Kings & Priests

Scripture: Psalm 132

 

Title: Kings & Priests

 

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • A place to call home (King David)
  • A call to worship (Priests)
  • Conclusion – Jesus (King & Priest)

 

Introduction:

Once there was a young man smitten with a beautiful girl

–         She was somewhat indifferent to him though, and careless with his feelings in the way pretty girls can afford to be, but this didn’t deter him

–         When the young man heard the girl’s birthday was coming up he told her he would send her a bouquet of flowers, one for each year of her life

–         Later that afternoon he called the local florist and ordered 21 roses, with instructions that they be delivered on the girl’s birthday

 

As the florist was preparing the order he decided, that since the young man was such a good customer, he would put an extra dozen roses in the bouquet, bringing the total to 33

–         The girl didn’t take it so well and fortunately for the young man, he never heard from her again

–         Years later he found someone else better able to reciprocate his love [1]

 

This morning we return to our series on the Songs of Ascents

–         These songs were probably sung by Jewish pilgrims as they made their way to the temple in Jerusalem for various religious festivals

–         They are songs for the journey home to God

 

Our focus today is psalm 132 – It is a kind of a duet in two halves

–         The first half is essentially a prayer asking God to remember King David and his plans to build a house for the Lord

–         While the second half details the Lord’s response to this prayer

–         Like the florist in the story, God answers by giving his people more than they asked for or imagined.

–         Sometimes His ‘more’ may seem like a set back to us – but in the long run it proves better. From the NIV we read…

 

Lord, remember David and all his self-denial. He swore an oath to the Lord, he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: “I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.” We heard of it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:“Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool, saying,‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy.’” 10 For the sake of your servant David, do not reject your anointed one. 11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne. 12 If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.”13 For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, 14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it. 15 I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food. 16 I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. 18 I will clothe his enemies with shame, but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”

 

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us

 

A place to call home:

There’s been a lot in the news lately about housing shortages, especially in Auckland but also in other main centres

–         Tawa has seen a bit of development as well

–         For some years now new houses have been going in around the Woodman Drive area

–         More recently a sub-division has been going ahead at Kenepuru

–         And we hear of plans for medium density housing around the Tawa Junction area

–         People are wanting room – a place to call home, space to dwell and rest

–         And for many that involves sacrifice & self denial just to save enough for a deposit

 

Psalm 132 begins with the psalmist remembering David’s self denial before the Lord

 

To remember means more than just re-calling to mind a thought from the past

–         The kind of remembering the psalmist is doing here is tangible and practical – like when someone ‘remembers you in their will’ – they actually do something for you

–         On ANZAC day we remember the self denial and sacrifice of soldiers by taking a day off work and holding dawn services to pay our respects

–         More than this though we don’t take our freedom for granted

–         In NZ when someone reaches the age of 65 the government remembers their years of tax paying and contribution to society by giving them a weekly superannuation payment and a gold card

–         We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us – we appreciate the benefits their self denial has brought

 

So when the psalmist says, Lord, remember David and all his self-denial, I think he is letting God know that he values the legacy David has left

–         He doesn’t take David’s self denial for granted

–         It’s kind of a thanksgiving for what David did in the past

 

Verses 2-5 detail David’s vow to find a place for the Lord

–         David plans to deny himself – he won’t rest until he has made room for God

 

What then does it mean to find a place for the Lord?

–         After all, God fills the universe – how can David possibly create a dwelling for God?

