Saturday, January 9, 2010

ZION: The Old Testament (Psalm 2 to Psalm 51)

The Old Testament (Psalm 2 to Psalm 51) 

Psalm 2:6

As we begin to review the Psalms, we note that King David is generally credited with the authorship of at least seventy of the 150 Psalms. The Psalms comprise the beginning of the third major division of the writings of the Old Testament: 1) The Law, referring to the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses; 2) The Prophets, comprising the writings of all the other prophets; and 3) The Writings, comprising all the rest of the biblical collections.

The Psalms are quoted 116 times in The New Testament, and Joseph Smith spent considerable time revising the Psalms, making changes in fifty-three of them. It should be clear to even the casual reader of the Psalms that David, “the sweet psalmist of Israel,” (see 2 Samuel 23:1) had a clear and unmistakable vision of the future Zion.

David longed for the day, our day, when the Lord would restore again the kingdom to Israel. When will the Lord's kingdom come, he wondered aloud? When will it be set up again on earth as it once was – with a king and a court, with laws and judges, with power and magnificence? That day was reserved for our day, and the promised fulfillment is not far distant. What is more appropriate, then, than to have David himself prophesy of his even greater Son who will one day sit on his father's throne and reign over the house of Israel forever? We shall turn to David’s own words as we consider the coming reign of the Second David ben Judah, Christ himself, the Promised Messiah. His words relative to the millennial day are comparable to those he spoke about the meridian day. The Spirit revealed to David wondrous truths relative to the two comings of Christ.

"The Lord most high is terrible," says David the psalmist; "he is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet." All nations shall be subject to Israel in that great day. The Gentiles shall bow beneath the gospel rod. "He shall choose our inheritance for us." The meek shall inherit the earth. "For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. . . He is greatly exalted." (Psalm 47:2-9). "O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth." This is the millennial day. "Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us." (Psalm 67:4-6).

From a prayer of David we extract these words, which are clearly Messianic, though some of them as originally given applied to contemporary events. It was the prophetic practice among the Hebrews to use local circumstances as similitudes to teach the glories and wonders of the gospel and of the Messiah who would come to save his people. "He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment," David said. "He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations." The Lord's reign shall be eternal; the saints shall possess the kingdom forever and ever. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth." As the dews of heaven, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon those who seek his face. "In his day shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth." How glorious shall be that blessed day of righteousness and peace. "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust." Israel truly shall stand triumphant in that day.

"Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him." Christ is King of all. "For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and the needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory." (Psalm 72:2-19). Granted that some of the language is figurative and will not find literal fulfillment in the millennial day, yet the concepts taught are truly glorious. In substance and in thought content they all shall surely come to pass.

Other pronouncements in the Psalms that will find total fulfillment only in the millennial day include: "Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations." (Psalm 82:8). "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth. . . He shall judge the people righteously. . . He cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth." (Psalm 96:9-13). "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice. . . Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth." (Psalm 97:1-5). "The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble. . . The Lord is great in Zion." (Psalm 99:1-2). "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom. The kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." (Psalm 145: 10-13). "The Lord shall reign forever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord." (Psalm 146:10). Those with spiritual insight find in the Psalms priceless pearls of wisdom and revelation. Truly, their pleasant words and sweet similitudes open the eyes of our understanding with reference to the coming reign of the Son of David. (See Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s treatise on David’s prophetic voice in Psalms, Millennial Messiah, Chapter 48, 592).

Strong Messianic overtones characterize the writings of David. Often he speaks as the Lord himself, prophesying about future events pertaining to Zion. This Messianic psalm declares the location of the seat of the King of Kings as the "holy hill of Zion," again specifying the temple mount in Jerusalem as that location:

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

Psalm 9:11-14

David, recipient of prophetic visions of the future, foretells in his Messianic psalms the eventual triumph of the Lord over all his enemies. The "daughter of Zion" again refers to Jerusalem as a world capitol of Zion.

Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion; declare among the people his doings.
When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.
Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:
That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.

