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“Oath and Fulfillment”

Psalm 132
Bob DeGray
August 25, 2002

Key Sentence

Any faithfulness we show to the Lord is overwhelmed by his faithful response.


I. David’s oath and fulfillment (Psalm 132:1-9)
II. God’s oath and fulfillment (Psalm 132:10-18)


        I’ve got to admit, I’ve got more ways to waste time than most people have cable channels. This week I spent several hours on Wednesday trying to find a word. It’s out there someplace, maybe one of you knows it, the word you use when a small input creates a major change or result. But my search for that word, both online and on my bookshelf has been fruitless, so let me give you some examples instead.

        Both a rock slide and an avalanche of snow are this kind of event. There is a lot of energy built up in the rocks or snow on a steep mountainside, and some very small event, like a little boy throwing a rock, or the echo of a shout pushes the energy over the edge, and in a chain reaction the whole mountainside slides. In common speech we call this the straw that broke the camel’s back. In electronics and biology we call this amplification. The famous ‘transistor’ that formed the basis of the electronics revolution in the fifties was just a device where a small change of input voltage could result in a large change in output voltage. There are many other examples, common or obscure, and there is a word that describes them, but I can’t find it.

        Psalm 132 doesn’t use it either, but it does give an example of how the same thing can be true when we are dealing with God. Specifically a small movement by us can result in a great response from God. In Psalm 132 David is faithful in what is ultimately a small thing. In response, God is faithful in the biggest thing of all - sending Jesus. David’s small faithfulness triggers, in a sense, God’s great faithfulness. That ought to be an awesome thought, that as we are faithful in small things, God is faithful in large things. God’s response to our small faithfulness is overwhelming faithfulness.

I. David’s oath and fulfillment (Psalm 132:1-9)

        Let’s read the first part of the psalm, where we see an oath David made and his fulfillment of that oath. Psalm 132, verses 1 to 9: O Lord, remember David and all the hardships he endured. 2He swore an oath to the Lord and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: 3"I will not enter my house or go to my bed – 4I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, 5till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob." 6We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: 7"Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool-- 8arise, O Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. 9May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.

We’re studying Psalms that were sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem. Inevitably, they think of David, whose words they’ve been singing and who was the central figure in establishing Jerusalem as the place to worship God.This whole Psalm remembers David. It remembers the events of 2nd Samuel 6 and 7 in which David fulfills a solemn oath to God, and God makes and begins to fulfill an eternal oath to David.

        “Remember David . . he swore an oath to the Lord and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob.” The words of David’s oath aren’t explicitly found in Scripture, but the context and fulfillment of the oath are in 2nd Samuel 6. David basically says ‘There will be no rest for me until there is a place of rest for the Lord.” Obviously, he’s not talking about creating a heaven for God to live in. He’s talking about providing a place for the Lord’s tabernacle and the ark of the Covenant to rest within Israel.

        Remember that the tabernacle was the tent God told Moses to build as the focal point for worship by His people. Just outside the tent was the altar where sacrifices were made. Inside, in the holy place, were furnishings used in worship: an altar for burning incense, a table for offering bread, a lamp stand for light. In the second room of the tabernacle, the most holy place, there was only one piece of furniture, the ark of the Covenant, a golden box containing the tablets on which God had written the ten commandments. On the ark’s cover sat two statues, angels with outspread wings. This was the holiest place in Israel because God promised that he would make himself present right there, between the wings of the cherubim.

        So you would think the ark of the covenant must have been very special to the people of Israel, and in many ways it was. But sadly, during the times of the Judges, it came to be more an object of magic than of reverence. At one point the people of Israel even took the ark out of the tabernacle and placed it in front of the army, to fight the Philistines. The people figured, ‘God won’t let anything bad happen to the ark!’ As you can imagine, in response to that attitude God did let something bad happen, and for twenty years it was lost to the Philistines. But they didn’t gain anything. Every time they brought the ark near one of their idols, the idol would fall over. Finally they put the ark on an oxcart and sent it back to Israel, and for twenty years it sat in Kiriath Jearam - too scary to touch, but too capricious to want.

        It wasn’t until David became king and built his capital at Jerusalem that anyone cared enough about God to return the ark of the Covenant to the tabernacle. A short time after David became king an attempt was made to bring it to the city. Unfortunately that first attempt was done irreverently. The people who were bringing the ark in a cart were not priests and Levites as they were supposed to be, but just untrained villagers. David and the leaders knew better, but they seem to have been in a rush to get it done and didn’t make proper preparations. As a result God brought death on one of the villagers who reached out to steady the ark. David, seeing this, was scared smart and stopped the attempt until they could do it right.

