The Greater Pilgrimage: Psalm 132

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Psalm 132 (NIV)

1 Lord, remember David
and all his self-denial.

2 He swore an oath to the Lord,
he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
3 “I will not enter my house
or go to my bed,
4 I will allow no sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
5 till I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

10 For the sake of your servant David,
do not reject your anointed one.

11 The Lord swore an oath to David,
a sure oath he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
I will place on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit
on your throne for ever and ever.”

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
15 I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor I will satisfy with food.
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.

17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David
and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
18 I will clothe his enemies with shame,
but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

A very ancient Jewish tradition teaches that this is the psalm that was used for the dedication of the temple, and so it was used for the pilgrims as they arrived. The beauty of the psalm is that it is framed by two promises: one human, one divine. On the human side, it recalls King David’s determination that he would not be content until a lasting place was established as a “dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob” (v. 5). This is a reference to David’s promise to God and Israel that he was going to build a temple for the Lord. On the divine side, at the end of the psalm, God promises on oath that a descendant of David would always sit on his throne.

On a certain level, looking back on these two promises, it may seem that both of these promises came to nothing. The temple, though completed under David and Solomon, was destroyed and it is no more. As for the kingship, Israel was defeated and the kingship came to an end. Even though the nation of Israel has re-emerged in modern times, there is no descendant of David anywhere to be found in the leadership of the nation. A skeptic might sneer that both king and God himself do not keep their promises, but, a deeper understanding reveals that both promises have not only been fulfilled, but have found a fulfillment even greater than David or any of us could have imagined.

Both promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is, as the New Testament declares, the King who will eternally sit on the throne of David. Jesus Christ is great David’s greater Son. Furthermore, though the earthly temple has been destroyed, the true Temple is not one made by human hands, but is the dwelling place of God. Jesus Christ is that new Temple. It is in him that all the purposes of the Temple are brought to fulfillment. The annual Jewish pilgrimage to Jerusalem, it is now clear, was but a pointer to an even greater pilgrimage. Not merely the pilgrimage to an earthly Zion, as great as that was, but the spiritual pilgrimage out of a life of sin and death. Jesus is also the new Temple where God’s presence dwells! Through repentance and faith, the people of God now abide with Jesus Christ, the very embodiment of the presence of God, since all the fullness of the deity dwelled in him in bodily form (Col. 2:9). He is God’s great mercy seat! Jesus is both King and Temple. And, recalling Psalm 110, he is both King and Priest. All the signs and symbols of the old covenant find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ!

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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