The City of the Messiah

Ps 132 | A Song of Ascents.

Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor,
all the hardships he endured,
how he swore to the LORD
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
“I will not enter my house
or get into my bed,
I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
“Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool!”
Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your saints shout for joy.
For the sake of your servant David,
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
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.
If your sons keep my covenant
and my testimonies that I shall teach them,
their sons also forever
shall sit on your throne.”
For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
“This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.”

This is the word of God in Psalm 132.

 

And right away there are two things I should say about this psalm. 

First is that Psalm 132 is the most important psalm in this section known as the Songs of Ascents. And all the commentators agree about this: Psalm 132 is the centerpiece of these songs, and for a few reasons: it’s the longest psalm; it’s in a climatic spot; and it says a lot about King David — so basically this psalm is that part of the movie that you can’t miss. We gotta see this part. That’s the first thing to say — Psalm 132 is a big deal.

Then the second thing to say right away is that this psalm has a very neat structure. And there are certain personalities in this room who will really appreciate this (if you like spreadsheets this might be the psalm for you). And we’re going to get into more details here, but I want us to see right away that there are two parts to this psalm. 

 

Part One, verses 1 to 10, is a prayer; and Part Two, verses 11–18, is God’s response to the prayer — and these two parts line up beautifully. They fit together so nicely, and my goal today is to let them do their thing. I want us just to see what’s being said here, first, by looking at this prayer, and then, second, by looking at God’s response. And when we do that, I think God has something here for us to see. So let’s pray and then we’ll get started. [Father, please tune our hearts now, by your Spirit, to receive what you have for us in your word. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Prayer (verses 1–10)

So first, we’re going to look at this prayer in verses 1–10, and there are two things to see here, starting with:

1. This prayer is about David, and beyond David.

Now, when I say this prayer is about David, I mean that it’s about David, not by David. The psalm before this one, Psalm 131, was written by David. It says that in the superscript just above the psalm. Psalm 131 says: “A Song of Ascents. Of David.” That means it’s attributed to David. But Psalm 132 doesn’t say that. Psalm 132 is an anonymous psalm, and apparently it was written by someone after David. 

And we know it was written after David because the psalmist is looking back on David’s life. The psalmist is asking, in verse 1, for God to remember David — the psalmist is asking God to look in the past, think about David — and that’s important for us because it means that the person who wrote this psalm is more like us than they are different.   

The person who wrote this psalm is hoping in a promise that God made directly to David, not directly to them. And you can see that in verse 10, the last verse in Part One here. Look what the psalmist prays in verse 10:

For the sake of your servant David,
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

o what’s happening here is that the psalmist is making his appeal to God based on God’s faithfulness to David. He’s not saying “For my sake, O God” but he’s saying “For David’s sake, O God.” The psalmist here is basically, we might say, riding on the coattails of God’s past promises, and this happens at other places in the Bible. 

Moses Prayed About Abraham

For example, there was this time when Moses prayed for Israel way back in Exodus 32. This is long time back, earlier in Israel’s history. God had rescued his people from Egypt, and he was giving them the law, but the people — this was a bad moment for them — they made a golden calf to worship. And the Bible says this made God’s “wrath burn hot against them” (Exod. 32:10). They were worshiping this little statute instead of God, and God was about to wipe them out, until Moses prays. Moses intercedes for the people of Israel. And do you know what he say? He prays, 

Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven…” (Exodus 32:13)

Moses prayed to God, see, about Abraham. He’s asking God to act based upon God’s past promises. He’s asking God to act in accordance with his established faithfulness. God, you said you would do that, therefore, because of that, I need you to act here.

