PSALM 48 TALK: WE REST ON THEE (OUR GREAT AND GLORIOUS GOD WHO PROTECTS AND GUIDES US)

PSALM 48 TALK

WE REST ON THEE

(OUR GREAT GLORIOUS GOD WHO PROTECTS AND GUIDES US)

 INTRODUCTION

 

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

Yes, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.

 

We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”

 

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

This famous hymn was written by Edith G. Terry in 1895 and had a revival of popularity in the twentieth century through the book “Through Gates of Splendor” written by Elizabeth Elliot in 1957. This book tells the story of five American missionaries – Jim Elliot (authors husband), Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian who sang this hymn before going on a mission trip deep into the Amazon jungle to reach the Huaorani tribe of eastern Ecuador. All five men were killed and eaten by the native people they sought to reach for Christ. Elizabeth Elliot bravely led a new missionary team into the same jungle area and was used by God to lead her husband’s killers to Christ.

Psalm 48 speaks of our great and glorious God who promises to protect and guide us, his church or his people but note what the last verse of this Psalm says,

“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end”

 Jim Elliot and his team paid the ultimate sacrifice for their missionary efforts, their very lives but God guided them into his “Pearly Gates of Splendour” where they now enjoy the beauty and splendour of the heavenly Zion of God forever. This is the hope of all Christians and Psalm 48 sets down four great truths related to this hope.

  1. GOD IS GREAT AND GLORIOUS (1 – 3)
  2. GOD IS A TRUSTWORTHY DEFENDER (4 – 8)
  3. GOD IS A GOD WHO DESERVES OUR PRAISE (9 – 11)
  4. GOD IS A GOD WHO GUIDES AND PROTECTS HIS PEOPLE (12 – 14)

Before we look more closely at these four great truths about our God and our hope in him I would like to give you a brief over view of the possible context of this Psalm.

Firstly this Psalm like the last five Psalms is attributed to “The Sons of Korah” who we have seen where leaders in Temple music and worship from the time of David

(1 Chronicles 6: 31- 47) right up to the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 11: 22 – 23).

The heading not only links this Psalm to the Sons of Korah but calls it a song and the song like many other Sons of Korah features both the Temple and worship in that Temple as seen in verse 9,

“In your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love”

 Secondly this Psalm or song seems to have been written after a major military event that involved the invasion of more than one foreign nation ganging up on Israel and threatening Jerusalem itself. We get this idea strongly from verse 4,

“When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together”

There seems to be only two possible times in Israel’s history that this could have taken place. The most favored one is in the days of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18 and 19) where the Assyrian forces led by Sennacherib besieged the city of Jerusalem in 701BC.

The problem with this is the text of Psalm 48 speaks of more than one king.

The other possible attack on Judah and Jerusalem is in the time of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) when three Nations actually did gang up to invade Judah in 849 B.C. The three nations led by their kings are Moab, Ammon and Edom and they got very close to Jerusalem and appeared to have it in their sites with overwhelming forces. However God fought for Judah and when Jehoshaphat’s army road out to meet this massive force they discovered that some kind of confusion had over taken them and they had turned on each other and were defeated.

Interestingly the story features a prominent Son of Korah of Jehoshaphat’s time named Jahaziel (1 Chronicles 20: 13) who prophesizes God’s victory over the enemies they faced. I wonder if this Son of Korah was the actual author of this Psalm, I can only speculate.

If this second book of Psalms is made up from what I have called a “Elohim Collection” of Psalms that were written during the time of David and Solomon then how did a Psalm written nearly a hundred years later end up in this collection?

Maybe later editors of the Psalms put this Psalm and others in this second collection and hopEfully my next point is a reason why this was done.

Thirdly and finally Psalm 48 seems to be very similar in many ways to Psalms 46 and 47, which all feature the rule of God over all the nations of the earth. This seems to be set in the context of the victory of God over Judah’s enemies who threatened Jerusalem and her holy Temple on Mount Zion. Coffman draws the three together with this summary,

“Psalm 46 extolled the deliverance, Psalm 47 extolled the power and majesty of Him who wrought it; and Psalm 48 describes the glory of the city which God has so marvellously preserved”.

The obvious similar theme of these three Psalms I think is the reason why the editors of the second book of Psalms put them together and if Psalm 48 relates to the victory of God over the three nations of Moab, Amon and Edom then maybe they saw the other two Psalms shedding light on this great event as well.

