The Step of Determination
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Psalms and let us read Psalms 132:

Psalms 132

1Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions:
2How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob;
3Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed;
4I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids,
5Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.
6Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.
7We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool.
8Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.
9Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.
10For thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.
11The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.
12If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore.
13For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.
14This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.
15I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.
16I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.
17There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed.
18His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish.

Review

We are in the midst of a devotional study of Psalm 120 through Psalm 134, which we have termed the “Pilgrim's Staircase.” We have discovered it to be a flight of stairs with a landing right in the middle. We have a short flight of steps, a landing, then a longer flight of step, and finally we reach the top. We have been studying these psalms for quite some time, and we are almost to the top of the stairs.

Need for Determination

We are now ready to take another step and that step is called the Step of Determination. I am calling it this for two reasons. The first is for the sake of alliteration; it may help you to remember these steps. The second is that I do believe there comes a time in every individual's life when he has a deep desire to do something for God. If that desire is ever to be fulfilled, there must be a deep determination.

The Step of Determination is nearly at the top of the staircase. That is because it takes a while for us to realize that some of the things we think are important are not so important. It takes us a while to realize that some of the things we think we have to have, we really don't. It takes us a while to realize that the most enjoyable thing in the world is sacrifice in behalf of that in which we believe.

Mental Pegs

Now, I have designated Psalm 132 as the Step of Determination. I think it can best be remembered if we follow a threefold suggestion. I see in the first five verses of this psalm a definite determination on the part of David. In the next five verses, I see a diligent search. In the last part of the psalm, I find a divine reciprocation. If you take these phrases and use them as mental pegs, you may be able to hang on them some of the thoughts that I want to leave with you in this lesson.

Definite Determination of David

Notice with me this definite determination of David as it is described in the first five verses. I suggest to you that this definite determination grew out of a deep distress. Look at the word “affliction” in verse 1. Let me suggest to you that it is not the translation of the ordinary Hebrew word for affliction in the sense of physical suffering. Here it speaks more of mental distress, soul turmoil, and restlessness than it does of physical suffering.

A Habitation for God

David's exercise of soul resulted in a deep desire. David's exercise of soul and his deep desire was not to right the world. It was much more limited than that. His deep desire is indicated in verse 5 where he says:

Psalms 132

5Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.

What is he talking about? He is talking about the Ark of the Covenant as we shall see before we are through. In the Old Testament days the Ark of the Covenant was the visible presence of an invisible God. Because the Ark was the visible presence of God, David was concerned about the fact that there was no certain dwelling place for that Ark.

It seemed inconsistent to David for him to be living in a sealed house, a house that was walled with cedar, while the Ark of God had no definite dwelling place. He said “There is something inconsistent in my being so vitally interested in the pursuit of my own interests and neglecting the interest of God.” That is the reason he was in distress. His deep desire was to do something about the need related to the Ark of God.

David's Deep Denial

If you look at verses 3-5 of this paragraph you will find David's deep desire was strengthened by a deep denial of self. So must it ever be. Let us notice that deep denial in those verses.

Psalms 132

3Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed;
4I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids,
5Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.

Now, what is David saying in these verses? He is saying, “I cannot enjoy this beautiful house that I built anymore, and I cannot rest at night until this determination that I have is fulfilled. I have a definite determination that God is going to be honored and that this need is going to be met.”

Our Step of Determination

We can certainly profit from what we have read. We can certainly learn a lesson from what we have been thinking about. Surely, if you have lived very long for God and with the interest of the Lord at heart, there is something that God has moved you to do. Perhaps God has moved you to do a definite thing for Him. He has moved you to do it, but something has happened to that determination.

Oh, yes, you have stood upon the Step of Determination, and you have said, “I can stand this no longer. I will not enter into my house. I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids until I fulfill this determination that I have in my heart as I swear unto the Lord. As I vow unto Him, I will do this particular thing.”

Notice in verse 2:

Psalms 132

2How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob;

Surely I wouldn't be too far off base to say that some of you have made a vow to God, that some of you have been moved to do something definite for God, but you have not fulfilled it. Could it be? God could be speaking to you. He could be stirring you up. He could be causing this deep distress to come. He could be making you restless so that you will determine, by God's grace, to do the thing about which he is speaking to your heart. Is it true? You are the only one who has the answer.

A Diligent Search

Let us go back to the text and notice that if David was going to keep his vow it was necessary for him to make a diligent search. After the Ark of the Covenant left the original Tabernacle, it was cast about from pillar to post. At one time the Philistines took it and kept it for a while. Then one of their idols fell over in the middle of the night. They assumed that it happened because they had the Ark there and they said, “Let's get rid of it.”

One of their priests told them how to send it back to Israel. While they were taking it back to Israel, someone became scared, went off and left it, and a man took it home. It had no certain dwelling place.

At this particular time David was not even sure where the Ark was, so he had to make a diligent search. That diligent search is described in verse 6, where we read:

Psalms 132

6Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.

David is saying in so many words, “We heard of it here, we heard of it there, and we finally found it out in the woods, not even protected and no one caring anything about it.” David, I say, made a diligent search. It was a very difficult search because no one knew where the Ark was.