That’s the same thing that’s happening here in Psalm 132. The psalmist is praying to God about God’s past promise to David. He’s looking back at God’s faithfulness in history, and that becomes the basis of his hope for the future — and just a quick side-note here: 

That would be a good way for us to pray, too. I love prayers that are simple and straightforward, and I think it’s a good and holy thing to pray like that. Jesus told us to pray like that: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Simple prayers. We never want to overcomplicate prayer. And at the same time, the more we’re shaped by the Bible, the more the story of God’s redemption gets in our blood, the more we will pray as part of that same story. Which means, we will be able to relate to God not just in a “me and God” kind of way, but we’ll be able to draw into our prayers the amazing things that God has already done. We’ll be able to relate to God in light of his proven faithfulness, not just to me, but to his people over thousands of years. So we pray like: God, there was that time you did that, and because you did that, will you act here in the same way?

 

That’s a good way to pray, and that’s what the psalmist is doing. He’s looking back and praying about David, and beyond David.

God’s Anointed One

Check out what he says there in verse 10: 

For the sake of your servant David,
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

Now, who is this “anointed one?” The psalm takes us deep pretty quickly here, but we need to get who this is. Who is the psalmist talking about when he says the “anointed one”?

Well, in Hebrew, the word for “anointed one” is Messiah. “Messiah” is simply the Hebrew word. And by the time we get to the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the title Messiah has become really significant. It’s not just about someone who is anointed with oil, and it’s not just about someone who is anointed as king, as David himself was (David is an anointed one). But by the time we get here in the Psalms, the title “Messiah” is talking about more than David. The anointed one here, the Messiah here, is looking beyond David to the promise of a greater David. This is about the Messiah who will one day come. So, the prayer in verse 10 goes like this:

For the sake of your servant David (because of the promise that you made to David, because of your faithfulness to David), don’t forget your Messiah. 

That’s what he’s saying. The main thing we should see here is that the psalmist is talking about the future Messiah. The prayer in verses 1–10 is about David, and it’s beyond David. This prayer has the Messiah in view. And also, notice second about this prayer:

2. This prayer is a longing for the presence of God. 

This is really the center of the prayer here in Part One. It’s what verses 2–9 are about, but in order for that to make sense, there’s a lot of backstory here we should check out. So we’re going to do a little Bible study for a minute. 

In verses 2–5, the psalmist is asking God to remember an important moment of David’s legacy, and you can probably see the little quote marks there in verse 3. The psalmist is quoting David from a time in his life that’s described in the book of 2 Samuel, chapter 7. And we’re going to look at 2 Samuel 7 and see that important moment, but before we do, the backstory actually backs up even more. In fact, I think it goes back to the book of Genesis, but we’re going to just pick it up in Exodus 25. So we’re still going backwards. This is the second book of the Bible, early on in the history of Israel. 

God had rescued his people from Egypt, and he’s giving them the law, and the thing that was most special about Israel is that God was with them. It’s what made Israel unique from all the peoples of the earth. God was with his people — which was God’s plan from the beginning. 

God created humans to live in fellowship with him, to worship and enjoy him. But sin destroyed that relationship, and so God’s redemptive mission from Genesis 12 and onward is to make for himself a people. And he chose Abraham, and from Abraham comes the nation of Israel. And God’s plan was that he would be their God, and they would be his people, and he would be with them forever. That was God’s plan. 

The Ark of the Covenant

And the way that God’s presence would be with his people, back in the day, was through this thing called the Ark of the Covenant. That’s what’s described in Exodus 25. The Ark of the Covenant was this special ark, made of wood, about three-and-a-half feet long, overlaid with gold, and on both ends of the ark there are these golden cherubim (these statues of angelic creatures), and they have their wings stretched out over the middle of this thing called the mercy seat. [If you’ve seen the Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Ark pretty much looked exactly how it looks in that movie. Exodus 25 tells us how it looked.]

And in the middle of it, on this part called the mercy seat, is where God would meet with and speak to Moses for Israel. The Ark of the Covenant became the place where God’s presence dwelled with his people. And the Ark was kept inside this thing called the Tabernacle, which was basically this big tent.

