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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 132

 

 

Verses 1-18

INTRODUCTION

The author of this Psalm and the occasion upon which it was composed are both unknown. The opinion of M. Henry, Perowne, and others, is that it was composed for the dedication of Solomon's Temple. Many ancient expositors held that it was composed by David, either at the time of the bringing of the Ark to Zion, or at the time when it was in his heart to build the Temple of the Lord. Many modern expositors hold that it was composed for the dedication of the Second Temple. It is quite impossible to arrive at any certain conclusion on the question. "This Psalm," says Perowne, "is a prayer that God's promises made to David may not fail of fulfilment, that He will dwell for ever in the habitation which He chose for Himself in Zion, and that the children of David may for ever sit upon His throne. It opens with a recital of David's efforts to bring the Ark to its resting-place; it ends with a recital of the promises made to David and to his seed."

Homiletically we shall view it as presenting Lessons for Church-Builders, and Encouragements for Church-Builders.

LESSONS FOR CHURCH-BUILDERS

(Psa )

From these verses we learn—

I. That when churches are needed their erection is of great importance (Psa ). Previous to the bringing of the Ark to Mount Zion, the arrangements for religious worship were most unsatisfactory. "The sacred tent was without the Ark of the covenant, a body without a soul; and the Ark was at Kirjath-jearim, deposited as in its grave, without any rites of worship, well-nigh lost sight of." David himself said, "Let us bring again the Ark of our God to us; for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul." He was deeply solicitous for the revival of the national religion, and that arrangements should be made for the worship of Jehovah, with suitable dignity and magnificence. The Psalmist represents him as tormenting himself with anxiety to prepare a becoming dwelling-place for the Lord. The intensity of his concern was manifest in—

(1.) The solemnity of his declaration concerning it. "He sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty One of Jacob." This solemn vow is not recorded in the history. Nor do we know whether it was made concerning the removal of the Ark to Zion, or the fixing the site of the Temple and the preparation of materials for its erection (1Ch ). But that it was made is an evidence of the anxious care of David that appropriate provision should be made for the worship of the people. This care was manifest in—

(2.) The promptitude of his declaration. "Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed," &c. (Psa ). So in 1Ch 22:5 David says, "I will now make preparation for it." The matter was too important and urgent to admit of any delay; so he resolved to make it his first business and to set about it at once.

Now the lesson we deduce from this is, that when adequate and appropriate provision is not made for religious worship, the building of churches is of great importance. This will appear from the following considerations:—

1. The religious element in man is the grandest portion of his nature. Reason, conscience, affections, and that in us which wonders, admires, adores—these are the highest things in us.

2. The religious element in man needs worship for its right development and growth. The worship of the Highest humbles, purifies, exalts, enriches our being. Worship transforms the worshipper into the image of the object of worship. The complete and harmonious development of our being is impossible apart from worship.

3. That churches are needed for the becoming and profitable exercise of worship. We need the absence of distracting scenes and circumstances, the aid of quiet and of hallowed associations, in order to worship in a becoming manner and with spiritual advantage. These are secured by the erection of churches.

But are not the temple of nature and the sanctuary of home sufficient for the worship of man? They would be if man were not a social being; but man is a social being. "It is not good that man should be alone." In work and play, in enjoyment and sorrow, man needs and delights in fellowship. Private and family worship is not enough; we need public worship also to help us to realise our relation to our fellow-men, that we are members of one great family, children of one Divine Father. We need both the closet and the temple, both the quiet and solitude of private worship, and the fellowship and inspiration of public worship. Where adequate provision is not made for the public worship of the people, the building of Christian churches is a work the importance of which it is impossible to exaggerate.

II. That churches should be erected for the worship of God. "We will go into His tabernacles; we will worship at His footstool." We fear that all persons who are zealous in the building of churches do not always regard the worship of God as the great purpose for which they are to be used. The grand use of Christian churches is—

1. Not the propagation of any ecclesiastical system. The laudation of "the church," or of "our denomination," or of "our body," seems to be the object for which some churches are built. This is misleading and injurious.

2. Nor the propagation of any theological system. Some churches seem to be built chiefly for the propagation of Calvinism, Arminianism, Sacramentarianism, &c. But our interpretations of God and His Word are one thing, while God and His Word are other and sometimes very different things. Even at best "our little systems are but broken lights" of the Most High.

