Psalm 132 – Believing God’s Promise

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The Psalms of Ascent | Stepping Stones to God’s Heart

“Believing God’s Promise” (Psalm 132)

“The Lord swore an oath to David.” (Psalm 132:11)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called “Stepping Stones to God’s Heart” and we are following the upward path of the Psalms of Ascent together. We have seen how these fifteen psalms divide into five groups of three psalms each – a psalm of trouble, followed by a psalm of trust, followed by a psalm of triumph. Well today we come to the fifth and final group of three. That means we’re in the last part of our journey.

All three of the psalms in this final group focus on Mount Zion or Jerusalem, which is appropriate, because these psalms were sung on the way up to the feasts in Jerusalem. In these psalms the pilgrims have finally arrived, and now we focus on the certainty of God’s promise in Psalm 132, the unity of God’s people in Psalm 133 and the beauty of God’s blessing in Psalm 134.

This is the fifth psalm of trouble, but there is very little trouble in it compared to the previous four. It begins by speaking of David’s hardships but quickly moves on to God’s amazing promises to David and to us. We have come a long way from the first psalm of trouble back at the beginning of the Psalms of Ascent. (Read Psalm 132:1-18 and pray.)


Today’s psalm is probably the most unusual of all the Psalms of Ascent. It is much longer than the other psalms, and the subject matter is more historical. Much of it has to do with the history leading up to David and his throne, and you need a good grasp of Israel’s history to fully understand its various parts.

It was probably composed for the dedication of the temple, and most likely composed by King Solomon. It even borrows some phrases from Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple and from the book of Proverbs (cf. Psalm 132:4 with Proverbs 6:4)

The psalm has a lot to do with the ark, which was a symbol of God’s presence and rule among the people. And, appropriately enough, the two promises that Psalm 132 especially focuses on are the rule of the Messiah and God’s presence coming to dwell with his people.

The psalm unveils God’s promise and plan for the ages, stretching from God’s covenant with Abraham, to Jacob at Bethel, to the construction of the ark and its subsequent journeys, to David’s bringing the ark to Jerusalem, to Solomon’s building of the temple, to the promised coming of Christ, to the fulfillment of all God’s promises to his people through Christ in heaven.

So my job is to bring you through all eighteen verses of this psalm showing you how they relate to the full scope of biblical revelation and how they apply to our lives today – and all that in the next twenty-five minutes! So here we go.

The psalm divides into three sections. The first section tells us about David’s promise to God, the second section tells us about God’s promise to David, and then the third section tells us about God’s promise to us.

I. David’s promise to God (1-9)

So let’s begin with David’s promise to God.

   A. David’s hardships (1)
      – 2 Samuel 6:1-11; Hebrew 6:10

As we mentioned earlier the psalm begins by talking about David’s hardships. Look at verse 1: “O Lord, remember David and all the hardships he endured.” (Psalm 132:1) Now David certainly experienced a lot of hardships on his way to the throne. He had to run for his life from Saul, and even when he finally became king after Saul died, he had to flee Jerusalem when his own son tried to take the throne away from him. However, the hardships here more likely refer to David getting the ark to Jerusalem and gathering all the materials for the temple.

The first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem was a disaster. They put the ark on a cart, and they were making their way to Jerusalem with singing and great celebration when Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. No one was supposed to touch the ark. This was an irreverent act, and God struck Uzzah down and he died there beside the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:6-7) Well that put a damper on the celebration, and it took three months before David was ready to try again. Once the ark was safely in Jerusalem, David then spent years making plans and gathering the materials for the temple. And so the psalm begins by asking God to remember David and all these hardships he endured.

The Bible tells us that God also remembers all the trials and hardships you go through for him. Hebrews 6:10 says: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10) What a great God we have! He who chooses not to remember our sins simultaneously promises not to forget the good we have done for him and for others. “O Lord, remember David and all the hardships he endured.” (Psalm 132:1)

   B. David’s promise to find a dwelling place for the Lord (2-5)
      – Genesis 28:16-22; 2 Samuel 7:1-2

Next the psalm recalls David’s promise to find a dwelling place for the Lord. Look at verses 2-5: “He swore an oath to the Lord and 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, no slumber to my eyelids, 5 till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.’” (Psalm 132:2-5) And so David swore an oath to God that he would not rest until he found a dwelling place for the Lord – that is, a place for the ark, the symbol of God’s dwelling presence, to rest.

