Psalm 48: Mount Zion--yesterday, today, tomorrow
A song. A psalm of the sons of Korah.
(1)Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
(2)Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth,
like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.
(3)God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress.
(4)When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together,
(5)they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror.
(6)Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor.
(7)You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind.
(8)As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the LORD Almighty,
in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever.
(9)Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.
(10)Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.
(11)Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments.
(12)Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers,
(13)consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.
(14)For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
Zion, the City of Our God in the ESV, The Beauty and Glory of Zion in the NASB, Zion Exalted HCSB.
"This psalm, as the two former, is a triumphant song: some think it was penned on occasion of Jehoshaphat's victory (2 Chr. 17), others of Sennacherib's defeat, when his army lay siege to Jerusalem in Hezekiah's time; but, for aught I know, it might be penned by David on occasion of some eminent victory obtained in his time; yet not so calculated for that but that it might serve any other similar occasion in aftertimes, and be applicable also to the glories of the gospel church, of which Jerusalem was a type, especially when it shall come to be a church triumphant, the 'heavenly Jerusalem' (Heb. 12:22), 'the Jerusalem which is above' (Gal. 4:26)."
--Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
This psalm, similar to Psalm 46 and 47, is a great celebration of some miraculous circumstances. But these circumstances, thanks fully to the Holy Spirit, also give us a picture of times to come when our Lord will reign on earth, when all will know and bow to Him.
Maybe we will all be together singing this song upon Christ's return...
How great is the LORD, how deserving of praise, in the city of our God, which sits on his holy mountain! It is high and magnificent; the whole earth rejoices to see it! Mount Zion, the holy mountain, in the city of the Great King! God himself is in Jerusalem's towers, revealing himself as its defender.
Psalm 48:1-3 NLT
Today, Mount Zion is a hill outside the walls of the "Old City" of Jerusalem. In Old Testament times, this term sometimes referred to an actual hill, the highest point in ancient Israel, but other times it referred to the entire city itself. And, it is widely believed that the current "Mount Zion," where one can visit historical places (or replicas of), is not in the same place that it was during Old Testament times.
Originally, Mount Zion is where David built his palace which became known as the City of David, Jerusalem.
The current "Mount Zion" in the city of Jerusalem was believed to be built by Christian Crusaders.
Interestingly, Flavius Josephus (Roman Jewish Historian, 37 AD) documented what the city was like prior to its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD. His accounts of ancient history help us to see places where Bible history and secular history texts line up. His works are hard to read, having been written so long ago and translated from Greek to Latin to English, but still interesting.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all...
How great is Jehovah and most worthy of praise! God resides with His people. He is present and real within His Holy City. The author of this psalm felt God's presence within the city, and because of God's great love for His chosen people, the whole earth rejoices!
"Certainly the church of God, though despised of men, is the true joy and hope of the world."
--Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Jesus said to John as recorded in the book of Revelation,
The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will write on them my new name.
"Happy the kingdom, the city, the family, the heart, in which God is great, in which he is all. There God is known."
The KJV says, "the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King."
Never has the actual city of Jerusalem been considered "the joy of the whole earth." Ancient history, modern history, and current events reveal a different picture of what it's like to live in or near the city itself. The author was clearly speaking prophetically under the power of the Holy Spirit.
The kings of the earth joined forces and advanced against the city. But when they saw it, they were stunned; they were terrified and ran away. They were gripped with terror and writhed in pain like a woman in labor. You destroyed them like the mighty ships of Tarshish shattered by a powerful east wind.
We had heard of the city's glory, but now we have seen it ourselves--the city of the LORD of Heaven's Armies. It is the city of our God; he will make it safe forever.
Psalm 48:4-8 NLT
Here the author slips into an example of God's saving power. Some commentators use these verses to point to a specific time in history, but what is most important for us is that God will save. God will fight for us; whether it's a storm, a powerful navy, or all the kings of the earth joined together. God is on our side.
When the Israelites ran for their lives, with the Red Sea at their feet and angry armed Egyptian warriors behind them,
Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.
God is our loving Father and our fierce defender. He is the "LORD of hosts," mighty and powerful, and He is also "our God," loving and present and tender.
As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God:
God will establish it for ever.
Psalm 48:8 KJV
"As we have heard...so we have seen."
Have you heard of God doing great things in other people's lives, but He is yet to respond to what you need? Have you heard of God's saving or healing or redemptive power, but you have yet to see it in yourself or someone you love?
But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
As we have heard, so we have seen.
When you are stuck in between, wait on the Lord, and you will see.
Take a moment and let that all sink in.
O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory. Let the people on Mount Zion rejoice. Let all the towns of Judah be glad because of your justice.
Psalm 48:9-11 NLT
We have heard of your love, O God; we have seen examples of love, O God. And now, we think about/we meditate on your unfailing love, your covenant hesed, love that you have poured out on your children.
Because I have heard of and seen God's unfailing love, I will praise Him for the rest of my days. But I will also speak of His love and faithfulness. Just like His disciples, they heard Him speak, they saw the miracles and His sacrifice of love.
Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:16-20 ESV
Hear, see, meditate on, praise, and speak of.
"This God, who has now done such great things for us, is unchangeable in his love to us, and his care for us. If he is our God, he will lead us and keep us even to the last."
Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.
Psalm 48:12-14 NLT
The author here wants us to look to the strength of the city. See how many towers and citadels; see the strength of the walls; see the power.
At this point in Jerusalem's history, the city was a pillar of strength and beauty and renown.
But here is the key: "For that is what God is like."
"In these last two verses the city itself fades from view and we see God alone. All these marks of Jerusalem's glory and strength come from God, and this should be told to the generation following. The same God that builds and beautifies Jerusalem is our God forever and ever and will be our guide even to death."
--Pastor David Guzik, www.enduringword.com
Between Bible translations, there are some differences in verse 14.
That this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever. ESV
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. KJV
For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die. NLT
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end. NIV
Whatever the author is this psalm was trying to say about God and the end of life, we know without a doubt that God walks with us through death and into life everlasting.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4
"...and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20b
Father in heaven, thank you for your Word and for this psalm. Thank you for the Mount Zion of history and Mount Zion of the church today, and Mount Zion to come when you we will all be together again. Help us to keep this Word and promise in our hearts. Help us to hear and see and mediate on and speak of your faithfulness. We love you and we look to you for our strength today. Amen.