When a musician writes a song, there’s often a backstory that helps the listener more fully understand what the song is about. The backstory helps fill in subtleties and tease out nuances. It gives layer and texture to lyrics that help them become three-dimensional ideas rather than two-dimensional black words on a white page.

I remember when I first heard the backstory of It Is Well, one of the great hymns of the faith. It Is Well was written by Hortio Spafford after experiencing two tragedies. The first was the death of his youngest daughter and the loss of his wealth in 1871. The second tragedy was the loss of his other four daughters when the ship they were on sank out at sea. It was out of that heartbreak that Spafford penned these words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The words carry so much more meaning when one realizes the depths from which they sprang.

The same is true of Psalm 132. It’s a Psalm that has a backstory – and one the reader must understand if they’re going to grasp the nuances. The first 10 verses are based on 2 Samuel 6-7 when King David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem after it had been gone for over 20 years. After retrieving the Ark, David vowed to build a house for God. Listen to the way the Psalm alludes to this promise: “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 132:4-5) David was passionate and devoted, and he had a plan to accomplish his mission. If one simply reads through the Psalm, you could conclude that David did in fact build the temple for God. But he didn’t, his son Solomon did!

The backstory helps us understand that this is actually a song about when God says “no” to our well-intentional, passionately driven plans. It’s not a song about how a great king did something great for God – even though it seems that way on the surface. It’s a song about how a great God did something eternal through a frail man. It’s a song about the way God often says “no” to our plans so that we will cling more fully to his promises. In fact, the Psalm ends by triumphing in what God will do, not what David did.

I think this is a song we can sing along with Israel. It’s easy to get tied up in what we want to do for God, but real joy comes from realizing all that God has done for us in Jesus. Take some time today and think through the story arc that Psalm 132 covers. Go back and read 2 Samuel 6-7 in light of this Psalm. Then, ask Jesus what he wants you to hear and what he wants you to do in response. Then, do it!

Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor

Subscribe to the Daily Fill