Psalm 132 – An Oath to David
The Second Book of Samuel tells the story of King David’s recovery of the Ark of the Covenant and the joyous celebration upon its return to Jerusalem. David genuinely desires to build a proper dwelling place for the Lord, but the Lord’s response is surprising. At David’s wish to build a “house” for God, God says, “No, I will build a ‘house’ for you.” From David’s lineage will come God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, and God will remain faithful to this descendant of David. Psalm 132 recounts the same story poetically. The primary motif of this psalm is the fidelity of God; both David and his people are to share in the blessings of God’s steadfast love for them. Verses 3-5 tell of David’s desire to build this dwelling worthy of God’s presence (cf. 2 Sam 7:1-3). Subsequent verses (8-10) tell of the great procession to Jerusalem, bearing the ark to its new resting place with joyful songs of praise (cf. 2 Sam 6:1-5). Verses 11-18 reiterate in brief the Lord’s promise to David made through the Prophet Nathan (cf. 2 Sam 7:8-17). The text thus presents an example of what is termed “election theology”: it refers to the Lord’s choice, first of David as his Anointed, and then of Sion as his earthly dwelling place. Among most Ancient Near Eastern peoples, it was a commonplace that a people would choose a god or gods who were equipped to meet their needs and bring blessing upon them. In stark contrast, the biblical accounts affirm that it is God who has chosen Israel, rather than the reverse, and in spite of the fact that Israel is “the smallest among the nations” (Dt 7:7). And now, repeating the pattern, God chooses David, the youngest son of Jesse, as king and ancestor of the Messiah; and furthermore, God chooses Sion—one mountain among many—as the place of divine dwelling. These divine choices make it clear that God’s favor is not with the powerful and mighty, but rather with the small and weak; it is they who are to be “the apple of God’s eye” (cf. Ps 17:8). And to those whom God has chosen, God remains always faithful. In this truth we find both a hope and an invitation. The hope is that despite our infidelities God is always faithful; we can count on divine care to attend us each day if we are willing to wait upon the Lord, whose ways are sometimes mysterious. The invitation is to imitate God’s faithfulness in our own lives in whatever path we follow; our fidelity in return should be our ready response to God’s fidelity towards us. Jesus restates and reinforces this theology of election in immediate terms for his disciples at the Last Supper: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another” (John 15:15-16). How wonderful to be among God’s chosen! In God’s choice of us we are called to respond in love—love that springs from the love we have ourselves received from our Father.
1 A Song of Ascents.
O Lórd, remémber Dávid
and áll the hárdships he endúred,
2 the óath he swóre to the Lórd,
his vów to the Stróng One of Jácob.
3 “Í will not énter my hóuse,
nor gó to the béd where I rést;
4 I will gíve no sléep to my éyes,
to my éyelids I will gíve no slúmber,
5 till I fínd a pláce for the Lórd,
a dwélling for the Stróng One of Jácob.”
6 At Éphrata we héard of it;
we fóund it in the pláins of Yéarim.
7 “Let us gó to the pláce of his dwélling;
lét us bow dówn at his fóotstool.”
8 Go úp, Lord, to the pláce of your rést,
yóu and the árk of your stréngth.
9 Your príests shall be clóthed with jústice;
your fáithful shall ríng out their jóy.
10 For the sáke of Dávid your sérvant,
dó not rejéct your anóinted.
11 The Lórd swore an óath to Dávid;
he will nót go báck on his wórd:
“A són, the frúit of your bódy,
will I sét upón your thróne.
12 If your sóns hold fást to my cóvenant,
and my láws that Í have táught them,
their sóns, in túrn, shall sít
on your thróne from áge to áge.”
13 For the Lórd has chósen Síon;
hé has desíred it for his dwélling:
14 “This is my résting place from áge to áge;
hére have I chósen to dwéll.
15 I will gréatly bléss her próduce;
I will fíll her póor with bréad.
16 I will clóthe her príests with salvátion,
and her fáithful shall ríng out their jóy.
17 I will máke a stock spróut up for Dávid;
I will prepáre a lámp for my anóinted.
18 I will cóver his énemies with sháme,
but on hím my crówn shall shíne.”
Prayer for Psalm 132
God ever faithful, whose steadfast love is eternal and unbounded, help us to fix our eyes upon your Anointed Son, Jesus Christ, in whose humble response to your gifts of love we find our perfect model. All praise and thanksgiving be to you, now and for ever. Amen.