C.H. Spurgeons's The Treasury of David
PSALM 48 OVERVIEW
Title. A Song and Psalm for the Sons of Korah. A song for joyfulness and a Psalm for reverence. Alas! every song is not a Psalm, for poets are not all heaven born, and every Psalm is not a song, for in coming before God we have to utter mournful confessions as well as exulting praises. The Sons of Korah were happy in having so large a selection of song; the worship where such a variety of music was used could not become monotonous, but must have given widest scope for all the sacred passions of gracious souls.
Subject and Division. It would be idle dogmatically to attribute this song to any one event of Jewish history. Its author and date are unknown. It records the withdrawal of certain confederate kings from Jerusalem, their courage failing them before striking a blow. The mention of the ships of Tarshish may allow us to conjecture that the Psalm was written in connection with the overthrow of Ammon, Moab, and Edom in the reign of Jehoshaphat; and if the reader will turn to 2 Chronicles 20, and note especially 2 Chronicles 20:19,25,36, he will probably accept the suggestion. Psalms 48:1-3, are in honour of the Lord and the city dedicated to his worship. From Psalms 48:4-8 the song records the confusion of Zion's foes, ascribing all the praise to God; Psalms 48:9-11 extolling Zion, and avowing Jehovah to be her God for evermore.
Verse 1. Great is the Lord. How great Jehovah is essentially none can conceive; but we can all see that he is great in the deliverance of his people, great in their esteem who are delivered, and great in the hearts of those enemies whom he scatters by their own fears. Instead of the mad cry of Ephesus, "Great is Diana," we bear the reasonable, demonstrable, self evident testimony, "Great is Jehovah." There is none great in the church but the Lord. Jesus is "the great Shepherd," he is "a Saviour, and a great one," our great God and Saviour, our great High Priest; his Father has divided him a portion with the great, and his name shall be great unto the ends of the earth. And greatly to be praised. According to his nature should his worship be; it cannot be too constant, too laudatory, too earnest, too reverential, too sublime. In the city of our God. He is great there, and should be greatly praised there. If all the world beside renounced Jehovah's worship, the chosen people in his favoured city should continue to adore him, for in their midst and on their behalf his glorious power has been so manifestly revealed. In the church the Lord is to be extolled though all the nations rage against him. Jerusalem was the peculiar abode of the God of Israel, the seat of the theocratic government, and the centre of prescribed worship, and even thus is the church the place of divine manifestation. In the mountain of his holiness. Where his holy temple, his holy priests, and his holy sacrifices might continually be seen. Zion was a mount, and as it was the most renowned part of the city, it is mentioned as a synonym for the city itself. The church of God is a mount for elevation and for conspicuousness, and it should be adorned with holiness, her sons being partakers of the holiness of God. Only by holy men can the Lord be fittingly praised, and they should be incessantly occupied with his worship.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. A Song and Psalm. Wherein both voice and instrument were used; the voice began first and the instrument after: and where the inscription is a Psalm and Song, there likely the instrument began and the voice followed. John Richardson.
Whole Psalm. According to Dr. Lightfoot, the constant and ordinary Psalm for the second day of the week was the forty-eighth.
Verse 1. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, etc. The prophet, being about to praise a certain edifice, commences by praising the architect, and says that in the holy city the wonderful skill and wisdom of God, who built it, is truly displayed. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; and so he is, whether we look at his essence, his power, his wisdom, his justice, or his mercy, for all are infinite, everlasting, and incomprehensible; and thus, so much is God greatly to be praised, that all the angels, all men, even all his own works would not suffice thereto; but of all things revealed, there is no one thing can give us a greater idea of his greatness, or for which were should praise and thank him more, than the establishment of his church; and therefore, the prophet adds, in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness; that is to say, the greatness of God, and for which he deserves so much praise, is conspicuous in the foundation and construction of his church. Robert Bellarmine (Cardinal).
Verse 1. Great is the Lord. Greater, Job 33:12. Greatest of all, Psalms 95:3. Greatness itself, Psalms 145:3. A degree he is above the superlative. John Trapp.
Verse 1. Mountain of his holiness. The religion in it holy, the people in it a holy people. William Nicholson.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
All the suggestions under this Psalm except those otherwise designated, are by our beloved friend, Rev. George Rogers, Tutor of the Pastor's College.
- What the church is to God.
- His "city:" not a lawless rabble, but a well organised community.
- A mountain of holiness, for the display of justifying righteousness, of sanctifying grace.
- What God is to the church.
- Its inhabitant. It is his city, his mountain. There he is great. There was no room for the whole of God in Paradise, there is no room for him in his law, no room for him in the heaven of angels: in the church only is there room for all his perfections, for a triune Jehovah. Great everywhere, he is peculiarly great here.
- The object of its praises. As he is greatest here, so are his praises, and through the universe on this account.