered when the ark set out in the time of Moses,
“Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.” (Numbers 10:35 NIV)
It had led the people in the wilderness, finding them resting places on their pilgrimage to the promised land,
“So they set out from the mountain of the LORD and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest.” (Numbers 10:33 NIV)
The story of the ark is summarised by reading through the following passages: Ex 25:10-22, 1 Sam 4-7. The history of the ark was, for the Israelites, a kind of theological handbook. It symbolised God’s presence with His people, but also His holiness – he was not to be ‘used’.
They are not the first nor the last to tread this path of obedience to the temple – a path the ark itself had travelled. We are also part of obedience-history.  This makes our faith richer and our resources deeper to face life today.
In Psalm 132 the Psalmist is recalling the time that the ark came home at the end of its pilgrimage, and this inspired the present pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem. They were retracing the steps of the ark.
We are doing likewise. In our Christian walk we will do well to recall the way that God has done the same things for us that the ark did for the Israelites – except that in the new covenant we have a ‘superior’ version of these things.
Jesus has led us to the truth,
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)
He has provided rest for us,
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NIV)
He is taking us home to be with him for ever,
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2 NIV)
Since we have these great resources and promises provided for us, what should be our response?
We are wise when do not take God’s presence or provision for granted. We are thinking straight when we remember that what we have from God is a result of His grace and not something we earned or deserve. We are blessed when we take time to thank God for everything he has already given us, and thank Him by faith for what we will receive in the future.
The ark was mighty, scary and precious. Our relationship with God is the same – a mighty, scary, and very precious thing!

“Footstool”, Psalm 132 v7

“Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool—” (Psalms 132:7 NIV)
First the tabernacle, and then later the temple were especially significance in that they brought home the truth that God dwelt among his  people,
“So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.” (Exodus 29:44–46 NIV) (see also 1 Ki. 8:10-27).
Even more specifically the mercy seat or atonement cover was the place where the Holy God ‘touched’ earth,
“There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.” (Ex 25:22, see also Lev 16:13-14)
The ark of the covenant represented four main concepts. First it was viewed as representing the footstool of God’s throne that was, in fact, invisible.
Secondly, the footstool was seen as part of the throne. In this way it represents the closest accessibility to the king for a normal subject.
Thirdly, the footstool is significance because it expresses the king’s ability to keep his enemies in check.
Fourthly, by prostrating oneself at the feet (footstool) of the king, or God, one was showing appropriate reverence. An example of this can be seen in the British Museum,
On the black stela of Shalmaneser III (above) king Jehu is shown kissing the ground in front the Assyrian king. This was the common act of submission offered to kings and gods. Taking hold of the feet was a way of showing self-abasement and entreaty.
What does all this add up to? The Psalmist is calling on his fellow-pilgrims to remember where they are headed. They are going to the place, the Temple, which reminds them of God’s presence with His people. It is where God ‘touches’ earth and it is the place where the pilgrims ‘touch’ Him.
This call is also to a position of humility, a place of surrender.  As we come to our prayer times we would do well to adopt the same attitudes – a gratitude for the opportunity to connect with God, and a humble surrender in His presence. Like the song says,
All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow; worldly pleasures all forsaken, take me, Jesus, take me now.
I surrender all, I surrender all, all to Thee, my blessed Saviour, I surrender all.

“Ephrathah”, Psalm 132 v6

“We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:” (Psalms 132:6 NIV)
Who, what or where is Ephrathah? And why are the fields of Jaar so significant? Ephrathah is associated with Bethlehem and the stories about Rachel & Ruth,
“Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty.” (Genesis 35:16 NIV)
“May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.” (Ruth 4:11 NIV)
Ephrathah is also mentioned as being the home territory of David and so it is a place with a rich history in the memories of the people of Israel and David’s family.
It is also connected with the promise of a Messiah,
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2
Compare the passage above with what we find in Matthew chapter 2,
“When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;  for out of you will come a ruler   who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’’ (Matthew 2:4-6 NIV)
Jaar is an abbreviation for Kiriath-Jearim, where the ark was housed while ‘lost’.
“So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the LORD. It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7:1–2 NIV)
The word Jaar means ‘wood’ or ‘thicket’ which draws attention to the ark being ‘lost’ there. Someone might ask, “Where is the ark?”, and the reply might be, “It’s somewhere in the woods.” It had been neglected, (see 1 Chron 13:3), but David brought it back to Jerusalem to give it the honour it deserved.
Ephrathah and Jaar  symbolised the line of David,  the hope of a Messiah-King, and connected that with the presence of God – the ark, the temple, and, in future the Messiah who brings us into the presence of God personally. They reminded God’s people of His presence. The communion does that for us today. To refresh your awareness of God being with you today why not pray through this great song,
King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be; Lest I forget Thy thorny crown, Lead me to Calvary.
Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget, O Lord,
Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