        But he didn’t give up. He had sworn on oath to do this thing and he was faithful to his promises. So he tried again. This time he got the priests and Levites out in force. They took their time and did it right. You might think they’d be afraid that God would break out against them again for some infraction of the rules, and maybe they were, but mixed with the fear was tremendous joy.

        Listen to 2 Samuel 6:12_15 “So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed_Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” Later David got in trouble with his wife Michal over that linen ephod. But what’s important is how joyful and reverent they were at the return of the ark.

        Psalm 132 tells us that many in Israel shared that joy. “We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: 7"Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool – 8arise, O Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. 9May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.” The people of Bethlehem in Ephrathah were part of this crowd, and those from Jaar, where the ark had been staying participated. In verse 8 they remember the very words that were spoken: “Arise, O Lord and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.” They knew God wasn’t in the ark, but they also knew his presence was with the ark in a special way. They recognized the wonder of God dwelling with his people, and rejoiced in it.

        So what have we seen? David was faithful in something small but significant. He wanted the ark of the covenant to be honored, he pledge himself to do so, and he fulfilled that pledge despite unexpected setbacks. David displayed simple faithfulness, and his faithfulness brought joy to many, because by it he honored God.

II. God’s oath and fulfillment (Psalm 132:10-18)

        The second half of the Psalm shows the response of God to that faithfulness. The two halves of the Psalm are definitely set in parallel to one another. 10For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one.” 11The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: "One of your own descendants I will place on your throne-- 12if your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever." 13For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: 14"This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it – 15I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. 16I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will ever sing for joy. 17Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. 18I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be resplendent."

I love finding the structure in Scripture. The two halves of this Psalm are structured alike, so that verse 10 reminds us of verse 1. There the cry was ‘O Lord, remember David.’ Here it’s ‘For the sake of David your servant do not reject your anointed one.’ Once again the subject is David, but now the prayer is not just that the Lord will remember David’s faithfulness, but that he will remember ‘his anointed one’ - his Messiah.

        Anointing was the way you appointed a king in Israel. David was thus God’s anointed, and his successors were also thought of the same way. But as time went on and the kingdom suffered, the people began to look for a specific descendant of David to be the anointed one, the messiah. When this Psalm was written David had died and was long buried, but the people of Israel were looking for a Messiah like David.

        Verse 11 is like verse 2 in that an oath is taken. In verse 2 David’s oath, which he fulfilled faithfully, was to bring the ark to rest in the tabernacle in Jerusalem. In verse 11 God’s oath is far greater, and far greater in its fulfillment. It is “a sure oath that he will not revoke.” What is that oath? The promise of a Messiah: “One of your own descendants I will place upon your throne.” In 2nd Samuel 7, the chapter after David brought the ark up to Jerusalem, God told David through the prophet Samuel. “‘The Lord declares to you that he himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'”

        God makes a forever promise to David, and on the basis of this promise, as well as others, Israel looked for a Messiah, an anointed king who would reign forever. But the fulfillment of this promise also revolved around Jerusalem, the place God chose through David. David brought up the ark, Solomon built the temple, but it was God who revealed himself in that place in a special way: it was God who really chose it. “For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: ‘This is my resting place forever and ever.’” Just as the promise of an eternal king was not fulfilled by successive sons of David, so the promise of God’s eternal presence was not fulfilled by the brief years in which his presence was known in Jerusalem. The author of this Psalm almost certainly knew what we know for certain, that God’s faithfulness to this promise would be expressed by the coming and the reign of the Messiah. Jesus is the one who will really be able to say “Here I sit enthroned.”

        The joy and blessing of God’s faithfulness is parallel to but much greater than the joy and blessing that was felt when David fulfilled his promise. Listen to the last few verses as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson. “I’ll shower blessings on the pilgrims who come here, and give supper to those who arrive hungry; I’ll dress my priests in salvation clothes; the holy people will sing their hearts out! Oh, I’ll make the place radiant for David! I’ll fill it with light for my anointed! I’ll dress his enemies in dirty rags, but I’ll make his crown sparkle with splendor.” God in his faithfulness blesses beyond what we can imagine, and in every phrase the greatest blessing that is implied is the blessing given to us by Jesus.


        In verse 15 the blessing is abundant provision and the poor satisfied with food. God was faithful to His people to provide for their material needs while they were in the desert, and even more faithful to provide in Jesus the bread of life and the water of life to nourish our souls. Jesus said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” In Jesus we know God’s faithfulness.

