When we work together in unity, focused on God’s promises, we find hope for the future and daily refreshment. This is the theme that runs through the twenty-seven verses that comprise Psalms 131–134.
Singing the Songs of Hope and Joy
As we have been sailing along on this Wisdom Journey, we have been covering the psalms of ascent. These psalms were sung by the Israelites as they walked up to Jerusalem to celebrate their festivals and feasts such as Passover and Tabernacles.
We have now arrived at Psalm 131, and this is a very short song—only three verses. But as Charles Spurgeon, the nineteenth-century preacher, once wrote, “[This psalm] is a short ladder yet [it] rises to a great height.”
The psalmist David uses the imagery of a weaned child to teach us that trusting God leads to a better life. He writes in verse 2, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.”
When children are weaned, they may not like it, but they are being taught that something more lasting is on the way. A mother is effectively teaching her son or daughter that she’s trustworthy, and she is going to provide for her child’s well-being in ways that child might not understand.
Here is the point: Trusting God to provide for us takes us beyond our limited perspective. God has plans for us that will develop us and deepen us.
God is trustworthy. He is going to provide for us; and along the way, He is going to grow us up in our walk of faith. So, let’s trust Him and sing with the psalmist here, “I have calmed and quieted my soul.”
Now Psalm 132 is rich in Israel’s history. It might have been composed by Solomon. In fact, verses 8 through 10 are part of Solomon’s prayer as he dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, back in 2 Chronicles 6.
This psalm takes us on a field trip through Israel’s history under King David. Verse 1 says, “Remember, O Lord, in David’s favor, all the hardships he endured.” Maybe you feel like praying that way today—“Lord, remember me favorably because of all the hardships I have endured.”
Well, what kind of hardships are in the mind of the psalmist? You might be surprised that first on the list are hardships David suffered for the Lord’s sake.
The psalm reaches back to 2 Samuel 7, when David told Nathan the prophet that he felt guilty and sad because he lived in a palace trimmed in cedar wood while the ark of God was dwelling in a plain old tent. The psalmist quotes David, who describes how he felt about it:
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 dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob. (verses 3-5)
He is saying, “I have to find a suitable house for the Lord.”
Second, in verse 6, the psalmist refers to David’s hardship in reestablishing true worship. He dips back into history again—back to 2 Samuel 6—when the ark of the Lord, which had been captured by the Philistines and then recovered, is finally brought to Jerusalem. And David went through a lot of trouble to bring that golden ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.
So, keep this in mind: these hardships David endured had to do with wanting God to be the priority in the life of the nation of Israel. He agonized over God being shoved out the door, so to speak, in his nation. He wanted God to be glorified and worshiped.
Now maybe that’s something you are agonizing over today, as I am. God is being shown the back door in our world when we want Him to be worshiped. We want God’s glory to be honored; we want God’s reputation to be enhanced in our world today.
In verses 8 through 10, the psalmist records something Solomon prayed at the dedication of that glorious temple:
“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. For the sake of your servant David, do not turn away the face of your anointed one.”
Then verse 11 cites God’s promise to form a dynasty of David’s family, so that his descendants occupy the throne in Jerusalem. But there is a conditional clause attached to that promise. God, speaking here in verse 12, says, “If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.”
Well, we know that didn’t happen. In fact, David’s son Solomon set the table for idolatry and immorality. He and the kings that followed him for the most part failed to obey God’s Word.
But God still promised David a son who would sit on the throne forever! And there’s only one Son worthy of that. He’s the greater Son of David, the descendant of David through Mary—none other than the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
You can imagine why this psalm will become the musical crescendo—the climax—of these fifteen psalms of ascent as the people stream up and into Jerusalem to celebrate their coming Messiah.
And what is it going to be like when the Messiah reigns in His coming kingdom? Well, Psalm 133 tells us in verse 1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” The nation will be unified again at last.
The psalmist David then gives us two descriptions of this unity that are true in any generation. We can enjoy unity today, in part, but one day we will share it in the kingdom of Christ with perfect unity and sinless joy.
What will that be like? He describes it here in verse 2 as the fragrance of God:
[This unity] is like the precious oil on the head, running down . . . on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
Exodus 30 describes a special, perfumed oil that was originally poured on the head of Aaron the high priest. Here it’s pictured as running down his shoulders and over the stones on each shoulder that bore the names of the tribes of Israel.
It created a fragrance everywhere Aaron walked. And that’s why it’s an appropriate symbol for unity, beloved. Unity among the brethren is a sweet perfume to the world around us.
David goes on to describe unity as “the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!” (verse 3). Mount Hermon is nearly 10,000 feet high in northern Israel and is famous for the heavy dew that falls on its slopes, providing the water that crops and people need. Well, the mountains of Zion—that is Jerusalem—will experience the refreshing “dew” of God’s blessing when His people are unified in the Lord.
This brings us to Psalm 134, the last of the fifteen psalms of ascent the people of Israel sang as they walked up to the city of Jerusalem.
This final song is only three verses long, and it is really a heart-warming benediction. Verse 1 says, “Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord.” More than likely they all sang together the words in verse 3: “May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!”
I can imagine these pilgrims singing as they journeyed toward Jerusalem. The grace of God was their theme; hope and joy in His promises were their encouragement. And let me tell you, to this day we sing these truths as we look forward to the return of Christ and His presence among us.
In the meantime, beloved, we march on toward our heavenly home. And as we journey on, we are singing, “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but Thou art mighty; hold me with Thy powerful hand.”