1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
3 Within her citadels God
has made himself known as a fortress.
4 For behold, the kings assembled;
they came on together.
5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic; they took to flight.
6 Trembling took hold of them there,
anguish as of a woman in labor.
7 By the east wind you shattered
the ships of Tarshish.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
which God will establish forever. Selah
9 We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
10 As your name, O God,
so 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, go around her,
number her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14 that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever.
The 48th psalm was likely written at the time of the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem around 586 BCE. Although Zion was initially just another hill in Judah, it came to symbolize something more: as the location of God’s house, it was the sign of God’s enduring protection from all foes. Through times of hardship and times of Exile, the people of God came to know that the Lord wasn’t confined to Zion, but was with them wherever and whenever they worshipped.
Today we sometimes use “Zion” metaphorically to speak of heaven, Christ’s Church, or even the Creator’s earth at large. God’s strength and praise may have started on a hill in Jerusalem, but it “reaches to the ends of the earth.” Because the Lord’s “right hand is filled with righteousness,” we say, “Let Mount Zion be glad!”
So bring on the rain and the pain and whatever lies ahead! We may be seeing tough and unusual days, perhaps weirdly similar to those of ancient times. During the Exile, God’s people had lost their city and Temple – the “church” they had always known and loved. At first they did not know what to do or how to worship. They were in a strange new world and did not know when they would be able to return to their lives and to worship with their community in the “normal” way. Doesn’t that sound familiar? But the people of Israel developed new ways of worshipping and new ways of teaching faith that ultimately strengthened their traditions. Today we must hold out for our Zion as we do the same. May God’s faithful love “guide us forever!”
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
We are in a strange new kind of exile. As this psalm suggests, perhaps take a “walk about Zion” (walk about your area, safely!) or phone a friend. Think about how we as the Church can stay connected to our traditions. Think about how God wants you to reach out to others of our faith during this experience. Pray that our church finds new ways to be and to worship. Bless the earth and those with whom you come in contact in your daily travels.