–         That would be like me thinking I could dig a hole large enough to contain the oceans of the world

 

David is well aware that God cannot be contained in a house – God will not be domesticated

–         More than likely psalm 132 has the events of 2nd Samuel chapters 6 & 7 in mind when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem

 

This is a picture of what the Ark of the Covenant might have looked like

–         For Israel the Ark embodied the holy presence & rule of the Lord God

–         It was also a tangible reminder of God’s covenant with Israel as it contained the 10 commandments

 

Since its construction in the wilderness the Ark had been kept in a tent

–         Having the embodiment of God’s presence travelling around in a tent showed the people that God wasn’t tied down to one specific location

–         For many years the Ark had sat in obscurity on someone’s farm until David thought to bring it Jerusalem

–         Then, once David had brought the Ark to the capital, it began to bother him that the Ark was kept under canvas while he lived in a flash palace

–         So when David talks about finding a place for the Lord, he means he wants to provide better accommodation for the Ark – he wants to bring it to Jerusalem and build a temple to house it

 

Interestingly God is referred to (in verse 5) as “the Mighty One of Jacob”

–         Jacob was famous for wrestling with God all night as he returned home after many years away

–         Perhaps there is an association here with David wrestling or struggling in his efforts to find a place for the Lord to dwell

–         Certainly it wasn’t an easy thing bringing the Ark to Jerusalem

–         It took David two attempts and a man died in the process

–         Not only that but David became estranged from one of his wives

 

David also wrestled with God over building a temple to house the Ark

–         David lost sleep over this issue – it kept him up at night, just as the angel of the Lord kept Jacob up all night in a wrestling match

 

I think there is a point of application here for us today

–         In our busy lives God often gets crowded out and like David it requires some self denial and commitment on our part to create room for God

 

Let me illustrate what I mean…

–         One of the consequences of more housing in Tawa is more pressure on infrastructure and roads

–         The intersection on the Main Rd and Surrey St, just outside the church here is a case in point

–         The Council would like to put a roundabout there to help traffic flow

–         And while there are some benefits for the wider community in having a roundabout those benefits come at a cost to the church – in particular its looking likely that we will lose around a dozen car parks give or take

–         The Council have been really good in talking with us about how we can minimise the loss of parks – they have gone out of their way to help us by seeking to free up other parks nearby

–         Obviously we would want to reserve the closest parks for the elderly, for those with young children and for visitors or newcomers

–         But there will be some who may have to deny themselves by parking further away in Oxford St, for example

 

Now the church doesn’t exist for itself – we are here for Jesus and for the world that God loves – so I’m not protesting against the roundabout

–         If it benefits the wider community then perhaps we need to see the loss of parking as part of our mission of being a blessing to the world

 

I’m also aware that having to park a little further away is a relatively minor inconvenience, especially when compared with the events in Manchester this past week

–         But although it’s a relatively small thing it is yet another thing in a long list of things which put distance between the church and society and make it more difficult for people to attend worship services

 

The loss of parks seems to me to be a kind of parable in that it illustrates what’s happening on a larger scale in NZ today

–         Incrementally, over time, God and the church are getting crowded out of our society by all sorts of things, like work & sports and other stuff

–         At the same time there is a growing distance between the church and society: the church often holds values which are at odds with society and we Christians cringe at the way the church is misrepresented in the media

–         Our society is generally less accommodating to God and the church (as we’ve seen with CRE) and so it is becoming harder to be a Christian

–         Therefore we who believe in Jesus need to be more intentional, more committed in making a place in our own lives for God to dwell

–         Like David, it is going to require more self denial on our part, to build a bridge between church and society

 

Returning to psalm 132: Despite David’s good intentions the Lord God did not want David to build a house (or a temple) for Him

–         Instead, the Lord would build a house (as in a royal dynasty) for David

 

In verses 2-5 David makes a vow to God, now in verses 11-12 God makes a vow to David, saying…

–         “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne…”

–         The Lord is referring here to Solomon

–         David would not be the one to build a temple for the Lord, but his son Solomon would

 

God then goes on to make a conditional promise to David…

–         “If your sons keep my covenant… then their sons will sit on your throne forever…”

 

This was a pretty big deal

–         Moses’ sons didn’t become the leaders of Israel after him

–         Nor did Joshua’s or Samuel’s or Saul’s

–         This was new – David had no reason (in history) to think that his descendants would be king after him

