Psalm 48: The God Who Makes Zion Great

[Let us] consider verses 12 through 14, the fourth part of this Psalm. And this is a challenge to the congregation: the worshipers have now declared their remembrance of what they learned about God in the midst of corporate worship in the temple. Now comes a challenge: it’s a challenge from those who were leading in worship, perhaps the sons of Korah. And they turn to the congregation, and they give an imperative; they give a direction; they give a charge: “Walk about Zion; go around her. Look around and then tell your children.” It’s a call for the whole congregation to look at Zion and then to tell their children about Zion.

But ultimately there’s a bigger agenda here, because the challenge to the congregation, though it initially is a challenge for the congregation to look at Zion, ultimately this is a call for the congregation to look at God. You see, the emphasis here is not so much on Zion as it is on the God of Zion. Zion is the backdrop here to a great reality, and we’ll see that in verse 14. But the exhortation begins like this, “Walk about Zion; go around her; count her towers; consider her ramparts; go through her palaces, that you may tell it to the next generation.” Maybe this Psalm was written in days in which Jerusalem was strong, when she had never been sacked by her enemies, and the Psalmist has in his mind the relative safety of Zion, of Jerusalem in the midst of all her foes.

But whatever the case is here, the Psalmist is calling on the people of God to reckon with the glory of the people of God; because when we live in the midst of the people of God, the glory of the people of God is probably not one of the top five things that we think about, not when we’re living in the midst of the people of God. Because the people of God let you down, and they hurt your feelings, and they don’t minister to you in the time of need, and they do all sorts of things that are disconcerting and disappointing–and frankly you don’t think of the glory of the people of God a lot. But the Psalmist is asking you to think about the glory of this people with whom God dwells.

I want to remind you of this as we think about the church, because we don’t see the church as God sees her and as God will one day reveal her. And we need to rehearse to ourselves what the church really is and what she really will look like one day. Because King Jesus by His Spirit is preparing the Church for a day when He will present to Himself the Church in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing but holy and blameless. That’s what Paul says in Ephesians 5:27. That’s the work and goal of glorification. Now it’s true that God glorifies us individually, and it’s true that we’re going to be raised with glorified bodies, but ultimately glorification is a corporate work: God is doing it for all of His people. Hebrews 11 makes that clear when it says in reciting the record of the faithfulness of the people of God in all ages he says, “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” And the author of Hebrews there is simply making this point that it is God’s will that we would all experience the final glory together; at the same time, not apart from the totality of the Church’s experience and the enjoyment of that final glorification. And so we need to remember that God is in the business of making us.

Eric Alexander has spoken about this renovation work of God in this way: “Glorification,” Alexander says, “gives a new, true, biblical sense of perspective to our view of the world and of history and of the church.”

We need to ask ourselves, what is the really important thing that is happening in the world in our generation? Where are the really significant events taking place? Are they taking place in the seats of government and power here in London or Washington or Beijing or wherever? What is the most important thing? Where do you need to look in the modern world to see the most significant event from a divine perspective? Where is the focus of God’s activity in history? In answer to all these questions, the most significant thing happening in history is the calling, redeeming, and perfecting of the people of God, the Church of God. God is building the Church of Jesus Christ; the rest of history is simply a stage God erects for that purpose. He is calling out a people; He’s perfecting them; He’s changing them. And history’s great climax comes when God brings down the curtain on this bankrupt world and the Lord Jesus Christ arrives in His infinite glory, and the rest of history is simply the scaffolding for the real work.

Alexander goes on to say, “The last time I was in London, the front of the great Abbey of Westminster was covered in scaffolding as they were cleaning it; they were beautifying it; they were preparing it for a future day. One could not see it’s true beauty, but one was aware that something of great significance was happening behind that web of scaffolding. Something of majestic beauty was about to be revealed. The same thing is happening in my own city of Glasgow. Some of its magnificent Victorian buildings are covered for months and even years with scaffolding, and then when the scaffolding is taken down the architecture is revealed in all its pristine glory.” There will come a day when God will pull down the scaffolding of world history, and do you know what He will be pointing to when He says to His whole creation– “This is my masterpiece”? He will be pointing to the Church of Jesus Christ. In the forefront of it all will be the Lord Jesus who will come and say, “Here I am and the children You have given Me, perfected in the beauty of holiness.” That is the day that we are living for, and we must never ever forget when we have the full warts biography of the church that that is the day that God is preparing for now. And there is a glory to be in the Church in all her imperfections; there is a glory to be united and connected in part of this living body, this imperfect body now, but one day a body that will be ultimately, finally perfect.

But the Psalm doesn’t end there does it? It doesn’t end in Zion. Verse 14 takes us to Zion’s God. It’s almost a surprise ending, isn’t it? “Consider her ramparts; go through her palaces, that you may tell it to the next generation. For”– Now what are you expecting?–“For Zion is glorious”– But what do you get?–“for such is God, our God, forever and ever. He will guide us until or to death.”

You see, the surprise ending is that it’s not about Zion; it’s about God. Because it’s God who makes Zion great; it’s God who makes His people great, and God will guide His people because He knows the way because He decreed the way. Why do we look to God for guidance? Because God ordained the end from the beginning, and He knows how to get from the beginning to the end. So we look to Him to guide us on our way to the end…and He will guide us there. John Owen’s meditation on this psalm, said, “This Psalm gives the church five bulwarks in the midst of trial: her King, Jesus; the promises of God, the providence of God, the presence of God, and God’s covenant commitments sealed to us in Christ.”

Ligon Duncan


Read Psalm 48. What can we as a church do to proclaim God’s greatness more effectively in this city? 

O Great God by Sovereign Grace Music

Posted on: April 23, 2021 - 12:00PM

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