I will ask you to turn to an Old Testament Scripture—Psalm 132:1-9, 13-end. I shall read also the two succeeding Psalms.
There are various ways of reading the Psalms. You may read them prophetically, and that with very great profit, for they are highly prophetic. You may read them to find Christ pre-figured, and there is always great profit in this. Again, you may read them in a historical way, for many of them are dated for us, and that, too, is profitable. Tonight, it is in that historic way that I want to speak of Psalm 132.
I must, therefore, speak to you a little about David and his experiences, for this Psalm throws the greatest possible light upon why it was said of David that he was a man after God’s own heart, in spite of his glaring defects, in spite of his most atrocious sin. I wonder if you have ever noticed what David is led to say of himself in chapter 28 of the first book of Chronicles. I will read from verse 4, “Howbeit, the Lord God of Israel chose me before all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever: for He has chosen Judah to be the ruler; and of the house of Judah, the house of my father; and among the sons of my father He liked me to make me king over all Israel.” Do you know anybody else in the Bible of whom it is said that God liked him? Yes, you may say, there are many. We have just been hearing about love; why, the love of God flows out to all! Ah, but there is a very great difference between God loving and God liking. Of course He loved David, but He liked David. “He liked me.” It would be a very fine thing, dear friends, if one great result of our meetings here were this, that we are conformed more to His thoughts, that so we may become the kind of people that God really likes.
Now God likes a man who is of the stamp that you have recorded in this remarkable Psalm. And what it shows us is this, that from the very outset of his history, David was a man who seized the Divine thought and made the Divine objective his objective, so that all his life was centred in one great overmastering passion, one great desire. Here in this Psalm you are taken behind the scenes and shown the secret spring of the things that David did.
He had, as the first verse reminds us, many afflictions, for David was raised up of God in a very dark day. It was not the beginning of a new dispensation, but still it was the beginning of a new movement of God’s Spirit in the midst of Israel. The old order of things had come down with a crash; the Priesthood had most miserably and disgracefully failed in the godless sons of Eli; the Ark had been treated as a mascot—brought down into the camp of Israel with a superstitious idea that, if they brought down this sacred vessel into their midst, the luck would turn in their direction. The Ark of God, the precious kernel of that whole typical system, all else was the shell, it set forth Christ enshrined as the heart and centre of all God’s thoughts. They took this precious kernel of the whole system, and brought it down into their midst as a kind of charm to turn the battle tide in their favour. And God would have none of it, and, in His just anger, He let His glory pass into the enemy’s hands. Once among the Philistines, He vindicated His glory, and finally, afraid of it, the harassed Philistines sent the ark back, although that did not relieve the Israelites of their responsibility. Then, further, even godly Samuel had sons far inferior to himself, and the people got tired and they said, “Make us a king”—we don’t want to be peculiar any more, give us a king. And God let them have a king, in His wrath.
Saul came on the scene as the man chosen to be the deliverer of His people from the Philistines who were treading them under their feet. A giant fellow he was, but instead of defeating the Philistines, his days were spent in chasing and harrying David, and David was plunged into deep afflictions. And what was the great overmastering desire that marked David, think you? He was being chased over the land of Israel, hunted as a partridge upon the mountains. Then it was that “He sware to the Lord; he vowed to the mighty God of Jacob.”
It was not surprising that under such circumstances David should aver to the Lord and utter a vow. The surprising thing was that he did not vow, “If the good Lord will grant me a decent house to live in, where I can be free from this everlasting maltreatment on the part of Saul and his men, if He will give me a decent little cottage and a comfortable bed to lie on, then I will serve Him most devotedly the rest of my life”—anything for a peaceful and quiet life! Instead, he vowed, saying, “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.” So David, when he was being hunted over the mountains does not think of himself at all: it is the Ark of the Covenant and the glory of his God. The Ark had been lost; where it was nobody seemed to care. God had lost His place in the midst of His people, and it is far more important, said David—young man though he was—that God should have His place than that I should have my place. Far better that God should have a habitation, where He shall go into His rest, than that I should be free of my tormentors and enter into my rest. Oh, David, well done! Instead of self being the centre of your thoughts, you are a man that cares for the glory of God. You are a man that is able to seize what is the Divine thought, and to say, “Look, if that is God’s objective, then by His grace, it shall be my objective, and I will not give myself any rest until the Lord, who has been set aside and dethroned from the midst of His people, shall be enthroned and shall have a resting-place for Himself and for His Ark.”
