Beautiful in loftiness, the joy of all the earth, like the peaks of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the great King.
The situation (of Mount Zion) is, indeed, eminently adapted to be the platform of a magnificent citadel. Rising high above the deep Valley of Gihon and Hinnom on the West and South, and the scarcely less deep one of the Cheesemongers on the East, it could only be assailed from the Northwest; and then "on the side of the North" it was magnificently beautiful, and fortified by walls, towers and bulwarks, the wonder and terror of the nations. Alas her towers have long since fallen to the ground, her bulwarks have been overthrown, her palaces have crumbled to the dust, and we who now walk about Zion can tell no other story than this to the generation following. There is another Zion, however, whose towers are still more glorious and shall never be overthrown.
In this psalm, which is both song and psalm, and is one of those "for the sons of Korah," there is a general theme, illustrated by a reference to some historic event. The general theme is the loving-kindness and care of God over his Church. The specific historic illustration it is not possible to fix with certainty, although the preponderance of opinion, and also the largest amount of probability, seems to incline towards the wondrous repulse of Edom, Ammon, Moab, and ethers, in answer to Jehoshaphat's prayer, without Israel having to fight in the battle (see 2 Chronicles 20
.). We see from the narrative of the Chronicles that the children of the Korahites sang a song of praise on the occasion of that signal interposition of God, although it is not likely that the song then sang was the forty-eighth psalm; for the reference in ver. 7 is against that; and at first it is not easy to see how "ships of Tarshish" should come to be mentioned in this song, if prepared with reference to the event of which we have made mention. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:25, 26) makes mention of ships of Tarshish which belonged to Tyro, being "broken" by the east wind; and it is possible
that the psalm may have an allusion thereto. But, singularly enough, the chapter that records Jehoshaphat's prayer and deliverance records also his defection and its punishment; and we are told that his
ships were broken so that they were not able to go to Tarshish (2 Chronicles 20:35-37
). If this be the reference in the song before us, its significance would be very striking; in that case, it would mean that Jehovah, Israel's God, who put the heathen to flight for Israel's sake, put even Israel to shame when her people or her kings left the straight path of reliance on and obedience to God alone; and that this was among the "judgments" of him whose right hand is full of righteousness; showing us that God's care for his Church is just as marked when he rebukes her for her sins as when he delivers her from her foes; and that both for his faithful chastisement as for his mighty interposition, his loving-kindness is rehearsed in his temple with gratitude and song. And there is a holy pride in rehearsing the privileges of Zion as far outweighing those of the nations around - a pride, however, which refers all the honour and glory of Zion to God, and to God alone. Interesting, however, as these historic allusions are to the student, the higher spiritual bearing of the psalm is far more interesting, and far more important, as it sets before us this theme
- the privilege and honour of the Church of God.
We need not here argue the point that the Christian Church is the successor to the honours and privileges of the Jewish Church. A comparison of Exodus 19:6
with 1 Peter 2:9
will show this. The Christian Church, in its largest sense, is made up of all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. The organization of distinct and definite communities as Churches is a necessity for the time now present, but no such organizations include all believers; many believers, moreover, are in no such organization at all; only "the Lord knoweth them that are his;" and over all such his care is exercised: in their totality as including all regenerated souls, they make up the Church of God. Of this Church as a unity we have now to speak.
I. GOD'S DWELLING-PLACE IS IN HIS CHURCH, (Vers. 1, 2.) It is quite possible that, after what we have just said about the Church in its entirety and vastness, and about the impossibility of its being scanned by any human eye, that it may be said, "But if the Church is thus undefinable by us as to its limits, we cannot conceive of it as a dwelling-place." This we can easily understand. But the demur has, in reality, no force. For it is quite clear from the New Testament that as there is "the Church" in the highest spiritual sense, so there are local and organized Churches in the geographical sense. Of this the epistles to the seven Churches of Asia are immediate and sufficient proof. And wherever a Church is faithful to its Lord, since whatever is true of the whole Church is true of any part of it, the believers in Jesus who belong to any local and faithful Church may apply to themselves that which Paul declared of the Ephesian converts when he wrote, "Ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit." Thus no Christian need hesitate to apply the words to the fellowship of believers to which he belongs; he may say," God is known in our palaces for a Refuge. This Church is a city of the great King. And the real presence of a living Saviour among us is our honour, our joy, our life (Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20).
