1 Great is the LORD—his praise all else excels— In our God’s city, on his holy hill. 2 Mount Zion is the joy of all the earth, So high and fair like mountains of the north; Here is the city where the Great King dwells.3 God is the fortress of Jerusalem. 4 When kings joined forces, ready to advance, 5 They looked, and fled in terror and surprise, 6 Gripped like a woman who in childbirth cries. 7 Like ships destroyed by storm, you shattered them.
8 As we have heard, now we have seen it so Within the city of Almighty God— The city of the LORD, which by his grace 9 He makes secure. Within your holy place Your never-failing love we seek to know.
10 O God, your name is known throughout the earth, And to its farthest shores your praise goes forth; Your strong right hand is filled with righteousness. 11 To Zion your great deeds bring joyfulness, And Judah’s villages are filled with mirth.
12 Walk round and count the towers of Zion’s hill. 13 Note well her ramparts and her citadels, And speak of them to your posterity. 14 For this God is our God eternally, And to the end our God will guide us still.
You can hear the Genevan Psalm tune, Old 124th here. This tune is the one recommended for this version of the Psalm.
Psalm 48 is a community song, celebrating God’s reign over the earth. In the Psalm we are invited to survey Zion and marvel at the great city of God. The Psalm may have formed part of the liturgy at the Feast of Tabernacles when the people came to Jerusalem in order to commemorate the provision of God during their wandering in the wilderness.
The Psalm proclaims that God is great and the city of God’s dwelling is holy because of the presence of God. Jerusalem has become the high mountain dwelling place of God; the city is now the holy mountain. The city is both beautiful and full of joy and yet an invincible fortress, so that invading armies quake as they approach in attack. God’s attributes are celebrated, particularly God’s love, righteousness and judgements. The people are called to process around the city to experience for themselves the strength and protection of God so that they might pass their experience on to future generations.
Psalm 48 celebrates the safety and peace of Jerusalem as a sanctuary in which God dwells. We will each have places of sanctuary – it may be a mountain top or an ancient place of worship; it may be a place we go to alone, or one where we are blessed by the presence of others. There will be a whole range of places where we find refuge and a place to feel secure in the presence of God. Being in our sanctuary place may evoke the same feelings and ideas about God that we find in today’s Psalm – feelings of safety and peace, celebration and joy, love and righteousness. We may feel we gain strength from our place of sanctuary to face a world in which God’s presence is sometimes difficult to find.
Companion God, Help me to find a place of sanctuary in you today. In each task that awaits, may I feel your safety and peace, celebration and joy, love and righteousness. Draw me ever closer to you and grant me strength as I encounter everything that this day holds. Amen
The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson, East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate