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This present "Song of Ascents" is well suited to be a "pilgrim-song"—sung by those who went up to Jerusalem to visit the temple, and revivify their faith in the God who had chosen Zion for his dwelling-place. It is concerned almost entirely with the temple, which it sets before the faithful from the first conception of it in the mind of David to its final glory when visited by the Redeemer. Psalms 132:1-5 are concerned with the birth of the idea in David's mind; Psalms 132:6-10, with its realization under Solomon; while Psalms 132:11-18 point to the time when David's true Son would be set upon David's throne, and the Lord himself would suddenly come to his temple, and make the glory of the second house greater than that of the first had ever been.
Metrically, the psalm consists of four stanzas, each of ten lines: Psalms 132:1-5; 6-10; 11-13; and 14-18.
David's abasement and vow to God. The historical books give no account of this vow, which, however, may have been recorded in one or other of the lost compositions spoken of so frequently in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2Ch 9:29; 2 Chronicles 16:11, etc.).
Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions; rather, remember to David all his affliction; i.e. reckon it to him, and reward him for it. The "affliction" intended is the distress that David felt at the thought that, while he dwelt in a house of cedar, the ark of God was only lodged within curtains (2 Samuel 7:2).
How he sware unto the Lord (see the comment on Psalms 132:1-5). And vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; rather, the Mighty One of Jacob (see Genesis 49:24; Isaiah 60:16).
Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house. I will not take up my abode quietly and comfortably in my own solid and substantial house (see 2 Samuel 5:11). Nor go up into my bed. Indulge, i.e; in luxurious repose. (Fur a contrary feeling on the part of some Israelites, see Haggai 1:4.)
I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to my eyelids. Exegetical of the last clause of Psalms 132:3.
Until I find out a place for the Lord. The "place" which David desired to "find" was a permanent resting-place for the ark of God, which he had already "brought up from the house of Obed-Edom into the city of David with gladness" (2 Samuel 6:12), but which he had only established in a temporary abode of the nature of a tent, or tabernacle (2 Samuel 6:17). God approved David's zeal, but did not allow him to accomplish his design (2 Samuel 7:5-16). An habitation for the mighty God of Jacob; rather, the Mighty One of Jacob (comp. Psalms 132:2 and the comment ad loc.).
The realization of David's design. The resting-place is, after a time, discovered and prepared. The ark is brought up and placed in it (1 Kings 8:1-11). The "priests" are" clothed with righteousness," and the "saints shout for joy." God "turns not away the face of his anointed," but accepts the costly offering. God himself "arises into his rest," and makes his presence visible from the mercy-seat (1Ki 8:10, 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 5:13, 2 Chronicles 5:14).
Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah. "It" is probably "the ark"—not yet mentioned, but a main object of the writer's thoughts; and "Ephratah" is the district south and west of Jerusalem, in which both Bethlehem and Kirjath-jearim were situated. And found it in the fields of the wood; rather, in the fields of Jaar. "Jaar" is a contracted and poetic name for Kirjath-jearim, where the ark remained from its return out of the country of the Philistines till David transferred it to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13:5-13).
We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool. The transfer is regarded as accomplished, and the worship as re-established, which had been intermitted while the ark was at Kirjath-jearim.
Arise, O Lord, into thy rest. Another transfer, but into the place of final "rest." The words are a quotation from 2Ch 8:1-18 :41, and were uttered originally by Solomon at the close of his long dedication prayer. Thou, and the ark of thy strength. The quotation continues. God is regarded as entering the temple, and taking possession of it, in and with the ark.
Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness. In 2 Chronicles the expression used is "with salvation"—salvation being the effect, whereof "righteousness" is the cause. And let thy saints shout for joy. 2 Chronicles has, "rejoice in goodness," i.e. rejoice in God's goodness to them. There is no other sufficient reason for great joy.
For thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed. Here the text diverges still more from that of Chronicles, which runs thus: "O Lord God, turn not away the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies of David thy servant" The meaning, however, is much the same in both passages: "For David's sake, to whom thou hast shown so many mercies, turn not away the face—i.e. reject not the petition, or the offering—of his representative."
God's oath of promise to David. This passage is based mainly on 2 Samuel 7:11-16, but contains likewise expressions which seem taken from other psalms, as Psalms 48:1, Psalms 48:2; Psalms 68:16; Psalms 89:3, Psalms 89:4; Psalms 147:14. The chief promise is that of a special "fruit of his body" to be "set upon his throne" (Psalms 147:11) and to reign in Zion forever (Psalms 147:13, Psalms 147:14).
The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David (comp. Psalms 89:3, Psalms 89:35). He will not turn from it. So it is said of another Divine oath, "The Lord sware, and will not repent" (Psalms 110:4). Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne (see 2 Samuel 7:12; Acts 2:30).
If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne forevermore.
For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. Here we are brought back again to the temple. Zion, the city of David, was also "the city of the great King" (Psalms 48:2)—the place where he had "set his Name"—which he was bound to protect and cherish. "As truly as God had chosen Zion, and made his habitation there, so certainly must he also raise up for David a branch, through which to his people concentrated there he will impart salvation" (Hengstenberg).
This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it (comp. Psalms 68:16).
I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. Literally, this seems to point to the blessing of abundance of food. Spiritually, it may be a promise of ample spiritual sustenance.