You may say to me, now translate that into the language of modern experience. Well, we live in a very dark day, when God is still being set aside: a day in which man is going forward at a great pace and Christ is being ousted from His place. We live in a day, when the professing church has practically dethroned from the place which is ostensibly His. No place for the Lord. Some years ago we were hearing a great deal of how the nations wanted to have “a place in the sun.” All around us men are fighting for place. One of the saddest things I think I ever heard was the saying of a man who shall be nameless. He said, “Well, I am very thankful that God has given me a place amongst the brethren.” If I should name him, I should name a man who wrought much mischief in the interests of Christ. A place—a place for himself—a little place amongst the brethren, or a little place in another circle! Oh, that is the natural tendency of all our hearts. It was not David’s mind. If you are to be the kind of man or woman that God likes, you will not be seeking your place, but a place for the Lord. You see, the Church of God is really the place for the Lord in the enemy’s land. “On this rock I will build My Church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Thank God, that is true, the Church has been left down here in the scene of Christ’s rejection, under the charge of the Spirit of God, and thus put into communication with heaven, so that Christ may still be represented in the place of His absence, and that He might have a place, as the Heir of all things, in the Church which has been given Him out of this rebellious world. Oh, alas! alas! how little is Christ considered! Men talk about their plans and their schemes and their doings and the advancement of their causes, and there is no place for the Lord. Are we not all of us more or less guilty in this thing? God grant that it may be our great and increasing desire, that He may have His place.
Now see how it worked out in the case of David. He says, “We heard of it at Ephratah” (v. 6); the “it” plainly being the Ark of the Covenant, and “at Ephratah,” indicating that it was very early in his history, in his boyhood days, at the old home. Then he says, “We found it in the fields of the wood.”
I understand that “the fields of the wood” is just a translation of the name Kirjath-jearim. That is exactly where he did find it. You can turn up 1 Chronicles 13:6, and see. He heard of it as a boy at Ephratah; he found it at Kirjath-jearim, and there he carried out his vow. We turn to the early chapters of the second book of Samuel, that is what we find. As soon as Saul was slain, David came to the throne. First Judah owned him, then the people came to him, and at last be became king over the united nation. Then David made war upon the Philistines, and immediately after he had overcome and smitten them with great slaughter, he said, “Come, we will get the Ark.” As soon as there was a possibility of a place for the Lord he said, “Give the Lord His place.” He began by making a mistake, but in spite of the mistake he finally brought the Ark back to Zion, which was the appointed place.
Now, it was not merely David’s choice. We might think, from the 5th verse, that it was, and we might say, “Well, can we not find out a place for the Lord; are we not at liberty to choose any place which seems nice and convenient to us?” No, no! David found the place that was God’s place—you will find that very clearly in verse 13. After he brought the Ark back, David says, “Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou, and the Ark of Thy strength.” “For the Lord has chosen Zion. He has desired it for His habitation. This is My rest for ever: here will I dwell: for I have desired it.” David found the place of the Divine appointment, the place that the Lord had chosen, and to that place for the Lord he brought the Ark of the Covenant.