“Slumber”, Psalm 132 vv3-5

“I will not enter my house or go to my bed— I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Psalms 132:3–5 NIV)
David had a vision – one of building a ‘dwelling’ for God. He knew this could not happen without sacrifice. He decided that God’s honour would come before his personal comfort.  In this Psalm he is pledging to get on with this project at all costs and all speed.
In the end he was not the man to build the temple and, in time, God revealed this to him,
“King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’” (1 Chronicles 28:2–3 NIV)
Nonetheless we can applaud David’s heart to build something to the glory and honour of God – and to prioritise that above all other things in his life.
Perhaps for Christians today this is like seeking the kingdom first
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33–34 NIV)
We deliberately put aside concerns about food, clothing and money (see the earlier part of chapter 6) in order to be one with God.  It is easy to forget the significance of getting our priorities right.  We found the kingdom by putting it first,
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44–46 NIV)
Since that is how we found the kingdom it is also how we will continue to enjoy its fruits.
The temple David wanted to build (& Solomon built) was somewhere he dreamed of providing so that God’s presence would be permanently with His people. But this was inadequate,
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 NRSV)
Christians have something far more valuable – God’s presence permanently in them,
“Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
This presence gives us no fear if we love others with the love of Christ (1 John 3:16-20), but instead fills us with confidence for we know that we can enter God’s presence:
“Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16 NRSV)
What are your thoughts on this topic?  Leave a comment or ask a question.

“Mighty”, Psalm 132 v2

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“He swore an oath to the LORD and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob” (Psalms 132:2 NIV)

The Hebrew word translated ‘mighty one’ is ‘avir’. This word comes up only in poetical passages of the Bible. The first time we see it is Jacob’s blessing on his son Joseph:

“But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,” (Genesis 49:24 NIV)

The third phrase of that verse – “the hands of the Mighty One” – is paralleled in the line before it by “hands were made strong.” The following phrase – “the stone of Israel” – also parallels “the Mighty One of Jacob.” So ‘avir’ – ‘Mighty One of Jacob’  is sandwiched by symbols of strength.

In fact the English word translated here “stone” is the Hebrew word transliterated ‘even’ which when pronounced sounds like ‘avir’ – “Mighty One” – and this emphasises God’s strength even more.

The word ‘avir’ appears twice in Psalm 132 (vv. 2 & 5). Each time it is paralleled by the divine name YHWH. The same paralleling happens in the three uses of ‘avir’ in Isaiah:

“Therefore says the Sovereign, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: Ah, I will pour out my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes!” (Isaiah 1:24 NRSV)

“I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the LORD your Saviour, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:26 NRSV)

“You shall suck the milk of nations, you shall suck the breasts of kings; and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Saviour and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 60:16 NRSV)

The use of the word ‘avir’ as a substitute for the name of God is not the only time this happens in the Bible. Another occurrence is the use of the Hebrew word ‘fachad’ meaning ‘fear’. We see this used in this way in Genesis chapter 31:

“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed…” (Genesis 31:42)  “….So Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac,” (Genesis 31:53 NRSV)

You will see that the word ‘fear’ is capitalised in the English translation indicating that it is a substitute word for God.

Mary the mother of Jesus clearly knew her Old Testament. It seems to me she was thinking of these qualities of God when she offered up her prayer in Luke chapter 1:

“Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:48–49 NRSV).

Her Mighty One is our Mighty One. Let us be encouraged and strengthened by the confidence that comes from His power.

Do you have any questions about this post?  Or a comment?  Leave a note below …..

