God’s Word for You
Psalm 48:8-14 The City of God
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, January 11, 2020
This was one of the Psalms sung in the temple on a particular day of the week. The Jewish Mishnah records that the Levites sang Psalm 24 on Sundays, Psalm 48 on Mondays, Psalm 82 on Tuesdays, Psalm 94 on Wednesdays, Psalm 81 on Thursdays, Psalm 92 on Fridays, and Psalm 93 on the Sabbath (Mishnah, Tamid 7:4). Doubtless other songs were sung, especially on the Sabbath, but these Psalms accompanied such worship times as the evening and morning sacrifices.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the LORD of Armies,
in the city of our God,
which God makes forever secure. Selah
Taken by itself, this verse might confuse a reader. What is it that “we have heard” and that “we have seen”? But the two phrases are grammatically interconnected. The combination of “hear” and “see” runs right through the whole Bible.
What we have heard, and what we have seen: The one answers the other. What is it we have heard? In the temple of God within his city, we have heard his word spoken; the laws, judgments, and promises of God. What is it we have seen? The fulfillment of those very things. The fulfillment of the law is done imperfectly by mankind; it is tainted by flaws, inaccuracies, and sin. The judgments of God are perfect because they are from God, but that is why man fears God, because his perfect judgment judges our imperfect and flawed obedience. But the promises of God are what cover over our guilt and shame and make us right with God.
The true city of God is not built with walls, but with the gospel of his forgiveness. Inside the security of the gospel we are forever safe, forever secure, forever alive in Christ.
9 Within your temple, O God,
we have contemplated your unfailing mercy.
10 Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
The word “contemplated” might suggest quiet meditation or study. But the very next verse describes praise to God most high, and this doesn’t sound very quiet at all. There is a time for quiet contemplation, and there is a time for public worship, singing, praising, and loud preaching that reaches into every ear and into every single heart.
Once again there is a cause-and-effect combination here: Just as God’s name reaches to the end of the earth (and everything about God is contained in his name), so also the praise of God, man’s response to God’s grace, also reaches to the end of the earth. Praise of God follows the proclamation of God. First the law and gospel, then the response. First of all, and foremost: Justification. Second of all, and always following after: Sanctification.
God will be glorified in the end by all mankind and by all the angels; all creation will bow and give him glory. Luther said: “Even if God is not justified, but judged [that is, by sinful men in their unbelief], he overcomes nevertheless, and he will be justified, even if by the unwilling. Those who now do not want to accuse themselves and justify God, when they are chosen in gentleness and goodness, will finally do this when they are overcome by power and severity, namely, after death and in the last judgment. This insight is useful not only for this verse or this psalm but for all, wherever there is recollection of the praise and righteousness and glory of God. For God cannot be praised, justified, glorified, magnified, admired, etc., unless we ourselves are at the same time, and beforehand, disparaged, accused, and put to shame, and vice versa. Where our shame and accusation is in evidence, there the praise of God and the remembrance of his righteousness becomes a reality.”
11 Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
because of your judgments!
12 Go around Zion,
go all the way around and count her towers.
13 Consider her ramparts carefully.
Look through her citadels;
so that you may tell the next generation.
14 For this is God, our God for ever and ever.
He will be our guide to the very end.
The Psalm ends with a procession, a parade of musicians and worshipers, walking all around the temple of God, as we see in Nehemiah 12:24-43. The worshipers walked all around the temple wall, praising God. Here our writer urges us to consider God’s house and his city and notice everything about it. Memorize in your mind what this looks like; what God has provided. This is God’s design; his plan. He has shown man in the plan of the tabernacle (and temple) that he, and especially his forgiveness (on the atonement cover of the ark in the Holy of Holies) is the very center of human existence. Surrounding this is the life of worship and our dedication to God. Surrounding this is the city, with each of us having our place near the center of worship. We notice that there are towers, walls, ramparts and fortifications, because in this life we have enemies; the enmity of the devil has been placed between us, the children of Eve, and Satan who wants to beguile us (Genesis 3:15). His enmity or hatred was placed there by God as part of the curse, and in part the existence of this enmity keeps us aware that the devil is our enemy; he is never our friend. It is always a mistake to go looking to the devil for anything at all. This is why witchcraft and the like are forbidden, condemned, and severely punished (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4).
God is our protection outside and our spiritual center within. We are within him just as he is within us. We keep our faith seated firmly in God and in his Son Jesus Christ, and we will continue to praise him and be safe in him for all eternity, whatever happens in this lifetime.
Pastor Timothy Smith