JST Psalm 14:1-7

David glories in the promise of the eventual restoration of Israel in the last days following her apostasy. As an example of the revisions the Prophet Joseph made to the texts in Psalms, this one is offered in a side-by-side comparison between the Joseph Smith Translation and the King James Version on the next page.

Note particularly that in the Inspired Version (JST) rendering of the chapter in verse 2, the focus of the inquiries is directed at “all these who say they are thine.” The descriptions of iniquity are speaking of the covenant people of Israel, not just “the children of men” in general. Thus Joseph’s prophetic eye is clearly seen at work in these verses, for he says “not one” among the covenant people had done good. The apostasy of Israel is foretold, and David longs for the fulfillment of that which he has seen of Zion’s ultimate establishment and redemption. The cause of the trouble was teachers who became workers of iniquity with no true knowledge. The beauty of Messianic prophecy is that the Lord speaks of dual fulfillments – in David’s time and in the latter-days. He asks the Lord the question on the lips of every true saint in any dispensation, "When wilt thou establish Zion?"


The fool hath said in his heart, There is no man that hath seen God. Because he showeth himself not unto us, therefore there is no God. Behold, they are corrupt; they have done abominable works, and none of them doeth good.
For the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, and by his voice said unto his servant, Seek ye among the children of men, to see if there are any that do understand God. And he opened his mouth unto the Lord, and said, Behold, all these who say they are thine.
The Lord answered and said, They are all gone aside, they are together become filthy, thou canst behold none of them that are doing good, no, not one.
All they have for their teachers are workers of iniquity, and there is no knowledge in them. They are they who eat up my people. They eat bread and call not upon the Lord.
They are in great fear, for God dwells in the generation of the righteous. He is the counsel of the poor, because they are ashamed of the wicked, and flee unto the Lord, for their refuge.
They are ashamed of the counsel of the poor because the Lord is his refuge.
Oh that Zion were established out of heaven, the salvation of Israel. O Lord, when wilt thou establish Zion? When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, Israel shall be glad.


The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.
There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.
Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.
Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

Psalm 20:1-2

David pleads with the Lord to hear the petitions of Israel in the day of her trouble, and links the strength of Israel to the sanctuary, meaning the temple. Again, there can be little doubt about the synonymous use of the words Zion and the temple mount at Jerusalem. They are one and the same:

The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion.

JST Psalm 46:1-11

David gives expression once again to his faith that God will restore Zion in the last days in this Messianic psalm of redemption. He bears witness that God will dwell in his city, that he will fulfill all his words pertaining to Zion, and says here as he did in the day of Job's trouble, (see Job 37:14) and as he did in the day of trouble in Jackson County, "Be still and know that I am God." (See D&C 101:16).  As one reads David's words in this psalm, the thought content could well be something Enoch might have said in bearing witness that the covenant pertaining to Zion would not be broken.

David was seeking, but did not obtain because of his transgressions, the witness from God that he would receive an inheritance in Zion following her tribulation of the last days. This witness and assurance that one has an inheritance in Zion comes through “the more sure word of prophecy,” spoken by the voice of the Lord himself, thus anchoring one's faith in the times of trouble. It is described by Joseph Smith in these words:

Now for the secret and grand key. Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heirs with Him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation. Then knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. (TPJS, 298).

Though David had many visions about the future pertaining to the establishment of Zion in the latter-days and had the heavens opened to his view, he never did obtain the promise of eternal life he sought initially. His eternal status after his fall was clearly delineated by the Prophet Joseph. (See TPJS, 188, 339).  Despite the seriousness of David’s sin, the scriptures make clear that except in the one instance involving Bath-sheba and Uriah, David’s heart “was perfect with the LORD his God.” (See 1 Kings 15:3-5). These are David’s words of hope for the future of Zion:

God is our refuge and strength, a present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shall be removed, and though the mountains shall be carried into the midst of the sea;
And the waters thereof roar, being troubled, and the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
Yet there shall be a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
For Zion shall come, and God shall be in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her right early.
The heathen shall be enraged, and their kingdoms shall be moved, and the LORD shall utter his voice, and the earth shall be melted;
The Lord of hosts who shall be with us, the God of Jacob our refuge. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he shall make in the earth in the latter days.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire, and saith unto the nations,
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob our refuge. Selah.