I will also clothe her priests with salvation (comp. Psalms 132:9). More is pro-raised than was asked for. And her saints shall shout aloud for joy. Here, too, the promise goes beyond the request in Psalms 132:9.
There will I make the horn of David to bud. The "horn of David" budded most gloriously when "a rod came forth out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch grew out of his roots, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon him" (Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 11:2)—in other words, when Messiah appeared, and re-established the Davidian kingdom, which thenceforth has endured, and will endure for ever. I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. The metaphor is changed; but the idea is the same. Christ's coming shed a glory on David's house, and on the temple, and on David himself, such as had never previously illumined them. David is often promised "a lamp" (1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 2 Chronicles 21:7). In Christ the lamp was given.
His enemies will I clothe with shame. David's "enemies" are those who oppress his "Seed," and will not have him to reign over them. All such will be "confounded and put to shame" (Psalms 35:4), "clothed with shame and dishonor" (Psalms 35:26). But upon himself shall his crown flourish. The true and the final Davidic representative is Christ, who "remaineth a King forever" (Psalms 29:10). On him his crown will ever flourish.
The service of the sanctuary.
We are accustomed to think of devotion in connection with the house of the Lord. The two things are clearly, though not inseparably, associated with one another. There may be piety where there is no sanctuary; there may be a sanctuary where there is no piety. Practically, however, we find the two in very close alliance. We have in this psalm—
I. THE GOOD MAN'S ANXIETY. (Psalms 132:1-5.) David is represented as very seriously concerned about the sanctuary of God. It is a mark of devotion when we are more willing to spend our time and our money on God's house than on our own; when we would rather have our own dwelling out of repair than let his house be neglected.
II. GOD'S FAVORING PRESENCE. (Psalms 132:7, Psalms 132:8, Psalms 132:13,Psalms 132:14.) God chose Zion as the place of his manifested presence. There he could be worshipped (by sacrifice) as nowhere else. Though not actually more present in the sanctuary than elsewhere, he is so to our thought and feeling; and there, if we gather in the spirit of devotion and reverent inquiry (Psalms 27:1-14.), we may confidently expect that God will manifest his power in the enlightening and renewing influences of his Spirit.
III. MINISTERIAL EQUIPMENT AND REWARD. (Psalms 132:9, Psalms 132:16.) The ministers of God:
1. Are to be clothed with righteousness. They must be men in whom is the Spirit, and in whose lives are found the principles of Jesus Christ. It is vain to commend him with the lip when the life bears no confirming witness; but when lip and life speak the same truth, there is power and fruitage.
2. They will then be clothed with salvation. They will be men whose word will be of Divine redemption, whose work will be the healing, the strengthening, and the saving of the souls of men; and this plenitude of salvation will overflow to the life of those they serve. There is-
IV. A CONSEQUENT BLESSING TO THE PEOPLE. "They shout for joy" (Psalms 132:9-16).
1. Where worship is rightly rendered, where the praises of a gracious God are sung with grateful hearts as well as tuneful tongues, where the glories and the graces of God in Christ Jesus are unfolded as they should be, and as they will be by ministers who understand and magnify their mission, there will be pure and deep joy in the act of Divine service. This is the true, the Christian note to strike; not that of spiritual depression, but that of sacred joy; for are we not children and heirs of God? are we ….? not kings and priests unto God do we not "sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus"?
2. When ministerial work has been faithfully discharged, it has led souls into the kingdom of God, which is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." The psalm brings out, what we must never lose sight of-
V. THE CONDITIONAL CHARACTER OF ALL DIVINE PROMISES. (Psalms 132:11, Psalms 132:12.) The promises of God usually, as here, have a condition attached to them; but where it is not expressed it is understood. The wise and holy Father could not promise anything absolutely to his children; that would be unworthy of his wisdom, and injurious to our true interests. Forgiveness is promised to repentance and faith; the indwelling Spirit to purity of heart; peace of mind to believing prayer; the crown of life to faithfulness unto death, etc.
VI. THE GREAT FULFILMENT. The psalm is Messianic (see Luke 1:69).
1. An availing plea. If for David's sake God is asked not to send the suppliant away unblessed, how much more confidently may we plead the Name of the Son of David, and ask that for Christ's sake he would not send us away without forgiveness and spiritual refreshment!
2. The hope of truth and victory. Christ, the Light of the world, the victorious Prince and Savior, was ordained, and in due time he came (Psalms 132:17, Psalms 132:18).
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The power of a holy soul.
I. THAT DAWN WAS SUCH WE ARE BOUND TO BELIEVE, notwithstanding the flagrant and most grievous sins which are recorded against him. They stagger us when we read of them, and we wonder how such a man could ever have been called "the man after God's own heart." But in this psalm, as so constantly throughout the Holy Scriptures, we come across statements which prove that, in the estimation of the people of his day, and of those who knew him best, he was held most dear. A passionate enthusiasm of honor and affection gathered round his name and memory, the evidence of which is met with simply everywhere. How could this have been if he were only what many in our day say he was, and who hold him up, not for warm approbation, but for severe reprobation? We are bound to judge of a man, not according to the standards of our own age, but of his, and to accept their testimony and not our inferences from statements which it is impossible for us in this age fully to understand. His own people loved and honored him, and that is enough.
