Behold His Glory
I want you to think about a time in which you have been totally awestruck. Think of some experience when you were nearly overwhelmed with amazement. I've heard people use that kind of language to describe their first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. Having never been there myself, I do not know that experience personally, but I can imagine that the view must take your breath away. You come to the edge of the Canyon walls and look down and down to the bottom far below. You lift your eyes and see the other side miles away. It is incredible, I'm sure, to realize that this immense canyon was carved out by the flow of running water.
For me, I can think back to times when I would stare up at the night sky in North Dakota. Growing up on a farm in a very rural state like North Dakota, there were times when I was far away from any bright lights on very clear nights. At those times, looking up the night sky, it was overwhelming to see the number of stars shining. The enormity of our universe struck home. Sometimes in the fall, the Auroras Borealis would add its dancing lights to the sky, increasing the beauty on display. The immensity there before my eyes would be nearly breathtaking.
I hope that by now you have a similar experience in mind as it will help you understand the emotion that is gripping the writer of our psalm as he beholds the glory of God.
Much like the psalm that we looked at last week, Psalm 48 does not suggest any specific historical event that prompted it's writing. Rather, our writer is awe-struck by the glory of God and in response to that glory wrote these words that became another song of praise used and loved by the nation of Israel.
I trust that as we look at this psalm this morning, we too will be awestruck by the glory of God. In fact, the main idea that we can take away from our psalm today is that we too need to Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly. Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly.
Our psalm divides itself into three sections this morning. In the first section we have the where of God’s display of His glory. In the second section we have the how. And in the third section we find the why. Where does God display his glory; how does He display His glory; and why does He display His glory; those are the things we will consider this morning so that we too can behold the glory of God and as a result praise Him properly. As we consider the answers that the psalmist found for these three things, we will consider where we can find similar answers today.
Transition from introduction to body:
Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly. In the first section of our psalm, verses 1–3, we see that…
I. God chooses where He displays His glory
Let’s read these initial verses…<read Ps 48:1–3>
Last week, Psalm 47 was a general psalm of praise with all of earth celebrating the sovereign rule of God. It is true that all of creation displays the glory of God and for that reason all people on this earth can experience the glory of God and celebrate His glory. What are psalmist recognizes, though, is that God also chose to display His glory in a special way in a special place to His chosen people.
His celebration in this psalm is specifically celebrating the way that
A. God displayed His glory in Zion
Zion is another name for Jerusalem. Mount Zion refers to the mountain upon which Jerusalem was built. Jerusalem was the center place for the people of God in the Old Testament. For much of Israel's history, the temple was located in Jerusalem. The throne of God’s chosen king—the throne of David—was in Jerusalem. Our psalmist recognizes that God's people, as citizens of Jerusalem, had reasons to praise God that exceeded those of general men from other nations.
Our writer surely understands that God is not localized to a single place. He wrote these words under inspiration, so he was not confused that God was confined to one place in space. Likewise, our writer surely knows that God's dwelling place is in heaven rather than in the earthly temple. Still, he recognizes that God accommodates Himself to man by manifesting Himself in a unique way at Jerusalem. God connected with mankind there so that mankind could understand Him more fully. For that reason, Jerusalem could rightly be called the most beautiful city on earth. In his mind, this also raised the mountain upon which Jerusalem sat to the highest of all mountains, even though there are other peaks of higher elevation surrounding it. Only in Jerusalem did the heavenly dwelling of God touch an earthly location in a visible manner—God’s glory filled the temple and there God revealed Himself to mankind.
Furthermore, our writer also recognized that Jerusalem owed its preservation to God. It is not because Israel was the most powerful nation around that they were a free nation, it was because God protected Israel. Jerusalem represented the stronghold of God. The citadels of Jerusalem were God’s fortresses. Jerusalem could rightly be called God’s city.