We are sometimes too much occupied with David’s mistake, but in spite of the mistake the vow was fulfilled. So with Peter. Peter had a desire that was right enough. “Lord,” he said, “I am ready to go with Thee both into prison and to death.” There was self-confidence. Yes, but there was very genuine love! Peter had to be rebuked; Peter had to learn his feebleness; and when he had learned it then, as recorded in the last chapter of John’s Gospel, you have the Lord telling Peter that he should do, in the power of God, what in his own strength he miserably failed to do. The people of God often seize a Divine thought, and then they attempt to do it in their own strength. Moses did. He knew he was to be the deliverer of the people, and he slew the Egyptian, but God had to give him forty years quiet waiting at the back of a desert; held on the leash by God until he was fit to be sent. He was well broken in when he went back; so well broken in, that he came back the meekest man in all the earth, and in perfect surrender to the will and power of God. So with David, when he brought the Ark up into its place.
Now, I appeal to you all, young men and young women especially, have you got hold of the Divine centre? Have you seized the Divine objective? Is God’s thought going to be your thought? Is Christ the supreme object? If you are going to be such a Christian, then it will be said of you, the Lord likes you. Is the result of our meeting together here in Edinburgh going to be for every one of us greater devotion to the Lord? Oh, for the exaltation of Christ! Oh, that Christ may be seen! That is it.
Well, there are certain great results that flow from this. The Psalm does not close without revealing to us what flows from God’s objective being made man’s objective, and, that is, that there is most evident blessing. At the end of the Psalm you have the Lord accepting what David did, saying in fact, “David, you have done the right thing you have brought the Ark into the right place.” The Lord immediately adds, “I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.” Emphasize in your thoughts for one moment those two words, “I will bless.” “I will satisfy.” The blessing into which Christians are brought is soul satisfying blessing. How few satisfied people there are! Never was the world so full of objects of art and of delight; never were there so many charming and beautiful things, and yet men today are more absolutely dissatisfied than they ever were. Everybody has a grievance, everybody is ready to grumble. Are we Christians, I should like to ask, marked by soul satisfaction? Do you, where you work, in the circles where you move, give people the impression of one who, not like the majority of folk, has reached satisfaction? Oh when God blesses and when our souls are fully in the enjoyment of His presence, we become satisfied. We have read, perhaps, of those great cyclones that sweep over tropical lands. Somewhere in the centre of those terrific hurricanes there is a great calm. There is a devastating wind for hours, followed by a deep calm for ten or twenty minutes, and then the wind begins to rage in the opposite direction. That means that the centre of the cyclone has passed over our heads. The tumult of the world is like the cyclone. The devil himself is the source of it, but at the centre there is a calm. To have the soul centred on Christ, God’s Son, means blessing and it means satisfaction.
We pass on and we come to Psalm 133. If Psalm 132 is the Psalm of the Ark, that is, of Christ the central Object of all God’s thoughts and ways, Psalm 133 is the Psalm of the Ointment, that is, of the Spirit, who has descended from our exalted Head. Now in this Psalm you have not blessing but unity. We have been dwelling upon the Spirit, and the unity of the Spirit is strikingly pictured in this Psalm. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Is it not so? Do we not experience the pleasantness of it. I think we do. But some may ask how this very desirable thing, this very rare and precious unity, is to be produced. It is the experience of most of us that there is nothing easier than to get disunity—so many minds, so many thoughts—for people are all various; all taking different angles of vision; all seeing things from a different point of view! Well, the Psalmist begins to explain what unity is like.
First of all it is like the precious ointment upon the head, that special ointment which was appointed according to Divine directions in Exodus. It was poured upon Aaron’s head in his consecration, and it ran down, say the Psalmist, “upon the beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments.” This ointment that began at his head diffused itself to the very extremities of his robes, to the very fringe. Now unity is like that. It all begins from the Head. It all begins, mark you, from the priestly Head—not the kingly head, for it was not like the ointment that was poured on David. The ointment that was poured on the priestly head ran down on the priestly garments. We, through grace, are constituted a spiritual priesthood, and put into touch with the great exalted Priest in heaven, and the Spirit and the grace of our Priestly Head, flowing down upon us, diffuse themselves among us, and so produces unity. All begins with Christ at the right hand of God, though it comes down to the utmost skirts of His garments here on earth.