II. AS SUCH HE WAS DEAR TO THE HEART OF GOD. For his descendants felt that they might plead his name as an argument in their prayers. They believed that they might call upon God to "remember David." There is no hint here or anywhere that they were wrong in this. Doubtless they were right. There is no saint-worship in this, and no seeking David's intercession with God; but there is the valid plea that God would remember the prayers and sorrows of his faithful servant—sorrows which came to him in consequence of his love and zeal for God. The people of God knew how God had remembered Noah, and saved him and his from the Flood; how he had remembered Abraham, and for his sake had saved Lot out of Sodom; and now they believed he would remember David, and would bless them as David had prayed. Such is the power of a holy soul to bring down blessing upon his children and upon his people.
III. WHAT MADE HIM THUS DEAR TO THE HEART OF GOD?
1. Because dishonor to God was distress to him. It was a grief of mind that the ark and service of God should be so ill cared for (cf. 2 Samuel 7:2). It was to him a public dishonor done to God to allow such a thing to continue. How few there are who feel like this! All people seek their own, not those things that are God's. It was an affliction to David that God was not honored. Oh that it may be so to us!
2. Because he not only grieved for the dishonor, but earnestly sought to remove it. See how intense was his desire that God should have a fit habitation (Psalms 132:5). He would not rest in his house, nor lie down, etc. (Psalms 132:3, Psalms 132:4), until, etc. (Psalms 132:5). Oh for zeal like this! What a witness for God it would be! And how solemnly he bound himself over to this work (Psalms 132:4)! And it was ever his anxious concern; this the meaning of "his affliction" in Psalms 132:1. Now, because of this, though he was a man of so many faults, and though he never did build the Lord's temple, yet was he beloved of the Lord.
IV. THE RESULT THAT FOLLOWED, AND STILL FOLLOWS, FROM WHAT DAVID WAS.
1. His name became a valid plea with God.
2. An inspiring memory for all time, and especially to those who succeeded him.
3. A perpetual encouragement to all who work and suffer for God.
4. A call to us to cherish holy zeal for the honor of God.—S.C.
A place for the Lord.
I. TO SECURE THIS SHOULD BE THE OBJECT OF OUR INTENSE DESIRE AND ENDEAVOR.
1. Because the Lord so desires it. See his name here, "the mighty God of Jacob." What a poor mean wretch Jacob too often was! And yet how God compassionated, pitied, uplifted, and saved him! What does not such a redeeming God deserve and demand!
2. For the sake of our fellow-men. It is the world's great and crying need—that the Lord God should dwell among them. It is heaven where "the tabernacle of the Lord is with men."
3. For our own sake. For God's "loving-kindness is better than life." God is the soul's exceeding Joy.
II. WHERE WE SHOULD MAKE THIS ENDEAVOR.
1. In our own heart. Until he have a place, a habitation, there, it is no good our trying to find him a place elsewhere.
2. In our homes. Let our own family be the scene of our first aggressive work.
3. In the branch of the Church to which we belong. The Church should be God's rest forever; he would have it so (Psalms 132:13). But it too often is not. And until the Church is right, the world will remain wrong. To have a better world we must have a better Church.
4. In our own neighborhood. All who dwell around ought to be the better for our dwelling in their midst. "Let your light so shine," etc.
5. Throughout the world. The missionary cause should be dear to our heart.
III. HOW WE SHOULD GO TO WORK.
1. By personal self-surrender to Christ. This stands at the threshold of all our work. Nothing can be done till this is done.
2. By believing prayer, importunate and persevering, and by holy example and faithful testimony.
3. By consecration of our substance to this work.
4. By continual self-denial.
5. By perpetual trust in Christ.
6. By firm, holy, and abiding resolve. (Psalms 132:2-4.)—S.C.
Psalms 132:6, Psalms 132:7
Led of the Lord.
We do not know for certain what "it," in Psalms 132:6, means. Probably the ark of the covenant—"the ark of thy strength" (Psalms 132:8). Nor do we know exactly where Ephratah was, and "the fields of the wood" (see Exposition for a possible interpretation). But we may suffer the expressions used in these verses to suggest to us the progress of the soul led by the Lord in the ways of life. We only take "it" as telling of the grace of God, the Word of life. And concerning this we may note—
I. THAT GOD PREPARES THE HEART THAT IS TO RECEIVE HIS GRACE. See how it was with David, how his soul was stirred in connection with the object he had in view. And so God ever deals with men. By one means and another he gets them ready for what he is going to give them.
II. THEN HIS GRACE IS HEARD OF. The Ephratah stage is reached. When the soul has been got ready, the seed is sown, the Word is heard, and it has fallen into good ground.
III. THEN IT IS SOUGHT AFTER AND FOUND. The search may be a long one, and the discovery made at last in some seemingly very unlikely place—some fields of the wood, as it were, where no one would have thought of going to look for it. In what unthought-of places and ways God is found!
IV. THEN COME THE OPEN CONFESSION OF IT, AND FELLOWSHIP WITH THEM WHO ARE LIKE-MINDED AND HAVE ALSO FOUND GOD. "We will go into his tabernacles." They have found what their soul desired, and they will proclaim it before all by going to the house of God with the people of God.
V. THIS FOLLOWED BY THE LIFE OF WAITING UPON GOD. "We will worship at his footstool." So the Divine life in us is matured and sustained. At what stage in this progress are we?—S.C.
Psalms 132:8, Psalms 132:9
The Church the rest of the Lord.
This is the only place in the Psalms where the ark is mentioned. And it is only described as here in 2 Chronicles 6:41.
