PSALMS 132:1 – 134:3 and PHILIPPIANS 3:1–21
This Psalm represents the arrival at Zion which is the dwelling place of the Lord. It is symbolized by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. It was in the heart of David to provide the Lord a dwelling place where His presence could Rest. David was not given the privilege of building a house for the Lord but he was given the opportunity to establish the Presence of God (The Ark) on the hill of the Lord (Zion) in a tent (David’s Tabernacle). This was the culmination of a journey that the Ark had undertaken since its removal from Moses Tabernacle at Shiloh (1 Sam 4). What we also see in this account is David as a true priest after the order of Melchizedec. The Ark came out of Shiloh due to a corrupted priesthood (Eli and his two sons) and now is being established at Zion under the capable hands of a faithful priest/king (David). What was the goal for Israel when they came out of Egypt? Was it only to enter into the land of their inheritance? Moses spoke clearly of Israel’s destination and the destination of every New Testament believer.
Exo 15:17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.
The mountain of thine inheritance is a reference to Zion. Can we see how the Old Testament provides a clear roadmap for New Testament saints? Paul reiterates this truth in Heb 12:22-23 and in 1 Cor 10:1-11.The Mt. of Zion is a place of spiritual maturity and holiness and it is afforded to those who choose to ascend its hill (Psa 15, 24). It is to those who put their trust in the Lord to lead and guide in all His ways (Psa 125).
In the first 6 verses we become acquainted with David’s desire in seeking a dwelling place for the presence of the Lord. The Ark was not sought after during the days of Saul’s reign but David made enquiry soon after being anointed King over Jerusalem. He came to know the Lord intimately through his wilderness season of fleeing from Saul and now wanted to bring the sacred Ark to the holy city. David gave himself no Rest until the Ark was in a place of Rest. There were enemies that had to be confronted and defeated; featured among them would be the Jebusites who were the last stronghold to be overtaken in route to Zion (2 Sam 5:6-8).
In verse 7 we see how the way has been opened up where one can come right to His footstool. What David experienced here is a New Testament reality that was deprived to all others except the Levitical high priest. This privilege again became accessible to the believer when Jesus died upon the cross resulting in the tearing of the veil (Math 27:51). We must always be mindful that there is a way of approach and that man cannot just approach God on his terms. We begin to see the quality of praise and worship that takes place around the throne. Those who are gathered around the throne are the New Testament priests clothed in righteousness. There is a great sound of rejoicing coming forth from those who are engaged in this time of worship. It gives us a glimpse of what the worship around the heavenly throne would be like. This should be the goal of every believer but it will not be the experience of every believer due to the cost involved. The priests surrounding the throne are represented by a people who have allowed God to develop the linen garments of righteousness in their lives. We must study the Old Testament pattern and approach of Moses Tabernacle to understand these truths. The priests who functioned in the Holy Place and Holy of Holies had to change their garments between the outer court and Holy Place. These garments have spiritual significance for each believer. Are we willing to allow the Lord to bring forth this exchange? The example of Joshua the high priest in Zech 3 helps to give further insight regarding this truth (Zec 3:3-5).
In verse 12 there is the promise being made of the children sitting upon the throne forevermore. What a beautiful promise this is but one that has a condition. This condition should sound familiar since it was given by Moses on numerous occasions before Israel was to enter into their inheritance. It was the condition of keeping the covenant and testimony of the Lord; to obey His Laws and commandments. God desires to make available to us the sure mercies of David but it requires a walk of obedience (Isa 55:3). In verses 13-14 God makes very clear His preference as being for Zion, the place of His Rest. He also has a preference for those who love Him, His ways and the attributes of holiness. Make no mistake; God loves all of His own but there is something special in His heart for Zion and for all it entails. His affinity for Zion is seen elsewhere such as Psa 87:2. It is at Zion where God allows for the blessing of the provision for the priests that dwell there. It is the place where the priesthood of Melchizedec is functioning. David provides us a glimpse of what this New Testament order of priest and worship will be like. Zion and its inhabitants will be filled with a people who are wholeheartedly seeking after God. A final truth of God’s presence being established at Zion is the ability for Israel and David to be at Rest from their enemies (vs 18). The battles in life can be long and arduous but there is an appointed end to the enemy. It is essential to have the vision of Zion ever before us; it serves as an inspiration and a hope in the midst of trials and pain. This was what enabled the Lord to keep pressing onward and it is true for us.
