This Psalm is a triumphant song. It was probably penned by David upon the occasion of some victory. Yet it is also applicable to the glories of the gospel church, of which Jerusalem was a type. Especially so when it shall come to be a church triumphant, the “heavenly Jerusalem”, (Heb. 12:22). “The Jerusalem which is above,” Gal. 4:26. Jerusalem is praised for its relation to God and for God’s care of it. This Psalm reminds us of the privileges we have as members of the church and excites us to further its cause. Zion, the City of our God.
Psalm 48 – Zion, 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. Within her citadels God has made Himself known as a fortress. For behold, the kings assembled; they came on together. As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic; they took to flight. Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labour. By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever. Selah
We have thought on Your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of Your temple. As Your name, O God, so Your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Your judgments! Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.
It is the City of our God
Henry says – The Psalmist intends to praise Jerusalem and to describe the grandeur of that city. He begins with the praises of God and His greatness (Ps. 48:1). It ends with the praises of God and His goodness, Ps. 48:14. Whatever is the subject of our praises, God must be both the Alpha and Omega of them.
The King of heaven owns Jerusalem: it is the city of our God (Ps. 48:1). He chose it out of all the cities of Israel to put His name there. He has said kinder things of Zion than He has of any other place on earth. This is my rest forever, here I will dwell, for I have desired it, Ps. 132:13, 14. It is the city of the great King (Ps. 48:2), the King of all the earth. He is pleased to declare Himself in a special manner present there. This our Saviour quotes to prove that to swear by Jerusalem is profanely to swear by God Himself (Matt. 5:35), for it is the city of the great King. He has chosen it for the special residence of His grace, as heaven is of His glory.
Jerusalem is enlightened with the knowledge of God. In Jerusalem God is great (Ps. 48:1) who in other places was made little of or was made nothing of. Happy the kingdom, the city, the family, the heart, in which God is great, in which He is uppermost, in which He is all. There God is known (Ps. 48:3) and where He is known He will be great. Only those who are ignorant of God, condemn Him.
There He is greatly to be praised
Jerusalem is devoted to the honour of God. It is therefore called the mountain of His holiness, for holiness to the Lord is written upon it and all the furniture of it, Zech. 14:20. This is the privilege of the church of Christ, that it is a holy nation, a peculiar people. It is the place appointed for the solemn service and worship of God. For there He is greatly praised, and greatly to be praised, Ps. 48:1.
The clearer the discoveries that are made to us of God and His greatness, the more it is expected that we should praise Him. They brought their offerings to Jerusalem and had reason to be thankful. Thankful that God would not only permit them to attend Him, but promise to accept them. He met them with a blessing, and reckoned Himself praised and honoured by their services.
In this Jerusalem typified the gospel church. What little tribute of praise God has from this earth arises from that church upon the earth, which is His tabernacle among men. It is taken under His special protection. (Ps. 48:3) He is known for a refuge, He has approved Himself as one, and is applied to as such by His worshippers. Those who know Him will trust in Him, and seek Him, Ps. 9:10. God was known, not only in the streets, but even in the palaces of Jerusalem, as a refuge.
The joy of the whole earth
Jerusalem, and especially Mount Zion, on which the temple was built, were universally beloved and admired—beautiful for situation, and the joy of the whole earth, Ps. 48:2. The situation needs to be agreeable in every way, for Infinite Wisdom chose it for the place of the sanctuary. It was the mountain of holiness which made it beautiful, for there is a beauty in holiness. This earth is, by sin, covered with deformity. Yet that spot of ground was beautified with holiness and called the joy of the whole earth. The whole earth had reason to rejoice that God would dwell with man upon the earth.
Yet the neighbouring princes were in a confederation against Jerusalem. They had had too much occasion to fear their enemies; for the kings were assembled, Ps. 48:4. Their heads and horns, their policies and powers, were combined for its ruin. They were assembled with all their forces. They passed, advanced, and marched on together. They did not doubt that they would soon make themselves masters of that city which should have been the joy, but was the envy of the whole earth.
God made their enemies to fear them. The very sight of Jerusalem struck them with dread and put their fury in check. Just as the sight of the tents of Jacob frightened Balaam from his purpose to curse Israel (Num. 24:2): They saw it and marvelled, and ran away, Ps. 48:5. Not that there was anything to be seen in Jerusalem that was so formidable. But the sight of it brought to mind what they had heard concerning the special presence of God in that city and the Divine protection it was under. God impressed such terrors on their minds that made them retreat.
Let faith in the Word of God be confirmed
Though there were many kings in confederacy, yet they knew themselves an unequal match for Omnipotence. Therefore fear came upon them, and pain, Ps. 48:6. God can dispirit the stoutest of His church’s enemies, and soon put those in pain who live at ease. The fright they were in upon the sight of Jerusalem is compared to a woman in travail of childbirth. Pains which are sharp and grievous and can sometimes come suddenly (1 Thess. 5:3). They cannot be avoided and are effects of sin and the curse.