A Dangerous Search

The search for the Ark was a very dangerous search, for men were known to have died because of moving it in an improper manner. Once when men were transporting this Ark on a cart that was drawn by oxen, the Ark started to topple and almost fell to the ground. A man reached out and touched it and God struck him dead.

You may say, “How unreasonable. The man was just trying to help.” True, he was trying to help, but he was forgetting Holy things. So, I tell you, it was a dangerous thing. David was aware of that. He knew that someone could die even in the process of searching out the Ark and moving it.

I would remind you that if you have made a vow, if you have had a definite determination that has come from the depths of your heart, you are going to have to suit actions to your words. You are going to have to make a diligent search. You have to get out and get with it. There is no other way. It won't be easy. If you perform a deligent search in relation to your vow, you will find it difficult. You will find it dangerous. You will find it discouraging.

The sad thing is that there are some of us who have vowed a vow, and we have said that we would do it. We have started and we have found it difficult–harder than we thought–and we have stopped where we were. I can tell you, Friend, that vows are being broken everywhere because men find it difficult, dangerous, and sometimes discouraging to go on.

David's Picture of the Temple

David was so bent on the fulfillment of his vow that, after he found the Ark, he went beyond that and visualized how it would be when he built the house. Notice, please, verse 7:

Psalms 132

7We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool.

David is talking as though the tabernacle were already built, the Ark in place, and people coming to worship. He had just found it, but he was determined and his heart was filled with desire.

Divine Reciprocation

This particular psalm does not reveal what happened between verses 11 and 12. Between verses 11 and 12, the Bible records that God visited David and said to him, “David, I want you to know something. I appreciate your desire. I appreciate your determination, but I am not going to let you do what you want to do. As far as the reward is concerned, it is just the same as if you did it because you wanted to. You would if I would let you, but I am not going to let you. I have other plans.”

David might have bowed his head, tears might have come to his eyes, and he might have said, “But, Lord, I have wanted to do this for you.” God answers, “You are not going to lose anything by it.” That is the reason why I suggest that, in the paragraph which begins with verse 11 and concludes with verse 18, we find a divine reciprocation. (You want to do something for God and God does something in return.) Give God a chance and you will find it is true. When you want to do something for God, He always wants to and He always does do something better for you.

Testing By God

Sometimes God puts a desire in your heart to do something for Him to test your willingness to do it, but He doesn't permit you to do it. It doesn't mean that He is dissatisfied with you. It doesn't mean that He has found something unworthy. It simply means that He has other plans, but before He can fulfill those other plans He has to know if you are willing. Don't feel that you are going to be the loser by it. God's ways are the best ways. Will you remember that?

Let me give you a little illustration of what I am talking about. Glance at verse 8 of this psalm. David says:

Psalms 132

8Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.

This was David's desire, to build a house in which God could rest. What did God say? “No, David, you can't build this house.” Look down at verse 14:

Psalms 132

14This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.

David was thinking about a house that certainly couldn't stand for ever because the toll of time would soon be seen. God said, “David, you are talking about a house that you can build that will last for a little while. I'm going to build a house that will last forever.”

God's Plans Always Better

Here again, I am going to have to ask you to accept something by faith. God has never yet taken anything away from me but what He gave me something better in its place. Now, I didn't feel that way at the time He took it away, but I have discovered it to be true. David was talking about a temporary rest and God said, “I'll go one step better. We'll talk about an eternal rest.” Look at verse 9:

Psalms 132

9Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.

David said, “When I build this tabernacle I want the priests to be clothed with righteousness and I want the saints to shout for joy.” If you will look at verse 16 you will see that God reciprocated:

Psalms 132

16I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.

God always does things better than we do. Now notice, please, verse 10:

Psalms 132

10For thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.

Here David is thinking about himself as the anointed one of God, and he says, “Don't turn away your face from me.” To David, of course, that meant disapproval just as it would mean today if someone turned his back on us. We would feel awfully bad. David says, “Lord, don't turn your back on me.”

Now look at verse 17:

Psalms 132

17There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed.

God said to David, “I'm not only not going to turn my back on you, David, but I am going to give you some heirs. I'm not only not going to turn my back on you and leave you in darkness, but I'm going to light a lamp for you so that you will be able to see where you go.” You see, God reciprocates.

Standing On the Step of Determination

Have you ever stood on the step that we have been talking about? Have you ever stood on the Step of Determination when your heart was stirred? You knew that God wanted you to do something, and you said, “God, I will do it.” You started out to do it, but you haven't completed the task. Have you stood upon the Step of Determination and said, “God, I will do it.?” You are in the process of doing it, and you could give testimony concerning the joy and satisfaction there is in your heart because you are in the place that God wants you to be, doing the thing that God wants you to do.

Perhaps some of you can say, “I've never stood upon the Step of Determination definitely, but I've been stirred about it. I've experienced this exercise of soul we have been discussing. I believe that God is speaking to my heart about doing something definite for Him.” If that is true, by God's grace, perhaps today you should stand upon the Step of Determination.


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