When you are waiting for something, how you wait is just as important as the waiting. How do you wait? Long waiting can turn into gloomy waiting. Despondent waiting. Mournful waiting. Waiting that is very pious about the fact that it is waiting. But godly waiting is marked by the nature of what we are awaiting.
The season of Advent is often painted in the dark hues of solemn waiting. And I grant, Advent is a season of waiting, hoping, longing. But this longing, as our fellow saints of the Old Testament demonstrate in the Psalm before us, need not have too much starch in the collar. The expectation of Israel was jovial, gilded with glistening gold and silver, clothed in royal red and priestly white, and vigorously dancing.
LORD, remember David, and all his afflictions: How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. [ . . . ]Psalm 132:1-18
Summary of the Text
This not a Psalm of David; rather it is a Psalm about David. As one of the Psalms of Ascent, it would have been sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem for their holy feasts. The first stanza of the Psalm is a petition for the Lord to remember David and all his afflictions, but more specifically his restless desire to build a house for the Lord and the ark (vv.1-5).
The second stanza is a meditation on the worshippers and the sanctuary being made ready for joyful worship at the Lord’s footstool, and a request for God to be seated on His throne (vv6-9). We then come to the hub around which this Psalm turns. The worshippers petition God––for David’s sake––to not turn away the face of the anointed (the Messiah/Christ). The Lord’s response is that He will by no means turn away from what He swore to David: “Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.” David’s children, in light of this promise, are called to keep God’s covenant, and evermore shall David have an heir (vv10-12, Cf. 2 Sam. 7:12, 2 Chr. 6:10).
The reason for this arrangement is that God has chosen Zion as His resting place (in answer to their request of vs 8). Because God rests in their midst, blessings abound: bread for the poor, garments for the priests, boisterous songs from the lips of the saints, a fruitful King––from David’s line––Whose lamp won’t be extinguished, Whose enemies will be brought to shame, and Whose crown will never tarnish (vv13-18).
Gabriel’s Word to Mary
Two threads of waiting laid down here in this Psalm are taken up again and woven together in the nativity story. When the angel Gabriel is sent to Mary that she would bear the Messiah, it is framed in terms of God’s promise to David which we find in poetical form in this Psalm.
Gabriel comes to a virgin, espoused to a man named Joseph who was of the house of David (Lk. 1:27). The angel informs Mary that she had found favor with God (Lk. 1:30), she would conceive and bring forth a son who would be named Jesus (Lk. 1:31); this son would be great, and what the Lord swore to David in Psalm 132 would be fulfilled in Mary’s son (Lk. 1:32). Her son would eternally reign over the house of Jacob, and would rule over a never-ending kingdom (Lk. 1:33).
In short, the tidings which Gabriel brought were royal tidings. To put it another way, the prayers of godly saints––epitomized by the poetic words of Psalm 132––for God to restore Israel by fulfilling His oath to raise up from David’s line a king to David’s throne were being answered by the Son of God becoming a Son of David.
Christ Came to be King
Israel is not right except a Son of David is sitting on the throne. As Trufflehunter the Badger would tell you, any other arrangement is how you get a hundred years of Narnian winter, presided over by White Witches.
King David was a remarkable king particularly for his zeal for the worship of God. He longed to restore the Ark of Covenant to Zion. He danced like a fool when it finally was brought to its resting place. His life’s goal, which he vowed to perform, was to build a house for the Lord, a house in which true worship of the Living God might be done.
David swore to build a house for the Lord, and then the Lord swore to put a son of David on the throne. So when the Advent of the promised Christ is given, we should not be at all taken aback when the language is that of a King. Christ came to be a King over Israel, and the scope of Israel’s borders were now global (Cf. Ps. 72:8, Hag. 2:7).
As that wonderful line from the carol puts it, He was “born a child and yet a King.” The story of the Old Testament was God calling the patriarchs, then Moses, then David to build a house for God. The Patriarchs were a house of people. Moses erected a tent to be a dwelling place for God’s presence amidst His people. David made preparation for God’s temple to be a house of praise, and his son Solomon executed that task of building a glorious temple for the God who filled heaven and earth.
With the coming of Christ, the Son and rightful heir had come to inherit the household (Cf. Heb. 3:1-6). So the coming of the Christ child is not quaint. It is not a squishy message of how sweet and innocent babies are. It is not a cutesy story of human brotherhood. It is a flag planted on this world, claiming it all for the rightful King. The true king has returned, and winter meets its death.
From Affliction to Coronation
So note the progression of this Psalm. David in affliction to great David’s greater Son’s coronation. A coronation which spills over, like a plate of Christmas cookies, with blessings. A kingdom, ruled by an eternal King. A horn which buds (Cf. Lk. 1:68-69). A King Whose enemies are defeated.
This is why Advent is not a moment for dour pseudo-piety. These weeks leading up to Christmas morning are days of longing. Longing for a King. Yearning for the worship of Jehovah to fill the earth. Making a ruckus so that the whole world, which rightly belongs to Christ, might hear and heed and come into the household of God.
Our awaiting the Lord’s coming is marked by hope. And true, evangelical hope is certitude. It isn’t a nickel in the fountain, not a make-a-wish, not a wing and prayer. Our longing for deliverance is to be marked by joyful worship.
The reason we rejoice is that God has sworn to David, and in Christ that promise of God’s kingdom come to earth commenced its fulfillment. Now, after living and dying and rising, Christ is seated on the Father’s right hand; and, as Gabriel promised Mary: of His kingdom there shall be no end. The King has come to set things right. After all, He wears both priestly garments and royal robes. Your sins are forgiven, your enemies defeated.
But Christ too, like a true son of David, came first in affliction and humility. Like David, who was zealous for true worship of Jehovah, Christ was zealous for the house of God and by Him we now offer acceptable worship to the Living God. But Christ’s earthly humiliation, which began at Bethlehem, is now exaltation. The horn of David blossoms in the house of God.
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