Songs of Degrees: Part 4

Psalm 132  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Recovery, or The Return Journey As typified by the "Songs of Degrees," Psalms 120-134
Part 4
Psalm 132. It is nice to see in David's vow recorded here about finding a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob, how he realized that, as much as it meant to Israel and himself, it was the place that Jehovah desired in dwelling amongst His people. It is very noticeable how Jehovah answers in a fuller way than David desired in the prayer, and declared that it was His rest, and here would He dwell, for He had desired it (v. 14). The blessing also went beyond what had been voiced in the prayer.
The ark in 1 Sam. 4:44So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. (1 Samuel 4:4) is spoken of: "The ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubim"; but had they really considered who dwelt there, they would never have attempted to bring it into the battle and say as they did, "It may save us out of the hand of our enemies." They were treating it as an idol. How different David's thoughts of it and who dwelt there. Do we not learn from David's exercises why he was called "a man after His own heart" (1 Sam. 13:1414But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee. (1 Samuel 13:14))?-the only one who showed such exercises about God's thoughts of dwelling in the midst of His people.
In that first song sung on the banks of the Red Sea (Exod. 15:17, 1817Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. 18The Lord shall reign for ever and ever. (Exodus 15:17‑18)), just after redemption was accomplished, we have these words: "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, in the place, 0 LORD, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in; in the sanctuary, 0 LORD, which Thy hands have established. The LORD shall reign forever and ever."
Centuries had passed by since the above inspired words had been sung. The people have been brought in and planted, the Lord has taken His place among them. But we read in Psalm 78:56-7056Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: 57But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. 58For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. 59When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: 60So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; 61And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand. 62He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance. 63The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage. 64Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation. 65Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine. 66And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach. 67Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: 68But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved. 69And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever. 70He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: (Psalm 78:56‑70): "Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not His testimonies: but turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, He was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: so that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which He placed among men: and delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand." (We read the historical account of this in 1 Sam. 4:3-113And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. 4So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. 6And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. 7And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. 8Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. 9Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight. 10And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. 11And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. (1 Samuel 4:3‑11).) "He gave His people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with His inheritance.... Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine. And He smote His enemies in the hinder parts: He put them to a perpetual reproach. Moreover He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which He loved. And He built His sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which He hath established forever. He chose David also His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds." That was in David's early years.
Some eighty to ninety years had elapsed since the ark had been delivered into captivity. Truly it did not remain in captivity very long. The enemy was glad to get rid of it in a few months, but it had never been returned to its former place in the tabernacle at Shiloh. We learn from the above quotation from the 78th Psalm the reason why. It was neglected in the days of King Saul, as David says in 1 Chronicles 13:33And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul. (1 Chronicles 13:3), "We inquired not at it in the days of Saul."
Is it not beautiful to see the spirit that he manifests here? He did not say, "They sought it not," or, "Saul sought it not," but, "We sought it not." He takes his place among the people as having neglected it.
This 132nd Psalm seems to be more about David's exercises than his utterances. Perhaps we might gather from 2 Chron. 6:41, 4241Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into thy resting place, thou, and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness. 42O Lord God, turn not away the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies of David thy servant. (2 Chronicles 6:41‑42) (Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple), that verses 8-10 of Psalm 132 are Solomon's utterances, giving us the exercises of his father concerning the ark.
"Loan, remember David, and all his afflictions:" v. 1. "How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob;" v. 2.
"Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed;" v. 3.
"I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids," v. 4.
"Until I find out a place for the LORD, a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob." v. 5.
In these five verses we have David's vow, evidently made after his being anointed as king, but during his rejection before he came into power. We see how this subject consumed him.
In Psalm 69:99For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me. (Psalm 69:9) we have the words that David uttered concerning the house: "The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up." These words are remembered by the disciples in John 2:1717And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. (John 2:17), and applied by them to the Lord when He drove out of the house the defilement that the unbelieving nation had brought into it.
"Lo, we heard of it as Ephratah." v. 6.
That simple expression should speak volumes to us! What was Ephratah? We learn from a footnote in our J.N.D. Translation that this is the same as Bethlehem-Judah, David's home where his early years had been spent. We say, early, because soon after his anointing he was called into Saul's court to play the harp before him when the evil spirit from God came upon him, after which the evil spirit departed from him. Later, he was home for a brief period, then sent to the camp of the army where he met and slew Goliath. After this mighty victory, we read that Saul would let him go no more to his father's house. Then came Saul's jealousy, and David was compelled to flee from him for several years. When he finally began to reign, we are told that he was thirty years old. So his years spent at Ephratah were early ones, and perhaps we can conclude that David, learned of the state of the ark from his parents who evidently mourned over the condition of things in Israel, and particularly concerning the ark.
"We found it in the fields of the wood." v. 6.