        Verse 16: I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will ever sing for joy.” God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves. Through all the centuries of the Old Testament he promised salvation, and many of those promises are allusions to rescue from sin. But it was not until Jesus came that salvation was realized for the people of God. Jesus said: “I have come to seek and to save that which was lost’ and “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

        Jesus is the one who clothes us with salvation, like a garment. The Bible uses this picture: that we are stained by sin, that both our garments and ourselves are soiled beyond cleaning. Because of our disobedience to God we are helpless and hopeless. But when Jesus died on the cross he paid the penalty for our sin. Now simply by turning to him in faith and trust, we can be cleansed from the sin, the guilt and the shame of everything that we have done. The way the Bible pictures it our stained garments and our stained selves are washed in the blood of Jesus - and we come out clean.

        It is this salvation, an undeserved gift from a faithful God, that gives us joy. The verse says that the holy ones of God, the saints, rejoice. If you’ve received that cleansing you are a saint - not because of personal merit, but because God has declared you to be holy, and purchased that holiness through the death of Jesus. Paul says in 2nd Corinthians “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This holiness is the reason for our joy.

        Verse 17 reminds us that this is all part of God’s faithfulness to David “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one.” The Bible uses the image of a horn to indicate strength and mastery. God says that in Zion, in Jerusalem there will be someone who for David’s sake, and in fulfillment of God’s promises will have strength and mastery. Furthermore God says that in Zion or Jerusalem there will be a lamp, a source of light in honor of the Messiah.

        Its a small step from this statement to the truth that the Messiah is the lamp, he is the light. This is what Scripture teaches. In proclaiming the Messiah’s birth Isaiah says “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Later he expands that when he records God saying to the Messiah, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

        Jesus himself said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And in the end, when Jesus returns to reign, when his eternal kingdom, the New Jerusalem, is established, the book of Revelation records that “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

        So this Psalm is fulfilled in Jesus and will be further fulfilled when he comes to reign. The last verse is probably talking about that reign when it says “I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be resplendent." God’s people will be clothed with salvation. Those who don’t believe will be clothed in shame and kept from His presence. Then Jesus will sit on the throne of the universe in splendor and glory, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.

        So what have we seen? David was faithful. He made an oath, to bring up the ark of the covenant, and he kept it. But God’s faithfulness far overwhelms David’s. God takes the five loaves and two fish of David’s faithfulness and multiplies them a million fold. He takes Jerusalem and makes it the center of his drama of salvation, the place in which he is present by his Spirit, and ultimately the place to which he comes in the person of Jesus. The small faithfulness of David was the stone that released the rock slide, the shout that started the avalanche. His faithfulness had consequences beyond all imagining, as God chose him to be the forerunner of the redeemer and his city to be the focal point of redemption.

        God is faithful in a way that multiplies our small faithfulness. I believe this is true in most every area of life, but I want to apply it just two directions. The first is obvious and simple. What does it take to be saved, to be rescued from sin, made holy, clothed with salvation? All it takes is a mustard seed of faith from us - and even the faith is a gift from God. By that mustard seed of faith God moves and removes the mountain of our sin into the sea of forgiveness.

        A trickle of faith, only believing that Jesus loved us and died on the cross for our sins, opens the floodgate of a river of faithfulness from God, a river of redemption, a sea of the Spirit, a great lake of love, all poured into us when we simply turn to God with the smallest seed of faith. If you’ve never done that you are missing the most important thing that God has ever been faithful in. He is faithful to save, unbelievably faithful to sinners. Won’t you turn and believe?

        And if you have, that doesn’t finish God’s faithfulness does it? That flow continues daily for all who trust in him. Day to day our small faithfulness is met and overwhelmed by his large faithfulness. You may feel that you are less equipped to minister in the kingdom than that little boy with the loaves and the fish. In truth, you are. But just a little faithfulness to the tasks at hand, just a little commitment to what you know is right can easily unleash a flood, an avalanche, a rock slide of God’s faithfulness.

        In your daily Christian life, just a little prayer, just a little time in the Word, just a little fellowship, just a little worship, just a little witness can bring great and unthought of rewards for you and for the kingdom.

        Beyond that, just a little service toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, practical love toward your neighbors, caring toward those in need, will often trigger an avalanche of God’s faithfulness towards his people - and toward you. So my advice is be faithful in the little things. That’s really what our ministry pledge campaign is all about. Do what you know you are called to do in the Christian life. Love your husband or wife in practical ways. Serve God’s people in the church. Give a cup of cold water or a bag of food to someone who needs it. Show a little faithfulness and then stand back - because you’ve opened the floodgate for a God whose name is faithful, and you will be gloriously outdone - to the praise of his glory.