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Worship Message - Songs of Ascent #6

Songs of Ascent
Psalms 132

For the past few Sundays, we have been considering Psalms in a section of that Old Testament Book called the Songs of Ascent. Psalms recited by Old Testament people of God as they walked to Jerusalem and then climbed steps leading to the Jewish Temple in the city. Psalms designed to prepare the hearts and the minds of those people for worship so that by the time they entered the Temple, they were ready - emotionally and spiritually ready - to worship God.

The Songs of Ascent begin with Psalm 120. The section continues through Psalm 134. We have so far considered Psalms 120 through 131. Today, the series of messages on the Songs of Ascent continues as we think about Psalm 132.

The other Psalms in the Songs of Ascent are much shorter, ranging from nine verses in Psalm 122 to just three verses. The final two - the two we will consider next week - are just three verses long. But today’s song - Psalm 132 - is much longer. It has 18 verses. Actually, not all 18 verses will be talked about in this message. Instead, there are a few themes I plan to highlight.

But let me mention this, too. Most of the other Psalms in the Songs of Ascent were written by David. That is stated in some cases. In other cases, it is believed by Bible experts David was the author. But the one for today - Psalm 132 - is believed to have been penned by David’s son Solomon, perhaps, it is believed, at the time of the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Which brings up just a bit of historical information that needs to be mentioned. You see, it was David, when he was king, to build the Temple.

As mentioned in an earlier message in this series, David, as king, certainly had the money needed for such a project. Enough money to purchase the materials needed. He certainly had the authority to secure enough workmen for the project.

But David did not build the Temple. God kept him from it. Later, when Solomon was king, God directed him to build the Temple.

According to Psalm 127 - an earlier Psalm in the Songs of Ascent - a Psalm which was also written by Solomon - it was a good thing David did not go ahead with his plan to build the Temple because it was not God’s plan for David to build it. If David had built it, the result would not have been what God wanted. It was better, according to Solomon, to wait for God’s timing. As Solomon explained in Psalm 127,”Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

It was, according to Solomon, a good thing the Temple had been built later than David planned. But as we are now to Psalm 132, Solomon reminds God it had been David’s wish to have the Temple built before. In Psalm 132, Solomon interceded on his father’s behalf. He reminded God that building the Temple had been David’s idea. Solomon promoted his father as therefore being worthy of the LORD’s favor. That is proclaimed in the first part of the Psalm, which is verses 1 through 5.

I will read the first part, then make some comments.

“Psalm 132. A Song of Ascents. Remember, O LORD, in David's favor, all the hardships he endured. How he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, ‘I will not enter my house or get into 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.’”

A few points.

First, notice Solomon, even though he is the one under whose kingship the Temple had been built, did not, in this Psalm, take any credit. He gave credit to his father. It had been David’s dream to build the Temple. Solomon had simply carried out his father’s dream.
Second, in another bit of history, it was actually not just David’s dream for the Temple to be built. The dream had started hundreds of years earlier.

Here is what I have about that. It was Jacob, much earlier in the Old Testament, who was first given the idea - the vision - for a Temple. For a house built for God. For how to build such a house. The idea came in a dream in which Jacob saw a ladder that reached between Heaven and earth. Angels went up and down that ladder as they did God’s work.

Jacob interpreted that dream to mean that when people pray, angels take their prayers to God in Heaven. God then sends His angels back to the earth with assignments to help His people.

Jacob further interpreted the dream to mean God’s house would be a connection between God and His people.

Jacob called the place for that house Bethel, which means “the house of God.” But he did not build a building there.
Eight hundred years later, when David lived, there was still no permanent building that was the house of God. So it was that David, knowing God had told another Old Testament person - knowing God had told Moses - there would be such a building, he - David - wanted to find a place for it. The city where it would be located.

We know that place was Jerusalem, David’s new capital city, located in the heart of Israel. And again, once the city was decided, it was David’s plan to finally build what Jacob had foreseen. That is what Solomon reminded God about in the first part of Psalm 132. A reminder that included the request, “God, remember David. Favor him. For it was his goal to build a house for You [for God].”

Solomon did not take credit for the Temple. The Temple had been David’s idea. Those are the first two points from the first part of Psalm 132.

Third, of course David did rest after making his vow. Did you hear it? Solomon worded it that David promised to never go home or sleep until the Temple was built.

Of course that was not followed literally. David did go home every day he was in town. He did sleep every night. Especially the sleeping had to have happened for him to have survived.

But the point is that David might never have been completely relaxed. He may have never felt he had accomplished everything he wanted to complete. That is because it had been his dream - his goal - to have a house for God built, but it had not happened during his reign. During his life.