“Hardships”, Psalm 132 v1

“O LORD, remember David and all the hardships he endured.” (Psalms 132:1 NIV)
David was God’s chosen, anointed and blessed one. Yet even he went through tremendous times of hardship.  Rejected by his brothers and undervalued by his father, hated and chased into the arms of his enemies by his king, bereaved of his best friend and much more.
But perhaps the ‘hardships’ most in focus here are those associated with bringing the Ark back to Zion. This noble work was completed through a catalogue of disappointment and suffering, some of it not David’s fault, and some that could be laid at his door,
“David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals. When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’S anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:5–7)
Returning the Ark to Jerusalem cost David dearly in friends but also financially,
“So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf” (2 Samuel 6:12–13 NIV)
David made sacrifices which must have been frightening to add up. His ‘contribution’ was already generous, but he was not finished. Not only did he sacrifice on the journey, but he also showed great generosity once the task was completed,
“David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.” (2 Samuel 6:17–19 NIV)
The word ‘hardships’ can also mean ‘deep humiliation’. Perhaps this refers to David being rejected as the temple–builder (2 Sa. 7:5, 2 Sam 7:13; 1 Ki. 5:3; 1 Ch. 22:8; 1 Ch. 28:3). One of the most impressive parts of David’s character is seen in his humble response to this news.  He has sacrificed at great cost to himself.  He has expressed his joy at God’s honour even though it caused him to be ridiculed by his own wife,
“Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (2 Samuel 6:20 NIV)
Despite all this we know that he did not resent the sacrifices. He is determined to “celebrate before the LORD” – and as a result he was ‘remembered’ by God – and we remember him too.  Let his inspiring example motivate us to continue to celebrate God even when we go through hardships.
Leave me a comment on this blog if you have a question or a thought that might help others.

“Overview”, Psalm 132

“O LORD, remember David and all the hardships he endured. He swore an oath to the LORD …. “I will not enter my house or go to my bed….till I find a place for the LORD…The LORD swore an oath to David: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne—if your sons keep my covenant….”  (from Psalm 132)

The pilgrims are getting closer and closer to Jerusalem and so their thoughts turn more and more to the city, the temple and their illustrious king of old – David. The Psalmist knows his history and meditates on 2 Samuel 7. Before studying this Psalm it will be a good idea to read through that whole account. To give us a feel for the background to this Psalm here are a few observations on parts of the account in 2 Samuel 7.
“Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
David recognises that his priorities have not been right.  He speaks to Nathan of his ambition to build a house for the LORD, and God gives Nathan words for David,
“Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day….did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”
It seems David’s desire to build something for God, is not what God wants. What does God want to do?
“I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.”
God assures David that He has a plan to honour Himself through David’s descendants.
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
What was David’s response to this amazing promise?
“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?…There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself…?”
David is humbled, and recognises that these blessings are not for him alone, but all God’s people. He wanted to build God a house, but in fact God intends building David a ‘house’. A house of living descendants.
God still desires to do the same today. He chooses us (Eph 1:11) no matter that we may not be impressive in the eyes of the world (Jms 2:5), and calls us to be holy (Col 3:12) so as to be able to do His work (Eph 2:10) in this lost world. Will we be the ‘house’ God desires to build today?
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19–22 NIV)
Let me know what you think of this topic. Leave a comment below.

“Hope”, Psalm 131 v3

“O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Psalms 131:3 NIV)
David wrote this Psalm, and he is at peace within because of peace above (verses 1 & 2).  What does he intend to do with this peace?
As a friend of mine said, “we share because we care”.  Years later it was adapted in the film ‘Monsters Inc’ as “We scare because we care.” I am not sure my friend’s phrase had any influence on Pixar, but I like to think so. In any case David is spurred on by his peace to call others to that same quality of relationship with God. The concluding verse of this short Psalm is an exhortation to the community – this peace is personal, but not individualistic. David sees his peace is to be shared, promoted & exhorted in others.
Are we seeking God’s peace not simply and solely for our own benefit, but so that we can call others into the same peace we are experiencing?  Whatever we are blessed with we are called to share – in just the same way Jesus did.
What if we are not at peace?  Are the challenges to peace eclipsing the hope offered in this Psalm?  Let us have a look at the example of the apostle Paul and find some encouragement from him.
While in jail (challenging enough in itself), he heard that so-called brothers were giving him a hard time,
“The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.” (Philippians 1:17 NIV)
Being locked up, there was nothing he could do about this. What was his attitude?
“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18)
And that was not all. As he sits in stir he hears about disunified disciples
“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Phil 4:2–3)
How does he handle this situation that he cannot control?
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV)
Well, what do we learn from Paul’s approach?  I think  we see that putting our hope in the Lord is a decision.  It must be there no matter the circumstances. If Paul could do it, we can all do it, for we, too, have the Spirit.
What is your greatest peace-challenge? Have you put it to one side long enough to find the peace God offers?  A quiet place, a comfortable position, a Bible, a Psalm to pray through, a deliberate focus on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Concerning ourselves with God, calming ourselves so He can speak to us – “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.”
Let me know your thoughts on this important topic of hope by leaving a comment below….