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The Covenant Lord: Tracing the Plan of God in Worship

Series: How Pilgrims Praise: Psalms of Ascent

Sermon by Derek Thomas on Jan 12, 2000

Psalm 132:1-18

Turn with me if you would to Psalm 132 as we come now very shortly to the close of these fifteen Ascent Psalms, Psalm 132, bearing as it does the title “Prayer for the Lord's Blessing upon the Sanctuary. A Song of Ascents.”

“Remember, O Lord, on David's behalf, all his affliction; How he swore to the Lord, and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, “Surely I will not enter my house, nor lie on my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids; Until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the field of Jaar. Let us go into his dwelling place; let us worship at His footstool. Arise, O Lord, to Thy resting place; Thou and the ark of Thy strength. Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let Thy godly ones sing for joy. For the sake of David Thy servant, do not turn away the face of Thine anointed. The Lord has sworn to David, a truth from which He will not turn back; “Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne. If your sons will keep My covenant, and My testimony which I will teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.” For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. “This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her needy with bread. Her priests also I will clothe with salvation; and her godly ones will sing aloud for joy. There I will cause the horn of David to spring forth; I have prepared a lamp for Mine anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame; but upon himself his crown shall shine.”

Thus far God's holy and inerrant word. May He add His blessing to it. Let's pray together.

Our Father in heaven, again as we bow in Your presence, as we come now to study this portion of Your word, grant that by the illumination of Your Spirit we might be taught and instructed and edified and encouraged unto good works, for Jesus sake. Amen.

This is one of those beautiful Psalms that extols the covenant mercies of God. And perhaps you can imagine the worshipper that we have been following these last few months as he now, along with others, worships the Lord in Jerusalem, in the sanctuary, in the temple of God; and his thoughts and his heart are drawn to consider the mercy and the grace and the incomprehensible love of God as it expresses itself down through the centuries in covenants which God has made. And this particular Psalm focuses on one of those beautiful passages in the Old Testament that was particularly important at this time in the history of Israel and became even more important as the Old Testament developed and as the coming of Jesus Christ was to dawn. And that passage is II Samuel chapter 7, the covenant that God makes with David. And you remember that II Samuel chapter 7–

and indeed this Psalm which reflects it–is made up of two principle parts: namely, the thought that David would make a house for God to dwell in, a temple in which God may be worshiped, but also on the other hand that God would come to David and say, ‘Rather I will make a house for you,’ a lineage and a dynasty for David that would last forever so that on the throne of David there would always be one who would reign. David was about to do something for God but God comes to David and says, ‘Rather I am going to do something for you.’ And this Psalm, Psalm 132, is a meditation; it's a reflection on II Samuel 7. You can imagine the worshiper perhaps having spent his morning devotions in II Samuel 7, and now as he comes into the temple in Jerusalem all of those thoughts are running around in his head, and he composes this beautiful, beautiful Psalm. It's a Psalm that undoubtedly would be prominent, say, in Dr. Duncan's course on covenant theology, because it's one of those principle texts of the Old Testament–like the passage where God makes a covenant with Abraham, or like that passage where God makes a covenant with Moses, or like that passage where God makes announcement of the new covenant in Jeremiah the prophet. This particular passage is the inauguration and the statement of the covenant that God is now going to make with David. But it's not a new covenant; it's the same covenant of grace that sees itself out-flowing and out-working itself through the various stages of the history of redemption. And what this Psalm is doing is reflecting on the nature of that covenant but more than that on the nature of the God who makes that covenant. And it would be a misservice all this evening if we didn't go home and as we drove home–but be careful how you do this–but to meditate and to say to yourself, ‘How great, how great is the mercy of God that He should make a covenant with me, that He should see fit to bring me by way of covenant into fellowship and communion with Himself!’

