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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Psalms 48

Verses 1-14

Psalms 48:0

There is one event, and only one, in Jewish history which corresponds point for point to the details of this Psalm the crushing destruction of the Assyrian army under Sennacherib. We may, with considerable probability, regard it as the hymn of triumph over the baffled Assyrian and the marvellous deliverance of Israel by the arm of God. The Psalm falls into three portions. There is the glory of Zion, the deliverance of Zion, and the consequent grateful praise and glad trust of Zion.

I. The glory of Zion. The Jew's pride in Jerusalem was a different thing altogether from the Roman's pride in Rome. The one thing that gave it glory was that in it God abode. The name even of the earthly Zion was "Jehovah-Shammah" "The Lord is there." We are not spiritualising or forcing a New Testament meaning into these words when we see in them an eternal truth. Zion is where hearts love, and trust, and follow Christ. The "city of the great King" is a permanent reality in a partial form upon earth, and that partial form is itself a prophecy of the perfection of the heavens.

II. The deliverance of Zion. (1) Mark the dramatic vigour of the description of the deliverance. The abruptness of the language, huddled together, as it were, without connecting particles, conveys the impression of hurry and confusion, culminating in the rush of fugitives fleeing under the influence of panic terror. (2) Mark the eloquent silence as to the cause of the panic and the flight. There is no appearance of armed resistance. An unseen hand smites once; and when the morning dawned, "they were all dead corpses." The impression of terror produced by such a blow is increased by the veiled allusion to it here. The silence magnifies the deliverance. (3) Mark how from this dramatic description there rises a loftier thought still. The deliverance thus described links the present with the past. "As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God." (4) The deliverance also links the present for our confidence with all the future. "God will establish it for ever."

III. The grateful praise and glad trust of Zion. (1) The deliverance deepens the glad meditation on God's favour and defence. (2) It spreads His fame throughout the world. (3) It produces in Zion, the mother city, and her daughter villages, a triumph of rapture and gladness. The last verses set forth the height and perfectness of the confidence which the manifold mercies of God ought to produce in men's hearts.

A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, 3rd series, p. 163.

Verse 3

Psalms 48:3

I. God. The first germ of religion is the conception of God. God is a Spirit, and only spiritual natures can worship. Even false worship argues a constitutional capacity for the true. The beasts that perish never fall into idolatry.

II. God is. This is the first proposition in the inspired confession of faith, "He that cometh to God must believe that He is" (Hebrews 11:6 ). This is the pillar and ground of truth. Our idea of God depends on His existence, not His existence on our idea.

III. God is known. God is, and He may be, known, for He puts Himself in our way at every turn of our path. Not only out of his own mouth, but out of his own frame, the atheist will be condemned. In the organisation of his body, and the capacity of his mind, and the things of his conscience he might have known God if he would.

IV. God is known in her. "God is known" may be taken as the motto of natural, "God is known in her" as the motto of revealed, religion. Jerusalem occupied the very centre of God's work and ways. In her the word was deposited that from her it might spread; in her God was known that by her He might be made known to the nations of the earth.

V. God is known in her palaces. The Psalm commemorates a revival in high places. With God there is no respect of persons. The rich are as precious in His sight as the poor, and no more.

VI. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. On this last point all that has gone before absolutely depends. The idea, the existence, the knowledge, of God, whether among rich or poor, become for us all or nothing according as we recognise Him as our refuge or fear Him as our foe. Whether they flee from God or to Him is the article of a standing or a falling Church, a living or a dying soul. They who do not know God as a refuge do not know Him at all.

W. Arnot, The Anchor of the Soul, and Other Sermons, p. 138.

Verse 8

Psalms 48:8

These words of the prophet and psalmist seem to contain a short and plain account of the temper and behaviour of the friends and Apostles of our Lord during those days of hope and patience which came to an end on the morning of the first Whit-Sunday.

I. They waited patiently for the Lord. They had taken it on His word, however unaccountable it might sound, that it was expedient for them His going away; and they were prepared to trust Him still further and to abide in faith and quietness any length of time during which the Comforter might delay His coming.

II. Observe the place where they waited. The prophecy had described God's people as waiting in the Temple. Our Lord ordered His Apostles to tarry in the city of Jerusalem, and they were continually in the Temple.

III. This teaches, first, that patient waiting is the strength of God's people, that they greatly err if they pretend to fix His times or to take His matters into their own hands; and, secondly, that they are to take things as they find them and set out on God's work in their social callings from the present moment and the present state of things, whenever and whatever it be.

IV. There can be no such encouragement to serious repentance, to serious improvement, to patient continuance in welldoing, as the answer which God gave to those prayers in which our Lord's disciples and His mother continued during the ten days from His ascension to Pentecost. The return of these prayers was the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, Jesus Christ coming by His Spirit to save us one by one from the power of sin for the future, as He had before come in His own person to offer Himself an all-sufficient sacrifice for us, and save us one and all from the punishment of sins past.