Now initially David brought the ark to Jerusalem and placed it inside a tent or tabernacle that he had prepared for it. (2 Samuel 6:17) But eventually he felt a tent was not enough. We read in 2 Samuel that after David was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he expressed dissatisfaction that he was living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remained in a tent. (2 Samuel 7:1-2)

David proposed building a temple for the ark, but God told him no, that David’s son would build the temple. And so David began making preparations for the temple instead. God had given David rest, but David was determined not to rest until he found a place for God to rest. And so instead of enjoying his rest after so many years of conflict, he devoted his final years to making all the preparations for the temple. David was determined to build a house for God.

Now I want you to notice that God is called “the Mighty One of Jacob” twice in these verses. It’s an unusual name for God that only shows up five times in the Bible, and two of them are in these verses. (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5; Isaiah 49:26, 60:16) But I believe the reason it shows up here in the psalm is this. David made a vow about building a house for the Lord, and Jacob also made a vow about building a house for the Lord.

Jacob was on the run from his brother Esau when he slept outside with his head on a stone. While he slept he had a dream about God and a stairway or ladder to heaven. We read in Genesis 28 that when Jacob awoke from his sleep he thought: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it … How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:16-17) Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place “Bethel” which actually means “the house of God.” This, by the way, was in the same location where Abraham had built his altar to the Lord when he first traveled to Canaan. (Genesis 12:8)

Then Jacob made his vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (Genesis 28:20-22)

And so like David, Jacob also made a vow to the Lord about making a house for God. It was just a pillar, but it was a start, and it reflected our desire to be close to God, our desire for God to have a dwelling place with us. And now here in Psalm 132, more than 900 years after Jacob, David follows up with his promise to find a dwelling place for the Lord.

   C. David’s fulfillment of his promise to God – the temple! (6-9)
      – Numbers 10:35-36; 2 Chronicles 6:41

This promise was fulfilled initially when David brought the ark to Jerusalem and then more fully when Solomon brought the ark into the newly completed and dedicated temple. Back to Psalm 132 now, looking at verses 6-9: “We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: 7 ‘Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool – 8 arise, O Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. 9 May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.’” (Psalm 132:6-9)

This is one of those parts where it helps to know some of the Old Testament background. “Ephrathah” is another name for Bethlehem, the town where Christ would eventually be born. “The fields of Jaar” refers to Kiriath Jearim where the ark remained for twenty years during the days of Samuel. (1 Samuel 7:1-2) The call, “Arise, O lord, and come to your resting place,” comes from the words Moses spoke over the ark in the wilderness. (Numbers 10:35-36)

Verses 6-9 describe the celebration of a promise fulfilled. The priests are clothed with righteousness, and God’s people sing and celebrate with joy. The word translated “saints” here is related to the word for God’s covenant love, and so it is a fitting word to describe God’s covenant people. The whole picture is a beautiful description of pure and joyful worship before the Lord.

Now it’s interesting, when we come to Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple in 2 Chronicles, he closes his prayer with these same words from Psalm 132. “Now arise, O Lord God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, may your saints rejoice in your goodness.” (2 Chronicles 6:41)

And so in Psalm 132 we find not just the pilgrims coming home to Jerusalem, but we see the ark coming home as well. After many years of wandering in the wilderness and then being moved around from place to place, the ark finally found its permanent resting place at the temple in Jerusalem. And as the pilgrims traveled to Jerusalem to worship the Lord for the feasts, they would remember how the ark followed that same path so many years before them.

II. God’s promise to David (10-12)

So that’s the first part of the Psalm: David’s promise to God fulfilled by the ark taking its place in the temple. Now we move from David’s promise to God to God’s promise to David.

