The Last Generation

“Going around Zion, encircle her, 

counting her towers,

You will establish your heart — the ramparts through her palace.

You shall continually write this for the sake of the last generation.”

(Psalm 48:13-14 {verses 12-13 in English})

So the singing is continued (previous verse) and while singing those who are in Jerusalem are to encircle her in songs of praise to our God…filling the air with the sound of their worship. They are to count and number her towers and examine the ramparts (defensive walls built around the city), and establish their heart. Now this phrase (the establishment of the heart) may sound a little awkward to our western ears, but it is a figure of speech that implies that we are to pay close attention to something even to the extent of placing our affections on that something, whatever it may be.

Yet, why would the psalmist command that the people of God place the fortifications of Jerusalem on their heart? The answer seems to be two-fold. First, as we have discussed previously, the focus of this psalm is not so much on the physical, earthly Jerusalem, but on the eternal city of God — the New Jerusalem — that is being kept preserved in heaven until the return of our Lord (1 Peter 1:4-5). The Jerusalem here that is in the experience of the psalmist is but a shadow of what is to come…and with the coming of the New Jerusalem comes the new creation where God and man will once again dwell without separation. There is indeed a reason to set your heart on such things.

The next verse, though, also gives us a clue as to what the psalmist has in mind. He says to the people that not only are they to observe Jerusalem, they are to write down those observations for the sake of the “last generation.” Most of our Bibles seem to translate the term,   NOwr≈jAa (acharon) as “next” or “future,” implying that this writing is for those who will follow in the future. Yet, if this writing is simply for future generations through time, then we might expect that the term rOw;d (dor — “generation”) would be plural, not singular. Thus, we should recognize that NOwr≈jAa (acharon) can also refer to the last of something — “the last generation.” Yet, who will be the last generation for whom these people are writing? I would suggest that these writings are to benefit the last generation to see Jerusalem and the Temple standing proud — to remind the last generation what would be lost when the Babylonians were brought in by God to punish the people for their perpetual sin — to remind people of the glory they exchanged for the lusts of their flesh and for the pride of their hearts. Oh, how far we fall when we take our eyes off of God and rest them on ourselves.

We are long past the last generation to see the temple. Even those who rebuilt the Temple realized that the second-temple was a far cry from the glory of the first and from the promised restored glory. Jesus is the greater temple and the temple that Ezekiel anticipates is yet to come. All things revolve around Christ and the Temple and all of its former glory are meant solely to point toward our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. It is his glory, not ours, of which we write.

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