The overall tone of this psalm is unambiguously jubilant, but a number of the details are nevertheless ambiguous. This is said because my reconstruction of the players involved is certainly not the only possible one, but I do think it is reasonable.
“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 is another song of ascents, given for pilgrims approaching the Temple. We are not told who the author is, but given the subject matter, my operating assumption here is that it was written by Solomon. The plea to Jehovah is that He would remember David, and all his afflictions (v. 1). The affliction was related to his intense desire to fulfill his vow to build a dwelling place for the “Mighty One of Jacob” (vv. 2-5). David had heard of the ark of the covenant growing up at Ephrathah (or Bethlehem), and how it was located in the fields of Jaar—and he had had an intense desire to worship at His footstool. This footstool was the the ark, which had been at Kiriath-jearim for twenty years prior to the great repentance under Samuel (1 Sam. 7:2), and then for quite a few more years, and then briefly for a few months at the house of Obed-edom (2 Sam. 6:10-11). The stint at Obed-edom’s house was right after the abortive attempt to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. David and Solomon both wanted the ark of God’s strength to come into a place of “rest.” David brought it to the tabernacle of David located on Zion (2 Chron. 1:4), and then Solomon later brought it up into the Temple on Moriah (1 Kings 8:1), after the Temple was built. Zion and Moriah are two different mountains. In both cases, it was a matter of righteous jubilation (v. 9). Solomon links this placement of the ark as related to the promise made to David (v. 10). Solomon relates the fact that God had made an astounding promise to David concerning the future of his dynasty (vv. 11-12; 2 Sam. 7), which He gave right after He sent word through Nathan that he would be denied the privilege of building the Temple. The Lord has chosen Zion as His resting place forever (vv. 13-14). From that place in Zion, Jehovah would bless the poor with bread (v. 15), the priests with salvation (v. 16), the saints with shouts of joy (v. 16). The horn (of authority) will sprout for David (v. 17), such that his enemies will be humiliated, and his crown will shine (v. 18).
The Mercies of David
David was a dazzling figure in the history of Israel, but we make a great mistake if we overlook how important he was to the Gentiles, how fascinating he was to them. His adultery with Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah, were the two great twin sins of his life, but one of the things that made the murder of Uriah so grotesque was the fact that Uriah was a Hittite, doggedly loyal to David. Even when David got him drunk to help cover up his sin, Uriah stayed true to the cause—in that moment, better to be Uriah drunk than David sober.
But David rubbed shoulders with Gentiles easily (1 Sam. 27:6). He commanded their respect. Consider the behavior of Ittai the Gittite, a man from Gath (2 Sam. 15:18). who showed up to serve David on the very eve of Absalom’s rebellion, and who then willingly went into exile with him (2 Sam. 15:21) And when David attempted to bring the ark up from Kiriath-jearim on a cart, God struck Uzzah when he touched the ark, and so David stored the ark at the house of Obed-edom, another Gittite. I mean, Obed-edom probably graduated from the same high school that Goliath had graduated from. And when the ark was finally safe in the tabernacle, Obed-edom became one of the porters there (1 Chron. 16:38).
At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon prayed that God would remember “the mercies of David” (2 Chron. 6:42). And what did Jesus receive upon His resurrection from the dead? He received the sure mercies of David (Acts 13:34), applying to Jesus the promise of Is. 55:3.
So We Are the Tabernacle of David
The tabernacle of David on Zion was dedicated with sacrifices (2 Sam. 6:17), but it was not a place constructed for the offering up of blood sacrifices. Rather, it was a tabernacle of music. David was a great musician, and it is not surprising that he built a place for the sacrifices of praise (Heb. 13:15).
“And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order”
1 Chron. 6:32 (KJV)
These were musical priests, not blood priests. And it is striking that centuries later, the prophet Amos predicted a great restoration of the fortunes of God’s people, when uses the imagery of this tabernacle on Zion.
“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; And I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old”
Amos 9:11 (KJV)
And then, centuries later again, the Lord’s brother James was presiding at the Council of Jerusalem, where the central point of discussion was how the Gentiles were to be brought into the covenant. And James sums up all their discussion with an appeal to Amos. On the day when the Gentiles were to be brought into Christ, that glorious day would be a restoration of the tabernacle of David. Just as Zion had migrated up to Moriah, when the times of refreshing came, there would be a return back to Zion.
“After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up”
Acts 15:16 (KJV)
And this is why we gather as a congregation weekly in order offer up to God the sacrifice of praise. This is why we sing so much. We are the restoration of that tabernacle. Because of the great Son of David, we are all sons and daughters of David.
“And in mercy shall the throne be established: And he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness”
Is. 16:5 (KJV)