Now that passage in II Samuel chapter 7 is, of course, particularly important…and we don't have time in the allocation we have tonight to delve into II Samuel 7. I wish we could because then we would see how much of this Psalm reflects the very structure of II Samuel chapter 7. But two focal points emerge if you were to study II Samuel 7–and perhaps before you go to bed tonight, just read it before you go to bed tonight and try and find these two focal points in that chapter–because focal point number 1 is that God, you remember, speaks to David and says that when David dies, God would raise up another from his loins who will continue the purposes of God. And when God says that to David it's mimicking in a way something that God said to Abraham in Genesis 15. And God is saying to David, ‘That which I'm about to do now’–in that David actually was never allowed to build that temple. As you remember, it was his son Solomon who was to build that temple. But in saying so, God is saying, ‘I'm continuing the very purposes which I established with Abraham. It's the same covenant. It's the same unfolding story of grace that I am about.’

But a second focal point in that chapter, II Samuel 7, is the endless Davidic line. God speaks to David and says to him, in effect, and it's echoed in this Psalm, ‘There will always be someone reigning on the throne of David.’ And if I can, as it were, go to the last chapter, as you do when you visit Barnes and Noble and you don't really want to buy the book but you just look at the last chapter…If I can do that for a minute tonight, what God is saying, of course, in II Samuel 7 and what He's saying here in this Psalm and what the Psalm and the Psalmist is reflecting upon is the fulfillment of that promise in the endless Messianic reign of Jesus Christ who sits forever on the throne of David.

I. David makes a covenant with God.

Now the Psalm divides uniquely into two principle sections. There's the first section, verses 1 to 10, in which David is making a covenant or an oath with God; and then there's a second section, verses 11 to 18, where God is making an oath with David. Look at the first section with me, verses 1 to 10, and here we have David making an oath swearing an oath, to the Lord. And it begins with reality. And that's why this Psalm is so immediately appealing because it begins with reality. It begins where we are, many of us tonight, because it begins with this prayer. And notice that section one, verses 1 to 10, has these two little book ends of prayers: both verse 1 and verse 10 are prayers. And within this bookend of prayer there is this prayer that God would remember–God would remember the afflictions of David. And it's a reminder to us of the reality of the life that David lived. And David, of course, lived his whole life in the midst of trials and difficulties. And just before the bringing of the Ark into Jerusalem, you remember, there were particular trials, trials that are mentioned here in verse 6 when the Ark of the Covenant had been at Kiriath Jearim mentioned here by the Field of Jaar. It's the same thing. You remember the Ark of the Covenant was there for some 20-25 years or so. And then you remember the Philistines got a hold of it for a while and it was too hot for them to handle, and then it comes back and rests in the house of a man by the name of Obed-Edom for about a few months or so and eventually makes its way into Jerusalem. But you remember in the middle of that story that incident in which Uzza puts out his hand, you remember, in order to stabilize the ark as it trembles its way on uncertain ground, and Uzza is struck down and dies as a consequences of his actions. And it was a reminder that it was through hardship and difficulty and trial that David had lived his life. Remember David's hardships. There's a cost to discipleship, isn't there? That if you are really going to be out and out for God, there's going to be a certain cost for that. I'm always mindful of something Calvin said when he commented on the first epistle of Peter, that “God has so ordained the church that the Cross is the way to victory and death is the way to life.” And that it is through many hardships and many tribulations that we enter the kingdom of God.

But David, no matter the hardships and no matter the difficulties, David was determined to do something for God. He wouldn't be stopped, not until God said, “No.” He wouldn't be stopped in doing this thing for the Lord. “Surely I will not enter my house, nor lie on my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids; until I find a place for the Lord.” There's a zeal, isn't there, about David here? I was reading this today in one of Spurgeon's books, “Believe me, brethren and sisters, if you never have sleepless hours, if you never have weeping eyes, if your hearts never swell as if they would burst, you need not anticipate that you will be called zealous. You do not know the beginning of true zeal for the foundation of Christian zeal lies in the heart. The heart must be heavy with grief and yet must beat high with holy ardor. The heart must be vehement in desire, panting continually for God's glory. Zeal manifests itself. Let me say that it is always seen where it is genuine in a vehement love and attachment to the person of the Savior.” And that's something that we see here in David, in his desire to build this temple for God: his profound, his profound sense of zeal.

