Psalm 132 - The Restoration of True Worship
The Absent Ark
The Psalm alludes to the happenings with the ark of God when it was taken from its rightful place and was placed in an individual home for a long time. Eli's sons were wayward. They had not taken proper care of the ark — the symbol of the presence of God. These priests had even given in to the false notion which was found among some of the people, that if they would take the ark into battle, God would be compelled to fight for Himself, seeing He dwelt in the ark. God had revealed to them that this was a totally erroneous view. He did not fight for Himself! Nor did He fight for Israel. Israel's enemies were victorious and even captured the ark! How will God dwell with His people when there is neither tabernacle nor temple and when the ark is even missing? Surely, Israel could not expect to prosper under those conditions.
In these circumstances David now appears as the hero of God's people. He is going to build a place for the ark and he is going to bring the ark home. This was at some cost, but David is the true son of his God and he will do everything possible to achieve his goal. He is not going to give himself rest until this hope is accomplished. Here is the man who will fall into the mold of those whom Haggai had addressed concerning the necessity of rebuilding the temple. David will take no rest until it is accomplished. He has sworn to this. This is the man after God's own heart. He has found David and has chosen him as His Theocratic king.
The ark had been placed in a private home after the Philistines had had no end of trouble because of the ark of God. Dagon, their god, had been badly bruised because of the ark. When they sought to send it back to Israel they encountered difficulties. Finally it is placed in the home of Obed Edom and that house is greatly blest. This house was located in the region of Ephratah, a region which also contained the town of Bethlehem. God called both the Ark of the Covenant and His Son out of Ephratah. There, in the field of the wood, not in a glamorous palace but in a very ordinary house is found the ark of God.
Restored Fellowship with God
Now the Psalmist breaks out in song. The ark has been placed on Mount Zion, where God had appeared to David after the destruction of so many thousands in Israel because of King David's sin. The people will now have access to this holy place where their God dwells. This is their clear intention; they will go into His tabernacle and worship at His footstool.
But, the important thing is not that there is a place where the people of God can go to bring worship to Him; the important thing is that God Himself will make His abode there. Let it not only be a resting place for the ark which symbolized His presence, but, let God Himself be there. The welfare of His people is so wrapped up in the presence of God that the Psalmists sing of this time and again. He and His people must be together. They belong together. There where the ark is now residing and where God Himself has made His abode is the place where the people will come to bring their worship. The ark will now be brought to Zion in the proper way with the proper words spoken over it (Numbers 10:35) God had indeed impressed upon the people that they may not deal with holy things as they see fit. Carelessness about that was the reason why He had killed Uzza (2 Samuel 6). When the ark comes to Zion they must not make the mistake of the past and allow men such as the sons of Eli to minister in the presence of the ark of God. That is where all their difficulties had begun! These men, though they were descendants of Aaron had no right to the priesthood. There are many today that have no right to handle holy things because they do not regard them with fear and respect. Instead, let thy priests be clothed with righteousness! Let them live their profession. Let them not teach one thing and live another! Let them be honest! Then the saints will shout for joy. They will then possess those things which are the dearest to them. They will have a place where they may go to serve the living God and they will there receive the spiritual service of His priests of their edification! Until these requirements are met, His people cannot be at rest, they cannot be satisfied. But, when the promises are fulfilled His people will have everything they ever desired. True priests will serve the true God and the joy of the people will be evident in the fact that they will not despise His service but will rejoice in it.
The Future Hope
The Psalmist now approaches his topic from a different point of view. Where he had spoken of the fact that in the past all things had been rectified and that the ark of the covenant was no longer found in a heathen land, he now prays to his God that He will continue indefinitely the beautiful relationship which has been established with His people. God has sworn with an oath that He will remember His covenant which He had made with David. Others will arise after David has departed this life who will not share his deep piety and righteous judgment. This prompts the prayer, "Lord, remember the eternal covenant made with David!" The singer is also confident that his God will remain faithful to the oath He has once sworn. If he did not have this confidence, his own spiritual life would suffer greatly. His God is the God who does not change while everything else is subject to the ravages of time.