–         Here God is giving David far more than he ever asked for or imagined

–         We can’t out give God – He is too generous

 

A call to worship:

When I was about 6 my dad decided to build a swimming pool in our backyard

–         My dad likes a project and he is pretty handy at that sort of thing

–         It was 1976 so the pool was kidney shaped and deep enough to dive into

–         Anyway, dad decided he wouldn’t get a digger in to excavate the hole for the pool but would dig it out himself by hand

 

When we started I thought that with my help we could dig the hole in a day, but I quickly learned I had overestimated my digging ability

–         Despite all my efforts it took me most of the morning to shift half a cubic metre with my little spade

–         In the end my contribution was fairly modest and I had to adjust the timeframe I had in mind for completion of the project

 

We worked on digging that hole for weeks but it was worth it in the end

–         We got so much fun and enjoyment out of that pool

–         Of course it’s the end you need to keep in mind when you are shovelling clay – it’s the end that keeps you going

–         The interesting thing is that when the end is in sight you find a second wind – an extra burst of energy in anticipation of realising your goal

 

For the Jewish pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem to worship the Lord the journey was perhaps a bit like digging out the hole for the pool by hand

–         They didn’t fly there in a plane or drive there in a car or ride on a train

–         They typically walked, sometimes a very long way

–         This wasn’t a journey they could knock off in a day – it might take weeks depending on where they had come from

–         But by keeping the end in mind – thinking about the temple in Jerusalem – they found the strength to keep going

 

Returning to verse 6…

–         Ephrathah and Jaar refer to the region around Bethlehem, David’s hometown – Bethlehem is quite close to Jerusalem, about 9 km’s away

 

Verses 7-9 appear to be a call to worship

–         As the Jewish pilgrim’s walk through the fields of Jaar they know they are getting close, the end is in sight and they get a second wind, so they say: “Let us go to his dwelling place…” that is, to the Lord’s temple

–         “Let us worship at his footstool” – his footstool being the Ark

 

Verse 8 recalls the time of the Exodus from Egypt when Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years

–         The Lord God led the people by a pillar of cloud and fire

–         Each time the pillar moved the Israelites would pick up the Ark and say,

–         Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you & the ark of your might.

–         They were essentially asking God to bring them home to the Promised Land

 

Verse 13 of psalm 132 tells us the Lord chose Zion for his dwelling – his resting place

–         For the psalmist, in the Old Testament, Zion equated to Jerusalem – basically the main centre from which God ruled

–         For us Christians though Zion isn’t limited to geographic Jerusalem – it is essentially anywhere that God reigns

–         So Zion is a code word for God’s kingdom – the kingdom of heaven

 

Verse 15 tells us that where God reigns (where His kingdom has come) there is abundance and no poverty

–         I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food

–         Verse 15 is looking forward to the realisation of God’s kingdom in its fullness when everyone will have enough

–         We haven’t got there yet, we are still digging the hole, still fighting against hunger and poverty in our time – and so the underlying assumption of the economic system we live under is scarcity

–         But this is not what the end looks like at all – the underlying assumption of God’s kingdom (of Zion) is abundance

–         What was it Jesus said? I have come that you may have abundant life

 

In connection with worshipping at God’s footstool (at the Ark) we have the prayer (in verse 9) that the Lord’s priests be clothed with righteousness;

–         The Lord responds positively to this desire in verse 16 saying…

–         I will clothe her priests with salvation, & her saints will ever sing for joy

 

These two verses are almost identical, except that in one the priests are clothed in righteousness while in the second the priests are clothed in salvation

–         Righteousness means ‘right relationship’ – dealing with people in a way that is fair and kind.

