Psalm 132: Find a holy place

‘Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, let your faithful people sing with joy. (9)

The thirteenth song of ascent is a call and response between David and God, both vowing commitment to a covenant relationship. Psalm 132 and an associated text from Samuel talk about David and the building of a holy place for God, the temple. A strong theme of associating place — temple, hill, city — with holiness, spirits or gods, runs through civilisations and cultures, including biblical history.
Dawn Such association has been powerful in many parts of the world. Stone rings, Mount Olympus, Fuji and topographic features around the world variously held special deities or seasonal significance in ancient religions, and of course the Australian aboriginal tradition to this day. Place is undoubtedly important in our lives and memories. Yet it seems to be a connection largely missing from the modern Western spiritual conscience.

The psalmist suggests renewed centrality of a holy place, spiritual or temporal, wherein the ‘priests are clothed in righteousness, the faithful sing.’ (9) It suggests to us to seek ways to enshrine justice and music, the twin pillars of this study, in meaningful places and in our lives. Then, for those who justly ‘keep my covenant’, the ideal result is equitable blessing to rich and poor alike. (12-16)

Music

Several of the setting in the public domain from years gone by restrict their attention to just two verses, 8 and 9 (“Arise O God into your resting place”). This may be because, when Solomon finally did build the temple after David’s desires in this respect were denied, his dedicatory prayer concludes with these verses a fitting response as the holy place for justice is nurtured. (See 2 Chron. 6)

Here is a beautiful recently released recording of a stately setting In pace in idipsum by French composer Guillaume Bouzignac (c. 1590-1640), respected but less famous precursor to Charpentier. As shown above, his motet draws on both Psalms 4 and 132:

In modern sources:

  • The appealing refrain in TEP is based on three descending chords from Ebm to Db then Cb and the text of verses 4 and 5: “I will not rest until I find a place for the Mighty One.” The declaration also implies wider connotations than building temples.
  • NCH has another simple tune using verse 7 (“Let us go to God’s dwelling place”) based on more conventional circle of fifths chords on G.
  • PFAS 132C employs the fragment of a hymn and extrapolates the promise to David in verse 11 to the coming of Jesus, (“David’s greater Son”) as the anointed one.

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