Their designs upon Jerusalem were defeated. A defeat compared to a violent storm against a fleet of ships. When some are split, others shattered but all dispersed (Ps. 48:7): You break the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. The terrors of God are compared to an east wind (Job 27:20, 21). These shall put them into confusion, and break all their attempts. Who knows the power of God’s anger?
Here is the good use which God’s people are taught to make of His gracious appearances for them against their enemies. That it might work for their good. Let our faith in the Word of God be confirmed. If we compare what God has done with what He has spoken, we shall find that, as we have heard, so have we seen (Ps. 48:8). What we have seen, obliges us to believe what we have heard.
God is the Lord of hosts
“As we have heard in the days of old, so have we seen done in our own day.” God’s latter appearances for His people against His and their enemies are consistent with His former appearances. We should bring them to mind. “As we have heard in the promise and prediction, so have we seen in the performance and accomplishment. We have heard that God is the Lord of hosts, and that Jerusalem is the city of our God. It is dear to Him and is His particular care. But now we have seen it. We have seen the power of our God and His goodness. We have seen His care and concern for us. He is a wall of fire around Jerusalem and the glory in the midst of her.” In the great things that God has done, and is doing, for His church, it is good to take notice of the fulfilling of the scriptures. This would help us better understand His Providence and of the scriptures that are fulfilled.
Let our hope of the stability and perpetuity of the church be so encouraged. “From what we have seen, compared with what we have heard, in the city of our God, we may conclude that God will establish it forever.” This was not fulfilled in Jerusalem (that city was long since destroyed, and all its glory laid in the dust). But has its accomplishment in the gospel church. We are sure that that shall be established forever. It is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, Matt. 16:18. God Himself has undertaken to establish it. It is the Lord who has founded Zion, Isa. 14:32. What we have seen, compared with what we have heard, may encourage us to hope in that promise of God, upon which the church is built.
Great things He has done
Let our minds be filled with good thoughts of God. “From what we have heard and seen and hope for, we may think much of God’s loving-kindness. Especially whenever we meet in the midst of His temple,” Ps. 48:9. All the streams of mercy that flow down to us must be traced up to the fountain of God’s lovingkindness. It is not owing to any merit of ours, but purely to His mercy, and the peculiar favour He bears to His people.
Therefore we must think with delight and think of it frequently and fixedly. What subject can we dwell upon that is more noble, more pleasant or more profitable? We must have God’s lovingkindness always before our eyes (Ps. 26:3), especially when we attend upon Him in His temple. When we meet in His temple and there is none to make us afraid, we should take the occasion to think of His lovingkindness.
Let us give God the glory of the great things He has done for us (Ps. 48:10): “According to Your Name, O God! so is Your praise, not only in Jerusalem, but to the ends of the earth.” God had made Himself a Name. He has gloriously revealed His wisdom, power and goodness and made all the nations aware of it. So was His praise, some in all parts of the earth will be found giving glory to Him. As far as His name goes so will His praise go, when all the ends of the world shall praise Him, Ps. 22:27; Rev. 11:15.
He works for the good of His church
Some, by His Name, understand especially that glorious name of His, the Lord of hosts. According to that name, so is His praise. For all the creatures, even to the ends of the earth, are under His command. But His people must, in a special manner, acknowledge His justice in all He does for them. “Righteousness fills Your right hand,” all the operations of Your power are consistent to the eternal rules of equity.
Let all the members of the church take to themselves the comfort of what God does for His church in general. (Ps. 48:11): “Let Mount Zion rejoice, and let all the daughters of Judah, the country towns, and the inhabitants of them, be glad. Let the women in their songs and dances celebrate with thankfulness for the great salvation which God has wrought for us.” When we have given God the praise, we may then take the pleasure of the extraordinary deliverances of the church. We can be glad because of God’s judgments (that is, the operations of His providence). All of which we may see wrought in wisdom (therefore called judgments) and working for the good of His people.
Let us diligently observe the evidences of the church’s beauty, strength and safety. We ought to faithfully communicate our observations to those who come after us (Ps. 48:12, 13): Walk about Zion. Some think this refers to the triumphant ceremony. Let those who are employed in that solemnity walk round the walls (as they did, Neh. 12:31), singing and praising God. In so doing let them tell the towers and mark well the bulwarks. Let them magnify the wonderful deliverance God had wrought for them. The enemies will not only ruin or destroy it, but not so much as hurt or deface it.
Set Your heart on her bulwarks
This will cause them to fortify themselves against any fear of another threatening danger at another time. So we may understand it literally of Jerusalem, and the strong-hold of Zion. Let the daughters of Judah see the towers and bulwarks of Zion, with a pleasure equal to the terror with which the kings their enemies saw them, Ps. 48:5. Jerusalem was generally looked upon as an impregnable place, Lam. 4:12. All the inhabitants of the world would not have believed that an enemy should enter the gates of Jerusalem, nor could they have entered if the inhabitants had not sinned away their defence.
Set your heart to her bulwarks. This intimates that the principal bulwarks of Zion were not the objects of sense, which they might set their eye upon. But the objects of faith, which they must set their hearts upon. It was well enough fortified by nature and art. But its bulwarks that were mostly to be relied upon was the special presence of God in it. The beauty of holiness He had put upon it, and the promises He had made concerning it. “Consider Jerusalem’s strength, and tell it to the generations to come, that they may do nothing to weaken it. If at anytime it be in distress, they may not surrender it to the enemy as indefensible.”