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This is the well-known Psalm that has Unity as its primary message. The Unity expressed in these 3 verses is not the kind of unity that is seen in the world and in many of the churches. True Unity is costly and it has as its foundations the absolutes from God’s Word. True unity must be derived from the Word and not man’s preferences. Far too often man seeks to find common ground while joining hands with other movements so as to extend the thrust and influence of the kingdom. The problem is that oftentimes these arrangements come about as the result of compromise. There is a noticeable eroding over areas of doctrine that is making allowance for such agreements to take place. It is oftentimes subtle and well-intended but what is overlooked is the open door being given to the enemy. It is in Zion where true unity is realized and it is at Zion where the abundant blessing of the Lord is poured forth (Psa 133:3).
There was not true unity among the brethren when the disciples of the Lord were gathered together in the upper room. The Lord was about to become the sin offering and take the sin of man to the Cross but many were worried about their reputation and position.
Luke 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
The disciples went through the motions of being united but it was not evident. The Lord was burdened and took this matter to the Father in His intercessory prayer in the garden (John 17). He prayed that they would have the same unity that existed between Him and His Father. Otherwise He knew that the Holy Spirit could not come in His fullness after His departure. The same principle applies today. What is the basis of our unity? Is it based on man’s preferences by way of alteration of doctrine or on the absolutes from his Word? The constituents of the anointing oil were made up of several spices. Each spice has a meaning and what we can conclude from their meaning is that it was a costly anointing. True unity is costly. The Jebusites were the last of the enemies to be defeated before David could take Zion. They have the connotation of being discord sowers and they have a ministry today in many churches. They must be destroyed and annihilated. It requires a love for Truth and a love for the Laws and Commandments of God to be upheld. This is what is required for fulfilling the vision of Zion. We must never forget that it is the Law of the Lord that goes forth out of Zion. If we have a love for the Truth, the Law and the Word we can be in that dwelling place which will result in the fulfilling of the qualifications of Psa 15 and 24. It is there where true unity prevails and the blessing of the Lord goes forth. It is there where all see eye to eye with one another.
Isa 52:8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
This is the 15th of what are known as the Pilgrim Psalms that began in Psalm 120. They also have the title of the Songs of Degrees. We have seen a progression from Psalm 120 where the Psalmist was in distress calling out unto the Lord to where now he enters into the fullness of God’s blessings. This 15 Psalm journey (120-134) is yet another wonderful picture where the journey of a believer can be depicted. What these 3 verses show forth is the tremendous blessing of the Lord that comes upon those who rule and reign with Him at Zion. David came to know this in some measure but it is only a type and picture of a much greater fulfilment. We often times have cited the many warnings that God spoke through Moses as Israel was about to enter into their inheritance. What we sometimes overlook are many of the blessings that are associated with obedience. Deut 28:1-13 speaks too many of these blessings and they should be pondered over. The reality of Zion is true and should never be minimized. It represents the ultimate goal and destination of every believer. It is costly, it will be challenged and it will require an ability to be an overcomer. In closing this brief study of the Pilgrim Psalms and Songs let us endeavour to press into all that Zion entails. It is the dwelling place that the Lord has chosen and there is an invitation that is extended to all. The key to ascending Zion perhaps is best seen in the call to up to Zion as stated by both Isaiah and Micah.
Micah 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Paul exhibits an ability to rejoice in the midst of great difficulties. This in turn serves as an encouragement and blessing to others. As a leader one must convey assurance and strength to those who are under one’s guidance. The ability to rejoice and be of good spirits when going through a trial sends a message to others. It gives the sense that all will be well. This is a costly virtue because oftentimes the leader suffers in ways not discerned by others. Paul experienced this in many of his trials. He was able to carry on with a spirit of rejoicing because he was always fixed upon the needs and interests of others. It is a self-less quality that all true leaders should seek to aspire to. Paul then goes on to warn the Philippians of dogs, evil workers and those of the concision. Several of these enemies were seen in some of Paul’s dealings with other churches such as those of the concision who were affecting the Galatian church. The term “dogs” speaks of base people who attack the godly; they are referenced as a group who attacked Christ while upon the Cross (Psa 22:16, 20). The “evil men” represented those who spread discords and heresies among the brethren. Sadly, such people exist in prominent churches today. It often stems from jealousies or an unwillingness to uphold a standard.