V. If the disciples were to wait for the Comforter in Jerusalem, in or near the visible Temple, much more ought we to take care how we wander in any way, even in thought, beyond the bounds of the spiritual temple, the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. Let us so long and strive for these mercies, as never to forget the sort of persons to whom they are promised.

Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. vii., p. 127.

References: Psalms 48:8 . J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 151.Psalms 48:9 . J. C. Gallaway, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 275.

Verses 11-13

Psalms 48:11-13

I. There are times when heart and brain fail and are weary beneath the weight of the years that have been and the thought of those that are yet to be, times when the whole being sinks back overwhelmed by the endless range of life and creation, appalled at the springing up and dying away of creatures innumerable, and we amongst them, generation after generation rising, living, dying, passing out of sight, whether they be man, the seeming lord of this earth, or the worm, his seeming subject. Then this soul of man, with its strong, active life-power, refuses to believe that this short perishing of its seventy or eighty years is its boundary, determines to grasp a greater inheritance, will hold fast and make the ages its own, and by abiding works, by deeds that live, conquer the coming years and bid them do its commands. It is part of our immortality to feel this.

II. It was needful in the childhood of the world to have a strong city and a glorious temple as the rallying place and visible fortress of the people of God. The strong walls and the glorious temple, telling as they did of many a past year of holy trial and holy victory, and speaking in their strength of years unnumbered yet to come, satisfied the craving for an enduring record, and became a home that could be seen of national honour, a home to Israel for Israel's God upon earth.

E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. i., p. 86. Three thoughts are most conspicuous in the verses of the text.

I. Loyal, patriotic pride.

II. Consideration for posterity: "that ye may tell them that come after."

III. An ascription of all past blessings to God and a resolution to remain faithful to Him for ever.

H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 1st series, p. 133.

Reference: Psalms 48:13 . H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 176.

Verse 14

Psalms 48:14

I. We believe, first, in God the Father, who made us and all mankind, who created all things, and for whose pleasure they are and were created. God has not left Himself without witness among us. In volume after volume He has spoken to us. In voice after voice He has made known His will by His works which are all around us in the universe wherein we live; by His word which He inspired into holy men of old; by that conscience which is the lamp lit by the Spirit in every soul of man; by history, which is the record of His dealing with nations; by His experience, which is the pattern woven by His own hand in the web of our little lives. By these we all may know Him. They teach us that He is perfect, awful, holy; that He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. But when we think of God only as the Creator, there is something in this thought which inevitably appals us. Thank God, His revelations of Himself do not stop here.

II. When, in our utter littleness, we feel ourselves annihilated by the supreme and infinite completeness of God, then, pointing us to Christ, our elder Brother in the great family of man, God reveals to us the mystery of our redemption, and teaches us that we are greater than we know. For us there is no longer a God in the rushing fire, or destroying earthquake, or roaring wind; but the Divine temple of God was the human body of His Son, and even for rebels and for sinners "God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."

III. There is the third, the last and highest, stage of God's revelation of Himself. Christ told His disciples, and He tells us, that it is good for us that He should go away. The spiritual presence of the Comforter was nearer, more powerful, more blessed, than even the physical presence. God had been with them, but it was better for them that He should be in them. The Father, who made, the Son, who redeemed, the Holy Ghost, who sanctified and who liveth in the temple of our hearts "this God is our God for ever and ever; He shall be our Guide unto death."

F. W. Farrar, Penny Pulpit, No. 1042.

Piety is not unfavourable to patriotism; rather does it enlarge and hallow it. In this Psalm you have the most fervent piety in combination with the most fervid patriotism. Two chief thoughts are presented to us in this verse.

I. Who is this God that is emphatically designated and claimed as our God? (1) He is a known God. We are not left to frame a God for ourselves; we have revealed to us in the Bible, and especially in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God, not only as our Creator, but as our loving Father and our Saviour and Sanctifier. (2) Our God is a covenant God. This was peculiarly true of Jehovah in relation to His ancient people. We live under a new and better covenant. The two great provisions of this covenant are: ( a ) that God will write His laws in our hearts, and that He will put them within us; ( b ) "Your sins and iniquities will I remember no more." (3) This God, called "our God," is a tried God. During all the ages of the world's and the Church's history, He has been put to the test by countless multitudes of those who have trusted in Him, and not one of them has ever been confounded.

II. God is called our Guide. (1) He is our Guide into the truth. "When the Spirit of truth is come, He shall guide you into all the truth." And if you ask in one word what is meant by "the truth," Christ Himself answers, "I am the Truth." (2) God is our Guide in making our way clear before our face. Seek His blessing, and He will guide you even unto that hour to which this text refers you the last. "Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory."

J. C. Miller, Penny Pulpit, No. 980.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 48". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/psalms-48.html.