But God didn't need a temple to dwell in. You remember at the dedication of the temple later, Solomon, you remember, would say that very thing? ‘How can God possibly dwell in a temple? He who is infinite and eternal and unchangeable, how can He possibly dwell in a temple?’ And yet the people of God at this point in their history needed somewhere in order to worship God in some physical locality and David was determined to do that for God. But God said, “No.” And I wonder tonight if there are things that weigh heavily on your hearts and that you aspire to do for God and you long to do it for God and for the very best reasons and the very best intentions. Your motives are pure and clean and God steps in and says, “No.” In providence, in answer to prayer, he blocks the way. And I wonder what your response is to that. David's response, you remember, was a beautiful response. He never once stopped encouraging his son Solomon and insuring that his son Solomon would indeed build that temple. And Solomon was far from being a saint that you are I would want to venerate, but David saw it, you see, as the providence of God or the will of God, and he refused to get angry and to sulk and to pout. And we're good at that, aren't we? We do that when God blocks our way and when God says, “No.”

And I want you to see here the determined zeal of David to accomplish the purposes of almighty God. And the Psalm goes on in verses 7–this isn't David speaking out but these are worshipers, contemporary worshipers, I think, who are saying, as a result of what David did and as a result of David's zeal, “Let us go into His dwelling place. Let us worship at His footstool.” And they call upon God to arise and to come down in the arm of His strength and that the priests of the temple be filled with words about righteousness. And I think that in verse 16 he means “salvation,” “words of salvation,” and notice “and let the godly ones sing for joy.” Oh, that we would have that zeal to come into the house of God and to come into the place where God is worshiped, and to come with that kind of aspiration and that kind of desire that there we might hear words of righteousness and words of salvation, and to come with joy–holy joy, the joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven, the joy of knowing that we are in union with Jesus Christ, the joy of knowing that we have a God who makes covenant with us that is inviolable.

II. God makes an oath with David.

But we need to rush on, and the second half of this Psalm is almost the opposite. There's the first half, a description of the oath that David makes to God; the second half of the Psalm is the oath that God makes with David. The Lord, verse 11, has sworn to David. And notice that there will always be forever…in verse 12, ‘forever there will be someone on the throne of David.’ And right here in the middle of this Psalm you see the hints; you see those glimpses and those foreshadowings. I doubt if the author of this Psalm understood exactly what he was saying. That's not a denial of inspiration; they didn't always appreciate what they were saying because they spoke beyond their own understanding. And the Spirit was saying here something about the reign of great David's greatest Son, Jesus Christ, who sits on the throne of David forever and ever.

God's covenant is irrevocable.

But there are several aspects in the second half of the Psalm of the covenant that God makes…the characteristics of God's covenant. And I want to mention quickly four of them. The first of which is that God's covenant is irrevocable. You see it there in verse 11, “The Lord has sworn to David, a truth from which he will not turn back.” And you remember, as we sang this evening and Ligon pointed it out so beautifully without knowing that I was going do the same, in the second verse of Hymn 463, Augustus Toplady puts it like this: “The work which His goodness began / the arm of His strength will complete. His promise,” listen to this, “His promise is yea and amen / and never was forfeited yet. Things future, nor things that are are, / nor all things below nor above / can make Him His purpose forgo / or sever my soul from His love.” Isn't that, isn't that beautiful? To those of you believers…to those of you Christians tonight who are passing through enormous trouble and enormous difficulty, to those of you who have bidden, perhaps today, farewell to one whom you loved and sat down here so many times–that's the truth isn't it? Isn't it? That's, that's the hope. That's the victory of that service we had today at 12:00. That's what Christianity means. You know people say, ‘What does it mean to be a Christian?’ I’ll tell you what it means to be a Christian: it means to come to a funeral service and to have that note of absolute certainty that death and a coffin that stood here…that that can never sever my soul from the love of God in Jesus Christ. It cannot. And that's what this Psalm is saying, the inviolability, the irrevocability of a covenant of grace.

