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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

2022.04.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 48

Read Psalm 48

Questions from the Scripture text: What sort of Psalm is this (superscript)? For (“of”) whom was it written? Who is great (Psalm 48:1)? What is to be done greatly? Especially in what place? What else is it called? What does Psalm 48:2 call its height? Who rejoices in it? What two things does verse 2 call it? Who is the great King, Whose city it is (cf. Matthew 5:35)? Who is in her palaces (Psalm 48:3)? What do people know about Him? With what command does Psalm 48:4 begin? Who assembled? How did they pass by? What did they see (Psalm 48:5)? How did they respond to her scope? How did they respond to her strength? What took hold of them (Psalm 48:6)? How badly? What sailors have gone through the same fear (Psalm 48:7)? With what two senses does Psalm 48:8 describe the certainty of the Psalmist’s faith? Where have believers’ faith seen this; what two things is this place called? In the city, what has their faith known about the city? In the midst of what, in this city (Psalm 48:9b) do they think upon what (verse 9a)? What (Psalm 48:10a) determines the quantity and quality of the praise in verse 10b? Where is this praising done? How does verse 10c name the mightiness of the actions of God? With what are these actions full? Who is to rejoice in Psalm 48:11a? And who specifically are to be glad (verse 11b)? Over what (verse 11c)? What five commands does the Psalmist give in Psalm 48:12-13 (cf. Psalm 48:4a)? What are we to observe now? With what structures/images are her defense and beauty described here? Who, really, is her defense and beauty? Why are we to spend so much effort observing and meditating upon this (Psalm 48:13c)? Whom, then, do we see (Psalm 48:14a)? Whose is He (verse 14b)? For how long? What will He do (verse 14c)? For how long?

Great is Yahweh and exceedingly to be praised (Psalm 48:1a)! This is the glorious God, Who will be our God forever and ever, and Whom we know that if He is ours then, surely He will be our guide even until death (Psalm 48:14)! These are the bookends of the Psalm, but the perhaps surprising theme of the Psalm is the location where the Lord’s glory is displayed: His church!

In the Psalm, it’s the city Jerusalem, but there are several hints that this city is something broader and higher and more enduring than the hill that had once been Jebusite. It’s not the city of a great man, but the city of the great God (Psalm 48:1a–b). It’s not a moderately high hill but of a dizzyingly beautiful height (Psalm 48:2a). It’s not just the joy of Israel, but the joy of the whole earth (verse 2b).  It’s location is true north (verse 2c). God Himself is in her ramparts (Psalm 48:3a). God Himself mans (Gods?) her defenses (verse 3b). Unlike Jerusalem, which has seen almost constant chaos for 2500 years, this city is established forever (Psalm 48:8e). The worship in its temple (Psalm 48:9) is attended by praise-ers from the ends of the earth (Psalm 48:10b).

It's not “spiritualizing” or “metaphorizing” to see Jerusalem as the nascent church. For there is a heavenly Jerusalem here in Psalm 48 before the “Jerusalem from above” of Galatians 4:26 and the New Jerusalem out of heaven in Revelation 21:2. Although much further along, the visible church today is still a nascent form of that glorious city. This visible/invisible distinction isn’t an invention of theologians but a reality in the Bible.  Many would scoff to hear that we are to see the glory of God greatly displayed in His church. They’ve been to church!

But Jerusalem then, and the visible church now, is a local expression of something worldwide, an earthly expression of something in heaven, a temporal expression of something eternal. What we are to see, there, however is not how much it falls short of what the city points to, but how marvelously glorious it is that God Himself is in her! In this way, Psalm 48 strikes the same chord as Psalm 46. With such a glorious God as this, Who displays His great glory in such a great Heaven as that, even in our small and weak “city” now has great glory. This God is our God Psalm 48:1. This God is our God, Psalm 48:8. This God is our God, Psalm 48:14!

Who can resist Him? The nations may rage like the kings gathered in Psalm 48:4 and the fleet of Tarshish in Psalm 48:7, but they will be reduced to a madness of panic (Psalm 48:6a), a helpless agony of pain (verse 6b), and the sheer terror of a sailor whose great ship is being shattered to smithereens beneath him (Psalm 48:7)! 

Jerusalem and her temple, and the earthly church now, exists for the worship of God. It is the place where He is praised (Psalm 48:1). It is the place where what is heard of Him (Psalm 48:8a) comes to be known by experience (verse 8b). It is the place where His steadfast, covenanted love is dwelt upon (Psalm 48:9a). It is the place where praise seeks to conform itself to the greatness of the Name of God (Psalm 48:10a–b). It is the place where His almighty power comes and gives righteousness (verse 10c). It is the place where the daughters are not feeble but rejoicing, exulting in the strength of Him Whose judgments determine how all things end (Psalm 48:11).

Or is it? Was Jerusalem such a place? It was supposed to be, but generation to generation forgot their God. Is the church such a place? In many places, praise God, it is. But are there not many places in which God Himself is not the glory of the church? It is so easy to have earthly structure and institution without heavenly reality and focus and joy. So the church must not give up her glorious calling, even in the midst of her current smallness and weakness. 

This is why the Psalm is filled with commands of contemplation and communication. Behold (Psalm 48:4). Walk about, all around, and count (Psalm 48:12). Mark well (Psalm 48:13a). Consider (verse 13b). The reality of God’s genuine presence in the church is one that might easily escape notice. Even worse, that reality is one that rather easily recedes from view. And then what? If God is all her glory, then if she ceases to have Him or to revolve around Him, whatever else she has is utterly worthless, regardless of how much men value it. By multiplication of focuses and activities, the church suffers the greatest subtraction there can ever be: the loss of the glory of God Himself. Therefore, those commands of contemplation are for the purpose also of communication: “that you may tell it to the generation following” (verse 13c). 

What heritage do we seek to leave for the next generation? God Himself! God’s glory as the only and infinite glory of His church. God’s power as her only defense. And therefore God’s institutions as her only program. The church shall never perish; her dear Lord to defend, sustain, and cherish, is with her to the end!

Then, we will see His great glory as the only glory of the church.

And then, nothing will ever be able to shake us, because this glorious God is our God. Forever and ever. He will be our guide—even to death.

How is God the greatness and glory of your church? In what activities, especially, do you get to contemplate Him and His glory? To whom, and how, are you communicating this greatness of His glory? When are you most needy of remembering how glorious is the God Who is His church’s defense and guide?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your exceedingly glorious greatness! Your almighty power is an impenetrable defense and makes Your work be established forever. Grant that we would think upon Your lovingkindness in Your worship, so that our praise would arise in accord with the greatness of Your Name. And make us faithful to tell of You and Your glory to the generation that is following us. Help us thus to praise You and know You in Jesus’s Name, AMEN! 

Suggested songs: ARP48B “Within Your Temple” or TPH48A “Great Is the LORD Our God”

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