Theme: What God Promises to Do
In this week’s lessons, we see what God will do for those who, as pilgrims in this life, look to him in faith and obedience.
Scripture: Psalm 132:1-18
Having appealed to God on the basis of God’s covenant with David, it is natural that the next verses of the psalm rehearse the terms of that covenant in abbreviated form. This restatement marks the psalm’s second half and is a conscious parallel to David’s oath, which began part one. It is why verse 11 uses the word “oath” instead of “covenant” (v. 12). First, we have David’s oath and its fulfillment (vv. 2-9). Here we have the oath of God and its fulfillment (vv. 11-18).
The original account of God’s promises to David are in 2 Samuel 7:4-17. Those verses promise the following: 1) that God will establish his people in their own land; 2) that he will give David an heir who will succeed him; 3) that he will bless this successor, though he will also discipline him when he does wrong; 4) that this one will actually build the temple; and 5) that the throne of David will be established forever. The last and most important words of this covenant are these: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (v. 16). These are the promises that are summarized in Psalm 132:11-18.
There are two levels of promise here. First, a promise to the heirs of David, that they would not cease to occupy the throne of David as long as they should keep God’s covenant and statutes. Second, a promise of the divine Messiah, who alone would perform all the requirements of the law and rule forever. The promise of a Messiah is always in the background when God’s covenant with David is mentioned. But it becomes fairly explicit here when God speaks of Zion, saying, “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.”
What is most striking about verses 13-18 is that they correspond to the things the people prayed about in verses 8 and 9, for in each case the answer goes beyond the petitions. Alexander Maclaren observed, “The shape of the responses is determined by the form of the desires, and in each case the answer is larger than the prayer.”1
The people had asked God to come to his resting place as the Ark was brought to Jerusalem; God says that he will sit enthroned there “for ever and ever.” They asked righteousness for the priests; God promises to clothe the priests with salvation, which is a greater concept. The people asked that the saints might sing for joy; God promises that they will sing for joy forever. This heightened fulfillment points beyond the present to the future Messianic age, which is how the rabbis understood this closing section of the psalm prior to the Christian era. Many Old Testament prophetic passages were understood to be about the Messiah until the claims of Christians that they had been fulfilled by Jesus caused the rabbis to view them differently.2
This greater future fulfillment involves three things:
1. The establishment of God’s throne in Jerusalem (vv. 13, 14). Part of the promise involves the earthly throne of David, for God said that he would establish it as long as his descendants kept God’s covenant and obeyed his statues (v. 12). But when God speaks of establishing Zion as his resting place “for ever and ever” (v. 14), it is clear that this must go beyond the endurance of a mere earthly kingdom. It is about the Messiah and his throne.
The earthly throne of David did not endure forever. It ended when the last of the Davidic kings, Jeconiah (also known as Jehoiachin), was carried off to Babylon at the time of the exile and died there. This man was so disobedient that it was prophesied in Jeremiah 22:30 that no descendent of his would prosper nor “sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.” And they did not. On the other hand, the throne of Jesus really is eternal. Jesus reigns even now in heaven, and in the opinion of some he will also rule on earth literally in a future day. Revelation 11:15 speaks of this, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
1Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 3, Psalms 90-150 (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1894), p. 352.
2An obvious example is the servant texts of Isaiah, which at one time were understood of the Messiah but are now generally regarded as referring to the Jewish people as a whole.
Review the promise God made to David. What are the two levels?
What does God mean when he speaks of establishing Zion as his resting place forever?
Identify the significance of the answers to the people’s prayers.
How did God establish the throne of David?
Application: Can you recount a time in your life when the Lord answered prayer in an even greater way than your actual petition? Praise him for it.