Psalm 132: Covenant
Introduction and Summary
Psalm 132 is another one of the Psalm’s of Ascent, believed to have been sung or recited during the journey to Jerusalem for various festivals. This Psalm talks about David and his desire to find a house for the LORD, a place where God could dwell with His people. It talks about the oath God made to David to keep his descendants on the throne forever and to provide for His people the anointed one that we now know to be Jesus. We do not know who wrote this Psalm because it does not say within the text itself, however some believe that it may have been written by Solomon or someone close to Solomon as a dedication for the temple when it was eventually built. Add to this verses 8 to 10 can be found in Solomon’s dedication prayer of the temple which is in 2 Chronicles 6:41-42. As you can see the two passages are very similar which lends itself to suggest that either this Psalm was written to commemorate Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple or was written by the dedicator himself. Some also believe that this Psalm could fit as a Psalm of lament as well as a Psalm of ascent. Whatever the case may be, these 18 verses of Hebrew poetry are Spirit breathed and are therefore worth looking at and trying to understand in order to appreciate their significance for us today.
The central theme of this Psalm is covenant. The first part (verses 1-5) recounts David’s “oath to the LORD”, his desire to build a house for God. He is so passionate about it that he believes himself to be unable to sleep, unable to rest until there is a place for God to be with His people. The last part of this Psalm (verses 11-18) also details a covenant, the oath that the LORD swore to David. This oath to David promises him and the people of Israel that God will put an anointed one on David’s throne forever and that God will dwell with His people forever. And in the centre of this passage is the dedication to the Temple a (at least partial) fulfilment of both of these promises. David’s vow is fulfilled because the house of God has been built and the ark is now in its place. And God’s promise is fulfilled in part as His presence is on earth with His people in the temple.
The theme of covenant also comes out in the first verse: “O LORD, remember David and all the hardships he endured.” The word remember in this verse could also be translated as faithfully respond to the covenant. The Psalmist is calling on God to essentially stay true to His word and come through for His people.
Secondly the name LORD is used a couple of times in this passage, which is interesting as this particular term is known as God’s ‘covenant name’. There are three reoccurring themes within the overarching theme of covenant throughout Psalm 132 that I would like to address today: resting or dwelling place, the anointed one and clothed with righteousness, salvation or shame.
1. Resting place
One of the reoccurring themes throughout this Psalm is the idea of resting place or dwelling place. In the first past of Psalm 132, David is passionate about finding a place for God to dwell. A place where God would be with His people which would mean an overlap of heaven and earth, it is a place where people come to worship God, to be in His presence. Therefore the resting or dwelling place is about presence. It is not just David who wishes for God to live to His people, God desires to dwell with them also. Remember back to Genesis 1 and 2, The Creation Story. In it God creates for Himself a temple, the earth, a place where He dwells with His people and His people live with Him. However as we know things go sour and the presence of God will not be the same on earth as it was in those first days until God comes again with the new heavens and new earth. Now look forward to Revelation 21, a description of God coming to dwell with His people. Verse 2 of chapter 21 says, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven” and verse 3 continues, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” This is a theme throughout the entire Bible and it is a theme of Psalm 132. Verses 13 and 14 of this passage say, “the LORD has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His dwelling: ‘This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it—‘”. However, the idea of a resting place is not meant to suggest that God is tired and needs a rest; but that all is as it should be, God is content. This idea can also be found in the creation story, once He had created His dwelling place, God rested. Therefore the temple would be a place where God can be content, where He can rest and all is well.
The symbol of God’s presence, power and rule in Israel was the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was known as the footstool of God which is referred to in verse 7. The imagery of the ark used here continues in verse 8: “arise, O LORD, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.” These words come actually from Moses; Numbers 10:35 says, “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, Rise up! O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.” It is as though the Psalmist is reciting those words of Moses before the ark sets out for a final time, to its resting place. The ark’s presence in the temple fulfilled the covenant David made with the LORD that can be found in verses 1-8 in Psalm 132.
The promise that God will dwell with His people extends to us today. God has always desired to dwell with us humans. In fact He did so through sending Jesus, we are able to be in the presence of God in our everyday lives thanks to Him. Further, we can look forward to the new heavens and new earth as described in Revelation 21, where God will come down and we will live in His presence more fully.
2. Anointed One
The second reoccurring theme throughout this Psalm is the anointed one. Verse 10 calls on God to “not reject [His] anointed one.” And the final section (verses 11-18) mentions the phrase numerous times. This term refers to two people or rather one group of people and one particular person; first, the kings of Israel at the time when this was written and recited, the messiah with a small m if you will. These are the sons who must “keep [God’s covenant] and the statutes [He] teaches them [to] sit on [David’s] throne for ever and ever.” The second is not a group but a single, very significant person; THE promised Messiah, with a big M, who would sit on the throne forever, the one who would ultimately and perfectly fulfil the Davidic Covenant. Interestingly verse 6 of this passage mentions 2 places, Ephrathah and Jaar. Jaar is believed to be the place where the ark sat before it was moved to Jerusalem. Ephrathah though, is another name for Bethlehem, the place where Jesus would eventually be born. Therefore it is possible that the Psalmist is alluding to Jesus in this reference.
Verse 17 of Psalm 132: “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one” uses two images: a horn and a lamp. The horn is a symbol of strength, power and timelessness, Jesus fulfils this as our ruler who will sit on the throne for ever. He is strength and power. The second image; that of a lamp is a symbol of prosperity probably alluding to the victory of the resurrection over death. We are blessed in some ways that we are able to look at these promises of the Messiah and see that Jesus fulfils them.
Finally, the reoccurring theme of being clothed with righteousness, salvation or shame. In verse 9 the Psalmist writes, “May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.” Notice that these things come after the calling to God to “come to [His] resting place”? This parallels the idea that God enters His resting place when He is content. All is well and He clothes His people with righteousness. Verse 16 answers the call for priests to be clothed in righteousness with God’s promise to David. It says, “I will clothe her priests with salvation and her saints will ever sing for joy.” God’s promise takes David’s and then goes and… Salvation is an identity. Which is why it is contrasted in verse 18, “I will clothe His enemies with shame.” His is referring to the Messiah, big M. Salvation verses shame. These are two identities that await the people of God and those who aren’t. This extends to us today as a promise. At the final judgement there will be two kinds of clothing, salvation and shame. But actually, it is not just a distant future kind of promise, because we can wear the clothes of salvation now. That is our identity in Christ.