Lets now look more closely at the four great truths about our God and our hope in him that this Psalm presents to us.

  1. GOD IS GREAT AND GLORIOUS (1 – 3)

Psalm 48 begins with a clear and powerful truth about God,

“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise”

I like the way a minister by the name of Gise VanBaren explained this in a sermon he preached in 1998 which I found on the net,

“Great is the Lord, says the psalmist. Today man sings of his own greatness, his own willingness, his own cooperation with God. The psalmist, in this word of God, does no such thing. The psalm speaks of God, as does all of Scripture. And it emphasizes the central and glorious fact He is great”.

 I remember being told in Bible College by one of the lecturers there that if you want to have a bigger faith in God then you need to get a bigger view of God. All of the Nations of the ancient world had their God’s but Israel claimed that their God was the God of the whole world and universe as verse 10 puts it,

“Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth”

 This God of Israel is nothing more than the Sovereign King of everything as we learnt in the last Psalm talk on Psalm 47. As Psalm 47: 2 puts it,

“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth”

 If this Psalm is written in the context of Judah’s great victory over mighty foreign forces then what this Psalmist is saying is look see what God has done for us and therefore see how great he is.

Paul encourages us to trust in our great God as we face the dark forces of evil in this world with these great words, Ephesians 6: 10,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his mighty power”

 After this opening statement about how great God is the Psalmist then builds a poetic picture of the mighty splendor of our God and the place in which he dwells. He uses the very place of the Temple, Mount Zion for his main poetic picture. To unpack this poetic picture I need to answer the following three questions.

  1. Why is Jerusalem the city of God?
  2. Why is God supreme and full of splendor?
  3. Why can God be relied upon?
  1. Why is Jerusalem the city of God?

 The second half of verse 1 reads,

“In the city of our God, his holy mountain”

 The second half of verse 2 reads,

“the city of the Great King”

 As I said before all ancient nations had their God’s and they had their capital cities, which usually had a Temple, in which their God’s were said to dwell. Israel had one God named “Yahweh” and their capital city was Jerusalem and on one particular hill in that capital was their Temple. This of course changed when the nation split and Israel in the North had Mount Hebron but Judah in the South had Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

All other nations believed their God’s dwelt in their earthly palaces, usually called Temple’s and they also believed their God’s dwelt in the Heaven’s as well.

The unique claim of this Psalmist and the Old Testament is that their God was the one true God or King of all the earth. The “holy Mountain” also called, “Zion” represented this supreme God of Heaven and earth dwelling with his people. This is clearly seen in the fact that on “Zion” stood the Temple and in the centre of the Temple was the Holy of Hollies and in that place resided the Ark of the Covenant containing the two tablets of stones that God had written on to declare his ten commandments. These commandments represented the “Covenant Agreement” between God and his people and that agreement said that,

Leviticus 26: 12,

 “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people”

 Of course that agreement depended on his people, Israel keeping the law as Moses declares in Exodus 19: 5 – 6,

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.

 Note the concept clearly declared here is that Israel and its unique promised land with its capital Jerusalem was to have a ministry to the whole world as a witness to the one true God of Heaven and earth.

So the Psalmist sees this city of Jerusalem and its Holy Hill as a very beautiful and special place and in verse 2a he says this,

“It is beautiful in its loftiness the joy of the whole earth”

We know that the Temple was destroyed twice and the final time occurred under the Romans in AD. 70 and to this day it has not been rebuilt. So what is the significants of Jerusalem and particularly Mount Zion to us a Christians?

Coffman makes it clear what the significants of Jerusalem and Mount Zion is to the Christian with these words,

“These expressions are not intended to identify the place where God is praised, but the place where God resides. It is the indwelling of God in his chosen city that glorifies and secures the city as nothing else in heaven or upon earth could accomplish”.

 Jesus predicted that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed in

Matthew 24: 1 – 2,

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

 What did Jesus see as the replacement for the Temple?

After Jesus cleared the Temple of money changes and sellers of goods we read these amazing words in John 2: 18 – 22,

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken”.

 Once Jesus rose from the dead and went back to heaven Jesus gave his followers the gift of the Holy Spirit and from that day on his church on earth becomes his body as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12: 12 – 14,

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many”.

 Paul also taught that God’s replacement for his Temple on earth is in fact our body as we see in 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies”.