–         While salvation means being given abundant life, as opposed to being destroyed or excluded

–         Salvation comes in many forms: physical healing, forgiveness of sins, peace in our relationships, deliverance from evil, the eradication of poverty, acceptance into God’s family and so on

–         In the Bible righteousness & salvation are not things we achieve by our own efforts – they are gifts from God received by faith – by trusting God

–         Having said that God still likes to involve us in the process

 

When I was digging the hole for the pool with my Dad and my Pop, they pretty much did all the work – my contribution was quite small really and yet I probably got more use and enjoyment out of the pool than they did

–         It’s a bit like that with God’s gifts of righteousness and salvation – God does most (if not all) of the spade work but he still accepts what we bring

 

One of the key roles of the priests was to mediate God’s forgiveness to the people through the sacrificial system

–         The priests were there to help restore righteousness – that is to restore people to right relationship with God and between people

–         Priests that are clothed in righteousness therefore are priests who are able to mediate forgiveness because they themselves have been forgiven and stand in right relationship with God

 

Closely related to their role in mediating God’s forgiveness, the priests also had a role in mediating God’s salvation

–         The priests were a bit like doctors (except without the science)

–         The priests didn’t necessarily heal people but they had the authority to declare someone clean after they had been healed or purified

–         We read about this in the gospels. After Jesus healed some lepers he told them to show themselves to the priest so they could be declared clean and re-join the community

 

The Jewish priests wore special garments in carrying out their priestly duties – but wearing a special costume doesn’t make the priest fit to cleanse people, any more than wearing a surgical gown makes me fit to remove an appendix

 

The people’s prayer was for their priests to be clothed in righteousness

–         But in verse 16 God responds by saying, I can do better than that. I will give you priests who are clothed in salvation – that is, priests who mediate my power to heal and cleanse

 

The other part of the prayer in verse 9 is that God’s faithful people sing for joy

–         Worship should not be a loveless duty

–         Singing for joy is the icing on the cake – it speaks of a life that is overflowing with gratitude for the goodness of God

–         God’s response in verse 16 is that Zion’s faithful people (those who submit to God’s reign) will ever sing for joy

–         Once again God answers his people’s prayer with more than they asked for or imagined – their joy will be forever, without end

–         The grind of digging the hole for the pool may last for weeks but the joy of using it lasts a lifetime

 

Conclusion:

Psalm 132 concludes by looking forward in hope to God’s ‘anointed one’

–         ‘Anointed One’ in Hebrew is Messiah

–         As Christians we believe Jesus is the Messiah

 

We find three images for Jesus the Messiah in verses 17 & 18:

–         Horn, lamp and crown

 

Horn is an image of strength

–         Lamp is an image of clarity (or truth & wisdom)

–         And crown is an image of royal dignity – not just power but holiness too [2]

 

Verse 18 tells us that the Messiah’s head will be adorned with a radiant crown

–         The original Hebrew literally reads, ‘his crown will blossom’ [3]

–         Unlike the glitter of a man-made crown which looks pretty but is still dead, God will adorn Jesus’ head with the crown of life

–         God’s Messiah will be King over life and death

–         The poetry here is pointing forward to Jesus’ resurrection life

 

The poetry is also pointing back to Aaron, the high priest of Israel during Moses’ time

–         You may remember how God caused the wooden staff of Aaron to bud and blossom as a way of accrediting Aaron’s ministry as his priest

 

For Christians the connection is intuitive

–         In and through Jesus, God’s promises are fulfilled

–         Jesus replaces the Ark of the Covenant – he is the embodiment of God’s power & presence

–         Jesus is the ideal priest clothed in righteousness and salvation with power to forgive sins and to bestow abundant life

–         Jesus is David’s greater son who, following his resurrection from the dead, ascended to heaven where he sits enthroned in Zion

–         And Jesus is God’s answer to his people’s prayers – an answer far more generous and far better than we asked for or imagined

–         In short, Jesus is our hope and joy

 

Let us pray…

 

 

[1] Adapted from a story found in the book “The bells! The Bells!” compiled by Mark Stibbe, page 70.

[2] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, page 488.

[3] Ibid.

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