Well, later in Israel’s history, in 1 Samuel 4, Israel was at war with the Philistines and the Philistines defeated Israel and they stole the Ark. [I remember watching a cartoon about this when I was a kid]. This was a big deal. This is what kicked off the saga of the Ark.

The Ark was where God’s presence dwelled with his people, and now it was behind enemy lines. And the good thing is that it didn’t stay there long, though, because God made a plague to come over the Philistines, and they decided they didn’t want this ark anymore. They wanted to get rid of it, and so they took the Ark and dropped it off back in Israel’s territory, in an area called Ephrathah, and eventually the Ark ends up in this place called, in English, Kirith-jearim (1 Sam. 7:2). 

Now the word in Hebrew for “jearim” is יְעָרִים — and it just means “forests.” It’s the plural word for “forests” and it comes from the word “ya-ar” (or Ja-ar), which means forest. So Kirith-jearim means literally the City of Forests, and it’s about 10 miles from Jerusalem, and that’s the place where the Ark of the Covenant was stored, and the Ark wasn’t moved from that place until around 20 years later when David became king. 

God’s Presence in Jerusalem

All right, now check this out. This is what brings us to the book of 2 Samuel. 

When David becomes king, one of the first things he does is he goes and gets the Ark and brings it to Jerusalem. David wanted to bring God’s presence back in the midst of his people, in Jerusalem, and that’s when David says, in 2 Samuel 7: “I’m going to build a house for the presence of God to dwell in.” David looked around and said, 

Hey, I’ve got a house, but the Ark of Covenant doesn’t have a house. The place where God’s presence dwells with us should have it’s own house, and I want to build it.

This becomes what is called the temple. David wanted to build a house to keep the Ark of the Covenant and be the place where God’s presence dwells with his people. That’s 2 Samuel 7; that’s what David wants to do; and that’s what Psalm 132 is talking about. 

The psalmist, in verses 2–5, is talking about David’s resolve to build this house for God, but it’s not because David just likes building things, and not because God needed a house. But it’s because David wanted God’s presence to be with his people. That’s the theme here. It’s about the presence of God. Check out verse 6. The psalmist says, 

Behold we heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar.

What’s he talking about here? He’s talking about the Ark of the Covenant. The “fields of Jaar” is a reference to “Kirith jearim” — Jaar and jearim are the same words. They mean forest. The psalmist is talking about the place where the Ark of the Covenant was stored after the Philistines got rid of it. That’s the place where David went to get the Ark and bring it to Jerusalem. So the psalmist here is remembering this history, and he’s saying: 

Hey, we know the story of when David went and got the Ark and brought it to Jerusalem. God, remember how King David wanted to bring your presence back to your people.

The Prayer Becomes a Vision

And then in verse 7, the psalmist himself breaks out in this longing to experience God’s presence. He says:

[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. [God’s presence!]
[9] Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your saints shout for joy.

o the prayer becomes, at this point, a vision of being in the presence of God, caught up in the worship of God. 

And then at the close in verse 10, as we’ve already seen, the psalmist mentions David again, and makes the petition, God, please don’t forget your Messiah! “For David’s sake, God, do not turn away the face of your anointed one.”

All right, so that’s Part One. That’s the prayer. 

And overall, we see the two themes here. First, it’s about David, but it’s looking beyond David to the Messiah. And then second, it’s about the presence of God. The psalmist longs for the presence of God. 

So the prayer, Part One, looks to the Messiah and longs for presence of God. That’s the prayer.

 

Now, in verses 11–18, how does God respond?

The Response (verses 11–18)

Well, in verses 11–18 (Part Two), God responds and does two things we should see, starting with . . .

1. God’s response remembers his promise to David.

Again, this is a very neat psalm. The first few verses of Part Two are a direct response to the first few verses of Part One. 

