Psalm 48: The Temple

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

February 4, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 48 which has been called “a celebration of the security of Zion”.

Great is the LORD and wholly to be praised
    in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
    is the joy of all the earth.

Indeed, the Temple is a symbol of God’s favor and protection for Israel. Some scholars believe that the outburst of praise in Psalm 48 comes after the Jewish victory over the Assyrians. This victory is interpreted as a sign of God’s special favor symbolized in the power and permanence of the Temple.

As we had heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the LORD of hosts,
In the city of our God;
    God makes it firm forever.

Psalm 48:9

In our own lives, that kind of interpretation can be a slippery slope. Does God love and protect us only in our victories? What about when we fail, suffer, or collapse? Does God still favor us then?

The psalmist invites to look deeper than the visible signs of triumph. God’s mercy is expressed in the glorious “temples”, but it also reaches to “the ends of the earth” – to all our experiences.

O God, we ponder your mercy
    within your temple.
As your name, O God, so also your praise
    reaches to the ends of the earth.
Of justice your right hand is full.

Psalm 48: 10-11

But we must ponder God’s mercy to fully recognize and appreciate it.
We must pray God’s mercy into full expression in our lives
by our trusting and grateful awareness.

Poetry: Washed Up – Laurie Klein

Some tunes move the foot, inside a shoe, 
some elevate the soul, while others,
numinous as the song of Zion, play on
without us.
Remember winging it?
Fingers and toes and spirits
surrendered to more than the moment,
hearts drafting off each other,
as swifts, weaving aerial fractals, our voices
ascending a groove, a line of thought,
into the upper reaches, then coasting
into rarified silence—the Mystery
humming within and
beyond all things.
No one leads the singing as you did, love.
No one else intuits my pulse
and impulse, improvising
new settings befitting
the inner lark.
Old friends ask about you, tender
their prayers. I am counting on this:
how greatly you’re loved,
and the kingdom emerging
in guises we never knew.

Music: Beautiful Zion Built Above – George Gill

Beautiful Zion, built above;
Beautiful city that I love;
Beautiful gates of pearly white;
Beautiful temple—God its light;
He who was slain on Calvary
Opens those pearly gates for me.
Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

Beautiful heav’n, where all is light;
Beautiful angels clothed in white;
Beautiful strains that never tire;
Beautiful harps thru all the choir;
There shall I join the chorus sweet,
Worshiping at the Savior’s feet.
Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

Beautiful crowns on ev’ry brow;
Beautiful palms the conq’rors show;
Beautiful robes the ransomed wear;
Beautiful all who enter there;
Thither I press with eager feet;
There shall my rest be long and sweet.
Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

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