Psalm 48 -

Great is the Lord

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise,

in the city of our God, His holy mountain.

2It is beautiful in its loftiness,

the joy of the whole earth.

Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,

the city of the Great King.

3God is in her citadels;

He has shown Himself to be her fortress.

4When the kings joined forces,

when they advanced together,

5They saw her and were astounded;

they fled in terror.

6Trembling seized them there,

pain like that of a woman in labor.

7You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish

shattered by an east wind.

8As we have heard,

so have we seen

In the city of the Lord Almighty,

in the city of our God:

God makes her secure forever. Selah

9Within Your temple, O God,

we meditate on Your unfailing love.

10Like Your name, O God,

Your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;

Your right hand is filled with righteousness.

11Mount Zion rejoices,

the villages of Judah are glad

because of Your judgments.

12Walk about Zion,

go around her, count her towers,

13Consider well her ramparts,

view her citadels,

That you may tell of them

to the next generation.

14For this God is our God forever and ever;

He will be our guide even to the end.

This psalm is a song of praise to the Lord for His protection and deliverance. The protection of the children of God is, in this psalm, reflected in the beauty and safety of the city of God: "Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth. Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King" (vss. 1-2). "How great Jehovah is, essentially none can conceive; but we can all see that He is great in the deliverance of His people, great in their esteem who are delivered, and great in the hearts of those enemies whom He scatters by their own fears" [Spurg. 360]. "As God shows His greatness and glory in all His works, and specially in His care for, respect unto, and operation in His church; so should He have glory and praise from His church, for and from all His works, but specailly for His care of her" [Dickson, 278].

At times, though, it is difficult to praise Him, not because He is not worthy of praise, but because it is difficult to find words to express the greatness of God. He is "worthy" of our loud and continuous "praise". "It is not possible for us to praise God too much or in strains too exalted, for He is Ďmost worthy of praiseí" [Plumer, 536].

For the children of Israel, Godís Spirit was present on Mount Zion, "His holy mountain." Godís mere presence was certainly enough to make mount Zion "beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth." "Godís presence makes any place notable and desirable. It makes a stone in the wilderness a Bethel. It makes Jerusalem the most famous city in the world. The birth of Jesus made Bethelhem, and His residence made Nazareth famous to all coming time. But all these were otherwise poor places, and the latter of them was even infamous" [Plumer, 536].

Though the city of God, Jerusalem, was fortified, its safety lie only in the fact that God was present: "God is in her citadels; He has shown Himself to be her fortress" (vs. 3). The citadels would not protect very well without the presence of God, as became evident later after Godís Spirit left the city. "His saints must not trust in fortresses, castles, palaces; but in God alone" [Plumer, 533]. We too must show this same attitude. We should not trust in the things of the world for safety. Our bank accounts, our worldly standing, our physical statureónone of these things are sufficient to fully protect us. Only God is a mighty fortress. And note, "He has shown Himself to be her fortress." We can be sure that God is willing and sufficient to protect His people, because we have recorded so many instances throughout history where He has done so.

The Psalmist gives a brief account of a recent instance of Godís protection: "When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor. You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind" (vss. 4-7). Apparently, the enemy was seized with a panic before they were even able to begin their attack. "No sooner did they perceive that the Lord was in the Holy City, than they took to their heels. Before the Lord came to blows with them, they were faint-hearted, and beat a retreat" [Spurgeon, 361]. "Heart and hand, courage and strength, counsel and resolution fail a man, when he seeth God to be his party, and to be prevailing against him" [Dickson, 279].

For the Psalmist, this eye-witnessed event greatly strengthened his faith: "As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever" (vs. 8). To read of the Lordís great works is one thing, but to see and recognize the work of the Lord in oneís own life, is a great strengthener of faith. We should always be attentive to Godís work in our lives. God is working all of the time. If we donít see His work, it is not that He is not working, it is that we are not recognizing His work in our lives.

But recognizing Godís work in our lives is not enough. We must respond to it in praise to Him: "Within Your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love. Like Your name, O God, Your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is filled with righteousness. Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of Your judgments" (vss. 9-11). "As it is a good thing patiently to wait on Godís loving-kindness in the use of the means, when troubles and dangers come; so it is a good thing for the godly, after receiving the fruit of their faith, hope and patience, to observe the grace gotten of God, which made them to meditate upon and look unto His loving-kindness, and so to strengthen themselves in their resolutions to follow this blessed course hereafter as the faithful do here" [Dickson, 281].

In this psalm, the people praise Godís "judgments"; they praise that His "right hand is filled with righteousness." The people of God need not fear Godís "judgments", rather they can praise Him for them. Godís people are right with God, through Jesus Christ, who has taken upon Himself the judgments of Godís people.

The Psalmist concludes by exhorting Godís people to survey the land where the Spirit of God dwells: "Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation" (vss. 12-13). Now as Christians, the Spirit of God dwells within us. And so we could apply these verses by taking a survey of our lives since our bodies are cities where the Spirit of God dwells. One would hope that we would be able to see a positive change in our lives since the time we received the Spirit of God.

For the Psalmist, the purpose of making a survey of the towers, ramparts and citadels of the city of God is so "that you may tell of them to the next generation" (vs. 13). "A reason why people when young and vigorous should study Godís word and the history of His dealings with His church is that they may have something instructive and profitable to talk about to the next generation. All should publish the glory of God" [Plumer, 537]. There are two reasons to tell of the strength of God in His city to the next generation: that they may have faith in future deliverances; and that they too may glorify God and give Him praise for His protection.

Oh Lord, may we be diligent in telling the next generation of Your love and protection, of Your mighty works and great deliverances, for indeed You are "our God forever and ever", and "our guide even to the end." Men and countries come and go, but the Spirit of God lives among His people forever.

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