We also learn from a footnote in J.N.D.'s Translation that this is perhaps a poetical expression for Kirjath-jearim. It was there that David went to get the ark on first attempt to bring it up to Jerusalem (1 Chron. 13:5, 65So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjath-jearim. 6And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God the Lord, that dwelleth between the cherubims, whose name is called on it. (1 Chronicles 13:5‑6)). Evidently then this expression, "the fields of the wood," speaks of its being in a totally neglected state.
It is evident that very few at that time had proper thoughts as to the ark's rightful place amongst them, or how could it have remained so long being separated from the altars and the order of worship brought out in Exodus and Leviticus? It is nice to notice in this respect what is said concerning the arrangement of the courses of the priesthood and of the Levites. It is stated in 1 Chron. 9:2222All these which were chosen to be porters in the gates were two hundred and twelve. These were reckoned by their genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office. (1 Chronicles 9:22), "Whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office." Here we have these two, the old prophet and judge, Samuel, and the youthful anointed king meeting together during David's rejection before he came into power, communing over the order of worship. Samuel we know died before David came into power.
Pause and consider the words:
"We will go into His tabernacles: we will worship at His footstool." v. 7.
"Arise, O LORD, into Thy rest; Thou, and the ark of Thy strength." v. 8.
Does not this expression take us back to that in the song of Exodus 15, as to His inheritance and dwelling place?
It would seem that soon after the tabernacle was set up in Shiloh in the days of Joshua, it became neglected. When we read of that dreadful circumstance that arose in Judges 19-21, in the days of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, there had evidently elapsed not more than thirty-five or forty years after its setting up; yet minute instructions had to be given to the men of Benjamin, as to how to find Shiloh. This place should have been familiar to all Israel, for it had been commanded that "Three times a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose." Deut. 16:1616Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: (Deuteronomy 16:16).
Let us again pause and consider. Has there been anything analogous to this in the history of Christendom? Has the Lord held His true place among His people? After the days of the apostles, did not the Church lose the sense of this? Did not something take place similar to Josh. 24:3131And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel. (Joshua 24:31)?-"And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that He had done for Israel."
It is very easy to see that in the days of what is known as "the fathers," which were in the second century, departure came in. Not only did the Lord lose His place in the hearts of His people, but they also lost the enjoyment of Him and those exceeding great and precious promises. Soon the fundamental truths became clouded, and darkness settled over all of Christendom. Here and there, there was through His mercy, a remnant preserved who clung to Him with a certain measure of light that was above that of the majority of Christendom. It would seem that what was lost at that time was:
The place that the Lord had in the midst of His people (Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)). Very early human arrangements were brought in that denied Him His place, and also substituted human regulations which deprived His people of the liberty of the Spirit of God amongst them.
The coming of the Lord for His own as a present hope for the Church and what consequently followed.
The giving up of the heavenly calling of the Church, which brought in worldliness.
The loss of assurance of eternal security of the believer. "Therefore being justified by faith" was given up, and that which the Church was warned of in Galatians was substituted: "Justified by the law" (chap. 5:4).
(5) The Word of God was taken from believers and placed in the hands of the clergy, with a resulting darkness.
What recovery has there been? We all know and can thank God for that which was recovered at the time of the Reformation when the Lord raised up certain instruments such as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others. The Scriptures were translated into the tongue that the common people could read, and the truth of "justification by faith" was proclaimed. But the Spirit of God was still hindered by human arrangements, though not as seriously as before. The ministry of the Word and the arrangement of worship were still largely in the hands of the clergy. We hear nothing of the heavenly calling of the
Church, nor do we have the hope of the coming of the Lord to take His own out of this scene.
Let us return to our Psalm 132 and see how the Lord's place amongst His own is emphasized. We have mentioned the call to the Lord to enter into His rest, in verse 8; but is not the answer to it in verses 13, 14 full of significance for us? Have we ears to hear it?
"For the LORD bath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation." v. 13.
"This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it." v. 14.
Then there is the abundance of blessing to be poured out in verses 15-18, far beyond what David had requested. The human heart cannot rise up to the fullness of that which the Lord is pleased to dispense to His people:
"I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread." v. 15.
"I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy." v. 16.
"There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for Mine anointed." v. 17.
All this is promised in the giving of the Lord His true place. This no doubt will be very precious to the remnant of Israel in that day when, after the mourning produced by recognition of having rejected the Messiah, they will find and revel in the plenteous redemption mentioned in Psalm 130. Abundance of blessing will flow out of giving Him His true place. They will no longer be cast off, but will be cleansed of the filthy garments (Zech. 3), and clothed with salvation. The promises long considered dead are seen to bud when "My servant, the Branch" is brought forth.
This blessing continues to the end of the series of the Songs of Degrees. There is now no going back, but praises ascending to the Lord on high.
(To be continued)