“A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Qorah.
Great is Yahweh and very much to be praised —
In the city of our God and on his Holy Mountain.”
(Psalm 48:1-2 [verse 1 in English])
The greatness of the city of God is not found in the construction of human hands; it is not a work of men. We may admire the works of a man’s hands or the designs of his mind, but if such works drive us to worship, we are idolaters indeed. God has erected his city, kept safe from defilement, imperishable and unfading (1 Peter 1:4) until that time and day when our Lord returns again, condemns the wicked to eternal judgment, and reestablishes the heavens and the earth…then the New Jerusalem of God’s making will descend upon the redeemed earth of God’s remaking (2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:9-11). Then the Bride — the Church redeemed through the ages — will indeed sing praise to God in the city of our God on his Holy Mountain.
In the meantime, we are given a foretaste. The Sons of Asaph writing praises to God for his redemption even of their own family and indeed, in light of their own service in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. Jerusalem in the days of Solomon was meant as a picture…a foretaste…even a “type” of what this new creation and the New Jerusalem would be like. Yet, like all shadows, they dissolve under the light of day — in this case, under God’s judgment on the people for sin and idolatry.
The sad thing is that many, in their quest to experience the source of the type, fall in love with the type itself, settling for the picture and placing their hope in that which can and will never reveal the glory of God. Indeed, though the city was a special place even to this psalmist, it was not special in and of itself; it was special to him for that is where God dwelt. It is God’s presence that made Jerusalem glorious and that made Mount Zion holy. And when God removed his presence, the glory of the city faded fast.
Where now then does God dwell? Certainly he no longer dwells in temples made of stone or in churches made of brick and mortar — he is the creator of the universe, what house shall we construct to contain him (Isaiah 66:1). No, we are told that the Holy Spirit dwells in believers…indeed, making us even temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). No longer do we need a physical temple to mark the worship of God and no more do we need to make sacrifices — Jesus has done so once and for all time (Hebrews 10:10). Our sacrifices of praise are not constrained to the locality of a building and our lives lived out as living sacrifices, people consecrated to God’s service, take place in all of the world. Our lives are lives to be lived out in worship because God dwells within us as believers in Jesus Christ.
And, thus, when we gather to celebrate as a holy convocation on Sundays, we exalt like the psalmist here not because of the beauty or location of our building, but we exalt because God is with us and in our midst…little mobile Tabernacles and Temples gathering to give praise to God’s holy name and to remember the mighty works of our God. Indeed, Great is Yahweh and greatly is his name to be praised…but no longer just in the holy temple, but whenever God’s people gather in his name and especially when we mark that great and glorious day when our Lord and Savior raised from the dead as a promise and as a downpayment, that we too will also one day emerge victorious from the grave to the praise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.