When David had a longing to build the Lord a house, he voiced his heart’s intention by means of solemn vows. His people caught the vision; to build a sacred place where holy joy and worship would please the God of grace. Let David be remembered, you faithful servant, Lord: the depth of his devotion, the hardships he endured.
2: The Lord then vowed to David: his house would surely last if only his successors held God’s commandments fast; God longed to set among them a throne for heaven’s King; what joy and what abundance His presence there would bring! Let David’s Lamp be lighted, your chosen servant, Lord: his kingdom be established, his triumph be assured.
Martin Leckebusch’s contemporary rendering of Psalm 132 pairs well with the lovely tune Thaxted – most often used with the hymn I Vow To Thee My Country. Psalm 132 is noted as one of the 15 “Song of Ascents” in the Psalms. Some think these were sung by pilgrims en route to Jerusalem for festivals, others that Levites sung them when Solomon’s Temple was dedicated, others that these were written during the Exile. The problem with the Psalms is that there’s almost nothing we know about them other than their text.
I find it interesting that the original Psalmist, whom Leckebusch follows, extols David as the great saint who built the Temple. David’s longing to serve the Lord was intense. He united the Jewish people, transformed them from being a loose confederation of tribes into a more secure nation, and maintained armed forces to keep the nation secure. Yet David’s longings for nation building, security, and the Lord weren’t the only longings he had. His longing for Bathsheba and the longing for the subsequent murder of her husband were also significant factors in David’s story. The prophet Nathan condemned him – brave man – and David appeared to repent.
Like the saints we’ve been looking at over the last three weeks David had feet of clay. Like all of us David was a confusing mixture of saint and sinner. National leader, giant slayer, man of God who was also an adulterous murderer – we may also think he was a rapist as Bathsheba had little agency in the matter.
The Church, like the Psalmist, tries to think the best of its saints but we’re not always helped by a one sided view of those who’ve gone before us, or those who are with us now. Putting people on pedestals is dangerous; being reminded of their, and our, sinfulness and sanctity is safer.
Lord, you know me, my sinfulness and my sanctity, my longings for good and for evil; help keep me grounded when I get too self righteous, let others see you in me but also see me as I really am. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the Minister for Digital Worship and a member of the Peedie Kirk URC in Kirkwall, Orkney.