 Peter also saw the Church of Christ as the new Temple on earth with Christ being the cornerstone of a spiritual temple on earth. Listen to what he says in

1 Peter 2: 4 – 8,

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

 “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, 

and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, “and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for”.

 So corporately Christ Church on earth is both his body and his Temple and one day that will be clear to all when the earthly Temple of God, his church is united with Christ forever in the New Jerusalem of heaven as we read in Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

  1. Why is God supreme and full of splendor?

 Probably the most difficult verse to understand in Psalm 48 is the second half of verse 2, that reads,

“Like the heights of Zaphonis Mount Zion, the city of the Great King”.

 The words “heights of Zaphon” are translated in many other versions of the bible as “The North” like the well-known King James translation of these words,

“Is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King”.

 Mount Zaphon became a Hebrew word for “North” because as the writers of Wikipedia explain,

According to Isaiah 14:13 the mountain Zaphon is the location where the gods assembled. The old Semitic name apānu was used by the conquering Assyrians in the 8th century BCE and by the Phoenicians.As a prominent peak in the northern part of the Canaanite world, its name was used, for example in Psalm 48, Genesis 13:14 and Deuteronomy 3:27, as a synonym for the direction north”.

 However translating “Mount Zaphon” as “North” makes little sense in Psalm 48: 2b and a further probing reveals what is the more likely poetic meaning of the idea of Mount Zaphon. I am indebted to the writing’s of an author named Leslie J. Hoppe who wrote a book entitled “The Holy City – Jerusalem in the theology of the Old Testament” for my insight into what Mount Zaphon means in this Psalm. She writes,

“Dahood translates this verse as,

 “Mount Zion is the heart of Zaphon, the city of the great king”.

 Psalm 48 then transforms a Canaanite mythological motif by identifying Mount Zion with Mount Zaphon.

 For the psalmist Zaphon is no longer the residence of Baal but is identified with Zion, the residence of Yahweh. Contemporary readers of this Psalm may not catch the important assertion this verse is making. Baal is not King of the gods. It is Yahweh who is supreme over all. By appropriating the cosmic – mountain motif from the ancient New Eastern religious milieu, the psalmist underscores the greatness of God, a greatness that transcends the experience of ancient Israel”.

 This than is confirmed with the words at the end of this verse saying,

“The Great King”

 The God of Heaven and earth, the God of the Bible is great and as we saw in Psalm 47, “awesome” and “supreme” over all. We will see in the next section of the Psalm that this supremacy was demonstrated by his victory over the three nations that sought to topple Judah and its holy city Jerusalem.

Verse 3 the next verse seems to have this great victory in mind,

“God is in her citadels, he has shown himself to be her fortress”

 God’s greatness then relates directly to his splendour because the first part of verse 2 says,

“It is beautiful in its loftiness”

 Where God dwells then reflects his greatness and splendour. This is a major theme of the book of Revelation which is a glimpse of God in heaven and of the coming of his Son to establish heaven for all true believers forever and to judge and do away with all opposition, I must quote again those glorious words of John in Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

  1. Why can God be relied upon?

 The last verse in this opening section is a good introduction to the second section of the Psalm because it goes to the central theme of this Psalm namely the wonderful promise of God’s protection for his people and how he guides them.

Why God can be relied upon is spoken again in a beautiful poetic picture in verse 3,

“God is in her citadels, he has shown himself to be her fortress”

My title for this Psalm comes from that wonderful old hymn by Edith G. Terry, “We rest on thee” and this is exactly what this verse is poetically saying. The words,

“He has shown himself to be”

No doubt is referring to the recent victory of God over Judah’s enemies, which he will expand on in the next section.

The idea of God being a “fortress” is very prominent in the book of Psalms especially the many Psalms of David. For example David says in Psalm 18: 1 – 2,

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

 my God is my rock, in which I take refuge, my shieldand the hornof my salvation, my stronghold”.

I think David wrote these words and many like it because he knew what it was like to really “rest in God” and because he did rest or trust in God he proved that God was a God you could rely upon. Many New Testament characters reveal to us the same sort of thing. I think Paul is a supreme example of a man who rested or trusted in God throughout his life once he came to Christ. I like how Paul put what it meant for him to rest in God in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

 Christ is in us through the person of the Holy Spirit and Jesus teaches that he is in his church when they gather in his name as he says in Matthew 18: 20,

 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”.