The Immanuel Principle

But notice also what I would like to call “the Immanuel Principle” and it's not, it's not my term. It's a term of a good friend of this congregation, Palmer Robertson, and you see it there in verses 13 and 14. “For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” God dwelling amongst His people. You know what Immanuel means, don't you? It means “God with us.” And as we gather together as the Lord's people, God is present with His people. And that's the beauty; that's what the Psalmist is recording; that's what he's extolling here. Ah, there's that beautiful picture, isn't there, in Revelation 7 of the triumphant church, and the Lamb is feeding them and leading them to fountains of living water, and they’re living forever and ever in the presence of the Lamb? That's what heaven is. That's what heaven is: living forever in the presence of the Lamb.

God's provision

Notice the third aspect of God's covenant, and that's His provision. And He mentions that; He says, “I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her needy with bread.” And there isn't a person here who cannot testify that God has provided. You remember that testimony that David gives elsewhere in another Psalm, “I was once young and now I'm old, but I've never seen the righteous begging for bread”? And I've never seen it. Have you ever seen a child of God out on the street begging for bread? I don't think you have. I really don't think that you have. It's a testimony to the provision that God makes in His covenant of grace.

The absolute triumph of the mediator in the covenant of grace

But there's one more and it's the most glorious of all. And that is…and that is the triumph, the absolute triumph, the sovereignty of the mediator in the covenant of grace. And the Psalmist uses several metaphors and one of which is the budding of the horn. And the horn, of course, is a symbol of power in the Old Testament. And then another metaphor of a glistening crown that shines, and it's speaking primarily of the One who sits on the throne of David forever and ever, who has all power and all authority and who will triumph and who will be all glorious.

Turn in your hymnbooks again, and with this I am going to close, to 296, 296. I was sitting this afternoon as Ligon and Jim Baird were up here; I was right at the back on that side. And they brought the coffin down the isle, and it's a very solemn moment, isn't it? You know there are people who say, ‘Well, that's all there is to life. That's the end.’ And there's nothing more poignant, is there, than a coffin? It's very symbolic. It's one of those symbols of life and death. But as that coffin was being wheeled down the isle here…who was playing the organ today? Bill Wymond. Bill Wymond started playing, All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. Let angels prostrate fall. Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all.” And if Ligon's voice faltered as he read the Scriptures this morning with emotion, my voice faltered within me as I heard Bill Wymond playing those familiar notes of a very familiar hymn. And all of the sudden the focus was not the coffin, it was on the crowning of the name of Jesus Christ. And that's the victory and that's the certainty. You know whatever you go home to tonight–and some of you go home to difficulties and problems and trials that are just awful–but you know if you’re a Christian tonight, whatever that trial is, Jesus reigns. He reigns. In that marriage of yours, He reigns. With that family of yours, He reigns. Before that computer screen of yours, He reigns. Before those things that you have to do and have yet to do, He reigns. And you know if we only thought about that more than we do…if we only took that to our hearts more than we do, as the Psalmist is doing here, as he worships in Jerusalem, it would be transformational. It would truly be transformational that Jesus reigns. Let's pray together.

Our Father in Heaven, we do thank You for these beautiful Psalms, how they must have spoken to Christians right down through the centuries and they speak to us tonight. And we thank You for this royal truth of a reigning Savior from whom we shall never be severed. Write these truths, O Lord, upon our hearts, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Would you stand and receive the Lord's benediction? May the grace of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God our Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of you now and forevermore. Amen.

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