I. THE CHURCH THE LORD'S RESTING-PLACE. (See Numbers 10:33-36.) When the ark set forward, it was "to search out a resting-place for them." And where they were, God would be (2 Chronicles 6:13). It is not the magnificence of the shrine, the numbers or the rank or wealth of the attendants, but it is the spiritual character of the people, that God looks at. His Church consists of those who believe, love, and obey him. They are the objects of his love and care and choice. They shall have his presence, and his delight shall be with them.
II. THE CHURCH CANNOT PROSPER WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN CHRIST. This is the meaning of the words, "Thou and the ark of thy strength." For though we had the presence of God, we could not know it apart from Christ. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me;" "This is life eternal, to know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Our knowledge of God is dependent on our knowledge of Christ. The ark was the ark of God's strength. Before it the waters of Jordan parted asunder; the walls of Jericho fell down; the idol-god of the Philistines, Dagon, was shattered. It was the symbol and pledge of strength from God for all Israel's need. Hence the consternation of Eli when he heard that the ark of God was taken. But so is our Lord Jesus Christ the strength of God. For through him God wins us, keeps us, inspires us, strengthens us. God can do anything with us and through us when Christ is our Life. Revealed to our hearts in Christ, we are utterly his.
III. THE CHURCH IS BLESSED INDEED WHEN THIS PRAYER IS ANSWERED.
1. Her priests are clothed with righteousness—endued with the spirit of holiness. The being clothed tells of manifested character, the habit and garment of the soul. And what a joy and a power to the Church is a holy ministry! Nothing can compare with it, nothing can compensate for its absence.
2. Her saints are filled with joy. Gladness and sanctity go together, as they ever should. Let us ever pray, "Endue thy ministers with righteousness, and make thy chosen people joyful."
IV. THE CHURCH, WOULD SHE BE THUS BLESSED, MUST SEEK FOR THE BLESSING IN PRAYER. "Arise, O Lord," etc. Then the Lord will dwell in her; she will be his rest (2 Chronicles 6:14-18).—S.C.
Zion of the Lord beloved.
I. SHE IS THE OBJECT OF THE LORD'S CHOICE.
1. We cannot get rid of the truth of God's election. Many would like to do so. It calls up in their minds thoughts of a very painful kind. It clouds for them and to them the face of God.
2. But we see it everywhere. Are not we ourselves a chosen people? With whom hath God dealt, in the way of privilege, as with us?
3. And we act upon the principle ourselves. If we want some work to be done, we elect the best instruments we can find for it. We do not send just anybody, but we choose whom we shall send.
4. And this fact shows us how to regard the doctrine of election. The election is to service for the sake of others, not to their exclusion, as is so commonly thought; for their good, and not for their ill. Thus God chose Abraham and Israel, that his "way may be known upon earth, and his," etc. (Psalms 67:1-7.). Not that others may be left out of the Divine blessing, but brought into it. If we are rendering no service to our brethren, then we are not of God's elect, for all his elect serve.
II. SHE IS HIS REST AND DESIRED HABITATION FOREVER.
1. Allusion is, no doubt, made to the ark of the covenant. Its shiftings and migrations had been many ere it was finally fixed at Jerusalem. It went from Shiloh to Bethel (Judges 20:27); then to Mizpeh (Judges 21:5); then, for twenty years, it was at Kirjath-jearim, in "the fields of the wood;" then, for three months, in the house of Obed-Edom; and finally at Zion, where the psalmist thought it would rest for evermore.
2. But what was not strictly true of the ark and Zion is true of God and his Church. He ever dwells there; for his people have been chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world. He has already done so much for them, both in providence and in grace. Amongst ourselves nothing so hinds us over to render further help as help we have already given. And certainly it is so with God. He begins his good work, and therefore he goes on (Philippians 1:6). Then, God has promised to be ever with his people (see John 14:16-23; Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22). Amid his people only is he honored, loved, and obeyed; other men grieve, dishonor, and despise him and his Law; but his people count him their "exceeding Joy." And then he is beginning already to reap his blessed harvest in them. Our Lord himself was the Sower who went "forth weeping, bearing," etc. (Psalms 126:6); and already he is beginning to "come again with rejoicing," etc. For amid his people he finds even here and now—how much more by-and-by!—sympathy, love, holiness, devotion, those things in which he delights because they are of and like himself.
3. And what is true of the Church at large is true of the individual soul. Are we, then, members of God's Zion, enrolled in the fellowship of his Church?
III. THE PROVISION SHALL BE ABUNDANTLY BLESSED. Her praises, her prayers, her instructions, her ministers, her sacraments, her assemblies,—these are her provisions; and God shall, does, abundantly bless them to the securing of those happy results for which they were designed.
IV. THE POOR SHALL BE SATISFIED WITH BREAD. In his Church the poor are the rich, and the rich the poor. For the poor are those who know it and long for the Bread of life, and so get it and are rich. But the rich desire not, and so have not and are poor. And Zion's poor shall be satisfied. Oh to be of these poor!—S.C.
The shame of Christ's enemies and the glory of his crown.