 So God is in his Church and has demonstrated so many times in the past,

“To be her fortress”

  1. GOD IS A TRUSTWORTHY DEFENDER (4 – 8)

 As I have already indicated that verse 3 is a great introduction to this next section of the Psalm. We have just seen that God is with us both as individual believers and as a church and that makes him a reliable protector. We also have seen how this Son of Korah eluded to God showing us this truth in the words,

“He has shown himself to be her fortress”

 Now in verses 4 to 8 he poetically describes a great example of God’s deliverance as a defender of his people. I have broken this poetic description down into three main points:

  1. Who God delivered them from (vs. 4)
  2. How he delivered them (vs’s 5 – 7)
  3. What this deliverance means to us (vs. 8)
  1. Who God delivered them from (vs. 4)

 The fourth verse of Psalm 48 reads,

“When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together”.

 As I have already stated before this is the big clue to the possible historical context of this Psalm, the event that inspired it. Only two historical events fit into this and they are the dramatic siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian king named Sannacherib in 701BC in the time of King Hezekiah and the three nation allied attack in the time of King Jehoshaphat in 849 BC. I like the idea of the three – nation attack because the verse says,

“the kings joined forces”

 and a Son of Korah named Jahaziel plays a important role in this story.

The uniting of foreign enemies attacking God’s people reminds me of the prophecy in Psalm 2: 2 that reads,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

 This is a major underlining theme of both book 1 and 2 of Psalms and if it is not foreign armies seeking to bring down the faithful followers of Yahweh it is some other form of opposition or difficulty and God is there with them promising his protection and guidance. The Psalms do not promise God’s faithful followers will never face problems and difficulties but they do promise that God is a faithful defender of his people and all we need to do is rest or trust in him and he will help us.

In the Jehoshaphat story in 2 Chronicles the Son of Korah of that time named Jahaziel says this to the King, 2 Chronicles 20: 15 – 17,

“Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

 King Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah responded in faith and bowed down before the Lord, they rested in God. In verse 19 some of the sons of Korah of that time respond in this way,

“Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice”.

 The next day Jehoshaphat appoints men to, (verse 21),

“Sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

 ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever”.

 As Jehoshaphat’s army approached the armies of Moab, Ammon and Edom they turned on each other and by the time they got to the supposed battle field they found only dead bodies of the opposing army. Jehoshaphat and his army then plundered the defeated armies and returned to Jerusalem praising God all the way to the Temple.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

 

However like the people in Jehoshaphat time we can trust in God as our defender and guide as Paul says in the verses 10 and 11 of Ephesians 6,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

  1. How he delivered them (vs’s 5 – 7)

The psalmist does not give us a clear and simple description of how God delivered Judah from the three Kings and their armies like 2 Chronicles 20 sets down but rather uses poetic language to tell us how God defended them.

He writes in verses 5 and 6,

“They saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there,

 pain like that of a woman in labour”.

 We are not told in the 2 Chronicles 20 text what caused the Ammonites to turn on the Moabites and then the men from Edom but when this happened,

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord” (vs.22)

 It was as though it was hearing instead of seeing God’s army that led them to turn on each other and flee from them in defeat.

 In the Assyrian attack in 701 BC the Assyrian army was very close to the city of Jerusalem and had begun siege preparations and in 2 Kings 19: 35 – 36 tells us,

 “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there”.

 So the Assyrians faced God’s Angel and after much death and destruction withdrew or as verse 5 puts it, “Fled in terror”.

In both stories the poetry of Psalm 48 is describing a great victory of God over his enemies and the terror they faced when under the judgment of God is described poetically in verse 6,

“Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a women in labour”.

 The pain of child birth is considered by some as the worst pain human’s can experience and the pain and discomfort of God’s judgment is described by Jesus in Matthew 13: 42 this way,

“They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

 As the writer to the Hebrews put it in Hebrews 10: 31,

“It is a dreadful (or fearful) thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

 This is the sort of thing verses 5 and 6 is talking about and this terrible poetic picture of God judging the enemies of his people is also in verse 7,

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

 Leupold explains what this verse is really saying by pointing out that,

“The ships of Tarshish were the mightiest of the sea going vessels of there day”

 He then points out that,

“The ships of Tarshish represent any of man’s proud structures”.

