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Great Is the LORD! (Ps. 48)

Savoring the Psalter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Intro:

All this carries us beyond the mere city of Jerusalem, if read with understanding. For one thing, the city is not the Jews’ delight alone; it is “the joy of the whole earth” (v. 2). And God is not only to be praised by his own people; he is to be praised everywhere (v. 10).

Even more, as Derek Kidner suggests, in this psalm Zion itself seems to become more than a mere earthly capital, and the struggle described becomes more than local. It concerns the whole earth and the whole span of time. Thinking ahead to the final chapters of Revelation, which describe heavenly Jerusalem, Kidner says, “The outlines of ‘the Jerusalem above,’ with its great walls and foundations which are ‘for ever,’ are already coming into view.”1

There is yet another way the psalm exceeds our expectations. Ostensibly in praise of Jerusalem, Psalm 48 is in reality a psalm in praise of God, for this is what Jerusalem stands for. We see this as early as verse 1.

Sub-intro:
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.
Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 829.
It would be idle dogmatically to attribute this song to any one event of Jewish history. Its author and date are unknown. It records the withdrawal of certain confederate kings from Jerusalem, their courage failing them before striking a blow. The mention of the ships of Tarshish may allow us to conjecture that the Psalm was written in connection with the overthrow of Ammon, Moab, and Edom in the reign of Jehoshaphat; and if the reader will turn to 2 Chron. 20, and note especially verses 19, 25, and 36, he will probably accept the suggestion.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 27-57, vol. 2 (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 360.
This trilogy of millennial psalms is completed with the 48th Psalm. Again the context clearly is from the perspective of the Millennium as redeemed Israel glories in her King. The reference to it being both a Song and Psalm may refer to it being performed both instrumentally and vocally. Spurgeon calls it a “song for joyfulness and a Psalm for reverence.” Though David (the presumed author) likely was writing of the glories of Jehovah in Jerusalem of his day, the greater fulfillment undoubtedly is in the Millennium.
David H. Sorenson, Understanding the Bible, An Independent Baptist Commentary - Job through Psalms, vol. 4, Understanding the Bible, An Independent Baptist Commentary (Northstar Ministry, 2007), 378.
Body:

I. Jehovah Encamped in Zion (Ps. 48:1-3).

A. A Great Captain Deserving of Great Praise (v. 1).

Psalm 48:1 KJV 1900
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised In the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
What the Bible Teaches: Psalms Verses 1-3: The Glory of Zion

The words "great" (<H1419>), and "greatly" (<H3966>) with which the Psalm begins, are not cognate words. They may be translated similarly here, but they are not at all identical. The thought appears to be that the greatness, the might, and the majesty of Jehovah demands that praise of Him should be rendered exceedingly, abundantly, and in magnitude. The praise of His people should accord with the excellence of His Person.

B. A Great Capitol Delivering Great Governance (v. 2).

Psalm 48:2 KJV 1900
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, On the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
What the Bible Teaches: Psalms Verses 1-3: The Glory of Zion

As Kirkpatrick says, "If we render, on the sides of the north is the citadel of the great King, (it is) a description of the position of the Temple".

C. A Great Calmness Derived from Sure Safety (v. 3).

Psalm 48:3 KJV 1900
God is known in her palaces for a refuge.

II. The Enemies of Zion Terrified (Ps. 48:4-6).

A. Gathering Reconnaissance (v. 4).

Psalm 48:4 KJV 1900
For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.

B. Giving the Retreat (v. 5).

Psalm 48:5 KJV 1900
They saw it, and so they marvelled; They were troubled, and hasted away.

C. Growing Apprehension (v. 6).

Psalm 48:6 KJV 1900
Fear took hold upon them there, And pain, as of a woman in travail.

This deliverance seems to link Psalms 46, 47, and 48 together, though it is impossible to say with certainty what specific deliverance they refer to. The two possibilities are: (1) the deliverance of the people from the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir in the days of Jehoshaphat, as described in 2 Chronicles 20, and (2) the deliverance of the people from the armies of Sennacherib in the days of Hezekiah, as described in 2 Kings 18–19. The reference in Psalm 48:4 to “the kings” (plural) joining forces to advance against the city seems to fit the combined armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir better than the single army of Sennacherib. But these armies were turned back before they actually “saw” Jerusalem. So the specific references in this psalm, as well as those in the others, are inconclusive.