3. Nor for the delivery of religious addresses or theological lectures, however able or eloquent they may be. We are far from undervaluing the importance of the preaching of the Word, but it seems to us that the worship of God is a higher use of Christian churches than even that.

4. Nor for ritualistic display however brilliant, or musical performances however perfect. When forms and ceremonies, processions and pageants, are the great things in what ought to be Christian churches, intelligent and earnest Christians cannot but regard such a state of things as a prostitution of such edifices.

5. But for the worship of God. The grand use of churches is to worship the Lord God in spirit and in truth. This worship should be humble and reverent. We are not worthy to approach His throne or look into His face, but we may "worship at His footstool."

III. That in the worship of God in His Church the manifestation of His presence should be earnestly sought. "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest," &c. (Psa ). The Lord is here entreated to dwell in His Church—

1. As an abiding presence. "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest." This may have been spoken when the Ark was brought to Zion, and certainly was spoken at the dedication of the Temple. The Ark was no more to be removed from place to place, but was to be fixed there. We need the abiding presence of God in our churches; for without this, however stately and beautiful they may be, they will be but as beautiful corpses.

2. As a strengthening presence. "Thou, and the Ark of Thy strength." The Ark was the symbol of the Divine presence and power. When it was taken with them into battle, the people were nerved to courage and endurance and conquest. When God by the Holy Ghost dwells among His people, they are "strengthened with might in the inner man."

3. As a sanctifying presence. "Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness." One of the effects of the abiding presence of God in the Church will be that His ministers will be holy in heart and life. "Righteousness is the best ornament of a minister." It is an essential qualification for the office.

4. As a joy-inspiring presence. "Let Thy saints shout for joy." Sincere worshippers of Jehovah are here designated His "saints." They find their highest blessedness in the realisation of His presence. They sing, "In Thy presence is fulness of joy."

Here is the great want of religious assemblies and of the Church of God as a whole in this day—the realisation of His abiding presence. Having this, she will be nerved with might, clothed with righteousness, and inspired with joy.

IV. That in seeking the manifestation of the presence of God in His Church, we have powerful pleas which we may urge. We may, like the Psalmist, plead—

1. The solicitude of our pious ancestors for His worship. "Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions." David's anxiety to provide for the becoming celebration of the worship of God is here urged with God on behalf of his descendants. And as we seek the Divine blessing we may surely make mention of the devotion of our godly forefathers.

2. His covenant relation with our pious ancestors and with us. "For Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the face of Thine anointed." Perowne: "The anointed here must be Solomon, or some one of David's descendants, who pleads David and the promises made to David as a reason why his prayer should not be rejected." And we in this age plead—

"God of our fathers, be the God

Of their succeeding race."

God will ever be mindful of His covenant, and we shall do well to encourage ourselves in prayer by the remembrance of this.

CONCLUSION.—To build churches for the seeking of the manifestation of the Divine Presence, and for the offering of humble and reverent worship to the Divine Being, is to engage in a work of sacred significance and great importance. Churches consecrated to such purposes are blessings of incalculable worth to society; they aid the spiritual education and growth of the race towards perfection; they promote in a high degree the wellbeing of man, and they honour the Lord God.

BLESSINGS ON THE SANCTUARY

(Psa )

Notice two or three thoughts—

I. The Temple is here called the place of rest, or the abiding place of God. "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest," &c. The words mark a transition from the nomadic condition of the tribes to the compacted life of the nation, and a transfer of obligation that was suited to the change. In the free, wild life of the desert, with its perpetual migrations, the Sacred Tent might be pitched and struck like the others. But when the city was laid out for man, God would have His honoured house chiefest and costliest of all.… The Christian dispensation, although it is a dispensation of universality, and bases all its promises and sanctions upon the fact of spiritual service, has not annulled the seemly and the sacred in connection with the worship of God. It nowhere approves the idea that all places are equally sacred, or that God has ceased to visit Zion, and to dwell in its tabernacles with His manifestations of peculiar regard. If you want to know whether God can manifest His Spirit and His power in connection with the houses that are set apart for Him, you have but to think of the building of the Temple. "It seems as if God had built a Solomon on purpose that Solomon might build a house." And then, underneath that, how all inferior forces were brought into tribute!… Has not the Lord Himself proclaimed it,—"The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob"?

