Arise, O Lord. Psalm 132 for SATB choir and organ, 10′. Commissioned for the Psalm Festival of the 2024 Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Institute on Liturgy, Preaching and Church Music, with deep gratitude to The Rev. Sean Daenzer, Director of Worship and International Center Chaplain. Premiered 11 July 2024, St. John Lutheran Church, Seward, Nebraska, the Bellevue Singers and organist Jacob Weber, conducted by A.J. Reimer.

In considering which psalm to set to music for this Psalm Festival, I was drawn to Psalm 132 because of its range of emotions and because of the inherent drama of its two voices. The psalmist speaks in verses 1–11; he and God both speak in verses 11-13; God speaks by himself in verses 14–18.

Many scholars believe the psalmist to be Solomon, understandably, as he was the one who built the Temple and who brought the ark of the covenant into it. It is interesting, if it is King Solomon, that he appeals to God through the name of David, his father, as David, who had wanted to build the Temple, was denied that honor. However, the line of kings who would sit on the throne comes through David. The psalmist knows all this and reminds God of it.

It’s an emotionally tumultuous psalm. It wrestles with David’s “afflictions” and unfulfilled vow, it recalls the loss of the ark of the covenant to the Philistines, and it reminds God of his own promise that David’s line will reign eternally.

Liturgically, an antiphon is used in psalm recitation (whether spoken or sung) as a refrain, and although this isn’t a liturgical piece, an antiphon can be a valuable tool for crafting a psalm setting. Antiphons are usually drawn from the psalm itself, begin and end the recitation, and in longer or more elaborate settings may be inserted in various places throughout.

I felt that verses 8 and 9 were a good summary of the psalm and an appropriate antiphon. However, the dramatic tone of “Arise, O Lord, into your resting-place” seemed too far removed from that of verse 1, “Lord, remember David and all his afflictions.” (That emotional friction still remained if I had used verse 13, “For the Lord has chosen Zion,” which is often the antiphon for this psalm.) So I decided to drop the beginning antiphon and to start the piece at verse 1. Then I could build up to the antiphon when it appears for the first time.

Much of the music is in two flats. In tonal music this could be the keys of either B-flat major or G minor, but the old church modes open up other possibilities, such as C dorian, a minor scale with a raised sixth. This reflected well, I thought, the troubled yet hopeful mind of the psalmist. After verse 5, the “habitation for the mighty God of Jacob,” the antiphon finally makes its appearance. It is in B-flat major and a simple setting at first, just a single voice or a few voices in unison, joined softly by the full choir.

Verses 6 and 7 recount, in a G minor chant, the finding of the ark of the covenant. The antiphon then reappears in its proper place in the psalm, as verses 8 and 9. Here the setting is louder, bolder, and more insistent.

The next section, verses 10 through 13, continue the G minor chanting, but the music then modulates from two flats to three flats at the prophecy, “Of the fruit of your body…”. It is in A-flat lydian, joyous and mystical. Then the warning in E-flat major arrives, “If your children will keep my covenant….”

The previous chanting key of G minor returns, “For the Lord has chosen Zion.” It pivots to the antiphon, and this time the antiphon is in full force, fully confident and at its most rhythmic. It leads to the last section, the Lord declaring, “This is my resting-place forever.” Here, the choir is divided into three voices: sopranos and tenors are one voice in octaves, altos are the second voice, basses the third voice. It is a canonic treatment over a long E-flat pedal, in yet another related two-flat mode, E-flat lydian.

The words “here” and “here will I dwell” are repeated, and at “I have desired” there is a chromatic succession of chords, wildly unlike anything else in the piece. It gives voice to this mystery: that the Lord of all the universe desires to dwell especially in one place. At the tiny word “it,” the beginning of the piece returns, but transmuted from C dorian to C major. Here, it isn’t the psalmist calling on God, but it is the Lord himself reciting his own prophecies, building to the promise of his anointed one sitting on the throne forever.

The antiphon returns one last time in its new key of C major, up one whole step from the original B-flat. After the ecstasy of receiving God’s promise, the antiphon is intoned quietly, especially the last two words, “for joy.” They are hushed and without accompaniment, as if the saints are barely able to speak in the Lord’s presence.

The only alteration in the King James Version of this psalm was in the modernizing of sware, unto, lo, thy, thou, and thine, and changing an habitation to a habitation. However, mine eyes and mine eyelids stayed because I do like them so.


Psalm 132
1 LORD, remember David, and all his afflictions:
2 how he swore to the LORD, and vowed to the mighty God of Jacob:
3 Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; 4 I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids,
5 until I find out a place for the LORD, a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.

8 Arise, O LORD, into your resting-place; you, and the ark of your strength.
9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy.

6 Behold, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood. 7 We will go into his tabernacles, we will worship at his footstool.


10 For your servant David’s sake turn not away the face of your anointed.
11 The LORD has sworn in truth to David; he will not turn from it: Of the fruit of your body will I set upon your throne.
12 If your children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon your throne for evermore.
13 For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation.


14 This is my resting-place forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.
16 I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. 17 There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for my anointed. 18 His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish.