“Security” is a concern of people all over the world. In our recent visit to South America we couldn’t help but take note of the effort people took to keep themselves secure in their homes. Most homes had bars on the windows with 3-metre-high fences, topped with either barbed wire or, believe it or not, electric fences! But often that was still not enough and a majority of homes seemed to have at least one if not two big dogs as well. Such is the feeling of insecurity!
But Psalm 48 is not about insecurity. In fact, concerning living in the city of Jerusalem, it expresses exactly the opposite sentiment. The people of God who lived there felt very secure indeed. Listen to the psalmist’s words:
They call Jerusalem, the city of our God, his holy mountain… the city of the Great King.
and boast that God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress. And recalls that 4 When the [enemy] kings joined forces,
when they advanced together,
5 they saw her [Jerusalem] and were astounded;
they fled in terror.
6 Trembling seized them there,
pain like that of a woman in labour.
He then concludes: 8 As we have heard,
so we have seen
in the city of the Lord Almighty,
in the city of our God:
God makes her secure
These last 5 words being the basis for their sense of security as they lived in Jerusalem?
It wasn’t so much the thick high walls or its position, built on high ground, described often as “Mount Zion”. It wasn’t even its other structures described here when the psalmist says:
Zion, go around her,
count her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels.
The reality was that their sense of security was God – God’s presence as revealed by the presence of the central structure in this city, the Temple. The psalmist in talking of this says:
your temple, O God,
we meditate on your unfailing love.
And so, in the Passion Translation, verses 2-3 state:
is [God’s] home; he lives on his holy mountain—
high and glorious, joy filled and favoured.
Zion-Mountain looms in the farthest reaches of the north,
the city of our incomparable King!
3 This is his divine abode, an impenetrable citadel,
for he is known to dwell in the highest place.
And all this makes Jerusalem a place of joy and beauty to its people, because God is in the midst. As the psalmist states:
2 Beautiful in its loftiness,
the joy of the whole earth.
Sounded like an idyllic place to live! And it could have been.
So, what went wrong? Why was this “beautiful” city eventually destroyed by the Babylonians?
Let me quote Longman who gives us a clear answer:
It was believed that “God’s presence render[ed] Jerusalem impregnable…However, as the [Bible’s] historical books indicate, Israel grew presumptuous about God’s protection of the city. They reasoned that if God was in the city, then he would not allow anything to happen to it, no matter how they behaved [and sadly they behaved badly!]. They should have known better though, since, even at the temple’s dedication, Solomon made it absolutely clear that God does not really live in the temple. After all, “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You. How much less this temple that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). Jeremiah highlighted their presumption in his temple sermon (Jeremiah 7), and Ezekiel described God’s abandonment of the temple (Ezekiel 9-11) on the eve of the building’s destruction by the Babylonians. After the city was devastated and the temple destroyed, the author of Lamentations bemoans the sad condition of the city, even alluding to Psalm 48:2 – “All who pass your way clap their hands at you; they scoff and shake their heads at Daughter Jerusalem; ‘Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?’ “ (Lamentations 2:15)”
A sad story! May God keep us from the “sin of presumption”.
Longman concludes though that:
“To Christians, the ultimate expression of God’s presence on earth is not a building, but a person: Jesus Christ.” (# 30)
And it is in our relationship with Jesus that we also find our security and our identity, and that, not just for this life, but for all eternity. Paul writes concerning this truth:
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)
Thank you Father that, because of Jesus, we can be “convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). In you we are secure. Amen.