That part of the Old Testament history to which this psalm refers is in all probability the dedication of the temple which Solomon had built. Part of it forms the conclusion of the prayer which Solomon offered on that occasion (cf. Psalms 132:8-10 and 2 Chronicles 6:41, 2 Chronicles 6:42). And the whole of it is appropriate to that event. Its first portion expresses the earnest anxiety of God's people for his presence amongst them, and the second recounts those facts and promises on which their faith that God would come amongst them rested. David had been full of concern about the building of the house of the Lord. It was a real distress to him until he had found a place, etc. (Psalms 132:5). And all his conduct had been in keeping with this holy desire. Now, this the psalmist prays the Lord to remember. And what an example such holy anxiety is to us all when we are seeking the presence of the Lord in our midst! Such holy longing after himself God will never disappoint. The latter part of the psalm proves this, and our text is the closing promise of a series, all of which assure the people of God that Christ shall live and reign and triumph in their midst. So, then, let us consider—
I. THE SHAME OF CHRIST'S ENEMIES.
1. It is strange that he should have any enemies, so good and gracious as he was.
2. But some of these enemies do not think themselves to be such. Those that are openly and flagrantly against Christ all can recognize; but there are a number of others who, though not with Christ, would protest against being regarded as his enemies. But such protest will not avail. To be not with Christ is to be against him—his enemy.
3. And for his enemies there awaits open shame. They shall be clothed with it.
(1) There will be the shame of defeat. They cannot, shall not, have their way. The Church they would despoil the Lord will keep.
(2) And of contempt. For think what it is they oppose; not some tyrannous oppression, but a just, holy, and most beneficent rule. And how inexcusable such opposition, for God's Word was all against them, and the testimony of the best and wisest of men, and conscience, when suffered to speak, condemned them! but, nevertheless, they persisted in their sin and folly. What but the shame of contempt can come to them? What else should come?
(3) And of the profound moral condemnation of all the good. For these opponents of Christ have violated all their better nature, have incurred the guilt of deep ingratitude, and have wrought widespread evil; they have dragged down with them many precious souls, and they have done foul dishonor to God. May he keep us from all such shame!
II. THE GLORIES OF THE SAVIOR'S CROWN. "Upon himself," etc. None of us are capable of adequately speaking of these glories, but we are able to see some of the sources whence these glories spring. As:
1. From the nature of Christ's rule. It is supreme, universal, eternal, attained at vast cost and in infinite wisdom, righteousness, and love.
2. From the universal and glad response which it shall receive. "His saints shall shout aloud for joy." His rule is their delight.
3. From the results of his rule. See the numbers of his subjects, their happy condition, their spotless purity. These are some of the results of our Savior's rule.
CONCLUSION. In which shall you and I share—in these glories, or in the shame with which his enemies shall be clothed? One or the other it must be. Before God let us settle this question.—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Anxious purpose delayed may prove afflictive.
"Remember for David [i.e. so as to fulfill the promise made to him] all his trouble" (see 2 Samuel 6:8-15; 1 Chronicles 22:1-19.). This psalm may belong to the period of Solomon, but it is better to read it in the light of the memories and feelings and hopes of the restored exiles. It is a plea for the fulfillment of the promises made to David in the experiences of the restored nation; and it is a poetical way of saying that the anxieties of the exiles for the honor of Jehovah and Jehovah's worship were only fitly represented by the anxiety of David in the olden time. The key-note of the psalm is given in the first sentence, "Lord, remember David." "Fulfill in us thy promises to him; for we are like-minded towards thee and thy service." The point immediately before us is, that affliction is a comprehensive term, and may include providential hindrances. It should be borne in mind that, as David purposed to build a temple for God, and could not accomplish his purpose, so the restored exiles purposed to rebuild the temple, and could not accomplish their purpose because of the opposition of the Samaritans. The psalm represents the fretting of the pious part of the nation at this enforced delay.
I. DIVINE HINDRANCES, CAUSING DELAY, MAY BE NECESSARY. It is true that God deals with the individual, and has personal interest in each individual; but he is the Father of a family, and must keep supremely in view the interest of the whole. The wish of one is always considered, but delay may be necessary in order to get things worked round so that the wish may be met without injury to others. Man's purposes are formed without full knowledge, so they often must be qualified.
II. DIVINE HINDRANCES, CAUSING DELAY, MAY BE AFFLICTIVE. That depends greatly on the disposition of those who form the purposes. A king, like David, who was constantly getting his own way, would find it especially hard to be hindered. The exiles, who were full of enthusiasm for God's house, must have found it very hard to have their work arrested. All the harder because their purpose was such a manifestly good one. It may be urged that no severer strain ever comes into a good man's life than enforced delay in accomplishing his pious purposes. In agony a man may say, "God will not let me do the good I would."
III. DIVINE HINDRANCES, CAUSING DELAY, MAY BE EDUCATIVE. They may educate humility, by convincing us that we are not absolutely necessary; and submission, by compelling our wills to wait on God's will; and hope, by assuring us that God being in the delay will surely be in the issue to which it leads.—R.T.
The Mighty One of Jacob.
Every man has—should have—his own apprehension of God, and name for him. (For this name, see Genesis 49:24.) It does not appear that Jacob called him "The Mighty One." This is the name which those find for Jacob's God who can read aright the story of God's dealings with the great patriarch. But it is more than probable that there is poetical allusion to the revelation that was made to Jacob at the Jabbok. The nameless one who wrestled with him prevailed to leave on him the permanent mark of his power. So he may properly be figured as the "Mighty One." This name for God is also found in Isaiah 1:24; Isa 19:1-25 :26; Isaiah 60:16.
