Our Loving God

Psalms 48:1-3, 9-14

 SS Lesson for 02/10/2019

 

Devotional Scripture: 1 John 4:7-11

Lesson Background and Key Verse

 

Background from the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary

In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, we encounter a poor dairy farmer, Tevye, who values highly the traditions of his people. But the rapidly changing times in which he lives finds him stretched when each of his three daughters defies tradition. Tevye’s role as family patriarch is to find a suitable match for each daughter. His tradition values finding a financially stable partner from within the ancient faith. A hired matchmaker arranges for the oldest daughter to be wed to an elderly, widowed butcher. But she is secretly in love with a poor tailor. Those two beg Tevye to call off the arranged marriage so they can marry. Tevye is conflicted, but he sees how deeply his daughter cares for the tailor, so he relents out of love for her. Tevye’s middle daughter reveals disregard for tradition by marrying a university student with a head full of revolutionary ideas. Tevye feels he has no choice but to accept the marriage. Then his third daughter does the unthinkable by marrying a Christian. Tevye reaches his breaking point and disowns her. No more! In the middle of his turmoil, he finds himself insecure. Each of his daughters married for love, a choice not afforded Tevye and his wife when their marriage was arranged 25 years earlier. So Tevye turns to his wife and asks her if she loves him. They have never spoken of their feelings for each other, so she gives an indirect answer by offering evidence of her love: she has washed his clothes, cooked meals, cleaned house, and starved with him. Her loyalty is all the proof needed of her love for him. Does God love us? The author of today’s psalm would reply, “Just look at the evidence!”

 

Psalm 48 is often categorized as one of the Zion Songs. This category also includes Psalms 46; 76; 84; 87, and 122 (some students also include 126; 129, and 137). These celebrate the glory of Mount Zion, the hill on which the temple in Jerusalem stood. They are concerned with the theme of God’s kingship, having been written against a backdrop of competing gods and warring nations. Nationalism and religion were inseparable in biblical times, and each nation was thought to have a dominant deity who was responsible for the protection of its people. When nations warred, their gods warred as well. We see this in Exodus 12:12, where God, preparing Israel for the tenth and most devastating plague, says, On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. Thematically, these songs celebrate God as Israel’s king, who chose to rest his presence in Jerusalem and, in it, the temple (Psalm 46:5; 76:2; 84:1; 87:1–3; 122:1–3; plus today’s text). From a perspective of comparative religion, a deity choosing to rest his presence on a strong mountain was not unique. For example, the pagan deity El was said to reside on Mount Zaphon (see more on Psalm 48:2, below). What is exceptional is the theme that God’s reign doesn’t stop at Israel’s borders. He is “the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2, plus today’s text; compare 1 Kings 20:23, 28).

 

 

Key Verse: Psalms 48:14

For this is God, Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.

 

Commentary from the Bible Knowledge Commentary

Psalm 48 is a song about Zion, the city of God, the great King. In praising God who loves Jerusalem, the psalmist sang of the city’s glory and security because the Lord delivered it from the enemy. On the basis of this, he offered praise to God.

48:1. The psalm begins with a summary of the theme: God, whose holy mountain (cf. 43:3; 87:1; 99:9), the city of Jerusalem, is greatly to be praised.

48:2-3. The psalmist then described this holy city. Its lofty beauty (cf. 50:2) is the joy of the whole earth. It is like the... heights of Zaphon, probably a sacred mountain some miles north of Jerusalem. But the greatest feature of Zion is that God is in her citadels (cf. 48:13). Jerusalem’s strength and safety (“fortress” translates miśgob̠) are because of His presence (cf. 46:5).

48:4-7. The psalmist now described the defeat of Zion’s enemies. Kings were assembled against her, but they were terrified when... they saw Zion. They were seized with terror and trembling like a woman in child labor. God destroyed them swiftly, like ships of Tarshish (possibly large seagoing merchant ships on the Mediterranean) shattered by an east wind. Many have taken this passage as a tribute to God’s deliverance of Jerusalem from the invading Assyrian armies (cf. Isa. 10:8; 33:3, 14).

