July 28th 2020 – Psalm 48

"A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
    the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God
    has made himself known as a fortress.

For behold, the kings assembled;
    they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
    they were in panic; they took to flight.
Trembling took hold of them there,
    anguish as of a woman in labor.
By the east wind you shattered
    the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
    which God will establish forever. Selah

We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
    in the midst of your temple.
10 As your name, O God,
    so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11     Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
    because of your judgments!

12 Walk about Zion, go around her,
    number her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts,
    go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14     that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
    He will guide us forever."

Psalm 48

This Psalm continues the theme of rejoicing in the victory of God. We see once again in 4-7 the jubilant realisation by God's people of the divine intervention - and even if the actual identification of the historical setting as being Sennacherib's invasion in 701 BC may be questioned by some, it is sufficiently illustrative to make clear the kind of situation for which this Psalm has relevance. As ever, our concern must be to underline the Christian use and interpretation of the Psalm, and we must first of all tackle the problem raised here by the emphasis on the literal city of Jerusalem, a problem accentuated by the fact that in the New Testament itself the exaltation of Jerusalem is called in question (cf John 4:20-24; Acts 6:13, 14). Clearly, the spiritual nature of worship as revealed in the New Testament makes the 'place' of worship whether city or temple, irrelevant, and where undue emphasis is placed on the latter, men fall into error. This is not to say, however, that the emphasis on Jerusalem 'beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth', has nothing to say to us today. On the contrary, it is the inner heart of that emphasis that remains a constant, and has abiding relevance for us. And that inner heart is this: 'The one thing that made Zion, Jerusalem, glorious was God's Presence in it...it was because God dwelt there and manifested Himself there that it was 'a joy for all the earth', Jehovah-Shammah, 'the Lord is there'' (Maclaren). It is an easy transition therefore from the city to the church of God, for it is the glory of the church, as it was the glory of Jerusalem/Zion of old, that God dwells in her.