Then the Psalmist changes the figure, and turns to the realm of nature. It is like the dew of Hermon. The four following words are in italics and should be omitted. It should read, “The dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountains of Zion.” Hermon was a very majestic mountain, the loftiest peak of Lebanon, and the Israelite would, on a clear day looking northward, see its snow-capped peak glistening in the heavens—a lovely sight. And the dew of Hermon comes down upon the comparatively insignificant mountains of Zion. Christ is Himself the apex of all God’s glory, and upon the humble hills, representing His people, the dew descends. When everybody is viewing things in relation to Christ; when the supreme question is, not what I think, but what Christ and His Word, as the authority in the midst of His people; when everybody is zealous that Christ should be in His proper place, what copious dew descends upon us from Him. Unity is to be found in proportion as the grace of His Spirit is upon us.
And then we turn to Psalm 134, the last of the Songs of Degrees. And if Psalm 132 is the Psalm of the Ark, Christ the centre of all God’s thoughts and ways; and 133 is the Psalm of the Ointment, the Spirit’s gracious influence from the exalted and glorified Head, producing unity; Psalm 134 is the Psalm of the uplifted hands, or, as we can say, the Psalm of the uplifted heart. “Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord”—evidently His priestly servants, because it says “which by night stand in the house of the Lord,” and thus you have worship. Now, no earthly sanctuary have we, but still we are constituted a spiritual priesthood.
The world walks in the feeble light of Science. The torch of philosophy is burning, but it is very dark and the light does not penetrate far. Man has his little lights and is well pleased with the little toys that he has himself created, but the night persists, and Israel, who has rejected her Lord, remains silent. She has not a word of praise. The poor Jew talks about building his university to show us how he can diffuse his light, but he has nothing to give us, nothing in the way of light, nothing of praise to offer to God. You and I are brought into this priestly place, and whilst it is the night of Christ’s rejection, I think we can see the first dawning of the day. We, who are privileged to stand in the sanctuary by night, may lift up our hands and bless the Lord.
It is a great privilege to be called to serve the Lord in these dark days. We are poor feeble folk indeed if we measure ourselves by the great men before us. If we read Hebrews 11 how small we feel, yet we are, at the end of this dispensation, called upon to stand for the interests of Christ just before He comes again, called to keep the light burning, and in the sanctuary to lift up our hands, giving praise and worship to Him. “Behold, bless ye the Lord all ye servants of the Lord which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.” Oh, how rich the praise that goes from our hearts when Christ is the Object of all.
At this point we may be inclined to think, well, that is the top note; you cannot get any further than that. But the story does not end with the uplifting of our hands to God. The last verse says, “The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.” The matter stands thus: we give the Lord our praise, and the Lord says I will roll it back in blessing. The Lord blesses and always has the last word. The last word of the Songs of Degrees is this. It is not the climax when we praise in the sanctuary of God.
Would the Lord need the praise of such little creatures as we when He has the praise of ten thousand times ten thousand angels? Yes, there is a sweet note of praise from His saints that will excel amid the praise of creation. There is nothing to be compared with the sweetness of the song of those who by His blood have been redeemed. Nobody can preach the Gospel, except those who have been saved by grace. It was an angel who came to Cornelius and said, “Send for a man named Peter.” He might have said, “Oh, angel, to save time, why not tell me yourself?” The angel could not do it. No one can do it except having been a sinner, he has felt the rapture of being redeemed. So no one can praise like the redeemed saint, and we must lift up our hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord, and as our praise rolls upwards, God rolls it back in blessing.
All began with David as a stripling, putting his affection upon God’s interests, and saying that it was much more important that God should have His place than that he should be comfortable. May we be marked by the same thing. May Christ be magnified, magnified in our body, magnified in His people. If Christ be magnified there will be unity and worship; praise and worship to God, and blessing still rolling back upon God’s people.
Extracted from “Ministry for the Church of God”