 This means that against God no power or force of mankind has a chance against the mighty defender God we rest or trust in. Paul put it this way in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

  1. What this deliverance means to us (vs. 8)

 This second section of Psalm 48 features how God is a trustworthy defender and it finishes with a claim of how trustworthy God is. Verse 8 reads,

As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever”.

 What the people heard was that God had gone out and fought for them and gave them a great victory over their enemies. Not only had the people in Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah heard but many had seen this victory of God who is described here as “The Lord Almighty”. Again we see that he uses the poetic image of the city of our God which we have seen represents God’s presence because were God dwells is where God is.

Finally the verse says that God “makes her (or us) secure forever” meaning that God is with us if we rest or trust in him. As the last verse of Edith G. Terry hymn reads:

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendour,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

 Jim Elliot and his four missionary companions went out singing this hymn and they faced death at the hands of those they sought to win for Christ.

Yet even in there deaths they were secure forever for as the third line of Edith G. Terry says they passed through the gates of pearly splendour and the last line says they are victors and now rest in God in endless days.

So even in death God is our defender and guide and will bring us to be with him in the eternal city of God we also call heaven.

3. GOD IS A GOD WHO DESERVES OUR PRAISE (9 – 11)

The victory of God over the three Nations of Moab, Ammon and Edon recorded in 1 Chronicles 20 ends with a great time of praise in Judah as we see in 1 Chronicles 20: 27 – 28,

“Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the members of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lutes and trumpets”

 This historical even seems to be what lies behind the words of verses 9 – 11,

 “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness.Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments”.

I would like to make three applications of these three verses:

  1. True praise comes as we think back on what God has done for us (vs. 9)
  2. True praise should be based on who God is (vs. 10)
  3. True praise involves all God’s people (vs. 11)
  1. True praise comes as we think back on what God has done for us (vs.9)

 I have always had a great interest and involvement in what is called “History” but so many people today dismiss the role of history and say it has no relevance for our world today. However these same people will admit that often their immediate past has had a powerful impact on their current thinking and sense of well – being. A person who has been traumatised as a child has to have lots of counselling to be able to cope with life today. Or what about how so many things of the past play a direct influence on our daily living for both good and ill.

No, the past cannot be dismissed and must be understood to have a correct and healthy understanding of our world today. Verse 9 of Psalm 48 says,

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

The people of Judah went back to Jerusalem and entered the temple of God and there we are told they meditated on the unfailing love of God. What does it mean to “meditate” I found this excellent definition of Christian meditation on the Bible Gateway blog,

Meditation is a combination of reviewing, repeating, reflecting, thinking, analyzing, feeling and even enjoying. It is a physical, intellectual and emotional activity—it involves our whole being”.

So before the people launched into praise of God they thought deeply about what God had just done for them. Maybe they also thought of the many other great acts of God’s love for them as a nation. Note how this remembering of the past was very specific it focused on God’s, “unfailing love”.

The Psalmist and the people of Jehoshaphat’s time realized they did not deserve God’s protection and help it came to them because their God was a God of Love and gave them victory over their enemies even though they did not deserve it. The unfailing love of God or the Grace of God is a major theme of the whole bible. God’s Grace comes to an amazing climax in the sending of his Son to earth to die for our sins on the cross. As that famous New Testament verse says, John 3: 16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

As Christians we have a unique understanding of History which some have said is best described as “His Story” or God’s Story which not only transformed the lives and world of the first century but continues to do so in the twenty first century.

What does it mean to “To Rest on thee” it means first that we must think back on what God has done for us in Christ and then using that knowledge and realization live a life of praise. Praising God is more than mouthing words of praise, as Paul lays down in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

 Hebrews 13: 15 – 16 makes it clear that this offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice is a act of praise and should show itself in our daily lives,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

  1. True praise should be based on who God is (vs. 10)

Verse 10 follows on the idea of remembering what God has done by the fact it speaks of the name of God,

“Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness”.

There are many names for God in the Old Testament and each speaks of who God is and what he has done for us. Leupold writes,

“God has a name or reputation to the world one for mighty acts of deliverance”.

The God of the bible unlike all other God’s of the nations is a God of action and loving deeds and this would have been especially true for our Psalmist if he had just witnessed the defeat by God of the three nations that we think inspired this song.

Through the bible God’s acts of deliverance for his people have been recorded for all time and taken to the ends of the world.

