Zion the dwelling of God and His Anointed (Psalms 132) February 24-26
Psalm 132 is a royal psalm touching on God's covenant with David and His royal successors. As the first song of ascents in the fifth and final set of three, the expected setting would be one of distress. Though there is dispute about the time this psalm was composed, we should note the prayer in verse 10 that, for David's sake, God not reject His anointed one-that is, an anointed king of David's dynasty. While Solomon originally spoke these words as a general plea for himself and his successors-as verses 8-10 are adapted from his dedicatory prayer for the temple (compare 2 Chronicles 6:41-42)-it may be that the words are recalled in the psalm because a later Davidic king, and perhaps the continuance of the dynasty, were now seemingly in jeopardy.
In this light, consider that some identify the author of the unattributed songs of ascent or songs of the degrees as King Hezekiah. That would fit a time of seeming peril for David's royal dynasty, as he faced the Assyrian invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem. However, the reigns of a few other kings of Judah would also fit such a time, and the author could be someone other than the king referred to in the psalm.
The song begins by asking God to remember David and all his afflictions (verse 1)-all that he suffered as a servant of God, as detailed in so many other psalms-along with his deep devotion to a dwelling place for God (verses 3-5). This began with David bringing the Ark of the Covenant, representing God's presence, to a tabernacle he raised up for it in Jerusalem and, beyond that, his commitment to a fixed temple for God (see 2 Samuel 6-7). Though God did not permit David to actually build the temple, as it was to be built during Solomon's reign of peace (1 Chronicles 22:9-10), David nevertheless invested great wealth and energy into the temple plans before turning the project over to his son. David purchased the property for the temple (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21:28-22:1) and "made abundant preparations [for it] before his death" (22:5; see 22:1-29:20).
Verses 6-9 of Psalm 132 appear to follow the progression of the ark to David's tabernacle and then to Solomon's temple. Note in verse 6 the hearing and discovery of "it" in Ephrathah and the "fields of the woods" or "fields of Jaar" (NIV). " Ephrathah by itself could refer to the vicinity around Bethlehem (Ruth 4:11; Mic 5:2) or to Kiriath Jearim [meaning 'City of Woods'] (cf. 1 Chronicles 2:19, 24, 50); but with the further description of 'the fields of Jaar'-a reference to Kiriath Jearim (Jearim is a plural of 'Jaar')-the identity of Ephrathah is further delimited in favor of Kiriath Jearim, where the ark was located [when David and his men sought it out] (cf. 1 Sam 6:21-7:2)" ( Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on Psalm 132:6). Yet the "it" heard there probably refers not to the ark itself, but to the call in verse 7 to take it into the Jerusalem tabernacle and worship there, for "in Hebrew the pronoun is feminine, but the Hebrew for 'ark' is masculine" ( Zondervan NIV Study Bible, note on verse 6). The word footstool in the call in verse 7 refers to God's sanctuary as the place of His feet, set down on the earth among His people (compare 99:5; Isaiah 60:13; 66:1).
Verses 8-10 of Psalm 132 are, as noted earlier, evidently adapted from Solomon's prayer in the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:41-42)-when the ark was moved from the tabernacle to the new structure intended to be its permanent dwelling. And here in the same prayer linking God with Jerusalem as His perpetual holy dwelling place, Solomon also asked that God, for David's sake, would not reject His anointed (Hebrew mashiach or messiah). Solomon was no doubt referring to himself, but by extension this included all of David's dynastic successors-prophetically culminating in the ultimate Messiah or Anointed One, Jesus Christ.
"If, as some have proposed, the petitions in vv. 1, 10 form a frame around the first half of the psalm, the second half offers assurance that the prayer will be heard…. In any event, David's vow to provide the Lord a dwelling place, which would be for his royal sons and for Israel a house of prayer (see 1Ki 8:27-53; 9:3; 2Ch 7:15-16; Isa 59:7), is made the basis for the appeal that God will hear his anointed's prayer" ( Zondervan, note on Psalm 132:10).
It is interesting to note a few parallel statements between the first and second halves of the psalm. The words adapted from Solomon's prayer in verses 8-10 call on God to occupy His resting place, for His priests to be clothed with righteousness, for His saints to shout for joy and for God to not turn away His anointed. In verses 14-15, God answers that Zion is the resting place He has chosen to permanently dwell in and that He will bless accordingly. In verse 16, God responds that He will clothe Zion's priests with not just righteousness but even salvation (compare Isaiah 61:10)-and further answers that the saints will shout for joy. And rather than rejecting His anointed, God will make the "horn" of David-symbolizing power and authority-grow. Further, God would prepare a "lamp" for David-the metaphor here of a light that wouldn't go out, symbolizing his perpetual dynasty (Psalm 132:17; compare 1 Kings 11:36; 15:4). The enemies of God's anointed would be put to shame while his own crown or rule would flourish (Psalm 132:18).
Of course, salvation and the everlasting perpetuity of Jerusalem and David's dynasty will only come through the ultimate Anointed-Jesus Christ. Indeed, whatever the original circumstances that prompted the composition of Psalm 132, we should recognize that as one of the songs of ascent, it became part of festival worship focusing on Zion as God's perpetual city, the place of His temple-His dwelling place-and the throne of David to one day be occupied by the coming Messiah, who would redeem Israel and make Jerusalem the capital of the world. We should further understand Zion as also symbolic of God's Church-to be glorified at Jesus' return to reign with Him on the throne of David over all nations from physical Zion. Indeed, all truly converted Christians are anointed of God through the Holy Spirit-and will serve as the royalty and priesthood of the world tomorrow under Christ.
To better understand God's promises to David about an enduring dynasty and how these have been and ultimately will be fulfilled, see our online publication The Throne of Britain: Its Biblical Origin and Future at www.ucg.org/brp/materials/.