This is sort of a love song to Jerusalem, God’s city, Mount Zion. God is the one the psalmist is praising (48:1), but Zion is the central image of the psalm. I imagine that after ancient baseball games, the Jerusalem Yankees would play this psalm over the loud speakers as the fans departed. It is a tribute to the town where God’s temple is.
Why would Mount Zion be “the joy of all the earth” (48:2)? I know New Yorkers tend to think of their city as the greatest in the world, but this is in the Bible. There’s clearly something deeper than civic pride going on.
Zion is “the city of the great King,” the Lord himself (48:3). The idea that God himself resides in Jerusalem sends other nations to flee in terror (48:4-8)—you don’t fight an enemy that has God on their side. Those who dwell in and around the city have worshiped in the temple and rejoice to know that the Lord is with them (48:9-11).
Take another look at this last stanza:
Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever. (48:12-14)
First of all, this is a rampart (in case some of us aren’t up on our ancient-medieval architectural vocabulary):
And when I hear about the walls and structure of the city of Jerusalem, I can’t help but remember Revelation 21 in which “the holy city, new Jerusalem,” comes “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). I can’t help but remember the measurements of the walls of the heavenly Zion being a perfect cube (Rev. 21:15-17). And rather than its inhabitants worship God in a temple, a stone building of some sort, there is “no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22).
You see, people in the Old Jerusalem would get so excited about it, not because it had the Wall Street of the ancient world or the best subway system in the Mediterranean. They would get excited about it because the Old Jerusalem pointed forward to the New Jerusalem which would come at the consummation of all things. Only then will we be able to say, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).
All of us, whether we know it or not, long for that day. The author of our passage anticipated it. We too, should wait expectantly for the day when we will see our Lord face to face. As Pastor Earl always says, “Maranatha.” Come, Lord Jesus.