Jesus great act of love in his sacrifice for our sins that has delivered us from the penalty of death which has been recorded in the Gospels and proclaimed just as he commanded, Luke 24: 46 – 48,

“He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things”.

So what should be the bases of our praise of God?

It must be based on what God has done for us in Christ. I have attended church services where a lot of “Praise the Lord” has been said but I would rather here “Praise the Lord for what he has done for me in Christ” that is a praise that is also a proclamation of the Gospel that can lead to others knowing Christ in there lives which brings even greater glory to God.

The last part of this verse says God’s

“Right hand is filled with righteousness”

The act of God defeating the three Nations was as both Leopold and Coffman point out has a double edge to it. Namely it was an act of judgment on the invading enemies of God and a act of deliverance for God’s undeserving people. We see again the two aspects of God namely his Love and Justice and this two should be part of both our praise for God and our proclamation of God.

  1. True praise involves all God’s people (vs. 11)

 In verse 11 we read,

“Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments”.

 The relevance of Mount Zion and the villages of Judah are well explained by Leupold who writes,

“The designation “Zion” had in mind the Holy City and so the ‘daughters of Judah’ signifies the smaller cities surrounding the mother city”.

 This means that all of God’s people joined in this praise of what God had done against the three Nations who invaded Judah and sought to conquer it. All of Judah both Jerusalem and it’s surrounding countryside benefited from God’s act of deliverance.

In the New Testament we have seen that Zion came to have a spiritual meaning and Hebrews 12: 22 – 24 says,

“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, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

This idea of the church being now “Zion” is also spoken of in Revelation 14: 1,

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads”.

So God wants all of his people, now known as the heavenly Zion or the church here on earth to rejoice in what he has done for us. Praising God then is not just for a few super spiritual Christians but is something we all must do and as Paul put it 1 Thessalonians 5: 18,

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

  1. GOD IS A GOD WHO GUIDES AND PROTECTS HIS PEOPLE (12 – 14)

 This brings us to the final section of this Psalm that speaks again of three things:

  1. God’s guidance and protection should be enjoyed by all his people (vs.12)
  2. God’s guidance and protection should be passed on to the next generation (vs. 13)
  3. God’s guidance and protection is promised to us forever (vs. 14)
  1. God’s guidance and protection should be enjoyed by all his people (vs.12)

Again this leader of singing in the Temple uses Jerusalem and Temple images to convey his message in his song about how God Guides and Protects his people. In verse 12 he writes,

“Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers”

Judah has just experienced a mighty visible demonstration of God’s guidance and protection when the three invading nations were defeated without God’s people having to fight against them. While they would have been under siege the city of Jerusalem would have been locked down in fear and they would have had no freedom.

Now that the siege is over the people are told to get out and walk around and take stock of what they have. They are being told to enjoy the freedom God’s guidance and protection has given them. Going around the city, which is said could have been done in half and hour and counting the many towers are ways of the people enjoying this newfound freedom God has won for them.

Paul writes in Galatians 5: 1,

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.

Paul is not saying because we are free we can do what we like for he speaks of this freedom being free from the burden of slavery. In Galatians he is writing against the heresy of the circumcision party who in New Testament times tried to force new Christians to add to their faith in Christ adherence to various Jewish laws like being circumcised. No, our freedom in Christ is our salvation from sin and its effects through faith in what Jesus has done for us.

Our freedom is to be enjoyed and celebrated Dr Charles Stanley writes,

“To those outside our faith, Christianity often seems like a religion of “dos” and “don’ts.” Many believers also fall into the trap of following a set of religious guidelines instead of enjoying a relationship with their heavenly Father.”

Stanley goes on to speak of four things the Christian believer is free from in his excellent article called “Our Freedom in Christ”:

  1. “Freedom from the bondage of sin
  2. Freedom from Guilt
  3. Freedom from fear of death
  4. Freedom from ceremonial law and man made religious traditions”.

When we truly rest in God we are made free from all of these four things Dr. Stanley speaks of and God like the people of Israel wants us to walk around or live as people who God has freed from the bondage of sin as Paul writes in Galatians 5: 13 – 14,

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

  1. God’s guidance and protection should be passed on to the next generation (vs. 13)

 This Son of Korah continues to use images dear to him to convey further teaching on the subject of God’s guidance and protection. He writes,

“Consider well her ramparts, view her citadels”

 The Pulpit commentary comments well on this,

“Note the height and fine masonry of her outer wall, which no people could destroy except the Romans”.