II. GOD HIMSELF IS THE REFUGE OF THE CHURCH. (Ver. 3.) It is the privilege of the individual believer, in all times of trial, sorrow, and care, to betake himself to his God and Saviour as to an unfailing Friend. But this privilege rises to sublimity when a whole company of believers, encompassed with peril and threatened by foes from without, can all rush to their Saviour in faith and prayer, as to a Refuge from the gathering storm!
III. GOD'S LOVING-KINDNESS IS THE THEME OF THE CHURCH. (Ver. 9.) How much fuller and sweeter is this theme for meditation now than of old! Then it was gained through prophets; now from him before whose presence lawgiver and prophet retire, as stars are concealed in the brightness of the sun! How incomparably does Romans 8. surpass aught in the Old Testament! And what was there in the olden time so tender as Luke 15.? Verily such a theme lifts the soul heavenward, tunes the lips to song, and speeds the feet to run the race set before us.
IV. GOD'S DELIVERANCES MARK THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH. (Vers. 4-8.) The effect of this vivid description is pictorial. We can almost see the kings eyeing Jerusalem with envy, plotting her capture, seized with panic and hurrying away as for very life. The psalmist says that he had heard of such deliverances in times past, and now had seen them. And any student of Church history who has been withal for fifty years a close observer of Church life, can say the same. That God is the perpetual Deliverer of his Church is the story of the past and the testimony of the present. Nor may we forget the double kind of deliverance:
(1) from foes without;
(2) from mischief within.
If the view given above of ver. 7 is correct, the verse suggests that the Church owes quite as much to God's chastening love in correcting her for her sins, as to his rescuing power in spoiling her foes. That he will do this is part of the covenant (Psalm 89:28-33).
V. THE HONOUR OF GOD'S NAME IS HIS OWN PLEDGE TO THE CHURCH. (Vers. 10,11.) In the attribute of God's righteousness is the Church's repose and glory. Through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, faithfulness, justice, righteousness, can be the supports of sinful men. This is the supreme wonder of redeeming grace. Think of it! Sinful people rejoicing that God's right hand is full of righteousness!
VI. GOD'S GRACIOUS RELATIONS ARE THE GUARANTEE OF THE PERPETUITY OF THE CHURCH. (Vers. 12-14.) We omit the italic "it in ver. 13 (Authorized Version), and translate the first word in ver. 14 that." The psalmist incites to a study of Zion's towers, bulwarks, palaces, privileges, that it may be declared to the generation following, that "this God is our God for ever and ever." And when we study the redemption in Christ which has founded the Church, the spiritual power which is building up the Church, the watchful providence which has for eighteen centuries guarded the Church, the story which we have to hand down to the coming generation is the same, but told with vaster emphasis, surer faith, and more rapturous joy. "This God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our Guide above death, and beyond it!" "Happy is the people that is in such a case! yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord!" - C.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion. I.
A REHEARSAL OF JEWISH HISTORY. This is necessary in order to understand the inner meaning of this psalm. Israel's history begins with Abraham. His life nomadic, wandering, a wilderness life. And so with Israel for centuries it was a forced desert experience.
II. THE DIVINE PHILOSOPHY OF IT. It was to make up the longing for rest, for a settled habitation and a national life. They had learned enough to know that cities enable men to unite, to concentrate for great material purposes. Cities not only symbolized but secured possession, fixity, safety, growth, nationality. Hence their joy in Jerusalem of which this psalm is an utterance.
III. AND TO ALL THIS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE CORRESPENDS. God's call separates, but ultimately unites. Let us anticipate our future in "the city of habitation."
(with Psalm 12
): — There is comfort for us in the thought that Zion's beauty was spiritual; there is also warning. Wanting spiritual power, certain churches would have something left, a remaining charm. Their architectural monuments, their imposing ceremonies would still command a measure of deference and support, But wanting spiritual power, we are destitute indeed. Our Churches consist of persons who have made deliberate profession of faith in Christ; faith whereby they enter into spiritual union with Him. He is their Head, they are His members.
