Psalm 48 is a song for pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem who want to experience God. As they draw near the city, they see God’s might and splendor in the architecture of the city (Psalm 48:1). Its many towers, imposing ramparts, and citadels make Jerusalem seem impenetrable and invincible (Psalm 48:12-13). It causes God’s pilgrims to celebrate the power of God and relax in the joy of being invincibly protected (Psalm 48:1-3).
Despite this invincibility enemies rally together to attack God’s city. But as soon as they see it, they are struck dumb with terror (Psalm 48:4-5). God’s citadels tower over them. Just the sight of God’s imposing defensive buildings feels like an all-out assault. They’re paralyzed by God’s presence in his city and are destroyed without God ever picking up a sword. One look at Jerusalem destroys them like ships wrecked at sea (Psalm 48:6-7). With a God like this, the citizens of God’s city are sure to be secure forever (Psalm 48:8).
When the pilgrims finally enter the heart of the city, a temple welcomes the pilgrims to experience not God’s power to destroy, but God’s heart. Inside the temple, God’s loving presence dwells with his people. They see God’s moral purity, they meditate on his love, they enjoy his mercy, they delight in his wisdom, and they experience his glory (Psalm 48:9-10).
The psalmist then invites its readers to be like the pilgrims he’s described—to come and see firsthand God’s might and beauty on display because his mountain city is waiting to be explored (Psalm 48:12-13). And like a good guide, God will welcome pilgrims of all generations to see and experience his glory and his city forever (Psalm 48:14).
Where is the Gospel?
In the book of Revelation another pilgrim, the apostle John, is invited to come and consider a New Jerusalem. But just before John beholds the beautiful sight, the enemies of God rally together to besiege God’s city. But like in this psalm, they are routed and completely destroyed (Revelation 20:9). God renders them unable to approach the city gates, but welcomes John with open arms. Like the first Jerusalem, its measurements, walls, gates, foundations, gold, and jewels all speak of God’s beauty, justice, and protection (Revelation 21:12-21).
But unlike the old Jerusalem, this new Jerusalem lacks a temple where pilgrims can enter God’s presence and experience his love. That is because Jesus is the temple of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22). At the center of the New Jerusalem is not a building but God himself waiting to be explored! And as citizens of this new city we will have the privilege of considering firsthand every facet of God’s heart (Colossians 1:15). All God’s beauty and strength shine in the full radiance of Jesus (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is God’s justice, God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s wisdom, God’s power, and God’s glory (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8; Titus 3:4-5; 1 Corinthians 1:24; John 1:14). And we will get to explore and enjoy him forever.
See for Yourself
I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see God and his city. And may you see Jesus as God’s visible might and beauty in whom we experience God’s presence.