Friday, January 21, 2011

Psalm 48

Praise for God in Jerusalem (vs. 1-14)—Jerusalem was the seat of Israel’s government during the United Kingdom, and then Judah’s when the country divided. The Psalmist here encourages the people of the city to praise God. He calls Jerusalem a “holy mountain” (v. 1) and “Mount Zion” (v. 2); the stability and strength of a mountain is the key here. It is the city of the great King (v. 2), the refuge of His people (v. 3).

Much of the reason for this praise is found in verses 4-7, the protection the Lord gave the city from “the kings assembled” (v. 4). They “passed by” (v. 4), “saw it” (Jerusalem), “marveled” and “were troubled” and thus “hastened away” (v. 5). They became fearful (v. 6), and the psalmist attributes this to the power of Jehovah, who can “break” the mightiest of ships with ease (v. 7). In an age of strong, ruthless empires, when a relatively minor city like Jerusalem is left alone, there is cause for rejoicing. The city will eventually be sacked, of course, in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians, but God’s purpose for Jerusalem, the Jews, and mankind would continue until the Messiah came—which was the point of it all. Jerusalem would be established “forever” (v. 8), that is, for as long as God has use for her. And, indeed, the city still exists, though its divine purpose is unknown to us.

The source of this heavenly protection was the “lovingkindness” of the Lord; reminders of that were daily illustrated in “Your temple” (v. 9)—the fact that He had set up a sacrificial system so that the people might have atonement for their sins. The Lord is a righteous God, deserving of “praise to the ends of the earth” (v. 10). The city and country should rejoice “because of your judgments” (v. 11). The reference in verse 11 to Judah and not all of Israel may imply that the division has already happened. We do not know the exact date or circumstance of the writing of this song.

The writer then closes the psalm with a boast about the strength of the city—look at her towers, bulwarks, and palaces, and pass the message on to future generations (vs. 12-13). But he correctly attributes this to “our God,” who “will be our guide even to death” (v. 14). Our protection from evil in this life comes from the Lord, and it is something we should be thankful for and give Him praise. Indeed, many times He works in His providence to protect us (from others and ourselves) and we may not even know it, because the harm that might have come did not come. Jehovah is worthy to be praised for what we see Him do—and what we do not see.

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