Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within its citadels God has shown himself a sure defence.
Then the kings assembled, they came on together. As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic, they took to flight; trembling took hold of them there, pains as of a woman in labour, as when an east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes for ever.
We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. Your name, O God, like your praise, reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with victory. Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah rejoice because of your judgements.
This is one of the Psalms written by the sons of Korah (Temple assistants). Whilst the Book of Psalms is widely regarded as a collection of Prayers, this example is described as a song. Indeed, as I read it, I can’t help but think of (and sing to myself) hymns and songs which come to mind, particularly Sing unto the Lord a New Song (actually inspired by Psalm 96), which reminds us that, ‘He is greatly to be praised’.
A key message of the Psalm is that God’s presence is our security. Having, as a youngster, come through the ranks of the Boys’ Brigade and served for a short time as an Officer, I’m reminded of Will your Anchor Hold? written by Priscilla Jane Owens, which, in common with Psalm 48, contains the two parts of the Boys’ Brigade motto: Sure and Steadfast. The hymn asks some searching questions, but the chorus provides an emphatic answer:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll; Fastened to the rock which cannot move, Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!
Ultimately, this Psalm provides us with three key tools for our Christian lives: it is a prayer/song; it is in Scripture; it reminds us of hymns to sing.
Lord God, help us to read Your Word for all its worth. Help us to sing Your praises, not to ourselves but so others can hear the Good News. As we pray, help us to listen to what you have to say to us. Help us to remember that You are the rock which cannot move. Help us to remain grounded in the love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose Name we pray. Amen!
Jeff Newall is a Lay Preacher and member of Christ the Vine Community Church, Milton Keynes.