Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week we noted how Paul reminded the Philippians of his Jewish accomplishments. His accomplishments, honors, reputation, and standing as a Jew were indisputable. Yet, Paul uses that esteem to make the point that any and all of his Jewish accomplishments were worthless in comparison to the value of knowing Jesus Christ. He is not concerned with his own righteousness but the righteousness of God based on faith. While imprisoned he acknowledges that nothing else really matters.
Paul also gave a sort of “reality check” to acknowledge that he knows he has not arrived. Although it is a reality check and he recognizes his situation and status, he “doubles down” on his commitment to Christ. Paul gladly forgets, forfeits, and renounces all that he has accomplished looking forward to what lies ahead. This was how he pressed forward to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Last week’s lesson connects to this week through the continuing themes of our love for God and God’s love for us. Today’s lesson takes us back to the Old Testament. This time we look back about 700 years before Christ to Psalm 48. In Jerusalem, the writer helps us understand even if everything else changes, our love for God never should. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Pondering God’s Steadfast Love”. Standard Commentary titles it “Our Loving God”. The Scripture text comes from Psalm 48:1-3, 9-14.
The Psalms are in large part a book of books about worship. “Some are prayers and praises that soar to the heights of spiritual devotion, while others arise from deep pain and distress displaying the depths of human misery, anger, and frustration” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NISB)). The book of Psalms is subdivided into five books. Psalm 48 is included in the second book (Psalms 42 – 72). Most of the Psalms in this second book are written by David and Korah. The superscription of this 48th Psalm identifies it as “A song. A Psalm of the Ko’rahites” and it deals with “The Glory and Strength of Zion”.
Townsend commentary describes Psalm 48 as the Jewish vision of God’s city and dwelling place, which is Zion. A Christological imagination of this text would also “apply it to the church, which has been grafted in to believing Israel (Romans 11:17-24) (Townsend). In other words, just as the Jewish psalmist wrote of the magnificence of Zion as the dwelling place of God. Christians today should view the church with the same magnificence. Keep in mind though, the church today resides within individual Christians, not a building, or specific location. So although, the psalmist is talking about a place whose magnificence symbolizes God’s love, today that place is you. You are the temple of God that should love and praise God.
What takes place in this passage:
Verses 1-3 describe a place that reveals love for God. Notice the majestic descriptions “mountain of his holiness” and “the joy of the whole earth is mount Zion”. The psalmist associates God’s presence with the location of mount Zion. This place is where God dwells and shows our loving God as her fortress or refuge. The NISB clarifies that “Zion is described in the far north, which does not match the geography of the land of Israel. Isa 14:13-14 talks about this location as the abode of the Most High and the gods”.
Verses 9 – 14 deal with a number of points relevant for Christian living today. For example, the psalmist begins with God’s unfailing love when “we meditate within the temple”. He describes God’s praise as reaching the ends of the earth and God’s right hand filled with righteousness. Again, we as individual Christians are the temple in which God dwells. When we take note of God’s creation we should be reminded of Romans 1:20. It tells us “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made”. So God is present not only in the lives of Christians but in all of God’s creation.
Verse 11 describes Mount Zion as a place that rejoices. Verses 12 and 13 are powerful in that they tell the reader to walk about Zion, observe all of Zion’s greatness, “that you may tell of them to the next generation”. So, if God has done something for you, you ought to tell somebody. And even more so you ought to tell the next generation.
Finally, verse 14 concludes this lesson on God’s steadfast love by reminding us that this God is our God. This God is the God who has enabled such a great place as Zion to be built. This God is the God who has brought Israel to such a powerful and magnificent place. The point for Christians today is to remember that this God is the God who lives, loves, and inhabits each of us.
As we approach the Valentines holiday this lesson on our loving God and God’s steadfast love toward us is timely. The text describes our loving God’s undeniable greatness and love toward us while encouraging us to acknowledge that love and pass it on to the next generation. That’s also a good point for Black History Month. There are some things that each generation needs to pass along to the next generation. For example, it is critically important for White Americans to identify and teach their children about the racist past of America and how that past has affected the American descendants of slaves. Only White Americans can solve the problem of racism. Christians follow the example of Jesus Christ. His is an example of love. The psalmist of today’s text described Zion as a magnificent place where God dwells. If God dwells in us today, we too ought to be a magnificent place of God’s steadfast love in each of our communities. Not just an example of love in the Valentines season. And certainly not just as an example of remembrance during Black History Month.
Key Characters in the text:
Ko’rahites – This is a psalm of the ko’rahites. They are described as temple singers and in Chronicles 9:23, 26 described as “in charge of the gates of the house of the Lord, as chief gatekeepers, and looked after the chambers and the treasures of the house of God.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Psalm – A hymn, sacred song, or poem. The book of Psalms (the Psalter) is composed of 150 religious poems of prayer and praise of ancient Israel, arranged in five books.
Zion – (Hebrew “fortress”) Used in the Old Testament for all or part of Jerusalem. In both Old and New Testaments it refers to God’s heavenly city (Isa 60:14; Heb 12:22; Rev 14:1). In the Christian church it is an image for heaven.
Themes / Topics in this Lesson:
- If God is good, you ought to tell it.
- God’s presence provides power.
- This God.
- Do you love me?
1. How has God shown you steadfast love?
2. Verse 13 speaks of telling the next generation. As a Christian today, what should you tell the next generation?
3. Since it is also Black History Month, what should you tell the next generation about Black History?
For this God is our God for ever and ever: God will be our guide forever (vs 14). This God. The psalmist is specific. This God. It is this God that has made Zion so magnificent. The psalmist is intimately familiar with this God. The psalmist can see the power, might, and glory of this God. Likewise, it is this God that I tell my daughters about. It is this God that I am intimately familiar with. It is this God that has made ways out of no way. And it is this God that I must pass on to the next generation.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week’s lesson keeps us in the Old Testament book of Psalms. We remain in the second book of Psalms at Psalm 66. Many will find some of the passages in this Psalm familiar as its key verse is “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands”. The focus in this week’s love song is praise for God’s mighty works in our lives. God’s work leads to praise and praise reinforces our love.