God’s Resting Place

[Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002, pp.8-9]

In his book, The Spirituality of the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann discusses three different kinds of psalms – psalms of orientation, psalms of disorientation, and psalms of reorientation. The first are psalms of thanks and praise coming from a place of blessing. In Brueggemann’s words, these psalms in a variety of ways articulate the joy, delight, goodness, coherence, and reliability of God, God’s creation, and God’s governing law (p.8). The disorientation psalms are for seasons of change and instability. This kind of psalm constitutes a dismantling of the old, known world and a relinquishing of safe, reliable confidence in God’s good creation. The movement of dismantling includes a rush of negativites, including rage, resentment, guilt, shame, isolation, despair, hatred, and hostility (p,10). The reorientation psalms are songs from a community surprised by a new gift from God, a new coherence made present to us just when we thought all was lost…this move of departure to new life includes a rush of positive responses, including delight, amazement, wonder, awe, gratitude and thanksgiving (P. 11)

Songs of Ascent are sung on the road to Jerusalem, approaching the center of the Jewish faith – God’s holy temple. Psalm 132 is a song affirming God’s presence among the people – God’s in his temple, all’s right in the world. But I think it can be understood and sung from two very different places of understanding.

The first, an orientation psalm: of course God is with us – that’s the way things are.

The second, a reorientation psalm: God is with us! – it could have been otherwise…

O Lord, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured; how he swore to the Lord and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed;

I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Israel.”

We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar. “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.”

Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy. For your servant David’s sake do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

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. If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.”

For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation; “This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it.

I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy.

There will I cause a horn to sprout up for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one. His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.”

Psalm 132, a Song of Ascent, NRSV

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