Verse 1 refers to the hardships David endured.

We have discussed many of them in earlier messages in this series. To quickly review, as he was growing up, David was not respected by his family. That would have been hard to take.

Despite that, he was chosen by God to be the eventual king of God’s people, but the king currently serving grew ever more jealous and often threatened David, that happening for quite a few years.

When David eventually became king, he faced lots of enemies in surrounding nations.

And at least one time, David created problems for himself. In a very short time, he committed the sin of adultery and the sin of murder.

Obviously the sins were not in service of God. But being king? Leading God’s people? Those were worthy ventures. Ventures worthy of God’s favor.

So, Solomon asked God, his father may not have done all he wished. In fact, other things he did might have interfered with his ability to accomplish his wish of building a house for God. But, Solomon stated to God, “David still served You. Remember him. Favor him.” That was Solomon’s prayer in the first part of Psalm 132.

We are going to return to the first part of the Psalm at the end of this message. There is something I am going to ask that we do. But for now, let’s move to part 2 of Psalm 132, which is verses 7 through 10.

Remember the Temple had been built. Here is what Solomon prayed would happen because of the Temple having been built. Again, I will recite and make some comments.

“Let us go to His dwelling place. Let us worship at His footstool. That was the invitation Solomon gave to other people of God. It was an invitation for all of them to go to the Temple.

But other people of God were not the only ones invited. Solomon continued. “Arise, O LORD, and go to Your resting place. You and the ark of Your might. There, let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your saints shout for joy. For Your servant David's sake, do not turn away the face of Thy anointed one.”

Wow. A whole lot of points to make in those verses.

Remember back to Psalm 127. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Here Solomon seems to be stating unless the LORD is in the house - in the Temple built for Him - those who worship there worship in vain.

Do you suppose, applying that to us, it means we need to invite God into this place? Into our worship?

Actually, I think we do that. In the early morning prayer time, sometimes in the prayer period during our services, and I hope it happens other times, too, there is often the phrase prayed, “Lord, please be with us in our services.”

Of course we know God is present everywhere. So of course He is with us here.

But the gist of our prayers, and I think the gist of what Solomon wrote, is that maybe we should pray God will be here, as in that He will be welcomed here. Welcomed into our worship. That we will allow Him to touch us and bless us and strengthen us and encourage us.

Why should we want Him to be here? As Solomon explained, so that God’s priests - for our purposes, that His people - will be clothed, not with flowing robes and jewels and things like that, as nice as those things are now and as meaningful as they were back then, but with righteousness so what we do will be pleasing to God, even in how we treat others.

And verse 10. Solomon again mentioned David. “For David’s sake,” Solomon prayed, “do not turn away Your anointed one,” that one being Solomon himself, which again showed Solomon’s humility.

Remember earlier? Verse 1? Solomon did not take credit for having built the Temple. He gave the credit to his father.

Here is more evidence of humility on the part of Solomon. I mean, Solomon was the one humanly responsible for the Temple having been built. With that accomplishment, he could have strutted around in arrogance. The Temple was spectacular to look at. The building of it had been a great accomplishment.

But there was no arrogance. Hence Solomon’s words, “Do not turn away Your anointed one.” Solomon was humble as He requested rather than demanded God’s presence, doing so in the name of his father David, who had endured so many hardships as he had dreamed of serving the LORD.

Remember David. That was the point of the first part of Psalm 132.

God was invited into the Temple that had been built for Him. God’s presence was needed for His people to be righteous, which was a humble request. That was the point of the second part of Psalm 132.

Then the third part, which presents a challenge, along with a whole lot of benefits promised if the challenge is met.

A few verses in the last part of the Psalm.

Verse 12. “If your sons [this, according to verse 11, was a promise the LORD swore to David, who earlier in the Psalm was prayed for] keep the LORD’s covenant [if they would do their parts of listening to, learning, and obeying the LORD’s commands] and [His] testimonies [the words the LORD would continue to teach them],” they would “forever sit upon” the throne. The throne of David.

I of course do not ever want to take any part of the Bible out of context, and I know the promise expressed in verse 12 was specifically for Solomon and all the future descendants of David. That is true, as well, for the rewards that will be mentioned in a moment.

But I think the meaning of the challenge and the meaning of the promise extends to all people of God. Including those who traveled to Jerusalem and then climbed the steps to the Temple to worship God. Including us today. If we will do what we are supposed to do in listening to and learning and obeying - if we will keep God’s covenant and His teachings - we, too, will be blessed.

And no, I am never going to sit on a throne of anybody. I am never going to be the king of God’s people. Neither will you, most likely. But we can still be blessed with God’s strength and guidance and wisdom, which are all needed whether we are kings or queens or not.

