Saturday, April 27, 2013

Notes on the Psalms – Psalm 48

Psalm 48 proclaims the glory and strength of Zion. Zion is the mountain of the Lord, one of the hills upon which Jerusalem was built. For the Jews, Zion/Jerusalem was the center of the universe. It was the location of the Temple, which was God's dwelling place among men and the Jewish center of worship. It was the destination of all their pilgrimages and the goal of their travels. It was their center of government, commerce, and trade. It was their center of defense, a place protected and secure. Zion/Jerusalem was the place where everything came together, heaven and earth, the divine and the human, the spiritual and the temporal. The Jews loved Zion because they loved God, and Zion was God's city. 

Let's look at the psalm's description of Zion. Verse 1 assures us that Zion is “the city of our God” and “His holy mountain”. Zion belongs to the Lord, and within Zion, the Lord is given the great praise He is due. Zion is “beautiful in elevation” and “the joy of all the earth,” verse 2 informs us. It is a high place, lovely, and the cause of delight for the whole world. It is also the place in which God defends His people (verse 3). In Zion they find their refuge. 

Zion is also a place of astonishment for those who do not know God, as we discover in verses 4-7. Foreign kings had gathered before Zion, perhaps to besiege and conquer it. But they failed. In fact, they were too astounded to even begin. They panicked and ran, trembling, their forces shattered. What happened to cause this? The psalmist doesn't tell us, but he gives us a hint in verse 8. Zion is “the city of the Lord of hosts”, and God has established it forever. Did God's army of angels startle the kings into flight? Certainly God was protecting His city one way or another. 

In Zion, God's people ponder His love. They meditate on His kindness and mercy as they stand in His temple. His presence is there to greet them, and His Name and praise spread from Zion through the whole world, to the very ends of the earth. Zion rejoices in God's great victory and is glad for His just judgments and His guidance. 

The psalm ends with an invitation: “Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels...” Know this place and know it well. Explore every inch of it. Think carefully about what you are seeing. Why? The psalmist answers,“...that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.” Knowing what God has done for them, seeing His great city, understanding His constant protection and love allows God's people to teach their children Who God has been for them, Who His is know, and Who He always will be. 

So what does this psalm mean for Christians? Zion/Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. The physical Temple was gone, even for the Jews, who now focused on a synagogue system of worship. Christians recognized that they had a new Temple, Jesus Christ, as the center of their worship. Jesus, then, could certainly be our new Zion. He is God's dwelling place among men, for He is God and Man, the meeting place of heaven and earth, divine and human, spiritual and temporal. He is our center, our destination, our everything. He is beautiful and the joy of all the earth. He is our defense and our refuge, the One Who causes His enemies to flee in fear. In Him, we ponder God's love and meditate on His kindness and mercy. In Him, we find God's presence. In Him, we rejoice. In Him is our victory and just judgment and guidance. What must we do then? We must know Jesus and know Him well. We must explore every word of His teaching, every event of His life and death and resurrection. We must think carefully about what we see. Knowing Jesus, we know what God has done for us, we understand His constant protection and love, and we can tell others all about Who God is for us. For Christians, Jesus is our Zion. He is our glory and our strength, the center of our universe.

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