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Today’s Psalm praises God for Jerusalem and the Temple. Some background knowledge may help us understand this Psalm better.
The Temple complex amounted to one-fourth of the entire area of Jerusalem. It was beautiful, but it also presented quite an obstacle to any army that wanted to come against the city.
For example, some of the stones in the complex are as large as a boxcar. Imagine trying to overcome those kind of fortification with iron age weapons.
Just like the struggles between super powers over oil in the Middle East today, there was a corresponding situation with grain at the time when this Psalm was composed.
Various powers wanted to obtain grain from Egypt and Jerusalem was an outpost that was the biggest threat between Egypt and other super powers. For that reason, the super powers of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Rome sought to conquer and control Jerusalem.
A Beautiful Fortress
The Psalm praises God for giving his people Jerusalem and the Temple.
The Lord is great and is to be highly praised
in the city of our God, on his sacred hill.
Zion, the mountain of God, is high and beautiful;
the city of the great king brings joy to all the world.
God has shown that there is safety with him
inside the fortresses of the city. (Psalm 48.1-3)
The beauty of the Temple was not lost on Jesus’ followers. They said, “Look, Teacher! What wonderful stones and buildings!” (Mark 13.1).
To the people who accompanied Jesus from the Galilee region of Israel, the Temple must have been an object of awe. However, don’t imagine it to be similar to beautiful and ornate church. It also was a military fortress as was alluded to in the Psalm.
The kings gathered together
and came to attack Mount Zion.
But when they saw it, they were amazed;
they were afraid and ran away. (Psalm 48.4-5)
Far more important than the beauty and power of the Temple was the fact that God established his presence there.
I have often said that what makes heaven so wonderful is that God is there. In fact, if God is not in heaven, then it is hell rather than heaven. The same is true for the Temple. What made it so beautiful was the presence of God.
Inside your Temple, O God,
we think of your constant love.
You are praised by people everywhere,
and your fame extends over all the earth.
You rule with justice;
let the people of Zion be glad!
You give right judgments;
let there be joy in the cities of Judah! (Psalm 48.9-11)
The Psalm praises God for three aspects of his character: his constant love, justice and righteousness.
God’s constant love is one of the major themes of the Bible. Moses told the people as they were about to enter the promised land, “Remember that the Lord your God is the only God and that he is faithful. He will keep his covenant and show his constant love to a thousand generations of those who love him and obey his commands” (Deuteronomy 7.9).
Moses told the people that God chose to form a personal relationship with them and that their relationship would involve mutual faithfulness. The people were to follow God’s directions.
He said, “Now then, obey what you have been taught; obey all the laws that I have given you today” (Deuteronomy 7.11).
God is not a tyrant, who makes unnecessary rules that burden people. He is loving Father who knows how life works. If people follow his direction, they will experience the best life possible, because to follow his principles is to experience life.
Moses underscored the importance of following God’s guidance. He said, “He will love you and bless you, so that you will increase in number and have many children; he will bless your fields . . . He will give you all these blessings in the land that he promised your ancestors he would give to you. No people in the world will be as richly blessed as you” (Deuteronomy 7.13-14).
What is interesting is that the Hebrew word we have translated “constant love” incorporates all that Moses spoke in Deuteronomy.
To re-state this important truth, “constant love” describes how a personal God forms personal relationships with people. He deeply desires to bless us, but knows that we must follow his guidance in order to experience his best. All of this is incorporated in the Hebrew word we translate “constant love.”
Justice and Righteous
God, who inhabited the Temple, could be counted on to do what is right with complete justice. What do you call a leader who had great power, but is unjust? A tyrant is who he is.
God’s people didn’t always understand his ways with them. Psalms 42-44 express grief and confusion over events in the lives of God’s people.
The personal relationship that was present because of “constant love,” allowed them to complain to God. They even bordered on questioning his justice, when they prayed “You have rejected us, sold us out, and made us a joke” (Psalm 44.9, 12, 14).
Even though their lives were not as glorious as this Psalm seems to suggest, their faith was firmly in God’s character that is characterized by love, justice, and right dealing with his people.
How to Use this Prayer
This is not an especially easy Psalm to turn into a prayer. I recommend that you focus on the concept of “constant love.”
Talk to God about the greatest opportunity of a lifetime, which is to have a personal relationship with the Greatest Being of All. Most of us know very few great men and women, but we can talk every day to their Creator and ours.
“Constant love” implies a mutual relationship. God is our God and cares for us. That is his side. Our side is to follow his directions for life. We can talk to God about how well we are keeping our side of the agreement.
We may feel some of what happens to us or to other people is not just. The Psalms give us freedom to talk freely to God about justice issues. Enter into a dialogue with him about both justice and right living in the earth.
Finally, join in giving God praise with the last verse of this Psalm.
“This God is our God forever and ever;
he will lead us for all time to come.” (Psalm 48.14)
May We Pray for You?
The prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church is honored to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and ask the team to pray, too.