Psalm 132: The Lord Has Chosen Zion

Remember, O LORD, 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 Jacob.’

–Psalm 132:1-5 (ESV)

As its first line indicates, Psalm 132 is, in part, a song about David, the king of Israel.  But Psalm 132 is so much more than just a royal psalm.  It is a declaration of God’s promises to his people and his Church.  It is a commendation of all those who make God’s house their care.  And, most importantly, it is a powerful prophecy concerning the kingdom of David’s ultimate Son, Jesus Christ.

277, “Gracious Lord, Remember David”

(Sung at Synod 2012)

“Gracious Lord, Remember David” was the first selection sung during plenary session at Synod 2012, and it immediately became my favorite—so it’s especially hard to remain objective as I write this review.

Honestly, though, I believe the text of number 277 is a true gem.  Where a purely literal versification of Psalm 132 would prove clunky or difficult to understand, the authors tweaked the text just enough to make it fit the tune snugly.  For the most part, they simply let the idioms and phrases of the original text shine through.  The most paraphrasing occurs in the first and second stanzas, but even here it is carried out carefully.  The only spot I might question is at the beginning of the second stanza:

Far away God’s ark was resting,
It is with His people now…

This is certainly one possible interpretation of Psalm 132:6 (“Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar”), but there might be others as well.

Out of all the stanzas, the fourth is definitely my favorite, both for its content and for its poetic integrity:

Thou, the Lord, hast chosen Zion,
Thou hast ever loved her well;
This My resting-place forever,
Here, Thou say’st, I choose to dwell.
Surely I will bless and help her,
Feed her poor, her saints make glad,
And her priests shall stand before Me
In salvation’s garments clad.

The fifth verse also does an excellent job of preserving the original meaning of the psalm as it relates to both King David and his descendant, Jesus Christ.  The only extra-biblical content is the last line, “Blessed be His holy Name,” which makes sense only if we realize that it refers to the ultimate Anointed One, the true King of Israel.

The tune of number 277 comes as a bit of a surprise; it’s the tune of the Fanny Crosby hymn “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”  Nevertheless, it certainly matches the theme and mood of this psalm; in particular, the repetition of the last two lines provides a delightful emphatic effect.  When I played this song at Synod 2012, I beefed up the bass line with a 32’ stop in the pedal for the second half of this stanza.  With 200 men singing along, this was one of those exhilarating moments when “the house shook.”

“Gracious Lord, Remember David” is the only setting of Psalm 132 in the Psalter Hymnal, but would anyone ask for another one?  Number 277 is an excellent selection, and I believe it’s not sung nearly as much as it ought to be.

I will cause the might of David
Ever more and more to grow;
On the path of Mine Anointed
I will make a lamp to glow.
All His enemies shall perish,
I will cover them with shame;
But His crown shall ever flourish;
Blessed be His holy Name.

–MRK

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