   A. God’s promise of the Messiah (10)
      – 2 Chronicles 6:42

This next part of the psalm begins with a reminder of God’s promise of the Messiah. Look at verse 10: “For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one.” (Psalm 132:10) This verse is also a part of Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple. In fact it is a condensation of the final two petitions in his prayer: “O Lord God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David your servant.” (2 Chronicles 6:42)

Now in the immediate context “the anointed one” refers to the present king, in this case, Solomon himself, but in the context of the whole Bible, the anointed one is another word for the Messiah. The word “Messiah” actually means “anointed one.” And so this is a prayer not only not to reject the present king but also to fulfill the promise of the coming Messiah.

Notice that Solomon, or whoever the reigning king was, seeks God’s favor not on the basis of himself but “for the sake of David.” In a similar way we approach God not on our own basis, but through Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of David. And so here as we begin the middle section of the psalm, we are reminded of God’s promise of the Messiah.

   B. God’s promise to establish David’s throne (11-12)
      – 2 Samuel 7:11-13

Next the psalm moves on to God’s promise to establish David’s throne. Look at verses 11-12: “The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that 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.’” (Psalm 132:11-12) Now the word that is translated “revoke” in verse 11 is the same word that was translated “reject” back in verse 10. And so this promise is really an answer to the prayer in verse 10: “For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one.” (Psalm 132:10)

The psalm here is referring to the promise God made to David right after David made his promise to God. We read in 2 Samuel 7:11-13: “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:11-13) Basically David said to God: “God, I will build you a house.” And God replied, “No, David, I will build you a house – a house that will last forever!”

Now there was both a conditional and an unconditional aspect to this promise that God made to David. It was conditional in that God told David: “If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.” (Psalm 132:12) History tells us that David’s sons did not keep the covenant, and therefore they did not keep the throne.

However, there was also an unconditional aspect to the promise, because verse 11 tells us: “The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: ‘One of your own descendants I will place on your throne.’” (Psalm 132:11) Despite the disobedience of David’s descendants, God’s promise stands firm. It is a sure oath that he will not revoke. Psalm 132 reminds us that somehow, some way God will put a descendant of David on the throne forever.

   C. God’s fulfillment of his promise to David – Jesus!
      – Ephesians 3:20

And of course God fulfilled his promise to David by sending Jesus as the Messiah. He is the Son of David who will sit on the throne for ever and ever.

God’s promises to David here in verses 10-12 echo back many of the promises and petitions that David made in the first nine verses, but they also extend them and go beyond them. David thought God’s answer would come in terms of fallible human sons who might lose the throne due to their disobedience. But God’s fulfillment of his promise was not just a human descendant of David on the throne, but God’s own Son becoming a man and reigning forever. And as we will see in the final section of the psalm, God’s answer would provide not just a dwelling place for the ark but would result in God himself coming to dwell with his people.

God took the best of David’s promises and petitions and made them even better! I like what Alec Motyer says about Psalm 132: “It celebrates how the Lord gently sets aside the best and best-intentioned of human proposals, and replaces them with his own infinitely better purposes, resting on a more sure oath, and confirmed by far better promises.” Or as Samuel Cox puts it: “It reminds us how God meets and outdoes our requests and is ever more ready to give than we are to ask.”

Bu perhaps the apostle Paul says it best in Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20) It’s a beautiful promise, and it is never more true than when it comes to God’s fulfillment of his promise to David – Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God who will reign forever.

III. God’s promise to us (13-18)

We’ve looked at David’s promise to God; we’ve looked at God’s promise to David; and now finally let’s look at God’s promise to us.

   A. God’s promise to dwell with his people (13-14)
      – Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:14

Look first of all at verses 13-14 where we find God’s promise to dwell with his people: “For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling. This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:13-14) These verses tell us that God has chosen Zion, the people of God, for his ultimate dwelling place. Zion here is not just the physical city of Jerusalem on Mount Zion, but in the whole scope of Scripture it refers also to the New Jerusalem and the heavenly Zion.