Christ is that rock
When the disciples were admiring the buildings of the temple their Master told them that in a little time one stone of it should not be left upon another, Matt. 24:1, 2. Therefore this can certainly be applied to the gospel church, Heb. 12:22. “Consider the towers, and bulwarks, and palaces that you may be encouraged to join yourselves to it and embark on it. Christ is that rock fortified by Divine power. The church is guarded by Him who neither slumbers nor sleeps. What precious ordinances are its palaces, what precious promises are its bulwarks. Tell this to the generation that follows. That they may with purpose of heart join with its interests and cleave to it.”
Let us triumph in God, and in the assurances we have of His everlasting loving-kindness, Ps. 48:14. Communicate this truth as a sacred deposit to your posterity. That this God, who has now done such great things for us, is our God forever and ever. He is constant and unchangeable in His love to us and His care for us. If God be our God, He is ours forever, not only through all the ages of time, but to eternity. For it is the everlasting blessedness of glorified saints that God Himself will be with them and will be their God, Rev. 21:3.
He will be our guide
If He be our God, He will be our faithful constant guide, to show us our way and to lead us in it. He will be so, even unto death, bringing us to our rest. He will lead and keep us even to the last. He will so guide us as to set us above the reach of death, so that it shall not be able to do us any real hurt.
He will be our guide beyond death. He will conduct us safely to a happiness on the other side death, to a life in which there shall be no more death. If we take the Lord for our God, He will conduct and convey us safely through death, and beyond death—down to death and up again to glory.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Our Guide to the End Which way shall we go? How do we decide? Wait, has He not promised That He will be our guide? There are two roads we can follow. We are waiting to do what is right But our thinking is unfortunately limited We only have partial sight. Let us place ourselves, our lives Now, this very day Under His guidance, for if we do We shall never miss our way. We shall find Him our Guide If Him our God we make. Let us learn to lean upon Him For every step we take. He will never cease to be with us. On His Word we can depend. He is our God for ever and ever Even to the very end. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer for the Day
Father, I come to You. Whatever is the subject of my praise, let it be that You are both the Alpha and Omega of them. I pray that You be uppermost in my family and my heart, to be all in all. When You reveal new discoveries to me of Your greatness, I pray it will result in more praise to You. Thank You that You promise to accept my attempts to attend to You. That You meet me with a blessing, and reckon Yourself praised and honoured by my services. I pray that from me You would receive a constant tribute of praise. Thank You that You take me under Your special protection. For You are a refuge and have proved Yourself as such. I will trust in You and seek You.
Thank You that any enemies are an unequal match for You, Omnipotent One. You can dispirit the stoutest of Your people’s enemies. You shall put them into confusion, and break all their attempts. I know that You cause all to work for my good. Let my faith in Your Word be confirmed. Help me to bring to mind all the good that You have done. Remind me to record Your goodness to pass on to the next generation.
You are the hope of the stability and perpetuity of the church. You have assured us that we shall be established forever. You Yourself have undertaken to establish it. Let my mind be filled with good thoughts of You. Let all the streams of mercy that flow down to me be traced up to the fountain of Your lovingkindness. It is not owing to any merit of mine, but purely to Your mercy, and the peculiar favour You bear to Your people.
Let Your lovingkindess be always before my eyes
Cause me to think with delight and think of Your goodness frequently and fixedly. For there is no other subject that is more noble, more pleasant or more profitable to dwell on. Let Your lovingkindness be always before my eyes. I will give You the glory for all the great things You have done for me.
All the creatures, even to the ends of the earth, are under Your command. I will acknowledge Your justice in all You do for them. Remind me that when I have given You the praise then I may expect extraordinary deliverances. I can be glad because of Your judgments which I may see wrought in wisdom working for the good of Your people.
I will magnify the wonderful deliverances You have wrought for me. The enemies will not only ruin or destroy, but not so much as hurt. Let this cause me to fortify myself against any fear of another threatening danger at another time. Let me set my heart upon the objects of faith. That nothing may weaken it. If at anytime I be in distress, may I never surrender to the enemy as one indefensible.
Christ is my Rock
Christ is my Rock fortified by Divine power. Your people are guarded by Him who neither slumbers nor sleeps. Let it be told to the generation that follows. That they may, with purpose of heart, join with Your interests and cleave to You. May I triumph in You, and in the assurances I have of Your everlasting loving-kindness. You are constant and unchangeable in Your love to us and Your care for us. If You be our God, You are ours forever, not only through all the ages of time, but to eternity.
You will be my faithful constant guide, to show me my way. You will be so, even unto death, bringing me to my rest. You will lead and keep me even to the last. You will so guide me as to set me above the reach of death, so that it shall not be able to do me any real hurt. You will be my guide beyond death. You will conduct me safely to a happiness on the other side death, to a life in which there shall be no more death. I will take You to be my God, and I know You will convey me safely through death, and beyond death—down to death and up again to glory. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.