II. The Temple, gorgeous as it was, was altogether incomplete and valueless without the Ark. In all ages the Ark in the Temple is its life. Still the quick heart within the man, and you will have the stately skeleton soon. Withdraw the magic vapour, and the wheels whirr no longer, and the most exquisite contrivances are mute and motionless machinery. Take the breath from the great organ's heart, and in vain you bid it discourse its harmonies. And as the heart to the man, as the engine to the machinery, and the breath to the instrument of sound, so is the Ark to the Temple, because it is the symbol of the presence of the Lord.

There is no age that needs to be more impressed with this truth than the age in which we live. Our organisations are multiplied, &c. We are too apt to vaunt of our institutions, of our efforts, of our sacrifices, and thus damage our usefulness fatally by putting the instrument in the place of the power.

III. Look at the other blessings which are asked for, either obviously or by direct implication in the Psalm. The presence of God is the chief, the all-absorbing object of desire; but then that presence is manifested by the diffusion of itself in blessing.

1. The Ark of God's strength in the Temple implies that God's power is in the Temple, and He waits to exert it in the Word, in the ministers' appeals, in the people's prayers. God's power is always in the Temple when God's presence is there. Power "to make the sinner quail," and to "sound the unbelieving heart;" power to send healing to the spirit of the wounded; power to make the selfish bountiful, &c.

2. The prayer proceeds to ask that the priests may be "clothed with righteousness," which is, in fact, a petition for universal purity. There is no priesthood now except the priesthood of the Saviour in heaven, and the priesthood of the whole community of the faithful, who are "kings and priests unto God." It is a prayer, therefore, not only for us who minister, but for you who hearken, that we may, all of us, be robed always, robed already, in the new linen, clean and white, in which the saints were seen in heaven. Righteousness is a word of comprehensive import, and it includes all that is alleged of it touching the purification of the soul before God.… It is, in fact, Paul's Thessalonian supplication, embodied in a solemn litany, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly," &c. (1Th ). If we are to be a strong church, we must be a pure church.

3. The third blessing that is asked for is holy joy in God, which has its foundation in oneness with God, both in favour and feeling, and which has its outlet in the appropriate expressions of praise. This will, indeed, be a natural result of the blessings already asked, for if we take hold of God's power, and if we reflect God's purity, be sure we shall never lack materials for praise.

I cannot dwell, except for a moment, upon the beautiful answer which the prayer received—so prompt, so generous, so full. In every case the answer is more large than the request. The prayer is contained in the first ten verses of the Psalm; in the eleventh the answer begins. It is worth looking at.…

Mark the ineffable wealth with which He fulfils the promises He makes to His people.—W. M. Punshon, LL.D.

ENCOURAGEMENTS FOR CHURCH-BUILDERS

(Psa )

The Psalmist, for the encouragement of the people, recalls certain promises which were made to David. The Lord had promised him that the government should be perpetuated in his family (2Sa ). But the promise was conditional. The great majority of the Divine promises are so. It was distinctly intimated to David that if the conditions were not fulfilled, though the promise would not be withdrawn, yet its operation would be suspended. The descendants of David failed to comply with the conditions; they violated the covenant; and the sovereignty for a long time passed away from the house of David. But that sovereignty in a higher form, on a vastly wider scale, and with more glorious significance, was resumed by "the Root and Offspring of David," even by Jesus Christ the Lord. In Him the promises made to David have their full and splendid realisation.

Here, in this section of the Psalm, are promises which are richly fraught with encouragement for those who are engaged in the building of churches, or in any other work for the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom. We have here a promise of—

I. The presence of God in His Church. "For the Lord hath chosen Zion," &c. (Psa ). (See Hom. Com. on Psa 48:1-2; and Psa 76:2.)

1. He dwells there by His own choice. "The Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it," &c. "I have desired it." Henstenberg translates: "He has selected it for His habitation.… I have selected it." God dwells in the Church, not because of the excellence or worthiness of the members thereof, but because of His own good pleasure.

2. He dwells there perpetually. "This is My rest for ever." "Shiloh," says Perowne, "had been abandoned; for a time the Ark was at Bethel (Jud ); then at Mizpah (Jud 21:5); afterwards, for twenty years, at Kirjath-jearim (1Sa 7:2); and then for three months in the house of Obed-Edom, before it was finally brought to its last resting-place." The Ark and the Temple have long since passed from Zion; but this Divine assurance finds its fulfilment in the Christian Church. In the darkest days of her history His presence has not been withdrawn; nor will He ever withdraw from His Church. Here then is a most inspiring assurance for all who are interested in His Church. Here is consolation for Christians in the dark and stormy day. Here also is inspiration for the Christian worker.