Psalm 48

For sheer beauty of language David's psalms are incomparable in literature. This particular one, detailing the prophecy concerning Zion in the last days, is of such interest we quote it here in full. David saw the glory of Zion in the last days, when all nations would be constrained to acknowledge her power and beauty. Like all the prophets his testimony harmonizes, even to the extent that he echoes an obscure reference by Isaiah to the destruction of the ships of Tarshish by the east wind. (See Isaiah 2).  The Lord also likens the earth in the last days to a woman in travail in a revelation to Brigham Young. (See D&C 136:35).

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
God is known in her palaces for a refuge.
For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.
They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away.
Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.
As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah.
We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.
According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.
Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.
Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.

Psalm 50:1-6

Again in this reference we see the word Zion in synonymous usage with the zenith of beauty and perfection. Only had the writer, Asaph in this case, [according to the Bible Dictionary, Asaph was a Levite appointed as the leader of David’s choir] actually viewed Jerusalem in the fullness of her glory in the last days, could he have described her in such eloquent terms. Asaph echoes several familiar themes in this Messianic psalm. He speaks of the Lord in his triumphant Second Coming as not keeping silence, contrasting this advent from his coming in the meridian of time when he was silent before his accusers. (See Isaiah 53:7).  He speaks of judgment, also consistent with the events of the Second Coming (see Revelation 20:12-15), and he tells again of the covenant God has made with Israel through sacrifice. (See D&C 64:22-25).

The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.
He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.
Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah.

Psalm 51:12-19

David pleads with the Lord for forgiveness in this psalm. His demise has begun with his transgression with Bath-sheba. The standing laws in Israel were that there was to be no adultery and there was to be no murder. David had many wives and concubines, all of whom were given to him and sanctioned by the Lord. (See D&C 132:38-39).  Joseph Smith explained this apparent dichotomy:

God said, "Thou shalt not kill;" at another time He said, "Thou shalt utterly destroy." This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted -- by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon: first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation. (See TPJS, 256).

David had slain perhaps hundreds of thousands of the soldiers of his enemies in battle, all in response to the Lord’s command to “utterly destroy.” But in the case of Bath-sheba and Uriah he went too far. “What does it matter,” self-assured and all-powerful David must have reasoned, “if I have sexual relations with one more woman, and cover my sin with the death of one more soldier?” When he came to himself, his desire for repentance is symbolic of his desires for a wayward Israel as well. David is a powerful symbol for each of us in our fallen condition in mortality. We need a new heart, a clean heart, in order to be restored to our former station in God's presence. Truly, David’s petition that he might teach transgressors the ways of the Lord was fulfilled. He teaches each of us that the only acceptable offering for our true repentance is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. (See 3 Nephi 9:19-20).

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

In the foregoing verses we have the promise, renewed in our dispensation through John the Baptist who conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on May 15, 1829 (see DHC 1:39-42 and D&C 13), that latter day sacrifice on the altars of the future temple at Jerusalem would be acceptable to the Lord. From Joseph’s statement that follows this is to be accomplished under the direct supervision of the Melchizedek Priesthood, not the Aaronic. This acceptable sacrifice will not be made before Israel offers the sacrifice of broken hearts and contrite spirits, but Joseph Smith reaffirms latter day animal sacrifice in these instructions. (See also Malachi 3:3).

It will be necessary here to make a few observations on the doctrine set forth in the above quotation, and it is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the Priesthood, or with the Prophets.
The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the Priesthood. It began with the Priesthood, and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. We frequently have mention made of the offering of sacrifice by the servants of the Most High in ancient days, prior to the law of Moses; which ordinances will be continued when the Priesthood is restored with all its authority, power and blessings. . .
These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses' day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued.
It may be asked by some, what necessity for sacrifice, since the Great Sacrifice was offered? In answer to which, if repentance, baptism, and faith existed prior to the days of Christ, what necessity for them since that time? The Priesthood has descended in a regular line from father to son, through their succeeding generations. (TPJS, 172-3).

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