God the With-Us King
Preached by Jason Abbott, senior pastor
1 Remember, O Lord, in David’s favor,
all the hardships he endured,
2 how he swore to the Lord
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
3 “I will not enter my house
or get into my bed,
4 I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
5 until I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
7 “Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool!”
8 Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your saints shout for joy.
10 For the sake of your servant David,
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
11 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.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and my testimonies that I shall teach them,
their sons also forever
shall sit on your throne.”
13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
14 “This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
18 His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.”
This morning we’re going to do something a little different. First, we’re going to walk through this text and hopefully establish what it says. We typically do this, but today the discussion will be a bit abbreviated—a streamlined version. Second, we’re going to springboard off of what’s being said into a discussion aimed at determining where this psalm points.
In a sense, what we’re going to do is take a microscopic view of the psalm (in order to see the details) and then take a telescopic view of the psalm (in order to see the big picture). So let’s begin by zooming in:
1. What does this psalm say?
a. Remember David’s faithful vow Lord God (vv. 1-5)
These first five verses call upon God to remember David’s determination to see the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem and a permanent temple built for the Lord. The Ark “served as the symbol of the divine presence guiding” Israel.1 The temple then became the symbolic place of God’s dwelling among his people once they had established dominion in the promised land.
David’s vow makes clear that the temple symbolized God’s home or presence among his people:
I will not enter my house / or get into my bed, / I will not give sleep to my eyes / or slumber to my eyelids, / until I find a place for the Lord, / a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob (vv. 3-5).
I mentioned this last week but it’s worth repeating. Verses like these do not mean that God is ever limited to a single location. David certainly didn’t believe that God’s presence was limited to the temple.
Just a few psalms later, he will ponder God’s omnipresence:
…where shall I flee from your presence? / If I ascend to heaven, you are there! / If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! / If I take the wings of the morning / and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, / even there your hand shall lead me, / and your right hand shall hold me (Psalm 139:7b-10).
Why then such symbolism? Why the Ark of the Covenant? Why the temple? The short answer is that God gives us such signs as reminders and encouragers. And, he has not left us without such signs today—so baptism is the outward sign of God’s work of salvation in our lives, and communion is the outward sign of the Christian’s union with and reliance on Christ.
God uses such symbols to teach us, encourage us, and remind us in ways we can understand. They are part of the way he builds and refines our faith. We have a baptism ceremony on July 14th. We must not think that that event is merely for those being baptized and their families! That ceremony is for us too! God wants to transform us through our participation in such divinely commanded symbols!
What does the psalm say next? It says:
b. Dwell fully among us Lord God (vv. 6-10)
The references in these verses are a little obscure unless you are well versed in Israelite history. Here is a kind of CliffsNotes version of 1 Samuel 4-7:
Before Israel has a king, they go to battle with the Philistines and lose. So the Israelites go get the Ark in order to insure they’ll have victory (a genie in a bottle mentality). However, they lose again, and the Ark is captured by the Philistines.
Well the victorious Philistines parade the Ark back to their God’s temple and set it up as a kind of trophy. Then things begin to fall apart, literally. Two mornings in a row they come into the temple and find the statue of Dagon, their god, toppled over. The second morning it is toppled and broken. Furthermore, the people of the city begin to experience strange diseases. So they send it to another city—the same thing happens. Finally, they send it to a third city, and the people won’t take it.
The Philistine rulers eventually get together and decide to give the Ark back to Israel. They stick it on a cart and send it off. It ends up in an Israelite town, Beth Shemesh, but they too dishonor God and face his wrath. So some Israelite men from Kiriath Jearim eventually come and get the Ark and put it in the house of Abinadab. And there the Ark stays for 20 years!
This brings us to what is being remembered here in verses six through ten. David (who is now king) finds out where the Ark is and goes to get it. So the psalmist remembers:
…we heard of it in Ephrathah; / we found it in the fields of Jaar. / “Let us go to his dwelling place; / let us worship at his footstool!” / Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, / you and the ark of your might. / Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, / and let your saints shout for joy (vv. 6-9).
This celebration honors God’s full presence now with his chosen people. The Ark coming into Jerusalem symbolized God’s ruling presence among the Israelites. The desert wanderings were over; life in the promised land had begun.
What does the psalm say next? It says:
c. Remember the Lord’s certain vow Israel (vv. 11-18)
Here the psalmist reminds us that when David made his vow to the Lord that God had the last word. God must have smiled at David’s vow (as a father smiles at a child’s portrait of him—“That’s cute David!”). God then, however, paints a masterpiece portrait in return.
The psalmist remembers God’s vow to build David’s household:
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. / If your sons keep my covenant / and my testimonies that I shall teach them, / their sons also forever / shall sit on your throne” (vv. 11-12).
Then the psalm expands past this vow to the household of David and extols the glories of God’s ruling presence among his people. The psalmist remembers:
- That God chose Zion for his dwelling place forever (vv. 13-14).
- That God will bless all in Zion with provisions and food (v. 15).
- That God will clothe Zion’s priests with salvation and her saints with joyous singing (v. 16).
- That God will make a horn (a powerful ruler) grow up from David and from David’s household there will be a glorious reign (vv. 17-18).
The psalmist reminds us that God has promised to be present among his people and to bring all the blessings that go with his presence to his people. Furthermore, the psalmist remembers that God’s promises are sure!!! What he promises cannot be reversed!
Notice that part of the blessing of God’s presence comes through David’s line. God will raise up one from David who will bring light to darkness and whose enemies will be shamed! God’s rule will include a human element. God’s rule will include an “anointed one” from the line of David. God will not simply be present to rule his people but will be present and rule through and with his people. He will use David’s sons to rule; specifically, he will use a chosen Son of David to bring about victory over the enemy and to inaugurate the perfect rule!
2. Where does this psalm point?
Well, the not so obvious answer is that it points us both backwards and forwards. This psalm points us to our longing for the perfect presence of God that was lost, and it points us to our longing for the perfect presence of God that is to come. It points us to Eden and to the New Jerusalem.
In Eden, Adam and Eve experienced the perfect presence of God. They walked and talked with God. They ruled with God. Adam was the first king whom God appointed. However, Adam (not unlike Saul, Israel’s first king) failed in his calling as king.
He failed to exercise dominion over the earth. “Adam should have slain and thus judged the serpent in caring out the mandate of Gen. 1:28 to ‘rule and subdue.’”2However, instead, Adam allowed the serpent to deceive him and thus rule over him. In Adam, you and I have been expelled from the perfect presence of God. We were kicked out of Eden!
Yet, as David, Israel’s second king, succeeded where Saul had failed likewise Jesus, the second man, succeeded where Adam had failed. Jesus too faced the serpent and was tempted, but he was not deceived. Jesus did not sin where Adam had. Rather, he trusted and followed God perfectly.
Furthermore, Jesus defeated the serpent forever at the cross. His perfect sacrifice broke the hold that Satan has over humanity. For all those under the condemnation of Adam, Jesus offers exoneration. Adam was our first king who failed, but Jesus is our second king who has succeeded and conquered.
This psalm directs us to move from Saul to David, from Adam to Christ Jesus. Only Jesus Christ can bring the blessings of God permanently into our midst. Only Jesus Christ can be our King and our God simultaneously.
In Jesus, God is ushering in his New Jerusalem that has no temple “for its temple is the Lord God …. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light…” (Revelation 21:22-23). Only there will we once again experience God’s perfect presence!