A Sense of Place
(8) As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of Yahweh Sabaoth, in the city of God, which God will establish forever. (Selah) (9) We have meditated on your steadfast love, God, in the midst of your temple. (10) Like your name, God, your praise (reaches) to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. (11) Let Mount Zion be glad. Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of your judgments. (12) Walk about Zion. Make a tour around her and count her towers. (13) Consider well her ramparts. Go through her citadels, so that you may tell the next generation (14) that this God is our God forever and ever. He will guide us until the end.
The second half of Psalm 48 is written like a guidebook to help pilgrims who have never visited Zion picture what awaits them when they arrive at their destination. Several repetitions are found in these verses. God’s name, “Elohim,” is mentioned six times (vss. 8, 9, 10, & 14) along with “Yahweh Sabaoth” (vs. 8). In that same verse we encounter “the city” twice, both occurrences linked to a name for God (vs. 8). “Zion” is mentioned twice (vs. 11 & 12). The term, “forever,” is used first to describe the city of God which will be established “forever” (vs. 8) and then to speak of God’s eternality (vs. 14).
What does a trip to Jerusalem accomplish for those who have never been able to visit the city? Why should anyone make a special effort to travel to the Holy Land? Among other things, a personal visit provides travelers with a sense of place, enabling them to visualize Zion’s grandeur and beauty so that they can see why God chose this amazing city to serve as the center of Israel’s worship and the location from which he would bless the whole world with his righteousness and steadfast love.
I. Worshiping in Zion for the glory and honor of God (8-11)
II. Walking about Zion to appreciate her grandeur and beauty (12-14)
When we visit Zion, we will be drawn to worship Yahweh and rejoice in the beauty of the place in which he chose as his dwelling place.
Several years ago, my wife and I were invited to join a group making a tour of the Holy Land. We had resisted previous invitations because we could not easily leave our young family nor our church responsibilities. On the trip we were finally able to make, we spent two memorable weeks in both Jordan and Israel. Our time in Jerusalem was particularly meaningful.
Was it worth it? Definitely, but not for the shrines we visited, nor for the luxury hotels in which we stayed, nor for the exotic sights and sounds we experienced. What meant the most to us was the sense of place captured in the phrase, “As we have heard, so we have seen” (vs. 8). As an example, in Jerusalem while standing on the Temple Mount, we were reminded that this was the very location where Abraham had taken Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice, the place where Israel’s temple had once stood, and the site where the Millennial Temple will someday be erected. In the Garden of Gethsemane we could picture how Jesus had made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and how he had prayed with his disciples the evening of his arrest and trial.
As we traveled around Israel, various scenes and events described in both the Old and New Testaments came alive as we personally surveyed where they had taken place and how they might have unfolded. During our visit, we grew in our awareness that this is God’s chosen location, the place he had pledged to give to Abraham and his descendants forever, the place where Jesus was born, the place where he had ministered with his disciples, the place where he suffered and died and rose again for our salvation, and the place where he will one day return to establish his kingdom and rule over the entire earth. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a great experience never to be forgotten. However, those who must wait to visit Zion until Christ’s Millennial Kingdom is established still voice the confidence expressed in the last verse of the psalm: “This God is our God forever and ever. He will guide us until the end” (Ps. 48:14).