Exposition of Psalm 48

We shall not quote this Psalm in its entirety at this time; we shall limit our quotation to the verses 1-3 and 14, where we read; “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praise in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King . . . For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”

The viewpoint of this Psalm is definitely of the prophetical perspective of God in Christ Jesus. It is true that this Psalm is poetic in its description of the Great Jehovah, but the fundamental lines are those of God’s work of salvation in Christ Jesus. The viewpoint of this Psalm is that of the “city of God,” which work shall be finished as seen by John in the book of Revelation: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Rev. 21:1, 2.

What thrills the soul and heart of the Psalmist poet is the “greatness” of Jehovah. We should never overlook the fact that when Scripture calls something or someone “great” this must not be understood in the sense of being “large” or “big.” Even in our daily language we distinguish a “large” man from a “great” man. A great man is one who has done much for country and fatherland, a man of vision and with large sympathies, a man of humility and trust.

It is here that the Psalmist sings of the fact that “Great is the LORD.” The Psalms abound in variations of this theme of the greatness of Jehovah: now the psalms sing of the greatness of His glory, then of the greatness of His terrible judgments; He is incomparably great in distinction from the idol gods of the heathen. And He is the same in this greatness yesterday, today and forever!

Thus we read in Psalm 21:5: “His glory is great in thy salvation; honor and majesty dost thou lay upon him.” Again we read in Psalm 47:2, 5a: “For the LORD, MOST HIGH is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. . . . God is gone up with a shout. . . .” Especially in this connection it is noteworthy that the loving-kindness of the LORD is “great unto the heavens” even as His “truth is great unto the skies.” Psalm 57:10. For is not His name great in Israel, .His dwelling-place in Zion? And is not His way through the sanctuary, so that exactly in this dwelling in the sanctuary we are led to confess: “Who is a great God like unto God?” Psalm 76:1Psalm 77:13. Yea, He is the LORD who is a great God, a great King above all Gods. Psalm 99:4.

Our God is so great in Zion because He is the LORD, He is Jehovah. Surely to the patriarchs of old He made Himself known as “God Almighty.” It is well to take notice of this truth. The LORD Himself reminds Moses of this truth of progressive revelation at the burning bush. First it must be made clear to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that nothing is impossible with God. When Abraham is ninety and nine years old the LORD appears unto him and says: “I am God Almighty, walk before me, be thou perfect.” Abraham must walk in faith as a response of his heart which says, “Nothing is impossible with God” in the realization of his Promise. This article of faith lived in the hearts of both Isaac and Jacob. When Isaac sends Jacob away to Padanaram he blesses him and says: “And God almighty bless thee and make thee fruitful . . . that thou mayest be a multitude of people.” The same may be said about,Jacob. What comfort of soul this weary pilgrim drank from the knowledge that it was “God Almighty” with whom he had to do. Gen. 35:11, 43:14, 48:3.

With God Almighty nothing is impossible.

Such is an element of His greatness. Great is the LORD: nothing is impossible with Him to realize His promises in Christ Jesus.

But He is also the LORD! Notice the capital letters here: L-O-R-D! That is the Ring James translation of the Hebrew JEHOVAH! The Dutch translation here is H-E-ER-E! And the Lord is the I-Am That I-Am! He is the unchangeable God in Himself. He is the Rock whose work is perfect. In Himself He is the self-sufficient God, with whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. All the changes in our soul—hope and fears, love and hate, sympathy and antipathy—are unknown to God. It is for this very reason that Jehovah is also the unchangeable God in relation to His people. He is not only able but He is unchangeably willing. His love and mercy are constant. The circumstances do not alter it. When Israel is in bondage in Egypt-land then the LORD makes this the great moment in history to show that He is faithful to His promise, and that He has heard the cry of His people in His unalterable faithfulness.

And this faithfulness, this mercy, this love for His people will show the greatness of His power in the wicked world, and at the same time demonstrate the greatness of His love and mercy upon the vessels of mercy.

Would you see the greatness of the LORD in Zion? Then you must not simply take your stand in the midst of the creation of God, the creaturely handiwork of God. You then will only see, by the things made, His power and divinity as the God of heaven and earth. Oh, do not say that one does not see much here. He sees enough to be inexcusable in the day of judgment. But would you see more and greater things than these? Then you must go to Zion, to the church of the living God, where He doth make His abode.