 The city and its walls where close to being destroyed by three mighty armies in King Jehoshaphat’s time and by a overwhelming massive Assyrian army in King Hezekiah’s time yet on both these occasions God protected the people and the city of Jerusalem by destroying the enemy as they planned to smash down the Holy Cities walls.

We have been seeing that the Holy City of Jerusalem in the New Testament is a spiritual image for the Church of Jesus Christ and Christ promises to guide and protect his church with his power like a ancient city is protected by a great wall. As Jesus promises Peter who’s God revealed statement of who Jesus is became the foundation of the Church in Matthew 16: 16 – 18,

“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter,and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadeswill not overcome it.

Paul describes the church to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3: 15 as,

“God’s household, the pillar and foundation of the truth”.

The writer then wisely advises the people of his time to pass the story of God’s great guidance and protection on to the next generation,

“That you may tell of them to the next generation”

 Way back in the beginning of God’s covenant agreement with Israel the transition of God’s truth to the next generation is laid down in passages like Deut. 6: 1 – 2,

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life”.

The idea of passing on God’s message to the next generation also appears in the New Testament like 2 Timothy 2: 2,

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others”.

Interestingly at the start of this second letter to Timothy Paul reminds Timothy of how he came to faith, 2 Timothy 1: 5,

“ I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also”.

We all a have a responsibility to pass the message of God’s guidance and protection through Christ on to the next generation and I really enjoy and appreciate opportunities of teaching younger Christians the word of God who I got from others before me.

  1. God’s guidance and protection is promised to us forever (vs. 14)

 The last verse makes a final clear statement of how God promises to guide and protect us forever,

“For this God is our God forever and ever: he will be our guide even to the end”.

 The word’s, “For this is our God”

 Is a loaded statement in the context of both this Psalm and the possible historical context as well. God has shown his guidance and protection to his people after they rested in him at a time when all seemed lost to a large and menacing enemy.

God had gone out and fought for his people and through his unfailing love gave them a great victory over their enemies. This love of God is not like the love we sometimes see in humanity, it comes and goes rather God’s love is eternal, is as the verse reads,

“For ever and ever”

 As Jeremiah puts it in Jeremiah 31: 3,

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”.

 God’s love calls us or draws us to himself and all we need to do is rest or trust in him and his love for us.

The final words of the Psalm is a great word of encouragement for all true believers,

“He will be our guide even to the end”

 Jim Elliot and his five companions proved these words to be true because even though they were killed by those they took the Gospel message to they still had God guiding them through the gates of pearly splendor. Leopold sums it up with these words,

“Somehow, He (God) is there, mighty to deliver and though the Church seems to be at the point of death she it is of whom the words are truly spoken: “dying, behold we live”.

 Paul put it this way in Roman’s 8: 37 – 39,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

I close with my own poem inspired by this Psalm and a prayer.

NO MATTER WHAT I REST IN YOU

You are our God so great and worthy

You are the Lord deserving praise

You sit in heaven wonderfully holy

May I rest in you all of my days.

Chorus:

 

I rest in you Oh my God

I trust that you can carry me through

I rest in you Oh my Savior

No matter what I rest in you.

 

You are so beautiful high and lofty

You bring us joy here on earth

You are the Lord of the universe

You give us life and rebirth.

 

Chorus:

 

You give us love and your protection

You sent your son to die for us

And through his death we have redemption

And so in him I rest and trust.

 

Chorus:

Your Son defeated Satan’s forces

Your Son gives victory to all

We turn to him with faith and repentance

But those who turn away will fall.

Chorus:

We have heard of your love in action

We have seen that you love us so

We are your Church your holy people

To the world we now must go.

Chorus:

We are free to serve the Lord together

Show how real God’s love can be

Pass on the message of salvation

And help others now to see.

Chorus:

You are our God who is ours forever

Your are our God who guides us through

The trials of life we face together

No matter what I rest in you.

No matter what I rest in you.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven I thank you for your beauty and your majesty, you are the Lord of all and I want to praise you. Help me to trust in you even when I face great difficulties or enemies in this life. Help me to always rest in you knowing that your promise is that you will be my guide and protector even when I face life’s end because then you will take me to be with you forever. In Jesus name I pray this, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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