I. A MAN MUST USE THE NAMES THERE ARE FOR GOD UNTIL HE CAN MAKE ONE FOR HIMSELF. Mothers give the first conceptions of God, and teach the first name for him. As the boy unfolds into the man, he will have changing, enlarging, ideas of God, and want other names for him. Israel fixed a variety of names in association with particular incidents. The earlier names chiefly embody the idea of power. Presently they enlarge to express character. But only refined minds need names that express personal relations. It may be well to illustrate what a variety of names there are in the Old Testament for God, and further, to show what differences of conception are embodied in the names for God in different nations and religions. Teut, Allah, Theos, Deus, Buch, As, Istu, Rain, Magatal, Pussa, Goezur, Yannar, etc. It may he that a man can never really get to fill the Divine name Father with its proper meaning until he realizes his own paternity; but this is getting a name out of an experience.
II. A MAN MAY GET HIS OWN NAME FOR GOD OUT OF HIS EXPERIENCES OF LIFE. And a man does not really know God, or come into right personal relations with him, until he gets his own name by which to call him. It may, of course, be an old and familiar name; but the man must make it his own. The experiences of life may bring to a man a great awe of the Divine majesty; or a tear of the Divine power; or a wondering over the Divine mystery; or a tenderness on account of the graciousness of Divine dealing. In each case we want a name; and we put our own special meaning into the name for God that we use. It means more to us than it does to any one else. And when once we have fixed our own name for God, it becomes a sort of test by which we appraise and understand all God's further dealings with us.—R.T.
Housing God's symbols.
The fitting old place was a temple; the fitting place now is a heart. The old economy was an elaborate picture-teaching of spiritual truths and relations. It is urged that, as man is a composite being, and can never transcend his bodily conditions, his religion must always be as composite as himself. it must have its visible symbols, and they must have their fitting earthly, material, surroundings. On the other hand, it is urged, as by the Hindus, that precisely what man has to do, precisely what has to be the issue of life, is full deliverance from the sensible and material, from all reliance on form, symbol, sacrament, or other outward help; and absolute absorption in, and satisfaction with, spiritual and eternal realities. To many this must seem a dream; and it may confidently be affirmed that the majority of men will never transcend their dependence on material symbols. Religion for humanity will always have its shrines, its sacraments, and its services. And if this be so, then adequate and efficient material helps will be sought by all devout souls. And this is illustrated in David's anxiety.
I. THE PITTING PLACE FOR DIVINE SYMBOLS. David had to deal with a sacred ark, which was the symbol of Jehovah's presence as the supreme King of the nation. Clearly what was befitting to the King was a dwelling-place. But David had restored that ark to a nation that had at last gained settled permanency. The sense of security led to the idea of building a palace for David. How natural that David should thing of building a palace for his supreme and sovereign Lord! A movable tent was no longer in harmony with the national life. The houses built for God, the churches and chapels of today, ought to represent that sense of God and of God's presence which they have for whom they are built. If the house holds the symbols which God gives, it is the symbol of God which man creates. It represents his thought of God.
II. THE FITTING PLACE FOR THE REALITY REPRESENTED BY SYMBOLS. For symbols are never realities, and never must be thought of as such, or treated as such. They are only symbols. The Divine presence is a spiritual reality. And that must have its shrine. That shrine is a human heart. "To that man will I look, and with him will I dwell, who is humble and contrite in heart." The heart-temple must be worthy of its real presence.—R.T.
The history of the ark epitomizing the history of the nation.
If Ephratah is to be treated as the ancient name of Bethlehem, we must not understand this verse to affirm that the ark was ever there; but, putting himself back into the olden days, the poet represents David as having heard about the ark when he was living at Bethlehem. But it is more simple to take Ephratah as a general term for the district in which the ark was found. Historical or geographical precision is not necessary, in a poem or a psalm. It should also be noticed that this psalm is arranged in answering sentences for chanting. In saying that the ark was the symbol of the Divine presence, we are hardly precise enough. The Divine presence was a wondrous light that shone above the cover of the ark, and between the guarding cherubim. The ark itself represented the nation of Israel, and in it the tables of the covenant were put, as in the heart of the nation God's laws were settled. God's symbolic light resting on the representative ark signified God's acceptance of, and favor toward, the nation. So the history of the ark becomes the suggestion of the history of the nation. This may be illustrated in four stages.
I. THE ARK REPRESENTING THE NATION'S TRAINING-TIME. It was for a time in the making, according to Divine instructions, and during the wilderness-period, a ritual and religious associations were growing up around it. It is not always clearly seen that the religious system was being developed, as well as a national and governmental system, during the years of the desert-wanderings; and the system grew round the ark.
II. THE ARK REPRESENTING THE NATION'S SELF-WILLED TIME. Every nation, during its formation, has a self-willed time, such as is represented by the period of the Judges; and the fate of the ark during that period singularly answers to the up-and-down experience of the people. We have the ark dishonored; used for wrong purposes; lost; preserved by God; and partially restored. And these are evident suggestions of the national life of the period.
III. THE ARK REPRESENTING THE NATION'S PROSPEROUS TIME. Under David it was brought to represent the nation before God, and the light shone again on its cover, signifying full-restored relations. And under Solomon the ark and the glory gained permanent location, signifying the nations' religiously founded prosperity.
IV. THE ARK REPRESENTING THE NATION'S DECAYING TIME. It ceased to represent the whole nation—ten tribes neglected it. Then it became ill used, and at last it was carried away and lost, as the nation was ill used by encroaching Baalism, and carried away by Babylonian force.—R.T.