I. Charm in our church life must therefore ever be dependent, first, upon the actualizing of this relation, by REAL COMMUNION WITH CHRIST. The unreal has no charm for God, and He purposes that it should have none for man. The Bible makes this clear, and experience echoes Bible teaching. Real communion with Christ is not sentiment. It is the surrender and reinforcement of the will. It is obedience, love, self-sacrifice supernaturally sustained. It is sharing the spirit and life of Jesus.
II. Another essential to charm in the Church is SYMPATHY. The New Testament incites to brotherly love, bearing one another's burdens, looking on the things of others, and such like. In the first age, before the art of sublimating precepts into metaphors was discovered, these incitements found response; love was patent, sympathy flowed freely. The stream of sympathy flows still, but its course is often blocked by boulder-like conventionalities; and, where communion with Christ is defective, it fails at the spring. The social meeting, not unknown among us, merits study and development: the meeting in which our members get to know one another, discover that Christian fellowship is compatible with social friendship, and find opportunity for quiet natural speech upon the things of God.
III. This brings me to another matter which must contribute charm to our Church life, namely, THE DISCLOSURE OF JOY IN GOD. Our recoil from cant has silenced the sincere. Yet, doubtless, every Christian should reveal, in look and word, the wealth of joy he has discovered in the Gospel. Of course, it is "bad form" to be demonstrative; to advertise one's emotions. It may be. But the stony immobility that never calls attention with enthusiasm to marvels of nature or miracles of grace is insulting to God; a fraudulent witholding of His due praise.
IV. Something should be added about AGGRESSIVE ACTIVITY. If the Church is to maintain and increase her charm she must make it clear that she holds no truce with the giant wrongs under which men suffer. In warring against these the Church has done, and is doing, nobly. We claim, too, that she has supplied inspiration for' humanitarian enterprise effected under other auspices. When our best men take their seats in Town Council, the Church is present in their persons, and is a good councillor. Yet her watchword must be "Forward." The dullest scorner must be left without excuse for echoing the stupid libel that our churches are Pullman cars for heaven, the passengers caring only for their travelling comforts and safe arrival.
PeopleKorah, Psalmist, Tarshish
TopicsBeautiful, Elevation, Fair, Heights, Joy, Loftiness, Mount, Mountain, North, Position, Sides, Situation, Town, Utmost, Uttermost, Zaphon, Zion
Outline1. The ornaments and privileges of the church
Dictionary of Bible ThemesPsalm 48:2
1060 God, greatness of
7271 Zion, as symbol
LibraryA Song of Deliverance
'Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. 2. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. 3. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. 4. For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. 5. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. 6. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail. 7. Thou breakest …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Of the Two Witnesses prophesying in Sackcloth. Two witnesses or prophets sent by God, clothed in sackcloth, are to preach, while the Gentiles are treading under foot the court of the people of God, or the holy city. These are the interpreters and assertors of Divine truth, who should deplore that foul and lamentable contamination of the Church of Christ, by continual complaints, and whom God would raise up as unceasing monitors to the Christian world, committing whoredom with the Gentiles, and as …
Joseph Mede—A Key to the Apocalypse
Sermon on the Mount Continued Its Woes in Strict Agreement with the Creator's Disposition. Many Quotations Out of the Old Testament in Proof of This.
"In the like manner," says He,  "did their fathers unto the prophets." What a turncoat  is Marcion's Christ! Now the destroyer, now the advocate of the prophets! He destroyed them as their rival, by converting their disciples; he took up their cause as their friend, by stigmatizing  their persecutors. But,  in as far as the defence of the prophets could not be consistent in the Christ of Marcion, who came to destroy them; in so far is it becoming to the Creator's Christ that …
Tertullian—The Five Books Against Marcion
But I Marvel, If, as it is Allowed to Put Away a Wife Who...
7. But I marvel, if, as it is allowed to put away a wife who is an adulteress, so it be allowed, having put her away, to marry another. For holy Scripture causes a hard knot in this matter, in that the Apostle says, that, by commandment of the Lord, the wife ought not to depart from her husband, but, in case she shall have departed, to remain unmarried, or to be reconciled to her husband;  whereas surely she ought not to depart and remain unmarried, save from an husband that is an adulterer, …
St. Augustine—On the Good of Marriage
St. Malachy's Apostolic Labours, Praises and Miracles.