Paul counters those of the concision by stating that we are those of the “true circumcision” who worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth, not by some legal ordinance. The true circumcision is that of the heart; the cutting away of the foreskin of the heart where all sin originates. This is the New Covenant which was secured by Christ upon His death at the Cross. In verses 4-6 Paul makes the case that if any man should make his boast in the flesh it would be himself. He cites his credentials as one who was zealous for the Old Testament legalities of the Law. He would have been the ultimate Judaizer if not for his conversion. He was making the point that he knew what he was talking about seeing that he used to be one of them. He was well aware in how these traditions would keep a people in bondage.
Paul, according to the letter of the law saw himself as being without fault but later came to see himself as the chiefest of sinners. This is the power of the Cross; to take a man who was responsible for the murder of many for their faith and convert him to become one of the greatest Christian figures of all time. May we never minimize the power of the Gospel and what it can accomplish in a man. Up until the time of his conversion Paul looked to be the least likely candidate to become an Apostle. Are there similar cases today? Are there people whom we would never consider candidates for salvation? Our role is to pray for all men and let God do the work. Admittedly, this is a struggle in me concerning some people I observe in life. I have to be honest in assessing how I would have viewed Paul prior to his Damascus Road encounter.
Paul came to know the righteousness of Christ as being the result of faith in Him and not by the adherence to the letter of the Law. The Law is fulfilled in us as we walk in the Spirit after our acceptance of Christ into our lives. Salvation and righteousness are not earned but rather gained by faith. In verses 10-11 Paul speaks of his desire to attain unto the first resurrection. It is clear that there are distinctions amongst believers in eternity. Consider all that Paul has accomplished in his ministry and yet being consumed with attaining unto the first resurrection. If this is true of Paul then what about us? It is clear that there are two resurrections; one that qualifies us to rule and reign with Christ in the millennium and the general resurrection of the dead that takes place at the end of the 1000 year millennial reign of Christ. The first resurrection constitutes a group of overcomers. This group is referred to in Rev 20:6.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Notice the priestly role amongst those who reign with Christ. It is a priestly company who reign as kings with Christ. This suggests that the priestly role will figure prominently in the days to come leading up to the time of the 2nd coming. It is the priest that is acquainted with the sufferings of Christ, who knows His ways and seeks to serve as an example of Christ to others. It is the priestly role that must emerge and come forth in the days before us. Paul gives a picture of this role in his stated desire to become more like Christ. His only aim was to win Christ and to be a partaker of His high calling (vs 14). He seeks to impart this same desire into the church brethren. This was a mature church and they had the potential to hear and respond to Paul’s appeal.
Paul then goes on to encourage the brethren to take note of his life and seek to live likewise. There are many who started off well only to turn aside or plateau in their Christian experience and walk. One of the prominent tools of the enemy is to take a person off course through an OFFENSE. In my own personal walk through the years I have seen this happen over and over again. There is something about an offense that gets to the core of the heart. It can be so subtle and seemingly insignificant but yet be the ruin of a promising life for God. I have seen it and it has happened to people of very high calibre. It sobers me and helps me to be warned of its deadly potential. Nothing tests a heart more (in my opinion) then the potential to be offended. To counter an offense one must learn to choose to yield to God’s available grace. It is available provided we choose to seek for it. The problem is we often like to stew and brood over an offense. It makes us feel good and justified, especially when we may even be right. Paul recognized his need to die daily and to grow in God’s daily provision of grace. He recognized that he was a product of His grace and so must we.
Paul speaks of those who have now become enemies of the Cross. This group oftentimes represents the greatest hindrance in going on in the Lord. They are a group that take issues with moral absolutes whereby making allowances for things that are contrary to scripture. They speak against those who seek to uphold godly standards and lay hold of hearts that are yet uncircumcised whereby gaining to themselves a following. This is why Paul exhorts them to be followers of him and his example. The same is true today. Slowly but surely the absolute standards of God’s Word are being chipped away. It is often subtle at the first but once the door is opened it’s a matter of time before the floodgates are broken down.
Finally Paul encourages the saints at Philippi to have their conversation and way of life centered on heavenly rather than earthly things. We are pilgrims on a journey to the celestial city, an eternal city to be forever with the Lord. This earth and the way of life we know will soon pass away and be no more. Today we are 2000 years closer to the time when Paul spoke these words. We have to live in this world and we need to be salt and light to this world but our aim must be towards that heavenly city, the city whose founder and maker is God. In short, we need to have the vision and obedience to the faith as Abraham did. This is what Paul is exhorting the Philippian brethren towards and it is a message for us today.