For Sunday, July 4th, 2021
Year B, Proper 9
Have you ever been emotionally enthralled with a view of majesty? For me, it was seeing the Teton mountains in person for the first time. They rise out of the plains of Wyoming with no foothills to tip off their presence. They are absolutely majestic.
We each need a prevailing presence in our lives, and for Christians, this prevailing presence is the majesty of God. This is what Psalm 48 is all about.
Psalm 48 gives us 3 marks of a prevailing presence: a sure defense (vv. 1-3); a resounding victory (vv. 4-8); an enduring guide (vv. 9-11).
A Sure Defense (vv. 1-3)
The first mark of a prevailing presence is a sure defense. “Within its citadels God has shown himself a sure defense (v. 3)” Have you seen a contemporary picture of the main hill of Jerusalem? There is a gentle slope upward capped off by the Dome of the Rock. Imagine what the view would have been with the temple of David there! It would have created the emotional connection that we Americans have for The White House, or Mt. Rushmore, or the Tetons. We think in our hearts, “Now there is something solid that I can hang on to when everything else hits the fan.”
It is so powerful to experience God having one’s back in the midst of tumult. My wife Heather and our family had spent ten amazing years ministering in Russia, in Siberia actually. Suddenly, it all came to an end very unexpectedly under extremely painful circumstances. As painful as it was, we experienced God having our backs over and over again as we navigated our way forward thru the wreckage. We learned at a very core and emotional level that God really is our sure defense. Our Father wants us to know this about him!
Most of us have experienced trauma, difficulty, or profound loss at some point in our lives. It’s part of living in a fallen world. Yet once one knows God has one’s back, there is a fearlessness and ferocity that develops that nothing can stand against. What does Romans say? We are more than conquerors. Why? Because God is our sure defense!
A Resounding Victory (vv. 4-8)
The second mark of a prevailing presence is a resounding victory. V. 4 talks about the kings of the earth coming in force against Mt. Zion, yet in all their might, “as soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic, they took to flight.” They were trembling as women in childbirth! It was as when a strong east wind absolutely obliterates the ships of Tarshish. I can hear the wood planks cracking and shearing from here, centuries away. Yet amidst all this tumult WE ponder his steadfast love (Hebrew ‘hesed’). God’s right hand is filled with victory. What is in his right hand? Ultimately, his son’s absolute obliteration of sin at Calvary.
I remember when the Green Bay Packers won their first Super Bowl with Brett Favre. We Packers fans had suffered for decades since the great days of the Ice Bowl. But here it was: a resounding victory. It was absolutely thrilling.
Even MORE thrilling is Jesus victory on the cross. Think about it: no one can ever take that away from us! IT IS FINISHED.
An Enduring Guide (vv. 9-11)
The third and final mark of a prevailing presence is an enduring guide. The author encourages us to “Walk about Zion, go all around it, counting it’s towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels …” Why, so that we know how many towers there are? … So that we know where to find our glasses when we set them down unattentively? … So that we know how the whole thing is constructed? No! It’s so that we develop a mental picture of God’s prevailing presence that will never leave us!
‘Consider well’ means to meditate until a firm mental picture is implanted in our minds and hearts. It’s what professional golfers do when visualizing their next shot. Let’s fix this in our minds: “He will be our guide forever.“
How often do we subconsciously think we have to figure everything out in life for ourselves, and that we are alone? In actual fact, we reside in the very heart of Mt. Zion spiritually every day, and it is from this place, and this emotional safety, that God wants us to live out each day in strength, in joy, in peace.
It’s too easy to read Psalms like Psalm 48 and think subconsciously, “Oh yeah, I know, God is great. God is majestic. Okay, now let’s get to something more useful.” Yet there is nothing more useful than connecting emotionally, physically and spiritually with the prevailing presence of God in our lives.
“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God.“