"Lo, we heard of it in Ephratah."

Psalm 132

It appears from this Psalm that the pious Jesse, patriarch of Bethlehem Ephratah, used to gather his sons about him when the day's work was done and tell them of the mighty God of Jacob and of His wondrous works of old: how He delivered Israel from the brick kilns of Egypt and brought them out of the house of bondage and gave to them the land that He had promised to their fathers, that they might be His people and that He might dwell among them. He would tell them of the Ark of the Covenant, with which the glory of God's presence was connected, which was then as a stranger in the land, forgotten by a selfish people, who cared not for the God who had redeemed them, nor desired that He should have a house in their midst as He had purposed. Or it may be that when the older sons of Jesse followed that splendid Eliab in those pursuits to which they were given, their mother's way was to take her youngest boy aside and instruct him in these things.

However it came about, it was in his childhood's home that David heard of the Ark and its wanderings, and of God's desire to have a dwelling-place in Israel, and he never forgot it. It swells out as one of the sweetest notes in this beautiful Psalm. "Lo, we heard of it in Ephratah," he sings — striking testimony to his early training, and to the grace of God that led him to respond to it; and great encouragement to Christian parents to train their sons in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

What David heard fired his young soul, and God's thought laid hold upon him with such a mighty inspiration that be vowed there and then that God's purpose should be his. "I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob." David had glimpsed the glory of the Lord, and realized what an unspeakable favour was shown to the people amongst whom He chose to dwell, and how great a privilege it must be to dwell in His house, to behold His beauty and to inquire of Him, and this became all his desire; everything else took a second place to this. These things were his meditation while he watched his father's flocks on Bethlehem's grassy slopes, and they filled his soul with music as his skilful fingers swept the harp strings. May it not be that as Joseph related his dreams to his brethren and incurred their hatred thereby, so David talked to his brothers of that which filled his thoughts, and being rebuked by them turned to God and cried, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great matters or in things too high for me" (Ps. 131)? For these things are hid from the wise and prudent and revealed to babes.

All the afflictions of David came upon him because of this determination of his to build God's house. It gave him courage to meet Goliath, for God could not dwell in the land with the Philistine supreme. And when at last be came to the throne his chief thought was still to bring the Ark to Zion and prepare a place for it there. And it would appear from the divinely written history of this great king, that only on one occasion did he lose sight of this great purpose of his heart, and that forgetfulness resulted in most awful disaster to his own house, and dishonour to his name.

The incident is worth recalling as a solemn warning to all. The armies of Israel were in the field and David remained at home, and having lost sight of his great purpose, he wandered dissatisfied and restless upon the roof of his house, and was caught in the snare that the devil had laid for his feet. If his conscience had not been completely drugged how it must have upbraided him when Uriah said to him, "The ARK and Israel and Judah abide in tents … shall I go into mine house?" Strange that this Hittite, this stranger, should have spoken thus! Evidently he had realized what David's life-purpose was, and had been affected by it himself, and had made it his own, and thus he covertly rebuked the king for his forgetfulness of it.

The Lord Jesus Christ was the great antitype of David in this matter. He suffered the scorning of the great religious leaders. Four times over they derided Him in Luke's Gospel of grace because He sought out sinners and associated with them. But in this He was doing His Father's business, for these sinners whom He sought and saved were the necessary material for the house that He would build, and for this He laboured, seeking no glory or rest for Himself until He had finished the work which God gave Him to do.

All the afflictions that came upon Him until at last He passed into the thick darkness of Calvary had the great purpose in view, that God should have for Himself that habitation that He desired in the greatness of His love. We see the afflictions of David in Jesus. With an unconquerable purpose of heart He set Himself to glorify God. The Father's will controlled Him until the work was finished. Blessed, perfect, adorable, triumphant Saviour! His work shall not be in vain; His afflictions shall yield an eternal recompense when in the holy city, new Jerusalem, God will dwell for ever, and His glory, shining forth from that city in which He will dwell, will light the universe with gladness, and draw from it everlasting praise.

To whom, other than He, could the opening words of Psalm 133 apply: "Lord, remember David, and all HIS AFFLICTIONS: how he swore to the Lord, and vowed to 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."

It is of Christ that it is written, "Wherefore when he comes into the world, he says, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared Me: in burnt offerings and sacrifice for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do thy will, O God."

He came forth from Bethlehem Ephratah, as Micah the prophet prophesied that He would 700 years before His birth. God's house occupied his boyhood's thoughts, for the only incident recorded of His early days is that in which we see Him in the temple, about His Father's business. And when come to manhood, His first recorded act in Jerusalem was the clearing of the temple of those who defiled it in such a fashion that His disciples remembered that it was written, "The zeal of Thine house has eaten me up."

But that material and destructible house was to be displaced by a spiritual and eternal house, a tabernacle in which God will dwell for ever, composed of living stones, and of which Christ would be alike the Foundation and the Builder. During His lifetime He sought and saved and prepared the material for this dwelling-place of God: such as Andrew, Simon, and Philip, the sons of Zebedee, the woman of Sychar, Mary of Magdala, Zaccheus the publican, and others who were entirely beholden to sovereign grace, for they were sinners every one with nothing to commend them to Him but their need, and the fact that the Father had given them to Him.

We have not to wait until the revelation of the new Jerusalem to know that God has got a place in which He can dwell. Ephesians 2:19-22, tells us, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth to an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Is this great truth of the habitation of God through the Spirit precious to us? It is something that we need to think of and meditate upon. The exceeding riches of God's grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus has been manifested that we might have our part in this dwelling of God. The Word is full of it, full in type and shadow and prophecy in the Old Testament, and then in doctrine and fact in the New Testament. If we desire to understand it the Spirit of God will unfold it to us, and in these days, when there is so much departure from the truth, and even men's thoughts are sought instead of God's, I believe the Spirit of God would more than ever find His delight in enabling us to follow after and to hold that which is the choicest and best. We may be, in the faith of our souls, in living contact with God's thoughts and purpose, and intelligently in communion with Him about them.

We are saved by grace; the future, as far as our soul's safety is concerned is secured; shall we rest satisfied with the knowledge of this and be indifferent to God's thoughts and desires concerning us? God forbid. We must be controlled by this great purpose, to be workers together with God according to His own plans and thoughts. Are we wasting our days, or are we controlled by some great purpose, and if so what may that purpose be?

"Well," says one, "I have purposed. in my heart, like brave Daniel of old, not to defile myself with any fleshly or worldly evil." Good, if you do not keep yourself pure you will be useless in God's service, but more than that is needed.

Another says, "I will not only abstain from all appearance of evil, but I will be careful to maintain good works for the adorning of the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." Very good. It is thus that the grace of God manifests itself through us, but more than that is needed if our Christian lives are to be full and complete.

Still another says, "I will labour to win other souls for Christ, nothing shall satisfy me but the rescue of men from sin and Satan's power."

Yes, it is good to have the soul stirred up to unflagging zeal for the salvation of men, but there is something more: something greater, higher and more blessed, and that is to have definitely and fully before the soul what lies behind God's activities of grace with men. Why is He saving them? It is that He might bring them to His holy habitation, and every soul brought to Christ is a stone for that building — a living stone.

When this great purpose lays hold of the heart it affects us in every way. We shall not be indifferent as to our conduct if we realize that we are part of that holy habitation, nor shall we think coldly of the perishing multitudes, for God will have all men to be saved, but we shall know that in bringing them to Christ we are bringing stones to the Great Builder. For when Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, the Lord looked upon him and said, "Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone" (John 1:42).

We may safely invest all that we have and be spent ourselves also in this work of God, for when every edifice that man has raised, whether material or spiritual, political, social or religious has perished and been forgotten, the glory of this building will abide undimmed forever, for the glory of God will lighten it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof. And the nations shall walk in the light of it, and it shall be God's tabernacle for ever.