Pray, what is this Zion? There are those who would interpret this as referring merely to the earthly Jerusalem in Palestine. The “beautiful” situation would then refer to the pretty mountainous surroundings of this earthly city. But we disagree with this interpretation. For that earthly Zion was not nearly as great and pretentious as was the mount of Bashan, and the towering heights of the Lebanon to the north. Wafted on the northern breezes, the “dew of Hermon” descended upon that lowly hill of Zion.

The beautiful “situation” of Zion is her place and meaning in the unfolding of God’s covenant promise and in the coming of the Kingdom of heaven. Jerusalem is the place where the King of glory shall live. Zion is the mountain upon which the LORD has anointed His Son to be King. The Psalmist here does not sing as a naturalist poet, but he sings as the child of God who has learned to boast in the LORD. It is the scene here depicted on Zion as the City of God. Of this city God is the architect and builder. Because God has prepared for Abraham and his seed this City He is not ashamed to be called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham lifted up his eyes in faith to the multitude of the stars and saw the distant city, peopled with an innumerable throng.

Would you see the greatness of God in Zion?

Then you must come to Egypt-land, that Ghetto of affliction into which Goshen had been changed under Pharaoh. Notice then that God is great in the ten plagues which He brings upon Pharaoh. When the final blow has fallen—then it is that Pharaoh will acknowledge that God is great and will not longer taunt heaven with “Who is the LORD?” See the greatness of the LORD in Zion as He leads the hosts of Israel on dry land through the Red Sea. It is a greatness which is sung in the Song of Moses at the Sea, and which anthem will have its final refrain in the Song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways thou King of saints.” Ex. 15:1 ; Rev. 15:3.

According to this pattern are all the dealings of God in Zion. Did not God give Israel the land of Canaan in His mighty power and faithfulness? Why could a Samson be so strong, and how could David kill the giant Goliath, putting the armies of the Philistines to flight? And when Hezekiah lays the matter of Assyria before the face of the LORD, the LORD is great in Zion, and 185,000 Assyrians are found dead outside of the city of Jerusalem.

This lowly city is beautifully and strategically situated in history. Here God will show His greatness in Zion, bringing here the infant child Jesus to be presented before the LORD; here the Lord’s Christ will come to cleanse the temple and make it a house of prayer of all nations; here the vail in the temple will be rent; here the Son of God will die, and from here we shall see that the Lord has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Christ was powerfully revealed to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead; He took captivity captive, ascended on high, and sat down on the right hand of God, Lord over all; King in Zion!

Such is the viewpoint here of the greatness of the LORD! What the poet here expresses is not simply a dogmatic fact; he is here Confessor before God’s throne. For confession is either to express in terms, from our heart and upon our lips, what God had done for His people or promised them.

In poetic strains the Psalmist is jubilant over the conduct of all the foes of Zion. They come together against Zion. However, they take one look at the God of Zion and they hasten away together. Fear takes hold upon them, they- are in the pangs of death, they are in travail as a woman. The conduct of the enemy attests to the greatness of the LORD in Zion.

Great are the judgments of God. In His judgments He discomfits the enemies. And the daughters of Judah are glad. They take a march around Zion! To number the bulwarks and to consider the palaces are they come. They see that the Stone laid in Zion is very precious. He that trusts in this Stone shall not hasten. He has restful assurance that all is well. He takes that confession of the Heidelberg Catechism upon his lips. He says in Zion: I am here in Zion not my own, but I belong to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.

Looking back now some nineteen-hundred odd years ago we confess what Christ has done for us. He has fully satisfied for all of our sins. He has fulfilled all righteousness. It is finished. Nothing need be added to this work. The Stone is laid, rejected of the builders, who thought they were reading the blueprint of Zion correctly. Yes, and we are fully delivered from all the hellish assaults of Satan. Count the bulwarks, consider the palaces by giving special attention to the STONE in Zion.

And then stand in the present and confess that God is great in Zion in that nothing can separate us from His great love. Does He not work faith in our hearts by His Holy Spirit and does He not assure us of salvation, so that not a hair can fall from our head without His will!?

And then look at the stability of the Stone in Zion, the greatness of the Lord. He will make all His people sincerely willing in this the day of His power! Henceforth, He will make us sincerely willing to live unto Him!

Yes, this God is our God. He it is and none other. All the gods of the nations are silver and gold. But our God is in the heavens, in Zion, and He performs His good-pleasure.

This God is our God.

He will be our Guide, even unto death!