The Lord and His City (6)
Opening Prayer: Psalm 48.12-14
Walk about Zion,
And go all around her.
Count her towers;
Mark well her bulwarks;
Consider her palaces;
That you may tell it to the generation following.
For this is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will be our guide
Even to death.
Sing Psalm 48.12-14
(Cwm Rhonda: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah)
Walk about the blessèd city, see her beauty, see her power.
Count her ramparts, filled with glory, look on ev’ry mighty tower.
Tell her glory to the nations: God will guide her evermore;
God will guide her evermore!
Read Psalm 48.12-14
1. How is the city of God described here?
2. What encouragement should we take from that?
I consider this one of the most remarkable passages in the entire Psalter, if not the whole Old Testament.
The sons of Korah begin this final stanza of Psalm 48 by inviting us to consider the strength, magnitude, and beauty of the city of God. The city of God was a physical place in their day – Jerusalem, with Mt. Zion at its center. But in coming to faith in Jesus Christ, believers come to the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, which is bounded only by the work of God’s Spirit in the hearts of those who believe (cf. Heb. 12.22-24). All that was written about Zion and Jerusalem in the Old Testament applies to believers and their churches today.
Put succinctly, the Church is the city of God, and every local church is some district or neighborhood or suburb of that great city. The sons of Korah guide us in how we should think about our churches, and how we should think about ourselves.
God’s city is protected by majestic and fortified watchtowers, manned with shepherds who guard the city against every encroaching foe (v. 12; cf. Ezek. 33.1-11; Jn. 10.11-13). It is strengthened by bulwarks to resist every attack and repel ever foe, bulwarks of Scripture, prayer, and good works. Lavish palaces – the transformed lives of believers and their churches – dot the landscape of God’s city, showing His beauty and holiness and expressing His joy and gladness. All this must be understood and transmitted to the coming generation (v. 13), that the city may be kept strong and beautiful, and that it may increase to fill the earth with the Presence of King Jesus and His rule (Dan. 2.44, 45; Eph. 4.8-10).
Then this: “For this is God…” (v. 14) (v. 13). See this city? See its greatness and beauty and joy, its labor to extend the praise of God to the ends of the earth? See this, and you’re seeing God Himself, as much as He can be seen within this temporal condition. We know the New Testament describes the Church as the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12), but do we think of this as starkly and significantly as is suggested here? The Church is how God shows Himself to the world?
Is this how you think about your church? Yourself?
Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
When we think about church or about ourselves as a good replication of the city of God, we can begin by looking around our own homes. Take these words to heart as you wander around your dwelling place: walk about, go all around, count the pictures, mark well the locks on the doors, and consider the tidiness and beauty.
Now let’s wander around the inside of our hearts and minds: What do we see? Go all around, count the time you spend with the Lord, reading His Word and praying; mark well the Law that is hidden in your heart to keep sin out; consider the beauty of love and holiness.
Next to the church: Walk about the congregation; go all around looking for the godly; count the times you’ve been told to get in the Word and pray; mark well the pastor’s preaching on the Law and how to follow God’s commands to show love and to resist sin; and consider the righteousness, peace, and joy of the other people there, and in yourself.
Thankfully now to God’s city:
“Walk about Zion, and
go all around her.
Count her towers;
consider her palaces…
For this is God, our God
forever and ever;
He will be our guide even to death.” (Ps. 48. 12, 13, 14)
God wants us to be holy, and to be cognizant of our surroundings in our homes, inside ourselves, and in our churches. We can be as proud of all those places as God is of His. It is His plan for us and for His Church.
Here is how He thinks about us: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2.9, 10).
This God has a beautiful city.
This God has a plan for His Church.
This same God has given us His Holy Spirit because this is
how He “shows Himself to the world”.
1. What do the psalmists intend by likening the city of God to God Himself? How should this instruct and guide us?
2. We are “palaces” scattered about in God’s city. What kind of expectation does this hold out for you?
3. What can you do to help make sure that when people see you, they see Jesus?
Let us observe the beauty, strength, and safety of the church. Consider its strength; see it founded on Christ the Rock, fortified by the Divine power, guarded by Him who neither slumbers nor sleeps. See what precious ordinances are its palaces, what precious promises are its bulwarks, that you may be encouraged to join yourselves to it: and tell this to others. This God, who has now done such great things for us, is unchangeable in his love to us, and his care for us. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on the Psalms 48.8-14
Closing Prayer: Psalm 48.1-3
Praise God for His greatness, holiness, power, and joy. Pray that you may know more of God’s fullness in your life today.
Sing Psalm 48.1-3
(Cwm Rhonda: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah)
Great is God, now greatly praise Him in the city of the Lord.
Holy she, His lovely mountain, great and glorious by His Word!
God her King is great within her, He, her Stronghold ever sure!
He, her Stronghold ever sure!
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.