Psalm 132 is a royal Psalm, it is a two-part prayer for the king. It starts by looking back to the high point of Israel’s nationhood, the reign of king David. Not because Israel moved from being a collection of tribes barely eking out an existence amongst hostile neighbours to being a strong secure nation. But because of David’s passion for God and God’s dwelling place with his people. In practical terms that is shown in David’s tireless work to bring the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence with his people up to Jerusalem and giving it a permanent home, among God’s people.
The second half of the prayer looks forward, it is a prayer for David’s descendants, for kings who would be as faithful as David and that God would keep his promise and place a descendant of David on the throne forever. Israel’s hope was that God would be faithful to his promise.
Psalm 132 is also a psalm of ascent, it has found its way to this present place in the collection in the time of the exile and beyond, it’s part of the dog-eared hymn book of those who would go up to Jerusalem for the three great festivals. It is a prayer when Israel was conquered, and the people were in exile of the hope that God would establish his kingdom and reign again. When faced with kings who did not reflect David’s passion for God and God’s rule and reign it becomes a crying out for change and renewal, a prophetic psalm as people come to worship for justice and righteousness. The books of kings often has the tragic epitaph for king after king, that they did evil in the sight of the Lord, it’s a repeated again and again to justify God’s faithfulness to his covenant by removing the people from the land. But even then that faithfulness is Israel’s hope, God keeps his promise.
AS such psalm 132 is a messianic psalm voicing a hope that God would send someone to reign with justice and mercy. The poor would be feed, people who sought the Lord would know his rescue and salvation, that the forces that oppose God’s righteous reign would be put to shame… there influence, and power broken and destroyed.
As such Psalm 132 is an advent Psalm pointing us to the birth of Jesus Christ and the fulfilment of God’s promise. While it is only quoted twice in the New Testament, both in acts, it is echoed in the description of Jesus as one who has a passion for his father’s house, that like David who would not rest till he had done what God called him to do, not that Jesus didn’t sleep but as Jesus said ‘the son of man does not have a place to lay his head. That in his death and resurrection Jesus acted as a priest a go between God and humanity and bought about salvation. The because of Jesus there is joy. The horror of a crown of thorns has become a radiant crown of god’s love. God has faithfully kept his promise and established God’s king and his kingdom has come.
How does all of Psalm 132 connect with us here today.
Part of our spiritual journey is to pray for the powers to be, our leaders and government, it is what Paul tells the fledgling church in places like Romans 13. Maybe with a change of government there is a hope for a new age, but the focus of our prayer and our hope is not our human leaders, but their acknowledgement of God’s leading, God’s justice and God’s mercy and ultimately our hope is firmly founded what ever the government in God’s saving action in history. God’s chosen king.
It gives us a great reason to keep on celebrating Christmas, there is pressure in our pluralistic society to simply have a festive season, it doesn’t matter what you believe this is the time of year when we all get together as families and celebrate and hopefully give the economy a bit of boost as we spend, spend, spend. Some years it seems to dark to get filled with joy and be all happy, world events look dire, there is tension and misery, and conflict, personal circumstances may seem gloomy or grief stained, and the pain of loss is felt the sharpest. But just as this psalm looks back to the high point of the ark being bought into Jerusalem, we look back at the light and hope and promise of God’s ultimate victory that came into our world, when the word became flesh. AS Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn says redemption ripped through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe’. In the dark we celebrate and have hope in the light come into the world. It prophetically speaks to the dark that it has lost.
The psalm lastly invites us to have hope, our hope our joy is not in our circumstance or situation, but it is the faithfulness of God, that God can be trusted to keep his promise. In Jesus God stepped into our world, the word became flesh, God’s kingdom is established in Christ’s death and resurrection, God dwells with us by the presence of the Holy Spirt to lead and guide us and Christ will come agin to put all things right.