Psalm 132 quoted on a plaque above the door of Saint George’s Church, Balbriggan, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
In the Calendar of the Church, we are in Ordinary Time. Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections drawing on the Psalms.
In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:
1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;
2, reading the psalm or psalms;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Psalm 132 is the thirteenth in a series of 15 short psalms (Psalm 120-134) known as the ‘Songs of Ascents.’ These psalms begin with the Hebrew words שיר המעלות (Shir Hama’a lot). In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is counted as Psalm 131.
Many scholars say these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Others say they were sung by the Levite singers as they ascended the 15 steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Mishnah notes the correspondence between the 15 songs and the 15 steps between the men’s court and the women’s courtyards in the Temple. A Talmudic legend says King David composed or sang the 15 songs to calm the rising waters at the foundation of the Temple.
One view says the Levites first sang the Songs of Ascent at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple during the night of 15 Tishri 959 BCE. Another study suggests they were composed for a celebration after Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BCE. Others suggest they may originally have been songs sung by the exiles returning from Babylon, ascending to Jerusalem or individual poems later collected together and given the title linking them to pilgrimage after the Babylonian captivity.
These psalms are cheerful and hopeful, and they place an emphasis on Zion. They were suited for being sung because of their poetic style and the sentiments they express. They are brief, almost like epigrams, and they are marked by the use of a keyword or repeated phrase that serves as a rung on which the poem ascends to its final theme.
Psalm 132 is the longest of the psalms in the Songs of Ascent, with 18 verses.
The New Revised Standard Version associates Psalm 132 with ‘the Eternal Dwelling of God in Zion.’ The Jerusalem Bible describes it as a messianic hymn and an anniversary hymn recalling the finding and translation of the Ark of the Covenant, recounted in I Samuel 6 and II Samuel 6. The former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, says this is a psalm about the Temple and its priests.
Verses 1-5 describe David’s determination to build a house for God: ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent’ (II Samuel 7: 2).
Verses 10-12 describe God’s promise to David that the monarchy would be an ternal gift for his descendants: ‘Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever’ (II Samuel 7: 16).
At Saint George’s Church in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, there is biblical text on a plaque above the main door on the south side of tower that quotes from this psalm:
I will not suffer mine eyes
to sleep nor mine eye-lids
to slumber • neither the
temples of my head to
take any rest;
Until I find out a place
for the temple of the Lord:, an habitation
for the mighty God of
Jacob. – Psalm 132: 4-5.
The quotation may have been chosen to give thanks for the rebuilding of the church after a fire in 1833.
Psalm 132 (NRSVA):
A Song of Ascents.
1 O Lord, remember in David’s favour
all the hardships he endured;
2 how he swore to the Lord
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
3 ‘I will not enter my house
or get into my bed;
4 I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
5 until I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling-place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’
6 We heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
7 ‘Let us go to his dwelling-place;
let us worship at his footstool.’
8 Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting-place,
you and the ark of your might.
9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your faithful shout for joy.
10 For your servant David’s sake
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
‘One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and my decrees that I shall teach them,
their sons also, for evermore,
shall sit on your throne.’
13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his habitation:
14 ‘This is my resting-place for ever;
here I will reside, for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless its provisions;
I will satisfy its poor with bread.
16 Its priests I will clothe with salvation,
and its faithful will shout for joy.
17 There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one.
18 His enemies I will clothe with disgrace,
but on him, his crown will gleam.’
The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Tackling Poverty.’ It was introduced on Sunday by Niall Cooper, Director at Church Action on Poverty.
Tuesday 5 July 2022:
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
We pray and give thanks for the work of Church Action on Poverty over the last 40 years.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org