We are used to symbolism in poetry, and it would be hard to find a psalm that did not employ much of it. But sometimes we come to a psalm that exceeds the others in the sense that its very theme is symbolic. Psalm 48 is such a psalm.

I take you back to the early chapters of Genesis in which God calls Abraham to be his follower, promising, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:3). From the very beginning God had said that he purposed to bless all nations and all peoples through Abraham and his descendants, particularly through his one great descendant, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And that is what he has done and is doing. He is building Christ's spiritual kingdom with people from all nations and races.

Yesterday we said that psalms 46 and 47 may be pointing back to the story in 2 Samuel 6. But while that may be the meaning of the reference, of course, the problem I see is that 2 Samuel 6 does not describe a battle. In fact, normally the Ark did not accompany the people into battle, and the one time they tried to use it in this way, when they were fighting the Philistines, the Ark was captured and the battle was lost (cf. 1 Samuel 4:1-7:1).

Yesterday we said that God brings down arrogant nations that trust in their own strength. In the Bible, the book that makes this point most emphatically is Daniel. The story of King Nebuchadnezzar teaches it. But I pass over Nebuchadnezzar's story to that of his son Belshazzar. Belshazzar had given a party in which he had defiled the vessels that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar sacked the city. In the midst of this party, the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the palace wall. Belshazzar and his guests became frightened.

It will help to make a few observations about Psalm 47 and its place in the Psalter. First, Psalm 47 follows quite naturally after Psalm 46. Psalm 46 is focused on the security of God's people, noting how God had delivered them from one of their great enemies.2 It challenged the nations to observe that deliverance and stand in awe before God: "Be still and know that I am God: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (v. 10). God himself is speaking.