II. The blessing of God in His Church.

1. His blessing as an accompaniment of her ordinances. "I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread." M. Henry interprets this as provision for both body and soul, and applies it to both "the poor of this world" and "the poor in spirit." And Barnes says: "A strong affirmation, meaning that He would do it in every way; that every needed blessing would be imparted; that God would provide abundantly for their support." But it seems to us to refer to spiritual provision. God by His blessing will vitalise the ordinances of the Church; He will make her services means of grace indeed to His people,—channels by which pardon shall flow to the guilty, comfort to the mourner, strength to the weak, holiness to those who long for it, &c.

2. His blessing upon her ministers. "I will also clothe her priests with salvation." This is an assurance that the petition in Psa should be granted. (See on that verse.) Perhaps the change of the word "righteousness" for "salvation" is meant to indicate that God will not only bless them with holiness of heart and life, but also make them instrumental in saving souls. Usefulness is a result of holiness.

3. His blessing upon her members. "And her saints shall shout aloud for joy." This also is a promise that the petition in Psa should be granted. (See on that verse.) M. Henry: "It was desired that the saints might shout for joy; it is promised that they shall shout aloud for joy. God gives more than we ask, and when He gives salvation He will give an abundant joy." Here then is encouragement, &c.

III. The triumph and glory of the Head of the Church. "There will I make the horn of David to bud," &c. (Psa ). David is here put for the house of David. And we must look to the Christ for the complete fulfilment of these promises. The horn is the symbol of power. To "make the horn to bud" is to make it shoot forth and grow. In Christ God "raised up an horn of salvation in the house of His servant David." He is "mighty to save." We have here an assurance of—

1. The subjugation of His enemies. "His enemies will I clothe with shame." God will frustrate their deepest designs, and overthrow their mightiest forces. "He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet."

2. The success and glory of His reign. "I have ordained a lamp for Mine Anointed." (On the application of this to David, comp. 1Ki .) But the lamp is frequently used in the Scripture as an emblem of prosperity. And so we regard it here in its application to the kingdom of our Lord. We have the same idea in the last clause of the Psalm: "Upon Himself shall His crown flourish," or blossom. The glory of the Redeemer's crown shall never fade; amaranthine are the flowers which adorn His brow.

"O'er every foe victorious,

He on His throne shall rest;

From age to age more glorious,

All-blessing and all-blest.

The tide of time shall never

His covenant remove;

His name shall stand for ever;

That name to us is—Love."

—Montgomery.

CONCLUSION.—

1. Here is warning to the enemies of the Lord. If you persist in your opposition to Him He will clothe you with shame, and crush you by His power.

2. Here is exhortation to the enemies of the Lord. Submit yourselves to Him, ere His anger wax hot against you.

3. Here is amplest encouragement to His people, and especially to those who heartily labour in His cause. According to His promise He is ever present to enrich His Church with grace and power; and all who labour for the extension of His kingdom will find in the end their labour crowned with complete and glorious success.

THE SONG OF THE BUILDERS

(The whole Psalm)

Our Psalm has been universally and wisely applied to the Church of these Christian days, and its invocations and promises claimed as expressive of the desires and confidences of Christian people in their work for God. We are God's building, and we are God's builders too. The Psalm is full of strength and encouragement for us in both characters.… We may call it the Song of the Builders.… For our present purpose it will be most convenient to divide the whole into three sections, in the first of which, extending to the close of the seventh verse, the Church pleads with God the many thoughts and long toil that had laid the foundation for His house.

I. Let us gather from this portion some lessons touching preparatory work. "Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions." The Psalmist looks upon the fair dwelling, reared at last for God, and goes back in thought to the days when the design thus happily accomplished was first conceived. It was David's thought which was the parent of this holy and beautiful house, though Solomon was its builder; and his name springs first to the singer's lips.… Not the toil of hand and arm which carries out, but the mind which conceives the plan is its true author. "Lord, remember David." Look at the picture which is given of the aged king setting himself to his task. (Comp. 2Sa with Psa 132:3-4 of the Psalm). He was an old man now, wearied with "all his afflictions," &c. And he had the other excuse for repose that he had done much work, as well as suffered many changes.… But not so does a true man think.… He will put his own comfort second, God's service first. The picture may be a rebuke to the slothfulness of us all, &c. But it should come with a special message to men and women of comparative leisure and freedom from corroding frets and consuming toils, whose lives are only too apt to be frittered away in trifles and dissolved in languid idleness, or corrupted by self-indulgence. To such the lesson from that picture of the old soldier-king is, Brace yourselves for continuous service, &c.

