Psalm 48 reads as follows from the Oxford Annotated Bible:
Great is the Lord and greatly to be Praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain, beautiful in Elevation, Is the joy off all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King, Within its citadels God Has shown himself a sure defense. Then the kings assembled, They came on together, As soon as they saw it, they were astounded: they were in panic, they took flight; trembling took hold of them there, pains as of a woman in labor, as when as east wind shatters, the ships of Tarshish, As we have heard, In the city of the Lord of hosts, In the city of our God, Which God establishes forever,
We ponder your steadfast love, O God In the midst of your temple. Your name, O God, like your praise, Reaches the end of the earth, Your right hand is filled with victory, Let Mount Zion be glad, Let the towns of Judah rejoice, Because of your judgments,
Walk about Zion, go all around it, Count its towers, Consider its ramparts, Go through its citadels, That you may tell the next generation That this is God, Our God forever and ever, He will be our guide.
This is a beautiful psalm that is haunting in some of its imagery. There is strong contrast within the psalm, of those that are in the favor of God and those who are not. There were great kings who assembled perhaps to attack the city of God and the sight of it had them in shear panic. It does not necessarily follow from how the psalm reads however that this is the case. It may have been just an assembly of Kings, who thought highly of themselves, because of their kingship and its domain, and came within the sight of the great city and felt the throes of judgment. We do not know the final outcomes of this, within this psalm it is mentioned the east wind, which came as a portend to the great famine in Egypt in the book of Genesis, yet through the oversight of Joseph there was a chance for Godís mercy and the chance to repent. Similarly, in the book of Jonah, the chance for repentance was still there, despite the impending judgment of the Lord sent by the messenger through Jonah the prophet who as we know resisted the initial call himself yet was given a chance to amend his own situation.
At least momentarily however, these kings were trembling and it was for them as when the east wind shatters the skips of Tar shish. How they reacted in finality to this we donít know but it was seemingly also possibly a question of pride and separation from the acknowledged greatness of the Lord, clearly visible in what they were now seeing and the sight was unexpected and unforeseen.
The psalm moves past those who were in panic and within the fierceness of something like the full brunt of the east winds, and proceeds to those who had reached to the temples of the great city possibly as pilgrims. Past the shattering winds of judgments, which did not reach them, was great freedom to be in the midst of Zion. Verse 9 says, ď we ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple.Ē There is no evidence that those spoken of in this verse had a kingship, although they may have had a kingship, but they were at the point where they were in contemplation of the steadfast love of the Lord, and were invited to proceed further from this position which was held as in the favor and freedom of the God. Whether they were kings, or had a high status we do not know, but the prominence of their position was within consideration of their thoughts and remembrances of the Lord, whose judgment towards them was one of favor. Verse 11 says, ď Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah rejoice, because of your judgment. The judgment here issues also as an invitation which is clearly stated in the later verses of the psalm. Verse 12 thru 14 says,Ē Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our God forever.
Here again there can be seen a possible parallel to the experience of Jonah, Judgment is mentioned, and an invitation is given to walk around the city and contemplate its towers, just as Jonah was told to walk through the city of Nineveh . From verse 5, where it says, ď As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic and took flight;Ē there is similarity to the story of Jonah. The great city of Nineveh was errant in its whole population of people and did get it wrong, but when the error of their ways was pointed out to them, they all instantly recognized their state and did repent so there is a parallel here.
While his message was to be delivered to the present day occupants of that great city, these sojourners depicted in this psalm were to deliver the message beyond to the next generation, as just as they went into the personal guidance of the Lord, this guidance would be available in the same way to others in future generations.
It is possible also, that they also could bring this message to those kings who were chased away or took flight, mentioned earlier in this psalm, they may have been given a second chance by the Lord as it says in Romans, he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy as he may have subsequently had mercy on this misguided kings who had assembled seemingly in pride.
While there are two contrasting groups of people within this psalm, it is still possible that all could be found within the mercy of Godís judgment.
This psalm also shows that Godís judgment, which is related to his guidance, can be judgment not in the sense of a sentence but judgment as to what is wanted by the Lord and is considered correct., relates not only to some command received from one side and then followed but judgment that is to be jointly pondered and received within the grace of Godís freedom, in which it is clearly stated that further consideration is due, both in the physical world and the world of contemplation which are not altogether separate, and that the invitation is towards further, wider, all around, and going through the citadels, which is a representation of the strength and fortitude of the Lord. The greatness of the city, is not withheld or it seems nothing is held back even within this awesomeness that was clearly apparent to the Kings who fled, witin this great invitation to those who have received favor from the Lord. The favor, the guidance, doesnít seem to have an end either, as the psalm concludes that He will be our guide forever in speaking of those found within his favor. It is not just a one time invitation for these fortunate people, but an invitation which has great freedoms, that donít suddenly stop or dissipate and they will continue on forever. There is the purpose within these designs for those who are within this great grace and favor, to share the wealth of this grace and knowledge in the way of communication.. That there call to tell might also have involved their present days as well as the future is alluded to in verse 10 where it says, ďYour name, like your praise, reaches to the end of the earth. The present days now, are part of the future referred to in this psalm. That they are called to tell the next generation means that they do have it right, and their story is the correct one, otherwise the call wouldnít be given to be the talebearer. Those kings mentioned earlier in the psalm, at least for the moment, did not get it right and werenít given the call to further contemplation and then the call to be the tellers to those near and those distant in time, as there pondering or positioning was not judged favorably by the Lord at least at that point in time. They indeed still may have had a remaining chance, as this psalm is about hope, not only in the present but for those in the faraway future, as the goodness of the Lord extends throughout the generations.
Although we donít knew the precise contemplations of those depicted in this psalm, the model presented here is that those that got it right are modeled in the later parts of this psalm, and they were involved in the ongoing pondering of the Lordís steadfast love and its various manifestations and walked about Zion freely, all around it, counted its towers, considered its ramparts and went through it citadels all within the invitation of the Lord himself. This does points to great importance to both contemplation and direct experience with freedom within the midst of the Lordís presence as being involved in getting in right.
These people did get it right and the means used donít seem to involve the material primarily, but spiritual contemplation and visualization within the material world. They were not called to divorce themselves from the material world or the physical city, and were invited to walk all about Zion and consider its specifics. There wasnít a call to blind acceptance, but the call was to a deeper and ongoing conversance to manifestations of Godís steadfast love which contained spiritual and physical elements. That they were called to tell future generations, also means that they would have been conversant with the Lord and would share from this conversation which including pondering into the depths of experience within the whole of the city of God. Yet we do know they got it right, because they were called to tell and this calling would not be issued had they not had it right. We can deduce that something similar it vitally important to getting it right for us in the here and now. The judgment mentioned in this psalm led to freedom and rejoicing as mentioned in verse 11 where it says,Ē Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah rejoice, because of your judgment.Ē What the Lord was reading within his judgment was the ponderings of those whom he judged favorably and let them proceed further into all the the glory of Zion.