In the prayer, the psalmist asks God to remember David and all he did. And in God’s response, he reminds the psalmist (and us) of the promise he made to David. This is a reference back to the same story in 2 Samuel 7. 

See, back in same story of 2 Samuel 7, when David said he wanted to build a house for God, God told him No. And instead, God said, Instead of you building me a house, I’m going to build you a house. And that is when God made the great promise to David (still highlighted bright in my Bible, bleeding through to the next page) — God promised David that one of this sons will reign as king forever. 

That’s what Psalm 132 is talking about here. “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.” God promised that he would make a son of David, an offspring of David, reign as king forever. And we can count on that. That is going to happen — “God swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back.”

God will do this, and there’s more. Notice also in God’s response:

2. God’s response reaffirms his commitment to Jerusalem. 

And this, again, is almost a direct response to the prayer. The psalmist prays, “Lord, go to your resting place.” And God responds, verses 13–14:

[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.

e’s talking about Jerusalem. 

The psalmist prays: God, go to your resting place.  

God says: All right, Jerusalem is my resting place; that’s where it’s at. 

The psalmist also prayed, “Lord, let your priests be clothed with salvation. Let your saints shout for joy.” And God responds, verse 16, talking about Jerusalem:

Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.

God is going to do what the psalmist is asking. He is going to make Jerusalem become that vision the psalmist longs for. Jerusalem will be the place where God’s presence dwells. It will be the place where God’s people will be with him, surrounded by the worship of him.

And this Jerusalem, we know, isn’t just any kind of the Jerusalem. The Songs of Ascents have never envisioned just any kind of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem in view here is a restored, new Jerusalem. This is the city where God’s presence dwells. This is the city blessed by God. This is the city satisfied in God — filled with God’s people worshiping him and glad in his glory. The vision here, the longing here, is for the end-of-time reality when God will be with his people forever. The vision here is similar to one that the apostle John describes in the New Testament, in Revelation 21,  

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Rev 21:2–3)

That’s the Jerusalem that Psalm 132 is talking about here. 

The psalmist prays in Part One looking to the Messiah and longing for the presence of God, and God responds in Part Two: I’m going to keep my promise to David, and I’m going to make this new Jerusalem.

The Messiah will come, and the new Jerusalem will happen, and you can’t get one without the other. Notice verses 17–18. This is how Psalm 132 ends:

There [in this Jerusalem] I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. [Messiah]
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.

his makes it clear that this new Jerusalem is not just the place where God’s presence dwells; but this is the place where God’s Messiah reigns. This is the place where his enemies will be made his footstool and his glory will forever shine. 

The psalmist in Psalm 132, I believe, is longing for the day of Revelation 21. The psalmist is longing for God’s presence in the new Jerusalem, and for the reign of his Messiah. 

 

But wait. 

 

How do we get there? How do we get from this longing in Psalm 132 to this reality in Revelation 21? How do we get there?

 

See, we’d never guess it. Because we get there through a helpless baby who grows up to be a crucified man. 

 

We’d never guess that the deepest desire in our hearts, and our greatest hope, would be met by a kid born in a barn who later dies as a criminal on a cross. Jesus explodes our man-made categories,

And that’s not even the craziest thing. There’s what Jesus did, which is amazing, but that’s not the whole story. The whole story is what Jesus did as who Jesus is

And this is where you see in Psalm 132, and in the entire Old Testament, these two themes of God’s Messiah and God’s presence converge in a way we didn’t see coming. Because Jesus means that God’s Messiah is God’s presence. 

 

Jesus is the Messiah God sent for his people, and Jesus is Emmanuel, God with his people

 

And do you now what we’re supposed to do about that? Adore him. We adore him. That’s the only way I know how to close this. We adore him. This king. This savior. Jesus! We adore him. 

The Table

And that’s what we do at this Table.

Jesus invites us into his praise as those who fellowship at his Table. He will take us to Revelation 21, and he does it through his body broken and blood shed. And that’s what we remember now.