Theme: A Closing Couplet
From this week’s lessons we learn that this Song of Zion is fundamentally a song of praise to God, who watches over his people in all times and forever.
Scripture: Psalm 48:1-14
“God’s special presence in his church.” The ancient devout Jews were conscious of the presence of God in Jerusalem, symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant that rested within the Most Holy Place of the temple. It is why he could say, “God is in her citadels” (v. 3). We cannot say that God is in our cities in the same way, or even in our churches. But we have something better: God in us, in the person of his Holy Spirit. When Jesus was about to leave this world he said to his disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforter to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16, 17). To have the Holy Spirit within us is a very great bulwark against the world, the flesh and the devil, against all sin and temptation.
“The last bulwark unto which all others may be reduced…the covenant of God.” Owen is right when he suggests that the greatest bulwark is the covenant which God has established with us, since it embraces all else and is confirmed by the precious blood of his own Son.
In fact, with this important note we are led to a section of Hebrews in which the new Jerusalem is declared to be superior to the old, and the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ, is declared to be superior to the old covenants that preceded it. The author begins by telling us that today Christians have not come to Mount Sinai, where the first covenant was proclaimed. That was a frightening place before which even Moses trembled. Rather, “You have come to mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” He concludes, most aptly in view of Psalm 48, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:22-24, 28).
The last couplet of the psalm says, “For this is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end” (literally, “even unto death”). There are commentators who have considered this personal note inappropriate as an ending to a psalm about Zion. But they surely miss the point, since a personal note is exactly what we need. It is wonderful to know that God has established Zion forever, even more wonderful to know that he has established his church. But what about me? And what about death, the great separator? The last verse assures us that the God of Zion is our personal God, too, and that he will keep us even as he keeps his church and city. Can you say it with the psalmist? “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”
Compare God’s presence in the Old Testament temple with the New Testament church.
Read Hebrews 12:18-24. How does the old covenant differ from the new covenant?
Application: What evidences are there of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life?
For Further Study: The theme of God’s city reaches its culmination at the end of Revelation. Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “God’s City.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)