Thus, our writer calls on people to consider all that Jerusalem represents and to thereby ascribe praise to God. They were to look at Jerusalem and see God’s greatness. He wanted people to see that God displayed His glory in Zion.
God chooses where to display His glory. God displayed His glory in Zion. That is what our psalmist observed in his day. But we live in a different day, a different age. What is the parallel to Mount Zion for us? We should recognize as we read these verses that…
B. God displays His glory in the church
There is no temple today. God no longer chooses a single city to represent His home. Nor has He selected a single nation to be claimed as His people at this time. Instead, on this side of the cross during what we call the church age, God displays His glory through the church. Of course, I am not referring to this building or any other church building, I'm referring to the body of Christ—the men and women who know Jesus as Savior and who form the Church of God.
There are a couple of implications that come out of this realization. First of all, we should celebrate the church. We should look at the men and women who have been bought by the blood of Christ and see the glory of God on display. every Christian participates in displaying the glory of God. The church is an amazing entity. It constantly puts the glory of God on display to the surrounding world.
Of course, the second implication for us is that we must recognize that everything that we do when we carry the name of Christ reflects on the glory of God. Whenever we live in a way that is inconsistent with the name of Christ while still carrying his name, we dim the display of God's glory. This is why we must be so concerned that the church remains a pure church. This is why we must be so concerned that we remain pure Christians. God displays his glory in the church.
Think about some of the things that damage the display of God's glory by being placed under the name “Christian.” People handle rattlesnakes claiming it displays their faith in God. I want to scream to the world, “I am not that kind of Christian! That is not what the church is meant to be!” People leave a church service and stop at the bar on the way home, ending up drunk. Again , I want to scream, “I'm not that kind of Christian!” People stand outside funerals protesting America's involvement in various military actions. “I am not that kind of Christian!”
Why do I want to scream this out in these cases and distance myself from these people? Because actions like this dim the glory of God by confusing what it means to be Christian. At the same time, let us never think that many of the more respectable sins that we commit do not have just as dastardly an effect. For example, our gossip or our anger or our white lies; these things dim the display of God's glory in the church as well.
God chooses where He displays His glory. He displayed His glory in Zion. He displays His glory in the church. Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly. That is the psalmist’s call and it should be ours as well. Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly.
From the where of God’s glory, our psalm moves on to the how. In verses 4–8 we see that…
II. God chooses how He displays His glory
Let’s read this section of the psalm…<read Ps 48:4–8>.
In a very general way here, our writer describes a time when a group of foreign kings aligned themselves against Israel. A coalition had assembled and prepared to attack Jerusalem but then they had been defeated.
There are many examples in Israel’s history that would fit this general description. It is possible that the time that came to our writer’s mind was historical to him as well. Within the defeat of the nations, though, our writer recognizes that
A. God displayed His glory through deliverance
The language of verse 4, where we have translated, “the kings assembled themselves,” describes the formation of a coalition. And yet, as this coalition came against Jerusalem, they found terror rather than victory. Our writer does not describe the actual battle that resulted in the victory, rather he describes the emotional responses that came over those who were defeated. They were terrified. They were filled with panic. They experienced anguish. No matter how strong they thought they were before the battle, they realized that they were defeated as easily as a strong wind can break apart the strongest and largest ships that traveled on the sea, the ships of Tarshish, when the wind forced them to crash against a rocky coast.
Now, while those who were defeated experienced these emotions, our psalmist recognizes that their defeat was God's glory on display. He knows that God is the One who delivered the nation. Israel did not come away from their battle victorious because of their own military strength; Israel came away victorious because God delivered the nation. In fact, the kings who had come against Israel were forced to recognize that Jerusalem was the city of God. Jerusalem could not be defeated as long as God chose to deliver it. So now our writer calls on the people of Jerusalem to look at the deliverance of God, to “see” what God has done, and to praise God that He will display His glory forever through their deliverance.
God chooses how He displays His glory. God displayed His glory through deliverance in Israel’s day. As we think about these verses, I want us to recognize that today, in a similar fashion,…
B. God displays His glory through salvation
In verse 6, the illustration of childbirth was used to describe the anguish that came upon Israel’s enemies when they were defeated. This past week the Palazzolo's experienced childbirth early on Wednesday morning when Alex was born. When Nino communicated with me later in the day, he said that he and Laura were both very tired. Now, I'm sure Nino would readily admit that Laura was much more exhausted than he was, but Alex’s birth is a fresh reminder that childbirth is a time of anguish. Of course, both Nino and Laura were also excited on the other side of childbirth in the joy of their newborn son. The joy comes as both mother and baby are delivered from the anguish of the birthing process.
In our psalmist’s day God displayed His glory by defeating the enemy of Israel because an attack against Israel was an attack against God. God showed His glory by defeating His enemy. Today God continues to show His glory by defeating His ultimate enemy, Satan, who wants to destroy the image bearers of God. Sin is Satan’s tool, but God brings victory, victory through the deliverance that we call salvation. Satan is defeated every time God grants salvation to a sinner. God's glory is displayed every time he gives salvation to a sinner.
Salvation comes as men and women accept the truth of the gospel: that they are sinners who need salvation through Jesus Christ who died in their place. As we were reminded so well last Sunday evening, this happens as we share the gospel message with people God has placed into our lives. God has chosen to work through those He has already saved to bring the message of salvation to others. Let me ask you, are you doing your part? Are you sharing the gospel message with others? Are you seeking to display God's glory by sharing with people how they can have salvation through Jesus Christ?
Since I am unable to see who is watching this morning because you on the other side of a camera from me, I do not know whether everyone listening has heard the gospel message before or not. The gospel message, in short, is that God is a holy God who cannot tolerate sin. God is also a just God who cannot overlook sin. But God is at the same time a loving God who has found a way to deal with sin, the substitutionary death of His own Son, Jesus Christ. Lastly, God is a gracious God who will accept Jesus’ death in your place when you ask Him to do so by placing your faith in Jesus alone for your salvation.
Since I do not know who I am looking at this morning, allow me to extend an invitation to you. If you have not heard these ideas before and you would like to know more, please send me an email. You can find my email on our church website. I would love to talk with you further about how you can experience salvation and become part of God's display of his glory.
God chooses how He displays His glory. God displayed His glory through deliverance, the deliverance of Israel from their enemies. God displays His glory through salvation, the salvation of sinners through faith in Jesus Christ.
Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly. Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly.
In the third section of our psalm, our writer goes and celebrates the why of God’s actions;…
III. God chooses why He displays His glory
Let’s read this third section…<read Ps 48:9–14>.
I love the way verse 9 begins, “We have thought on your lovingkindness, O God.” The idea being expressed is that the people of God should meditate upon God's faithfulness. The word “lovingkindness” is that familiar Hebrew word, hesed. This word has a special meaning for Israel as it expresses the idea that God will act for the good of those with whom He has a covenant relationship. In other words, what the psalmist saying is that we—the people of Israel—have meditated upon all the evidences of God's faithfulness to His covenant. And the remaining verses express the result of that meditation.
The natural thing to do whenever we mediate upon a situation is to ask ourselves why. That is what the psalmist has done; he has asked why God displayed His glory by delivering Israel from its enemies. The answer that he comes to is that…
A. God displayed His glory for the fame of His name
The psalmist recognized that God had tied His name to the temple in Jerusalem. Whatever happened to Jerusalem reflects on God's reputation throughout the rest of the world. In verses 10 through 13, there three ways given as to how God's fame was increased by His display of glory delivering the nation, three answers to why God chose to display His glory.
First, in verse 10, God chose to deliver Israel so that the entire world would see that God is righteous. The world knew that God had connected Himself—His name—to Israel. By delivering Israel the world learned that God is strong. They learned that He is righteous. They learned that He is worthy of praise. So, by delivering Israel the praise of God was extended to the ends of the earth; the fame of His name was increased. That is why He displayed His glory delivering the nation.
Secondly, in verse 11 God's chose to deliver Israel so that the people of Israel would praise Him with great joy. The very people who experience the deliverance were filled with joy at the preservation of their lives and city. The citizens of Jerusalem praised God. The people living in the surrounding cities of Judah, described as the “daughters of Judah,” praised God. As the joy of God's people increased, the fame of His name did as well through their celebrations. That is why He displayed His glory delivering the nation.
Thirdly, God chose to deliver Israel so that His fame would be passed along to the next generation. The picture created in verses 12 and 13 is of family walking around the city and pointing to its physical defenses, defenses that had withstood the attack of battle. As a father might point to a tower that still stood, he would have a chance to tell his children that that tower still stands because God preserved this city. The fame of God's name would increase as His fame was passed to the next generation. That is why He displayed His glory delivering the nation.
As the psalmist thought about all of these evidences of God’s covenant faithfulness, the only conclusion that he could come to is that this is exactly the kind of God that God is--a faithful God. And God will be such a God forever and ever. He will always be a God who may be trusted to lead His people until the very end. What a God to behold!
God chooses why He displays His glory. God displayed His glory for the fame of His name. As we think about that truth, we should recognize that God remains the same…
B. God displays His glory for the fame of His name
We too should meditate upon the lovingkindness of our God. Because of our salvation in Jesus Christ, we too are in a covenant relationship with God. That means that God will move toward us with hesed—covenant faithfulness, lovingkindness.
As we ask ourselves why God does this, we should see the same types of evidence as the psalmist saw. God displays His glory through our salvation so that His fame will extend to the ends of the earth. As men and women from every tribe and tongue and peoples and nation come to know Jesus as Savior, the fame of God's name increases. Do you have an overwhelming burden to see that happen as you think about the way God has displayed His glory in your life? You should.
God also continues to deliver us, His people, so that our lives are filled with joy. The result of our joy should be continual praise to our God. What can we possibly have to grumble about when we have been saved from our sins? We express our praise as we gather together for worship, proclaiming the fame of God's name through songs and prayers and sermons and scripture reading and the Lords table—all of the regular elements that make up normal worship services. We really don’t need to manufacture special events—regular worship is already the most special thing possible because it celebrates the glory God has displayed through our salvation in Jesus Christ. Our joy in Christ proclaims the fame of our God.
The fame of God's name further increases as we faithfully tell our children about how God has displayed His glory through our salvation. One of our greatest duties as a parent is to tell our children about the glory that God has shown in our lives by saving us. We should be the first window through which our children see the glory of God. God has designed it that way so that the fame of His name will increase as we tell of His great deliverance to the next generation.
Why? Because this is the kind of God that God is. A God who displays His glory. Plus, we know that God will be this kind of God forever and ever. And for that reason, He is a God who will guide us until the end, until death. God displays His glory for the fame of His name.
Transition from body to conclusion:
God chooses why He displays His glory. God displayed His glory for the fame of His name. God displays His glory for the fame of His name.
Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly. Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly.
Do you remember that time that you thought about at the beginning of this sermon, a time when you were awestruck? I am sure that if you think about it, largely what caused that time to be so awe inspiring was that it reflected something of the glory of God. The Grand Canyon displays God’s creative power and might. The starry sky does the same. Most likely whatever you thought of was something that displays the glory of God in some fashion. This morning. though, I hope you have seen that God Himself is it where the real glory lies. Our desire should be to behold Him…to behold our God, to see His glory as He displays it.
God chooses where He displays His glory. God chooses how He displays His glory. God chooses why He displays His glory. He does such so that we might behold His glory and praise Him properly.
Behold His Glory. Behold the glory of God so that we may praise Him properly.