[Sidenote: 1140, October] 42. (23). Malachy embarked in a ship, and after a prosperous voyage landed at his monastery of Bangor, so that his first sons might receive the first benefit. In what state of mind do you suppose they were when they received their father--and such a father--in good health from so long a journey? No wonder if their whole heart gave itself over to joy at his return, when swift rumour soon brought incredible gladness even to the tribes outside round about them. …
H. J. Lawlor—St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh
Departure from Ireland. Death and Burial at Clairvaux.
[Sidenote: 1148, May (?)] 67. (30). Being asked once, in what place, if a choice were given him, he would prefer to spend his last day--for on this subject the brothers used to ask one another what place each would select for himself--he hesitated, and made no reply. But when they insisted, he said, "If I take my departure hence I shall do so nowhere more gladly than whence I may rise together with our Apostle"--he referred to St. Patrick; "but if it behoves me to make a pilgrimage, and …
H. J. Lawlor—St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh
'He Uttered his Voice, the Earth Melted'
'Then Isaiah the son of Amos sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. 21. This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. 22. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Of Love to God
I proceed to the second general branch of the text. The persons interested in this privilege. They are lovers of God. "All things work together for good, to them that love God." Despisers and haters of God have no lot or part in this privilege. It is children's bread, it belongs only to them that love God. Because love is the very heart and spirit of religion, I shall the more fully treat upon this; and for the further discussion of it, let us notice these five things concerning love to God. 1. The …
Thomas Watson—A Divine Cordial
The Eternity of Heaven's Happiness.
Having endeavored, in the foregoing pages, to form to ourselves some idea of the glorious happiness reserved for us in heaven, there still remains to say something of its crowning glory--the eternity of its duration. This is not only its crowning glory, but it is, moreover, an essential constituent of that unspeakable joy which now inebriates the souls of the blessed. A moment's reflection will make this evident. Let us suppose, for the sake of illustration, that on the last day, God should thus …
F. J. Boudreaux—The Happiness of Heaven
Epistle ii. To Anastasius, Bishop of Antioch.
To Anastasius, Bishop of Antioch. Gregory to Anastasius, Patriarch of Antioch. I have received the letters of your most sweet Blessedness, which flowed with tears for words. For I saw in them a cloud flying aloft as clouds do; but, though it carried with it a darkness of sorrow, I could not easily discover at its commencement whence it came or whither it was going, since by reason of the darkness I speak of I did not fully understand its origin. Yet it becomes you, most holy ones, ever to recall …
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great
Notes on the Third Century
Page 161. Line 1. He must be born again, &c. This is a compound citation from John iii. 3, and Mark x. 15, in the order named. Page 182. Line 17. For all things should work together, &c. See Romans viii. 28. Page 184. Lines 10-11. Being Satan is able, &c. 2 Corinthians xi. 14. Page 184. Last line. Like a sparrow, &c. Psalm cii. Page 187. Line 1. Mechanisms. This word is, in the original MS., mechanicismes.' Page 187. Line 7. Like the King's daughter, &c. Psalm xlv. 14. Page 188. Med. 39. The best …
Thomas Traherne—Centuries of Meditations
The piety of the Old Testament Church is reflected with more clearness and variety in the Psalter than in any other book of the Old Testament. It constitutes the response of the Church to the divine demands of prophecy, and, in a less degree, of law; or, rather, it expresses those emotions and aspirations of the universal heart which lie deeper than any formal demand. It is the speech of the soul face to face with God. Its words are as simple and unaffected as human words can be, for it is the genius …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
LinksPsalm 48:2 NIV
Psalm 48:2 NLT
Psalm 48:2 ESV
Psalm 48:2 NASB
Psalm 48:2 KJV
Psalm 48:2 Bible Apps
Psalm 48:2 Parallel
Psalm 48:2 Biblia Paralela
Psalm 48:2 Chinese Bible
Psalm 48:2 French Bible
Psalm 48:2 German Bible
Psalm 48:2 Commentaries