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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Jesus, Making Home With Christmas


"For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,

“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it."

Psalm 132:13-14

I think very few people would fail to associate Christmas with at least these two things: home and family. In the experience of most people, Christmas Day is a day when you want to be in the house you call home, and amongst the people you call family. I think that’s true. There might even be a popular Christmas song about driving home for Christmas.


That truth didn’t make me choose the text for this morning’s sermon. Rather, as I considered this psalm long and hard, that was the theme that jumped out at me. The connection between Christmas and family-home. I think it’s real for us and it’s real in this text too.


There are profound ways, I think, that this text reveals that theme. And if you think that the connection between Christmas and family-home is a happy connection - I assume it is, if that is where we desire to be at Christmas - then, you should expect joy this morning. You should expect delight to rise in your souls, as you witness that theme rising up out of this Psalm.

The psalm is titled ‘a song of ascents’, which means a song to be sung by those who were ascending the hill of the Lord on their way to celebrate in Jerusalem one of the major festivals of the year. So, this is a festival-based psalm. Given that we’re in a festival-based season - that seems appropriate.


It’s not a song of lament, its a song of joy. Worship is on their minds. God is on their hearts. Delight is in the air as they walk up the hill to the house of the Lord with this psalm on their lips.

And the song appears to be about David (v.1). But it’s an appeal isn’t it. Look at verse 1. ‘Lord remember David and all his self denial’. The psalm is a song of prayer to God; that he might remember David and especially the way he denied himself.

Christmas is a time of abundance, but we’ve got a word about self-denial, which might sound less than joyous, but will, I’m convinced, result in rejoicing for us as we see it unfold this morning.

Verse 2 and following, gives us the detail of David’s self-denial. The goal of it is evident in verse 5, ‘until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob’. The goal is a home for God to dwell in.

In David’s day there was no permanent residence for God; the temple hadn’t been built yet. His dwelling place was the tent of meeting which moved from place to place and never settled anywhere permanent.


And David was conscience stricken by that fact. Here’s what he said, ‘Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent’. He desired a permanent dwelling for God because he loved his God.


So, he swore an oath to the Lord, and vowed that he would not enter his own cedar house or go to his own bed, or allow sleep to his eyes until he found a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.


God really loves a heart that is for him like that. He really loved the heart in David that desired him to have a home amongst the people of Israel - not that God can be contained in a building of course.

But God had made promises to the people of Israel, long before David. In Leviticus 26 he said that he would ‘put his dwelling place among them…and walk among them, and be their God and they his people’.

So David’s idea wasn’t a silly one. He had God’s own word to stake his oath on.

Anybody who knows this story, knows that God told David pretty quickly that he wouldn’t be the one to build a house for him - that would be David’s son Solomon.


But, in an awesome display of God’s love for David and the way David’s heart for God moved God, God responded to David’s oath with an oath of his own. It’s recorded for us right here in this psalm.


In verse 11, ‘The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne forever”.


God heard David’s promise to make him a dwelling place and he responded to David by telling him, he wouldn’t be the one to do that, but instead swore an oath of his own - to make David into an everlasting dynasty. ‘You David will never fail to have a descendent on your throne’.

A succession of kings that come from the same line is called a ‘dynasty’. Sometimes it’s called a ‘house’ also. God promised to make David into a house; into a dynasty.

Not just any house though; into the greatest house there ever had been or ever would be, because he promised him a particular kind of dynasty - an everlasting one. All dynasties die, but not this one! Not this one. Is it any wonder David refers to himself as the apple of God’s eye?

So, at the centre of this psalm is the desire of the writer who wrote it, and the people who are singing it on their way up to worship God (who inspired it), two oaths. The oath of David to make for God a dwelling place which he didn’t have. And the oath of God to make David into a great house - a dynastic house.


And, because God is greater than David, David is released from his obligation, but God will never be released from his oath.

But it’s not as if God doesn’t care about what David cares about. He does. He isn’t about to let David’s heart’s desire fall to the ground. A house for God to dwell in has been God’s very own heart since the beginning. David’s not the one to complete the task, but to be sure, God wants what David wants.

We know Solomon went on to build the temple that David had envisaged. David in fact planned it in great detail and provided for the building of it at great expense prior to Solomon’s reign.

We also know that that temple was destroyed when the Babylonians came against Jerusalem.

We also know a second temple was built when the exiles returned from captivity.

And we know that that temple was destroyed not long after Jesus ascended into heaven, in AD70 by the Romans.