III. God Establishes Zion Forever (Ps. 48:7-8).

A. Thwarted Assault (v. 7).

Psalm 48:7 KJV 1900
Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.
What the Bible Teaches: Psalms Verses 4-8: The Defeat of the Enemy

That puny kings of earth should array themselves against the citadel of the great King is ironical. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision" (Ps 2:4). Yet their arrogance will persist, until, in Revelation 19:19, the kings of the earth make war against the King of kings and are destroyed by His sword of judgment. Here they assemble (<H3259>), united in a formal confederation to move across the frontier to Jerusalem, but their intentions are aborted by a sight of the Holy City. "They saw!" "They were astonished!" "They were dismayed!" "They fled!". Many commentators follow Calvin in finding it all reminiscent of Caesar's "Veni, vidi, vici—I came, I saw, I conquered". But here the Emperor's boast is reversed. They came, they saw, and they retreated. Gripped with fear, and seized with pain as a travailing woman, they fled in panic. There is no detail or description of battle. Was it just that sight of Jerusalem which alarmed them, beautiful and impregnable on the hill, with Jehovah in His citadel? He who could scatter the mighty armada of Tarshish with His east wind could similarly dispose of these enemy kings. The ships of Tarshish are, to quote Dr Cohen, "A symbol of great size and strength. Tarshish (see Jonah 1:3) is usually identified with Tartessus in south-west Spain, famed as a port, and its ships renowned as the largest of that age. God swept the powerful army aside like a storm which wrecks these vessels".

History provides us with a later, literal illustration of such massive naval destruction. In 1588 the “invincible” Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon under orders from the Spanish King Philip II to invade and subdue England. It consisted of 130 great galleons and supply ships, 7,000 sailors, and more than 17,000 soldiers. The British fleet under command of Sir Francis Drake met it in the English Channel and engaged it in a series of battles extending over about a week in late July. The Spanish ships were massive and well armed. The English ships were light and more maneuverable. The battle went to the English, who successfully destroyed and captured many ships. But the real victory came when the weather changed and the wind blew the Spanish ships up the Channel toward Scotland, which they attempted to round and thus return to Spain by passing across the North Sea and down the westward coast of Ireland. Scores of these ships were wrecked on the Irish coast, and their crews were massacred. Others sank at sea. Less than half managed to return to Spain and Portugal, and the defeat was so complete that prior Spanish domination of the “ocean sea” was ended.

Most modern authors attribute the English success to their superior navy. But it is significant that the English themselves attributed the victory to God. They struck a medal to celebrate the defeat of the Armada on which were these words: “God blew upon them and they were scattered.” That is the way the psalmist viewed the destruction of the enemy kings.

B. Testimonies Acknowledged (v. 8).

Psalm 48:8 KJV 1900
As we have heard, so have we seen In the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah.

IV. God's Praise Exhibited to the Ends of the Earth (Ps. 48:9-11).

A. A Praiseworthy Tenderness (v. 9).

Psalm 48:9 KJV 1900
We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, In the midst of thy temple.

B. A Praiseworthy Name (v. 10).

Psalm 48:10 KJV 1900
According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: Thy right hand is full of righteousness.

C. A Praiseworthy Judge (v. 11).

Psalm 48:11 KJV 1900
Let mount Zion rejoice, Let the daughters of Judah be glad, Because of thy judgments.

V. Encouraged by the Strength of Zion (Ps. 48:12-14).

A. An Impenetrable Fortress (vv. 12-13).

Psalm 48:12–13 KJV 1900
Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; That ye may tell it to the generation following.

B. An Illuminated Way (v. 14).

Psalm 48:14 KJV 1900
For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.
What the Bible Teaches: Psalms Verses 9-14: The Call to Praise

When the Lord does great things for church or nation, He means that all the faithful, however humble their station, should take courage from it, should repose in Him fresh confidence, and cling to Him with firmer hope, and say, 'This God shall be our God for ever, He will guide us even unto death'".

Conclusion:

The guide told the visiting Israelites that it was their responsibility to teach the coming generation about the Lord, lest the nation abandon the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The greatest danger a nation faces is not the invading enemy on the outside but the eroding enemy on the inside—a people gradually turning away from the faith of their fathers. Each generation must pass along to the next generation who the Lord is, what He has done, and what they must do in response to His goodness and faithfulness (71:18; 78:4, 6; 79:13; 109:13; 145:4; 2 Tim. 2:2). God’s plan is to make Jerusalem a joy to many generations (Isa. 60:15). To trust and obey a Lord who is “our God” and “our Guide” is to have a future that is secured and blessed.
Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Worshipful, 1st ed., “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), 180.
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