48:8. The psalmist confirmed the report that the Lord Almighty (lit., “the Lord of armies”) had made Zion secure. This title of the Lord is frequently used in passages referring to military battles. His armies are both terrestrial (Israel’s soldiers) and celestial (angels).

48:9-10. The psalmist offered praise to God for His unfailing love (ḥesed̠, “loyal love”) and righteousness. Praise of God fills the earth, for God’s power demonstrates His faithfulness.

48:11-14. The psalmist then invited the congregation in Zion and all Judah to rejoice in God by observing the strength of the city (her unharmed towers... ramparts, and citadels; cf. v. 3) which He had preserved. This God who had made them secure will be the Guide for believers forever.

 

Major Theme Analysis

(Scriptural Text from the New King James Version; cross-references from the NIV)

God’s Love Glorifies Zion (Ps 48:1-3)

 

1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised In the city of our God, In His holy mountain.

2 Beautiful in elevation, The joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, The city of the great King.

3 God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge.

 

With His greatness (1)

Greatness because He is the Creator (Gen 1:1)

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Greatness because He is the great I AM (Ex 3:13-14)

13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Greatness because He proclaimed Himself LORD (Ex 34:5-7)

5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

Greatness because He is perfect (Matt 5:48)

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Greatness because of His eternal powers (Rom 1:20)

20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Greatness because He is immortal (1 Tim 1:17)

17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Greatness because of His acts of power (Ps 150:2)

2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Greatness because He is the Lord (Ezek 38:23)

23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.'

Greatness because He is worthy (Ps 48:1)

48 Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.

Greatness because He is the great King (Ps 95:3)

3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.

 

With His presence (2)

God's presence because God fills the heaven and earth (Jer 23:23-24)

23 "Am I only a God nearby,"  declares the Lord, "and not a God far away? 24 Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?"  declares the Lord. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?"  declares the Lord.

God's presence because without God's presence, man is doomed (Ex 33:15-16)

15 Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

God's presence because of His unfailing love (Ps 119:76)

76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

God's presence because He is the God of comfort (2 Cor 1:3-4)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God's presence because of His compassion (Isa 49:13)

13 Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

God's presence because of His eternal blessings (Ps 21:6)

6 Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.

 

With His protection (3)

Protection through God being our refuge (Ps 9:9)

9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Protection through God being our rock, fortress and deliverer (Ps 18:2)

2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Protection through God being an ever-present help in trouble (Ps 46:1)

46 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Protection through God's faithfulness (2 Thess 3:3)

3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

Protection through God's knowledge of how to rescue godly men (2 Peter 2:9)

9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

Protection from things in the world (1 John 4:4)

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Protection of soul (Ps 57:1)

57 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

Protection from evildoers (Ps 14:6)

6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.

 

God’s Love in His Leadership (Ps 48:9-11)

 

9 We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness, In the midst of Your temple.

10 According to Your name, O God, So is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness.

11 Let Mount Zion rejoice, Let the daughters of Judah be glad, Because of Your judgments.

 

Because of His mercy (9)

Mercy because He loves us (Rom 5:8)

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Mercy because Jesus took the initiative and bore all of our transgressions (Isa 53:5-6)

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Mercy because God is faithful and righteous (Rom 3:3-5)

3 What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge." 5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)

Mercy because of His grace (Eph 2:8-9)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Mercy because it is mercy that prompted God's salvation (Rom 9:16)

16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.

Mercy which started before the beginning of time (2 Tim 1:9)

9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

Mercy empowers perseverance (James 5:11)

11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Mercy makes Christians a people of God (1 Peter 2:10)

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 

Because of His righteousness (10)

The righteousness of God because righteousness is in God alone (Isa 45:24)

24 They will say of me, 'In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.'" All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.

The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus (Phil 3:9)

9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

The righteousness of God through Jesus (Rom 3:19-23)

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

The righteousness of God through the obedience of Jesus (Rom 5:19)

19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The righteousness of God through the gospel (Rom 1:17)

17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

The righteousness of God through the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:5)

5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.