Notice, too, that David's devotedness does make a plea with God. The prayer goes upon the supposition that his toil and self-sacrifice will not, cannot, be all in vain. And the prayer is answered. God does not require perfect faithfulness in us ere He blesses us with His smile; He does not need that the temple shall be all complete ere He enters in. He receives, and pardons, and loves an imperfect faith; a wandering heart He still blesses and welcomes; stained services, in which much of the leaven of earthly motives may be fermenting, and many a taint of sloth and selfishness may be found, are not therefore rejected of Him.

And consider, too, how God's remembrance of such preparatory work is shown. David saw no result from all his toils to build the Temple. He got together the great store, but it was reserved for another to mould it into completeness, and to see the cloud of glory fill the house. But none the less was it true that God remembered David, and accepted and crowned his work. We all receive unfinished tasks from those who go before; we all transmit unfinished tasks to them who come after. Our vocation is to advance a little the dominion of God's truth, and to be one of the long line who pass on the torch from hand to hand. "One soweth and another reapeth," &c. You may never see the issues of your toils. If you can see them, they will generally not be worth looking at. We work for eternity. We may well wait for the scaffolding to be taken away.

II. The prayer for God's blessing on the builders' work (Psa ). Picture to yourselves the moment. The Temple is finished, shining in its new beauty on its hill top. (See 2 Chronicles 5-7) The Psalmist asks first that God would dwell in the completed Temple, and that the symbol of His presence may now at last, after so many wanderings, rest there, &c.

May we not, from all this, draw needful lessons for ourselves? And first, as to the one great blessing which all builders for God should desire. The Temple may be finished. But something more is needed. Not till the Ark is in the Holiest of all, and the cloud of glory fills the house could they say, "It is finished." The lesson is of everlasting importance. We need to guard ourselves most jealously lest we come to put the instrument in the place of the power. You may perfect your machinery, but all its nicely-fitting parts stand motionless—a dead weight; and not a spindle whirrs till the strong impulse, born of fire, rushes in.… When we have done all, we have to pray, "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest," &c.

That presence will surely be given, if we desire it.

And that presence is all which we need to make ourselves strong and our work effectual.

From this fundamental petition all the other clauses of the prayer flow. I can only glance hastily at them.

There is first power—"The ark of Thy strength." They in whom God dwells will be strong.… There is next righteousness, with which the Psalmist prays that the priests may be clothed. In the new Israel all the people are priests. Righteousness is to be the robe of every Christian soul.… Thank God for that "fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness" with which Christ covers our wounded nakedness. Remember that growing purity in life and deed is the main proof that Christ's righteousness is indeed ours. If we are to do God's work in the world we must be good, true, righteous men.… Further, the prayer desires that gladness from God's presence and the possession of His righteousness may burst into the shout of praise. All true religion is joyful.… Finally, the Psalmist prays that the king of Israel and his people with him may be heard and accepted when they pray. Such are his desires for his nation. What do we desire most for our brethren, and for ourselves?

III. The Divine answer, which more than fulfils the Psalmist's desires (Psa ). Throughout these verses there is constant allusion to the preceding petitions. The shape of the response is determined by the form of the desires. (Comp. Psa 132:2 with Psa 132:11, and Psa 132:5 with Psa 132:13). Not in us, but in Him, lies the motive for His grace, and so it can never change.

Then, notice, that each single petition is enlarged in the answer to something much greater than itself. (Comp. Psa with Psa 132:14-15; Psa 132:9 with Psa 132:16; and Psa 132:10 with Psa 132:17-18.) Put this in its widest form, and what does it come to but that great law of His grace by which He over-answers all our poor desires, and, giving us more than we had expected, shames us out of our distrust? And the law holds for us in all our works and in all our prayers.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

ZION A TYPE OF THE CHURCH

(Psa )

I. God's delight in Zion.

1. There He dispensed His ordinances.

2. There He vouchsafed His presence.

3. There he communicated His blessings.

II. God's promises to Zion.

1. In respect to its institutions.

2. In respect to its ministers.

3. In respect to all its worshippers.

Infer—

(1.) That formalists do not really belong to the Church.

(2.) That the Church cannot be overthrown.

(3.) That Christians are bound to serve and honour God.—George Brooks.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 132:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/psalms-132.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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