And, we know that ever since then there has been no permanenttemple.


Yet, the Psalm tells us this: verse 13, ‘the Lord has chosen Zion [that is Jerusalem], he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, “this is my resting place for ever and ever”’.

So, that’s a problem.

If it means what it sounds like it means, then right now God has no resting place. But he said, ‘this is my resting place for ever and ever’, so what’s going on?


That fact, I think, starts to make us start to look at this psalm differently. Perhaps this means more than it seems to on the surface. Let’s see.

The first pointer is the fact that David was connected with the dwelling place of God before he ever thought of building a temple. Decades before David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, it had been in Philistine territory - captured by them during one of the campaigns against Israel.

The Philistines encountered so much trouble on account of having it though, that they decided to return it to Israel.

The reason for all that trouble was that the ark of the covenant signified the resting place of God. This psalm in verse 7 refers to it as the ‘footstool’ of God. God was dwelling amongst a people who were not his people. Their practices offended him; their god’s offended him; their sins offended him. And so, he caused tumours to break out amongst them.


So, when they could stand it no more, the Philistines returned the ark to Israel by placing it on a cart pulled by two oxen which they sent on their way from Philistine territory via a road that led straight up to Israelite country - namely the fields of Jaar (which you have in verse 6), also known as Kiriath Jearim (as it is called in 1 Samuel 6, which records this event).


The news of this momentous event reached the ears of those living in a nearby place called Ephrathah (v.6). Which, in God’s amazing purposes, was also the birth place of king David.

So in David’s home town the news arrived, ‘come let’s go to the dwelling place of God, let’s go and worship at his footstool, saying, “arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests be clothed with with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy”’.

And perhaps David’s father Jesse went to see it in the fields of Jaar.

Perhaps Jesse told David about that event when he was a boy and that’s what prompted him to bring the ark up to Jerusalem and make a permanent dwelling place for the ark of God’s presence also.

But that’s not all. Ephrathah was the old name for a town that would later be known as Bethlehem.


That’s massively significant because the prophet Micah, speaking long after David, said: ‘But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me a ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times’.


So the place where little David heard about how God had returned - from that very place - the prophet Micah anticipates another ruler, coming from also. A ruler whose ‘origins are of old, from ancient times’.

And the question is, will that ruler be of the line of David?

If he is, then he will certainly belong to God’s sure and irrevocable oath to David. So let’s see.


The gospel writer Matthew, records that King Herod was disturbed because of the birth of a baby who the Magi of the east called ‘the Messiah’ and who they had come to worship saying, ‘But you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’.

In other words they came quoting Micah, to see a child that had be born a ruler, and who Matthew tells us in chapter one was descended from none other than David’s line.

And of course, that boy’s name was Jesus!

The writer of the psalm in verse 10 pleads with God not to reject David, and we just followed the oath right through to Jesus. And as far as God is concerned, God did not reject David.

But that doesn’t really deal with the ‘everlasting’ part of the oath, and it still doesn’t resolve the matter of God’s own commitment to an everlasting dwelling place for his own name.


Both of those are settled, I believe, in a connection between verse 12 and 13 that was a revelation to me. And also in verse 17. So let’s go to those verses now.


When I was reading this psalm over and over, it did not occur to me for a long time, how strange it is that the writer moves from God’s eternal oath to David in verse 12, to his eternal commitment to his own dwelling place in verse 13 - as if they are connected.

And they are connected. The word ‘for’ at the beginning of verse 13 makes them connected.


The word ‘for’ means that God’s eternal commitment to David in verse 12 is built on the foundation of God’s eternal commitment to establish a dwelling place for himself in verse 13. Which, I just kept missing.


That means that when God says, ‘here I will sit enthroned’ in verse 14 - the very place where he intends to dwell (v.13); the very place he intends to rest (v.14); Zion (v.12) - then we are meant to understand that it will be a descendent of David who will reign in Zion; a descendent of David who will dwell in God’s residence; a descendent of David who will find an everlasting resting place. It’s not some other person.


And it’s more than that. It’s also this: since God says, ‘I will sit enthroned for I have desired it’, it must therefore also mean that David’s descendent will be no one less than God manifest in the fleshly line of David. That blew me away when I saw it!


That’s how the two oaths - one from David to God and one from God to David come together and find their fulfilment.

If David’s descendent is God in the flesh then David’s dynasty will, without a doubt, last forever. And God’s dwelling place will, without a doubt, last forever.