The righteousness of God through pursuit of it (2 Tim 2:22)

22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

 

Because of His judgments (11)

A judgment that will bring everything to light (1 Cor 4:5)

5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

A judgment that judges men's secrets (Rom 2:16)

16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

A judgment of the nations (Matt 25:31-33)

31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

A judgment entrusted to Jesus by God (John 5:21-22)

21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,

A judgment that all will stand before (Rom 14:10)

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.

A judgment that judges what was done in the body (2 Cor 5:10)

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

A judgment that is destined for man (Heb 9:27)

27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

 

God’s Love in Future Generations (Ps 48:12-14)

 

12 Walk about Zion, And go all around her. Count her towers;

13 Mark well her bulwarks; Consider her palaces; That you may tell it to the generation following.

14 For this is God, Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.

 

Based on His protection (12-13)

Protection from things in the world (1 John 4:4)

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Protection of soul (Ps 57:1)

1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

Protection from evildoers (Ps 14:6)

6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.

Protection through God our fortress, deliverer and stronghold (Ps 18:2)

2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Protection because we are God’s child (Prov 14:26)

26 He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.

Protection by the hands of God  (John 10:28-30)

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

 

Based on His faithfulness (14)

Faithfulness that never changes (Mal 3:6)

6 "I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

Faithfulness that every day proves He never fails (Zeph 3:5)

5 The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame.

Faithfulness that is higher than the skies and mightier than mountains (Ps 36:5-7)

5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. 7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Faithfulness that stands firm forever (Ps 89:1-2)

1 I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

Faithfulness that is unconditionally merciful and forgiving (Dan 9:9)

9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;

Faithfulness that cannot be disowned (2 Tim 2:13)

13 if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

Faithfulness that is unswerving (Heb 10:23)

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Faithfulness that is just and powerful (1 John 1:9)

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

 

Conclusion and Other Thoughts

Commentary Thoughts from Thomas Constable

Verse 1

Ancient peoples connected the glory of a god with the place where he dwelt. That association is clear in this psalm. The holy mountain where His Ark resided reflected God’s greatness. This verse summarizes the theme of the Psalm, namely, that God is worthy of great praise.

Verses 1-3

1. Zion’s privilege (Ps 48:1-3)

Verses 1-14

The psalmist praised God for delivering Zion from her enemies (cf. Psalm 46, 47). Jerusalem was secure and glorious because God had blessed it with His favor.

Verse 2-3

The lofty beauty of Jerusalem, situated on Mt. Zion, gave all people reason to rejoice. The writer compared its beauty to that of Mt. Zaphon far to the north of Jerusalem, specifically some25 miles to the northeast of Ugarit. The NIV translation of Psalm 48:2 clarifies the reference to this second mountain. Yet what made Jerusalem truly great was the presence of the Lord in it.

"Zaphon, located north of Israel, was the sacred mountain of the Canaanites from which their high god El supposedly ruled. However, Zion was the real "Zaphon," for it was here that the Lord God of Israel, the "Great King" of the universe, lived and ruled (Psalm 48:2)." [Note: Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," p264.]

The city was strong and safe because Yahweh resided there.

Verses 4-6

Besieging armies could not prevail against God’s stronghold. They turned away unsuccessful. It was as though the presence of God terrified them. The psalmist may have written these words shortly after an invading army, perhaps the Assyrians, had attacked Jerusalem and failed (cf. Isaiah 10:8; Isaiah 33:3; Isaiah 33:14).

Verses 4-8

2. Zion’s security (Ps 48:4-8)

Verse 7

The east wind can be very strong and hot in Israel. Tarshish probably refers to some nation to the west, possibly near modern Spain. Ships of Tarshish were probably large Mediterranean vessels. The writer pictured their destruction as symbolic of God’s defeat of nations foreign to Israel.

Verse 8

The psalmist could confirm earlier reports of God delivering Zion with his own eyewitness testimony. The Lord of Armies had indeed defended His capital with His mighty forces. Some of the Lord’s troops were natural: Israel’s fighting force. Some were supernatural: His angelic army.