"Worship at his footstool." By the "footstool" is meant the cover of the ark, on which the Shechinah-light was regarded as resting. Round the top of the ark ran a crown or wreath of pure gold, and upon it was the mercy-seat, of the same dimensions as the ark, made, not of wood overlaid with gold, but entirely of pure gold. At either end of the mercy-seat rose two golden cherubim, with outspread wings, and faces turned towards each other, and eyes bent downwards, as though the Shechinah-glory were too dazzling to look fully upon. It would appear to be a special idea of David's, for in his last address to his people he said, "As for me, I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God" (1 Chronicles 28:2). The Eastern idea of a footstool to a throne is seen in Solomon's ivory throne. "There were six steps to the throne, with a footstool of gold" (2 Chronicles 9:18). The man who offered homage, or presented a petition, might approach no nearer to the king than his footstool. In a more general sense heaven is said to be God's throne, and the earth his footstool; then anywhere on earth is a fitting place for offering our worship (see Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:35; John 4:20-24).
I. WORSHIPPING AT GOD'S FOOTSTOOL SUGGESTS THE DIVINE CONDESCENSION. He lets us come into his presence, and even to come so near to him, so directly into personal communion with him, as is indicated by approaching his footstool. But he permits no presumption, no irreverence. And it is well to remember that, if Christianity permits of familiarity with God, it must never be other than a holy familiarity. The Christian must keep at the footstool. The surprise at the Divine condescension in permitting us to come so near as this is well indicated in 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1, Isaiah 66:2.
II. WORSHIPPING AT GOD'S FOOTSTOOL SUGGESTS THE MOOD OF THE WORSHIPPERS, A royal presence is always affecting, and a man who enters it is always set upon securing the best preparations and attitudes. There is lacking from much of our worship and prayer that sense of coming to a King who is so glorious that we may not get nearer to him than his footstool. The proper mood for the Divine presence may be elaborately unfolded and illustrated. We only suggest that the proper mood is a holy blending of humility and confidence—the humility that says, "I dare not," with the confidence that says, "I may."—R.T.
The holy clothing.
The allusion is to the way in which the priests of God, in discharging their sacred functions, set forth his righteousness in the salvation of his people. The white garment of the priest is the symbol of the clothing of righteousness (see Zechariah 3:3, Zechariah 3:4; Revelation 19:8). "Fitting attire, figuring the inner still more glorious attire which they should wear, of holiness and obedience to him whom they serve" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Dr. Bushnell remarks on dress as being the "outward analogon, or figure, of character; dress relates to the form or figure of the body, character to the form or figure of the soul—it is, in fact, the dress of the soul. The option we have in one typifies the grander option we have in the other. The right we have in one, above the mere animals, to choose the color, type, and figure of the outward man, foreshadows the nobler right we also have to cast the mould, fashion or despoil the beauty, of the inward man. On the ground of this analogy it is that the Scriptures so frequently make use of dress to signify what lies in character, and represent character, in one way or another, as being the dress of the soul. Thus they speak of the 'wedding garment,' ' the garment of praise,' that 'of cursing,' that 'of pride;' 'the robe of righteousness,' and 'of judgment,' and 'the white robe,' and 'the best robe' given to the returning prodigal, and 'the robe that has been washed,' and 'judgment put on as a robe,' of 'white raiment' and 'white apparel,' of 'glorious apparel,' of 'filthiness,' or 'righteousnesses that are filthy rags,' of 'filthiness in the skirts;' and, more inclusively and generally still, of being 'clothed with salvation,' 'with strength and power,' 'with humility,' 'with majesty,' 'with shame,' 'with fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints.' All the figures of dress and clothing are used up, in this manner, by the Scriptures, to represent the forms of disgrace and filthiness, or of beauty and glory, into which the inner man of the soul may be fashioned—wearing Heaven's livery, or that of sin. As character is the soul's dress, and dress analogical to character, whatever has power to produce a character when received, is represented as a dress to be put on." In the references of this psalm to the white clothing of the priests, that clothing is said to represent both "righteousness" and "salvation." It may very well be that these are only two terms to represent the same thing, but, at least, they are the same thing seen from different points of view; and we may be right in seeing distinct but related things.
I. THE HOLY CLOTHING OF THE PRIESTS SYMBOLIZES SALVATION. The white garments on the cleansed body were associated with the great sacrificial acts, which bore the closest relation to the recovery, restoration, ceremonial redemption, of the people. At the great Day of Atonement, the symbol of all the Divine salvations, the High priest was required to "put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen miter shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on" (Le Psalms 16:4).
II. THE HOLY CLOTHING OF THE PRIESTS SYMBOLIZES RIGHTEOUSNESS. Which is the basis, ground, and condition of salvation on man's side. A man who seeks salvation must want to be what is represented by the priests' white garments. A man who seeks Christ's salvation can never have it unless he wants to be as pure, as righteous, as Christ. The priest can atone for nobody and nothing unless he is, representatively at least, righteous. And nobody can be atoned for unless he is representatively-and in resolute will and purpose—righteous. Man's righteousness is no ground of acceptance with God, but man's wish to be righteous is the condition on which alone a sacrifice can be made for him. So when the restored exiles longed and prayed for the renewal of the glories of David's time, they wanted their priests who represent them clothed with salvation and clothed with righteousness; clothed with righteousness because clothed with salvation, or in order to effect salvation. It will easily be seen how the formal teaching of the "holy clothing" found its spiritual realization in our great High Priest, who, in his righteousness, represents what we would be to the eternal Father, and gains the power and right, through his obedience, sacrifice, and exaltation, to come into our spheres of character, and make us what we would be, and what he is.—R.T.