The Scriptures told us all along that we could never really build a house for God. Remember that little pillar Jacob built – a rock in the ground? That wasn’t much of a house for God. Then we come to David and Solomon and this magnificent temple, one of the most amazing structures ever built with cedar panels and overlaid with gold. It was a beautiful temple but compared to God’s majesty and glory, it was still on the same level as Jacob’s pillar, just a stone in the ground. Do you really think we can build a house for God? We read in Isaiah 66:1: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?’” (Isaiah 66:1) God doesn’t live in houses built by men (Acts 7:48), but he does come to live in and among his people.

First he came as Jesus who was God with us in the flesh. John 1:14 says: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) We read about Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:22-23)

And so verses 13-14 tell us of God’s promise to dwell with his people. God dwelt with us symbolically through the ark in the temple. He dwelt with us physically through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He dwells with us spiritually today through the Holy Spirit and the church. He will dwell with us ultimately in the new heaven and the new earth.

   B. God’s promise to bless us with his salvation (15-16)
      – 1 Peter 2:9-10

And so we have God’s promise to dwell with his people. We also have God’s promise to bless us with his provision and salvation. Look at verses 15-16: “I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. 16 I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will ever sing for joy.” (Psalm 132:14-16)

Once again God takes the promises David made to him back in verses 1-9, and God expands on them and makes them even better. The priests from verse 9 are not just clothed with righteousness; now they are clothed with salvation. The saints do not just sing for joy but they ever sing for joy. (The words are intensified in the Hebrew.)

The New Testament tells us that these things are fulfilled in us today and in our salvation in Christ. We read in 1 Peter 2: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood … a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) We are the priests clothed in righteousness divine. We are the saints, God’s covenant people who ever sing for joy!

   C. God’s fulfillment of his promise to us – Christ’s reign in heaven! (17-18)
      – Revelation 21:1-4, 22-27

Now here is the climax of the whole psalm. All of these promises come together and are fulfilled in heaven where Christ reigns as king and where we will dwell with him forever. Look at verses 17-18: “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 the crown on his head will be resplendent.” (Psalm 132:17-18)

The horn in the Old Testament is a symbol for strength. The lamp is a symbol for light and life and goodness. The crown here speaks not only of Christ’s rule but also his holiness. (The word translated “crown” here is “nezer” from which we get the word Nazirite.) That fact that his crown is shining or resplendent speaks of Christ’s glory – a glory that was previewed for us on the Mount of Transfiguration and later viewed by John in his great vision recorded in the book of Revelation.

Notice the contrast here between the people of God and the enemies of God. God will clothe his people with righteousness, but he will clothe his enemies with shame. This is the answer to the imprecatory prayer against God’s enemies that we looked at back in Psalm 129, which was our last psalm of trouble before this one.

The Bible tells us there are only two types of people in this world – those who belong to God and those who do not. And Psalm 132 tells us there are two types of clothing we will receive on judgment day. God will clothe his people with salvation and his enemies with shame. Which clothing will you receive? It all depends on whether you are trusting God for salvation through Jesus Christ.

All of God’s promises to us – his promise to dwell with his people forever, his promise to bless us with his salvation – all of God’s promises to us are fulfilled by Christ’s reign in heaven. We read in Revelation 21:1-4: “Then I saw … the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God … There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Revelation 21:1-4)

We read more about the heavenly city in verses 22-27: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple … The glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp … Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:22-27)

Those who are clothed in shame will never enter this city. But those who are clothed in Christ’s righteousness receive all God’s promises. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them, and he will be their God.” (Revelation 21:3)

It’s all right here in Psalm 132. The original pilgrims sang this song on their way to the earthly Jerusalem for the annual feasts. As followers of Jesus we sing it on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem for the heavenly feast.

CONCLUSION: Psalm 132 is a beautiful Psalm filled with promises stretching all the way from Genesis to Revelation. And it teaches us one very simple truth. All God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 132 teaches us that God keeps his promises, and therefore we know that he will keep his promises to David and to us. Jesus the Messiah, descended from David, will rule on the throne for ever and ever. Through Jesus God has come to dwell in and with his people forever. We have been made priests of our God – clothed in salvation, richly provided for, singing joyful songs of worship.

How beautiful are the promises of God! May we believe them thoroughly; may we meditate on them daily; may we rejoice in them forever!

© Ray Fowler

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