Verse 9-10

Meditation on Yahweh’s loyal love and righteousness drew praise from the psalmist as he stood near God’s house. People-who live as far as knowledge of His reputation extends-praise God.

Verses 9-14

3. Zion’s joy (Ps 48:9-14)

Verses 11-14

Those who live near God’s presence can rejoice in His decision to protect them. The psalmist invited the residents of Jerusalem to examine the unscathed condition of the city that God had defended. He also urged them to report God’s protection to their children. The "daughters" of Judah (Psalm 48:11) probably refers to its cities and villages. [Note: Kidner, p181.] Since God had so faithfully and powerfully preserved His people, the psalmist led them in a commitment to continue following Him as their guide forever.

The people of God should view divine deliverance as an evidence of the Lord’s faithfulness and power. We should remember the instances of His salvation and share them with other people. This information will fortify our own faith, and it will encourage others to trust in Him. As long as we trust and obey God, He will defend us. An intimate relationship with God is a very secure one.

                                    (Adapted from URL:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/psalms-48.html)

 

Concluding Thoughts from the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary

A song celebrating the city walls might seem out of place to the modern reader. For the Israelites, however, the structure was a tangible indication of God’s rule and presence. He was their king, the one who promised to lead and protect them. This psalm would have presented a challenge to the worshipper during the time of the Babylonian exile. The reality of Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 BC starkly contrasted with the message of Psalm 48. The tension is relieved as we consider again King Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the newly built temple. He anticipated the possibility that Israel would rebel against God and be cast into exile as a result. Solomon implored God that if his people would deeply repent of their sins and turn their hearts back to him, then he would hear them, forgive them, and restore them (2 Chronicles 6:36–39). The irony is palpable, since wise Solomon himself ended up much less than wise as he allowed foreign wives to lead him into idolatry within Jerusalem’s walls (see 1 Kings 11:7–10). God continued to be their king and their fortress, even after the city walls were demolished by a foreign army. The subsequent exile challenged Israel’s confidence in God, but he proved his loyalty to them time and again—even as their disloyalty resulted in their own demise. Today, we serve our Lord Jesus, who expressed his loyalty to us through his death and resurrection. We can be confident in his good rule and love for us. Our task is to pass that love and message to others (Matthew 28:19, 20). That’s the greatest show of loyalty to him we can offer!

 

Concluding Thoughts from the Echoes Commentary

God Is the Victor - Many of the psalms are associated with Israel's historical battles. The sons of Korah, organizers of the temple worship music, may have arranged this particular song to celebrate any number of war victories—David's defeat over the Philistines, King Jehoshaphat conquering the Amorites and Moabites, or the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian king Sennacherib. It's unclear which of Israel's battles the psalm referred to, but one thing is certain: Jehovah received all the glory for coming to their rescue. According to this passage and many other Scriptures, the Lord's constant care for His children is undeniable. These past events highlight God's love and ought to be uppermost in the mind of a believer.

 

God is Worthy to be Praised - The psalmist wrote that the Lord deserves praise because He is superior over man and unlike any other gods or idols. God's mighty power is able to overthrow entire armies.

God's Mountain - This particular hymn identified Mt. Zion or Jerusalem as the place where worship celebrations took place. In biblical days, people referred to it and the temple as God's residence, the city of the mighty King. Israel built the first and second temples there. Known for its elevation and beauty, delighting the eyes of the world, it is also as a refuge for God's people.

 

God's Love - The temple itself stood as a monument of God's faithfulness and continuous love. He established a place to meet Him, give thanks, offer prayers, and receive His compassion and forgiveness. Here, people expressed their gratitude to Him.

 

God's Reputation - God's name was connected to Israel. Because of His everlasting covenant with them, He promised a faithful remnant would always remain to serve Him, no matter what happened to the nation. Each of Israel's generations must know of His steadfast commitment and love.

 

God's Call - When Christians talk about a call, what usually comes to mind is God asking for something to be done—a mission overseas or a local ministry project. But each day God is calling for each of His children to stop for a moment and intensely think about how much He loves them. This will add fuel to your spiritual fire and keep in proper focus anything He sets out for you to do that day.