Sunday, January 30, 2011

Psalm 48 – Consider the City of Our God

“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.”

~Psalm 48:1-2 (NRSV).

How majestic will the experience of residing in the City of God be? We’re fortunate that the psalmist opens up imagination to that end. And if use of the imagination interests us, God’s taking us on a journey here if we’ll meditate on this psalm.

There are four noticeable divisions to the psalm:

1. Praise for a “Sure Defense” in God (Verses 1-3)

As verse 3 is considered in all its majesty we surely know that this fortress of the Lord is impenetrable. Nothing gets through without God’s say so.

It is the experience of the people of God that catapults forth this swath of praise. Their confidence is not in a physical structure alone, but in the portents of God which enable and maintain such structures.

The Lord is a Sure Defense—and to be eternally praised—because that’s the Divine nature.

2. Excitement, Terror and Awe in the City (Verses 4-8)

This is a clue that the City of God is not just in the heavens, but all around us where the Presence of the Lord intercedes. In the case of these verses the liturgist takes us into the bowels of terror extant of the marauders who battle against God’s anointed.

This is great spiritual encouragement to us as we battle, fighting the good fight of faith in this life. The Lord is our avenger. We have no need to avenge, settling our disputes at arms. As just as our cases are, God will redeem us according to his will (see Deuteronomy 32:35).

3. Further Praise – A Celebratory Liturgy (Verses 9-11)

The judgments of God are wholly reliable and this is what’s lauded by the liturgists in this section. The Sure Defender has made his Divine will known and the Presence of the Lord came through to establish what is now—for the people—peace (in their) today.

To “ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple” (v. 9) is the overwhelming sense that not only is the peace of victory celebrated, but the place of God’s Presence with them is also too.

4. Consider This City (Verses 12-14)

This is where we can hit our meditative stride. The towers, ramparts and citadels of the City are beyond comprehension as we survey what eyes have never before clapped on. The mind can paint beautiful pictures.

This City, beyond eternal dwelling, is most certainly the visitation of victory—and that fact must ensue through the coming generations. Our cherished task is to pass the baton of the Lord’s faithfulness so younger ones will know, look for, and trust in it.

Local Meaning

As we live and breathe in a world that is so different to the City of God we’re forgiven for not taking time to consider it. This psalm, however, compels us to take up a worshipful mood, seriously pondering what this vision of God’s eternal dwelling looks, feels and tastes like—remembering that spiritual sense in the quest of eternity may not be like physical sense, perhaps realms better.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), pp. 217-20.

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