"If thy children will keep my covenant." Is an unconditional promise, either human or Divine, conceivable? And if conceivable, is it reasonable, and could it ever be wise? It certainly could never be, as the promise of a man, who could never see all round a thing and all through it, and so never have a sufficient basis on which to make the promise. And we cannot think of an unconditional promise as ever befitting for God to make, because he must make it to moral beings, whose continuance in the same mood can never be guaranteed. The folly, and possible mischief of all unconditioned promises is indicated in the promise of excited and half-drunken Herod to the dancing-girl Salome, which tricked him into taking the life of Christ's forerunner. It may seem as if, by removing the unconditional element from God's promises, we removed our confidence, and brought in the possibility of his breaking his word. But his doing the very best for us is more important than his keeping any particular promise; and doing his best may mean not keeping his word; only we must clearly see that the ground of his change is change in us—is our falling to meet his appointed conditions. That conditions, affixed to promises, are a blessing to us may be readily shown.
I. CONDITIONS TEST OBEDIENCE. While we are here on earth we never transcend the dependent child-spheres. We are under what is represented by family rule; and that always tests obedience by putting conditions to promises. "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land."
II. CONDITIONS CULTURE TRUST. Because they keep up relations with the promise-maker, and preserve our sense of dependence on his good will. If a promise were absolute, it would tend to separate us from the promiser. It would be something distinct from him. And it would be fatal to our trust in God if we could rely upon his word as distinct from himself. We must trust the "Faithful Promiser."
III. CONDITIONS ACT AS WARNINGS. Illustrate from the constancy with which the nation Israel was warned of the covenant-conditions of its promises. The Divine "if" stands ever before us. We lose all claim on the promises if we fail to meet the conditions; and the loss is our own.—R.T.
For the changed locations of the ark, see Bethel (Judges 20:26, Judges 20:27), Mizpeh, Shiloh, Kirjath-jearim, house of Obed-Edom, Jerusalem. We are often disturbed by the fact that God's promises have a sound of permanency, but that permanency has not been realized, at least in the way in which the realization was expected. There are two things which need to be taken into consideration.
1. The Bible is largely poetry, and the poetry is of the Eastern type, in which there is always an element of intensity and exaggeration. In dealing with all poetry we have to use an answering imagination to that of the writer of it, and so get at what he suggests rather than what he says.
2. It is to be borne in mind that, strictly speaking, the idea of absolute permanency can never be applied to anything created, for every created thing must be dependent on the good will of its Creator. To these considerations a third may be added. The introduction of sin, as human self-will, into the world, has introduced frailty and brevity into everything related to the sinner. The promise of permanence for David's royal house, or for the temple which his son built, was certainly not formally realized. David's dynasty ceased; the Babylonians destroyed the temple. And it was not that the promises were conditional; it was that they were never intended to be permanent. It would not have been the best blessing for the world for David's dynasty or the Solomonic temple to have continued forever, in a literal sense.
I. A THING IS REALLY PERMANENT THAT CONTINUES SO LONG AS IT IS REALLY NEEDED. A thousand things are better passed away when they are done with. Mere length of endurance in time is no necessary blessing to anybody. True permanency is fitting to use. "A man is immortal until his work is done." Then it is best for him to be mortal.
II. A THING IS REALLY PERMANENT THAT PASSES INTO WHAT IT PREPARED FOR. For everything is a matrix, forth from which something comes which is to live and be a matrix in its turn. In one sense everything is destroyed; in another sense nothing is destroyed. We live forever in the great succession of things. Our living force goes into the stream of time, flows on to the ocean of eternity, and can never be lost.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
"The psalmist, filled with the memory of many an ancient oracle in praise of David and his city Zion, unable to bear the thought that this ' beauty of all the earth,' for which David had toiled, should remain sunk in misery and ruin, prays to God to remember his promises, and to return once more to his chosen dwelling-place;" that the temple may be rebuilt, and the national worship restored, Some of the principal thoughts suggested are—
I. THAT THE GREATEST WORK A MAN CAN DO IS TO HELP TO BRING GOD NEARER TO MEN. In this case David toiled with unwearied efforts "to find out a place for the Lord," where the ark might at length rest. But there are many ways besides of bringing God nearer to the thoughts of men. Public worship is only one means. A life divinely lived; works; conversation. God is made known best by the living temple.
II. GOD WILL, HOWEVER, IN DUE TIME REWARD THE LABORS OF HIS FAITHFUL SERVANTS. "Lord, remember David, and all his labor and trouble." "Turn not away the face of thine anointed." Do not deny his prayers. Seeming delay on God's part is no real delay.
III. IT IS GOD'S WILL TO REVEAL HIMSELF AND BE FOUND OF MEN. "The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation," etc. He has created men for the fellowship of himself and of one another. "This is my rest forever;" as the father finds rest at home.
IV. GOD HAS MADE ABUNDANT PROVISION FOR THE WANTS OF OUR SPIRITUAL AND PHYSICAL NATURE. "I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout for joy, ordained a lamp for mine anointed," etc. "I will bless her provision with increase, and satisfy her poor with bread."—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 132". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26