Drop down to verse 17 for more confirmation. ‘Here I will make a horngrow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown’.

The word ‘horn’ means powerful king.

And the word ‘lamp’ signifies remembrance.

David is the anointed one (v.10) and the horn grows for David and the lamp shines for David.


Listen to the gospel writer Luke recording Zechariah’s words - he really knew his Old Testament. Speaking of the imminent birth of Jesus he says, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David’.

Psalm 132 speaks of a horn growing up for David. And Zechariah, full of the Holy Spirit, says God has raised up a horn from David’s house. That is staggering confirmation!


And, Luke also records the words of the angel to Mary, ‘You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High [no ordinary child]. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end’.

So, the promise God made to David and the commitment God made to himself - which aligned with David’s heart - find their fulfilments in the same person.


David’s greater son is the Son of the Most High God. Therefore, David’s dynasty will never end and God will reign through Jesus forever and ever.

The question that remains though, is: where will he reign? There’s no temple in Jerusalem right now.

The answer comes by tracing the place God chose for his everlasting dwelling in verse 13. That place the psalmist calls ‘Zion’ - which means Jerusalem.


The New Testament writers do something special with Zion. For example, the Apostle Peter calls the Christians he is writing to ‘living stones’.

And he says they are a ‘holy priesthood’ which is temple language.

And he says they - as living stones - are being built into a ‘spiritual house’.

And then, quoting Isaiah, he says that Jesus is the ‘precious corner stone’ of the house and that God laid it.

Where did he lay it? Peter quoting Isaiah says, ‘in Zion’.


So God’s house is a spiritual city - a spiritual Zion - made up of people who are established as the home of the living God, through faith in a precious corner stone -  namely Jesus. They become living stones in whom God dwells. Hebrews 12 and 2 Cor 6:16 say the same thing.

So, Jesus, as more than just a physical descendent of David, was born to make a dwelling place for God to live in - that human hands did notmake.

He was born as an everlasting descendent of David thus establishing God’s oath to David.

And he was born to establish a spiritual dwelling place for God, whereby God upholds his commitment to himself, to create a dwelling place where he will reside forever.


This spiritual temple can never be destroyed because the everlasting King Jesus reigns over it forever. He clothes its enemies with shame and he is adorned with a radiant crown!

Christmas, then, is about a dwelling place for God. God has made sure he is ‘home for Christmas’.

In fact, Christmas guarantees God will never be absent from his home. He will be precisely where his people are, forever, because Jesus, David’s greater son, came into the world and guarantees it will alwaysbe so.

Come with me back to the Psalm and let’s plug Jesus back into it for the last five minutes.


Let David’s greater Son, Jesus, be remembered this Christmas for all his self denial (v.1). How he took the nature of a servant and was found in human flesh. How he exchanged the exaltations of heaven for a stable floor and ultimately, the nails of a stable door.


Let him be remembered for how he would not rest until he had made a place for the Lord and a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob (v.5).


Let Jesus, David’s greater son, be remembered for the sake of God’s sure and irrevocable oath to David (v.10). For all God’s promises and his faithfulness is yes and amen in Jesus.


Let him be remembered for the abundant provisions he has blessed God’s dwelling place - Zion city of our God - with (v.15). Provisions like grace in place of grace already given. An everlasting mercy seat. Continual intercession on our behalf. The hope of eternal life. The expectation of reigning with Jesus forever. And ten thousand thousand others!


Let Jesus be remembered this Christmas for satisfying the poor with food (v.15). We were all poor and wretched - weighed down with sin and guilt - until Jesus came and fed our souls until they were filled up with satisfaction in God.


Let him be remembered this Christmas for clothing the priests of God with salvation (v.16) for that is what Jesus came into the world to do - to save. And he does it by clothing us with righteousness (v.9) - his very own righteousness.


Let Jesus be remembered this Christmas in these ways so that verse 16would happen. So that the people who belong to God would not be able keep their mouths shut because of the joy kindled in their hearts. Let the faithful people of God sing for joy this Christmas.


Let Jesus be remembered this Christmas for the strong king that he is (v.17). Over death, over hell, over fear, over enemies, over the earth, and forever.


Let Jesus be remembered this Christmas for the lamp that he is (v.17). He is the light of the world - the true light that gives light to everyone.


And, let Jesus be remembered in our homes and in our families this Christmas, because that is where he belongs.

All other Christmas traditions are just that, traditions. But Jesus is the substance of Christmas.


Let the joy of it ring out on Christmas Day!


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