The Pilgrim’s Appeal For The Restoration Of The Church

a brief study of Psalm 132, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 17 Nov 2011

 

Psalm 132 is the longest of the Pilgrim Psalms. It is also one of the least appreciated. We do not know when it was written. Judging from its content, it appears to have been written after the Babylonian exile, that is, during the period of Ezra and Nehemiah. Could it have been written by Haggai or Zechariah as they encouraged the people to rebuild the temple?

In any case, this Psalm is designed for God’s people to sing in union with Messiah (v. 10) to appeal unto God to restore the worship and the glory of His covenant people. We may entitle it: “The Lord’s Pilgrim’s Appeal for the Restoration of the Church.” It has three parts. Verses 1-5 is an appeal to the zeal of David. Verses 6-10 is a appeal to the joyful anticipation of God’s people when God did hear their pleas. Verses 11-18 is an appeal to God’s vow to David.


1. Remember David

1 LORD, remember David, and all his afflictions,” begins this Psalm. It is clear that the David here refers to the King David of Old. In verse 10 there is a reference to the Messiah, the Anointed One in distinction to David, so it is probably that the Holy Spirit intends for this Psalm to be taken up by Messiah and His people as they contemplate on David.

David, the man after God’s own heart, was full of zeal for the LORD and His worship. We read of how he desired to build a temple for the LORD. We do not have any reference in the historical record of him making a vow relating to his desire. Yet it is clearly stated here in verses 2-5. It is possible that this vow in reference to finding a place to build the temple as in verse 5, rather than finishing the temple complex. Nevertheless, it speaks of David’s anxious desire to see the temple and God’s worship established in Israel.

David, of course, was not allowed by the LORD to build the temple. It was a job reserved for the son of David. Who is the son of David? Well, Solomon built the physical temple, the type. But Christ the greater son of David built the spiritual temple, the anti-type.

But in any case, David’s zeal for the LORD was real. And his afflictions relating to his effort to prepare for the building of the temple was real, for no doubt, he toiled and laboured and fretted over it.

Now, God is not unrighteous to forget His children’s work and labour of love, which they have shewed toward His name (Heb 6:10)

As such, it is right for God’s people to appeal to Him to remember David’s zeal and love for Him. But as Spurgeon reminds us, David has no merit in himself. Thus, when God’s people appealed to David’s zeal, it is essentially an appeal to God’s pity and mercy.

Indeed, as Bishop Horne suggests, when Christians sing these words, we cannot but think of the greater affliction sustained by the greater David, the anti-type of king David. This is the builder of God’s spiritual temple, Christ. Now, God will certainly remember the afflictions of Christ. Indeed, if you think about it carefully, you will see that all the words in these 5 verses can be applied figuratively to the Greater David. Did not, for example, Christ return unto His heavenly rest only after He finished the work He came to do?

In any case, if God’s people may appeal to the zeal of the sinner David, the king of Israel, how much more we may appeal to the work of the holy Jesus, the King of kings.

But now returning to the Psalm, we have in the second section, an appeal to the joyful anticipation of God’s people as God begins to restore His worship.


2. Let Thy Saints Shout for Joy

6 Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.

This was a story that had been passed down from generation to generation. The Ark of God was captured by the Philistines. But the Lord tormented the Philistines until they decided to let it go upon a bullock cart. It was the men at Beth-shemesh who found it first. But the people showed no respect to the LORD, and so He afflicted the city. So they called out to the people of Kirjath-jearim to go down to collect the Ark. But it appears that the men of Beth-shemesh could not wait for them to come. Apparently they imitated the Philistines and cut loose the Ark.

Well, the Ark was eventually found in the woods near Ephratah. Commentators differ on where is Ephratah. Some think it is near Bethlehem (cf. Mic 5:2). Others think that it is another name for Ephraim.

In any case, the people were full of joy when they found the Ark. They expressed their desire to go into the Tabernacle of the LORD and to worship at His footstool (v. 7). With joyful anticipation, they called upon the LORD to enter into His rest with the Ark of His might (v. 8). They longed to see the priests clothed with righteousness  (cf. Zec 3:1-7), and the saints shouted for joy.

These words, no doubt, express the sentiments of the people at that time when tthe Lord was, by His providence, restoring His own worship to His people. The Israelites returning from exile desired God to do the same again as they saw the temple in ruins.

And Christ our Lord would, no doubt, have us sing the same words to express our desire for the restoration of true and joyous worship. So this section ends with the words:

10 For thy servant David’s sake turn not away the face of Thine anointed.

The word translated ‘anointed’ is the Hebrew ‘Messiah’, which is the Christ. This is a plea that God will continue to deal kindly with Messiah’s people. As God had vowed to bless Israel for King David’s sake, so now it is our plea that He will keep His vow and so look upon the face of His Christ our Lord, and bless the church.

Now, some of us may wonder: Why do we ask the Father not to turn away the face of the Messiah for the sake of David, when the Messiah is greater than David? Well, remember that the Psalms are designed to be timeless songs for God’s people to use throughout the ages. And are there not times when the Church of Christ is languishing. At such times, we need as much encouragement as we can bolster, and we need as many arguments as we can muster in prayer. It will not do for us merely to repeat Romans 8:28 and Philippians 1:6. In a perfect world where there are no doubts at all in our hearts, these promises should suffice. But the reality is that sin and negative providences do crowd our judgement. This is why the church always looks back to historical events and to God’s promises that were made and answered at such times. This is why we sing about David, about Moses, Aaron, Samuel, etc. This is why we appeal to the promises and vows that God has made in times past.

This is what the final section of this Psalm is about.


3. The Lord Hath Sworn

11 The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.…

These words and the following verses reflect the covenant that God made with David. It is first recorded in 2nd Samuel 7, but is referred to in numerous other passages (cf. 2Sa 7:12 1Ki 8:25 2Ch 6:16; 89:3,4,33,37). Now, it is abundantly clear that this vow is fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the greater Son of David (Lk 1:69-70).

It is also clear that the promise pertains not to Israel as a nation, but as a Covenant People. So the promised blessings are not for national Israel, but really for the church.

God has promised. The Christ and His people will always be His beloved children. He will be their God and they will be His people forever. He will abundantly bless Her with all Her needs (v. 15). He will bless Her officers. The saints shall shout aloud for joy (v. 16). The kingdom will grow, the light of Christ will burn brightly (v. 17). His people will triumph. His enemies will be defeated and put to shame (v. 18).

This is the promise of God! And it is our privilege to appeal to this promise as we plead in the name of our King with God our Father for His blessings upon the Church.


Conclusion

This is Psalm 132 in a nutshell. The God whom David loved is the same God we serve. The struggles that God’s people faced in ages past is the same struggles we face today. The yearning that God’s people had is the same yearning that we have today. As they desired to glorify and enjoy God as a church with God’s blessings, so we desire the same.

To this end, the appeals unto God which God’s people use in ages past is the same appeals we may use today. To this end, we may sing this Psalm to appeal unto God to restore the glory of His church and His own worship. To this end we may be encouraged by the words of this Psalm to believe that God will keep His promises no matter the circumstances. One day we will see the full fulfillment of all of God’s promises and all of our desires as His people. Amen.