Whenever we are reminded in the Scriptures that we are dealing with a faithful, covenant-keeping God, we are also reminded of the fact that in all covenants there are contained two parts. In Psalm 132 the poet will not elaborate on this, he will bring it to our attention. The promise of kingship which He has made to David is also made to David's house. It will be a dynasty. However, there is a condition: "If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children also shall sit upon thy throne for evermore." How the house of David slides farther and farther away from the truth. How many of those who later sat on his throne were apostate! But Israel had been assured that the government would not depart from this particular house until the Messiah should come! How long-suffering God is! Even an Ahaz does not cause Him to turn His back on the house of David. Even though a Manasseh sacrifices his own children to heathen idols, God remembers the covenant He made with David! It is because of the loving kindnesses of our God that we have not been consumed. His mercies extend far beyond the present generation. His covenant stands — and the demands of that covenant also stand!
Although a long time passed before God's announced purpose was realized in history, God had chosen Zion, that hill, that mount of David, as the place where the tabernacle and later the temple were to be situated. The people would not listen but rebelled again and again. God desires to have His house in the same place where the palace of the theocratic king stands. These two belong together! Here He will dwell. This will be the place of the temple forever. Israel had to see to it that the ark was brought here where He wanted it to be.
When this restoration on Mount Zion occurs, many other blessings will result from following the way of Jehovah. God will abundantly provide the people with all the material things which are necessary for them. This comes from the right relationship of God to His people. Material prosperity has religious foundations! Her poor shall be satisfied with bread. In other words, there will be no truly poor. He will take care of that! In the law of Moses it had been made very clear to Israel that there would be no poor in Israel if they would keep His Commandments. Yet, we read several times that the people left (the land "flowing with milk and honey") because of famine! The church today must again witness to the law of God and urge men to keep it for their own moral, material and social welfare. The church which loudly proclaims that we are finished with the law—has no message for the men of today.
The people had uttered a very sincere prayer in verse 9 that the priests of God might be clothed with righteousness and that the saints might shout for joy. In verse 16 the Lord gives an answer to this prayer. The people have prayed in the proper way, but He always gives more than they even think to ask. He says that He will clothe His priests with salvation! Through their labors salvation shall be made known to His people. They are, as it were, the dispensers of salvation. So much rests on the proper work of the priests. Not only does He clothe His priests with salvation, He also gives His people full reason to shout for joy. His people can only rejoice when their worship of their God is accepted!
The poet is not going to allow the reason for the shout of joy on the part of His people to remain obscure. He says the reason why His people are able to rejoice is the fact that the house of David will be much more glorious in the future than it ever has been in the past. The light which shines from this throne is going to be far more brilliant in the future. No one shall be able to stand before this Kingship. Now it is no more the house of David which is praised, the vision of the poet goes much farther. The things he says in the concluding words of this Psalm can never be said about any kingly house on this earth. The Messiah will come from this line. In His day that Kingship will be all-glorious. In the Messiah all God's promises will be realized. Also, in the Messiah all the hopes of God's people will be realized.
Having come to the end of this study on the Messianic Psalms, it is the sincere hope of the author that those who have used these lessons this year, or will use them in the future, will have seen how the glorious fulfillment of all the hopes of the redeemed of the Old Testament find their foundation in Jesus Christ. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why do you think the Old Testament devotes so much space to the desire of David to build Him a house; the desire left unfulfilled; and the actual building of the temple by Solomon?
- How can we plead on God's covenant promises?
- How dependent were the people on their priests for their spiritual welfare? How dependent are we on faithful ministers for this same welfare?
- On what basis does God allow the Kingdom of Judah to continue while they had godless kings? Does this give you any hint as to the reason why He does not act as quickly as we often think He should?
- Did it make any difference where the temple would be built? How do you harmonize what is said in this Psalm and what we read in John 4?
- Can we expect any blessings when our spiritual life is not right? Does the world have any claim on the favor of God.