Listen to, learn, obey, keep all God’s commands and teachings. That is what David’s descendants were to do. That is what we are to do.

The rewards for meeting that challenge?

Verses 13 and 14. Applying it to us, God’s presence.

Verse 15. God providing our needs. Again, this Psalm was among those recited by people traveling to Jerusalem. How important it was for them to reminded of God’s provision. We need to remember it as well.

Verse 16. Salvation and joy.

Verse 17. A horn. Horns are of course bony points that grow on the heads of some animals. Animals use their horns when they fight. So horns here represents strength. Listen to, learn, obey, keep God’s commands and teachings and we will be given spiritual strength.

Also verse 17. A lamp. A lamp stands for something that is splendid. Here it refers to being given honor. We will be honored as we listen to, learn, obey - as we keep - what God has said.

And consider verse 18. Enemies will be clothed with shame. Those enemies’ crowns will shed their luster. That speaks of ultimate victory for all who will - for all who do - listen to, learn, obey, keep God’s commands and teachings.

* * * * *

Two things. One an application that includes a teaching about Jesus. One that will, as mentioned earlier, take us back to the first part of Psalm 132.

The application about Jesus is this.

Think again of verse 12, where the promise is given of someone sitting on David’s throne forever.

Interestingly, not every descendant of David kept God’s covenant. Not every descendant of David kept God’s testimonies. His teachings. Some did, but others did not. In fact, Solomon himself did not end up righteous.

But eventually one descendant of David was perfect. That one was named Jesus who, when He died as the perfect sacrifice for sins, and when He, on the third day after His death, rose again, was assured He would have the throne of David forever.

Through Him - through Jesus - we can know God’s presence and receive God’s provision. Through Jesus we can have salvation and joy, strength and honor, victory over whatever spiritual enemies we have.

Rely on Jesus. That is one thing Psalm 132 can remind us to do.

And then this, which does take us back to the first part of the Psalm, in which Solomon prayed that David would be remembered and favored by God.

Let me ask. Can you think of one person? If more than one, that is fine, but start with one. Can you think of one person? I am probably speaking of an older person. Maybe not, but for what I am about to ask, someone still alive so he or she can know the result what you are going to be asked to do.

Can you think of one person you can pray for. That you can pray God will remember and favor for what he or she has done in the past?

That of course may include what is being done now, but can you think of one person you know who has a history of serving God, even when serving has involved suffering? Or caused suffering?

One person who had - or has - goals and dreams worthy of God’s favor. Whether those goals or dreams were met seems not to be the most important thing.

Can you think of one person maybe you have blessed by maybe helping carry out that person’s dream, as Solomon carried out David’s dream of having a house for God?

Can you think of one person? Please write that person’s name on the piece of paper. Then do either of two things.

Either keep the paper with the name on it as a reminder for you to pray for that person. To pray that God will remember and favor him or her.

Or maybe write, beside the name, something about that person that makes him or her worthy of God. Worthy of God remembering and favoring him or her. Then share the paper with that person.

Maybe think of someone no one else would think of, but the point is this. Solomon remembered what his father had done and dreamed. Solomon knew that made his father worthy of God’s favor. May what we do for God be remembered. Not for pride, but for God’s favor.

Can you think of one person? Write that name. Maybe share it, but at least pray for that person. Pray that God’s favor will be upon him or her. Do what Solomon did concerning his father David.

* * * * *

Today’s closing song is Teach Me Thy Way, O God.

Teach me Thy way, O God,
Teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford -
Teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright,
More by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with Heavenly light,
Teach me Thy way!

When doubts and fears arise,
Teach me Thy way!
When storms o’er-spread the skies,
Teach me Thy way!
Shine through the cloud and rain,
Through sorrow, toil, and pain;
Make Thou my pathway plain,
Teach me Thy way!

Long as my life shall last,
Teach me Thy way!
Where’er my lot be cast
Teach me Thy way!
Until the race is won,
Until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won,
Teach me Thy way!

As we have for all the messages in this series on the Songs of Ascent, the benediction will be a responsive reading that highlights many of the teachings in today’s Psalm.

I will say my part, which is the first part of each section. Please respond with your part, which is the second part of each section.

Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor and in the favor of all Your people,
all the hardships he endured and all the spiritual dreams we have.

Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness.
Let your saints shout for joy.

If Your people will keep Your covenant and testimonies,
We will have Your presence and provision, Your salvation and joy,
Your strength and honor, Your victory over the spiritual enemies we have.

May those words, as they are recited - as they are repeated over and over again - prepare our hearts and our minds to worship God, today and always. Amen.

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