Regular readers of this blog will know that my wife and I dedicate a certain portion of each day reading and singing the Psalms. We work through other biblical books (for example, we just completed the book of Revelation), but we always focus on one psalm per day.
The psalms are valuable as a daily study for many reasons. One of the most important is that the theology of the entire Bible meets in this ancient prayer book. When reading the Old Testament, have you ever felt that whatever passage you are in seems to be headed somewhere or pointing to something further down the road? Likewise, if you read the New Testament, you cannot help but realize that these texts do not arise out the blue, but came from somewhere and are now being fulfilled. The Psalms, therefore, serve as a kind of “Grand Central Station” where texts from the Law, Prophets, and Writings pass through the Psalms on their way to the New Testament to find their final fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Old Testament texts become songs and prayers and those songs and prayers, in turn, get quoted as texts in the New Testament.
Recently I was struck afresh by the power of Psalm 132. It is not a psalm we normally think of when we reflect on “messianic” psalms, and this particular psalm is never directly quoted in the New Testament (although there are three possible allusions to this psalm in Luke 1:69, Acts 2:30 and Acts 7:46). Yet, this psalm prepares us for five of the offices of Christ which are fulfilled through his birth, life, death, and resurrection.
1. God makes his dwelling with us. During our recent Christmas celebration, we remember that one of the titles of Christ is Immanuel, meaning God with us. Psalm 132 recalls David’s longing to “find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (Ps. 132:5). David, of course, understood this primarily as the Temple which he would prepare for, and which his son Solomon would build. However, we know from the New Testament that ultimately the only fit dwelling place of God among us was in and through the incarnation. Jesus Christ is the place where all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form (Col. 1:19).
2. Ark in Bethlehem. After David became King he brought the ark of God from the house of Abinadab to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:1-12). However, it rested for three months in his hometown of Bethlehem, also known in the prophetic writings as Ephrathah. Psalm 132 recalls this time when people heard that the ark was resting in Bethlehem: “Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah” (Ps. 132:6). The ark symbolizes the presence and redemptive power of God, as reflected in the stock prayer that the people of God would pray when they went into battle: “Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might” (Ps. 132:8; 2 Chron. 6:41). The prophet Micah prophesied that the messiah, the true sign of God’s presence and power, would come out of Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 said, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me One who is to be ruler is Israel, whose reign is from of old, from ancient days.”
3. The Throne of David. In 2 Samuel 7:16 David was promised that his house and his kingdom would endure forever and that his throne would be established forever. Psalm 132 places this promise into an act of worship when it declares: “The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne (Ps. 132:11). This promise had a messianic fulfillment and is the source of the multiple allusions which are drawn from the promise to David which are understood by the early church to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Acts 2:30; 7:46). Jesus Christ sits on the throne of David and fulfills the kingly messianic role.
4. The Anointed One. Psalm 132 also contains a beautiful prayer that God would not “turn away the face of your anointed One” (Ps. 132:10). It was probably originally intended as a prayer for God to listen to the prayers of King David who served in a kind of representative role on behalf of the people. However, one of the leading terms in Hebrew for the Messiah is the word for anoint. The Messiah was the “anointed one.” This is the term which in Greek is christos where the word “Christ” comes from. In a final way, only Jesus “the Christ” is the one who intercedes for us and who stands in the gap on our behalf.
5. The horn of God. In Psalm 132:17 we are told that God will “make a horn to sprout for David” and prepare “a lamp for my anointed.” The messiah is pictured as a “horn.” The word “horn” is frequently used metaphorically in Scripture to refer to “strength” or “power” or even “honor” (See, for example, Ps. 18:2; 89:17; 92:10; 112:9; 132:7; 1 Sam. 2:1; 2 Sam. 22:3). This explains why Zechariah prophesies in Luke 1 saying, “Blessed by the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (Lk. 1:69). Jesus is the great “horn” of God who embodies the strength, power, and honor of God in the world as he rescues us from the dominion of darkness and delivers us into His glorious kingdom.
All five of these offices, or titles, which would someday be fulfilled by Christ are embedded in Psalm 132—even though it does not figure prominently in the New Testament. As we go into 2020, let us remember that Christ fulfills our deepest hopes and longings. Christ alone remains the hope of the nations and the source of all redemption and peace. Our hope will not be found in the deliberations of Washington D.C., or any political leader, or the outcome of any church denominational debate. Our hope remains in Christ alone.