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Psalm 48

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah.     Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,  in the city of our God, his holy mountain.

A Psalm of worship. A Psalm depicting threats of enemies. A Psalm celebrating victory through the protection of God. A Psalm of legacy. A Psalm of hope. Let us discover how Psalm 48 personally connects with us in a modern culture despite its many ancient references.

The Psalmist either writes this song/psalm about the sons of Korah, or the Psalmist is collectively the sons of Korah. Theologians debate about which Korah this refers to, but these details do not matter as much as the substance of the Psalm itself.

Psalm 48 begins with worship. Great is the LORD. Not only is He worthy of praise, but the LORD God is most worthy of praise!

The area where I currently live continually produces breathtaking sunsets. I am blown away each new evening as I gaze across the valley of Southeastern Idaho, marveling at the stunning orange-yellow-purple-reddish skies. The canvas of the sky bursts with vivid contrast and splashes of visual artistry, formed and designed by our amazing Creator.

As I find myself literally breathless and in awe, my thoughts are held captive to the notion that God Almighty created this! In moments like this, I am able to fully vest in the words, Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise.

Similarly:  The moments I’ve watched my newborn children taking their first breath.

Times when I’ve seen broken marriages restored through unexplainable grace and forgiveness.

Tender and miraculous scenes unfolding in front of my eyes, reminding me that something greater has purposed our existence.

These are snippets of reality when these words speak to my heart, mind and soul.

Beautiful in its loftiness,  the joy of the whole earth,     like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.

Here the Psalmist describes the city of the Great King – God Himself – the King of Kings. He rules over the kingdom and people He elected and declared to be His own on Mount Zion.

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are a part of that kingdom. He is our King. While our eyes might not yet be able to perceive His kingdom in all of its glory, we are able to catch glimpses. In moments like the ones mentioned above – in moments when we see acts of compassion and kindness – in moments when our purpose is fully realized as vessels of His Spirit’s will. These are glimpses into the beautiful joy of the whole earth, as we serve our King.

    God is in her citadels;  he has shown himself to be her fortress.

The Psalmist acknowledges God’s very presence within the citadels of the city. A citadel is a strong fortress that protects a city. God Himself is the substance of protection.

   When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together,

How many times in your life have you seen obstacles, enemies, unexpected circumstances or potentially scary situations rising up against you? How often have you cried out to God, “Why does everyone and everything seem to be against me?” The Psalmist describes a collective rising force of strong military action against the city.

    they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror.

However, when the military assault was able to see the city, the fight was over. The collective military powerhouse came face-to-face with the citadel of God Himself, resulting in a full retreat. The natural inclination of human beings is to immediately fear when facing the glory of God’s holy presence.[1]

    Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor.

The Psalmist captures the vivid imagery of intense turmoil – assumed to be graphic labor pain – sweating, high blood pressure, tears, tremors, screams and shrieks of pain. This is the image of God’s enemies, no matter how strong their military force happens to be in human terms, seeing His glory and majesty.

    You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind.

Here the Psalmist describes the mighty vessels of Tarshish – thought to be a large city in the ancient world – possibly a major stop on trade routes.[2] Picture the largest and most significant trade vessels of the day, the foundation of an industry or backbone of an entire infrastructure shattered by a powerful wind. It is an image of complete and utter annihilation . This is the kind of destruction where people hang their heads and say, “There was nothing I could do.”

    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.

Throughout Israel’s history, the people of God have seen time and time again the faithfulness of the LORD. This ongoing witness of His provision, protection and faithfulness is a testament to His integrity and trustworthiness. Safety, security and confidence are the results for His people for all eternity.

    Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

In response, we think about and consider His love that never betrays us.

I would underline for us, a modern fellowship of believers, to keep records of His faithfulness in our lives. The cliché, how soon we forget, sadly encompasses our common response to the blessings from our faithful God. Grab a nice leather-bound notebook, a $2 college-ruled composition notebook, a 3×5 pocket notebook, anything – to keep a written account of blessings, answered prayers and other evidences of His unfailing love for us. Use these written records to help you meditate on His goodness. Use these reminders as encouragements when you enter into a season of dryness, testing, or even when the metaphorical military forces of kings and nations seem to be taking up arms against you.

     consider well her ramparts, view her citadels,      that you may tell of them  to the next generation.

The Psalmist implores the people of God to see what God has done – to stand as living testaments to His faithfulness – to pass on the legacy of faith in Him to their children. Let nothing be forgotten.

On the anniversary of 9/11, as a nation, we hold moments of silence. We have immortalized phrases like, Never Forget. 9/11 was a national tragedy. Nearly 3,000 innocent people lost their lives and over 6,000 were injured. We remember because it hurt. We remember because we lost more than lives on that day.

Likewise, and even more importantly, the Psalmist charges the people of God to never forget. We remember His faithfulness, love and protection because we have gained more than a temporary blessing. We have an eternal hope in Him.

For this God is our God for ever and ever;

he will be our guide even to the end.

There is only One true God. He stands eternally faithful. His love endures forever. This was not just a momentary song of admiration for a long-forgotten god in the ancient world. This is a song for us today as well. This is a song that has as much significance for a 21st Century believer as it did for the people of Israel. This is a song of worship and adoration for the God of Abraham, Isaac, David, Noah, Moses, Peter, John, Paul, you, me and for the entire world.

We worship because He is worthy. We worship because He is faithful. We worship because He is our fortress. We worship because through His son, Jesus, we have the opportunity to stand blameless before our Almighty God.

Share this good news. Tell those around you about the hope we have. May we share this with our present generation and the next and the next and the next.​ [1] Exod 3:6b; Luke 1:30; Matt 28:5, 10 [2] 1 Kgs 10:22; Ps 72:10; Isa 60:9