Tag Archives: Psalm 48

A longing for justice…

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness. Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgements. 

(Ps 48.9-11)

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.

(Ps 96.10-13)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever.

(Isa 9.6&7)

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”…”We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.”

(Rev 11.15&16)

The idea of rejoicing in judgement sounds rather peculiar as a subject for advent meditation, but many of the writings which anticipate the coming of Messiah, the promised redeemer of God’s people, attribute ultimate authority to him to judge – and it is clear that for those writers, this was sufficient cause to be joyful!

Where does their confidence come from? What is so attractive about this prospect? When we recall the narrative of Genesis, and the fact that humanity is made in the image of God, we begin to understand why as a species we have an inbuilt sense of justice and fair-dealing. We reflect – in a fractured and overshadowed way – the holy and just character of God, who cannot look upon evil and who embodies righteousness. Although we know that so much of the evil in the world arises from our own actions and attitudes, yet we continue to rebel against the resulting injustice and unfairness, insisting that things should be different. And God agrees….

This beautiful world, full of God’s creative genius and expressive of his glory and power, is suffering because of the ways that our sin has opened the door to evil, to powers of chaos, destruction and despair. The rules are being broken all the time, and everyone longs for it to be different. In the coming of Jesus, the Christ who would redeem his people, God undertook to destroy that power, to inflict a fatal wound upon the source of evil and break the bonds that enslave humanity to it.

The promise of Messiah, is the promise of the coming of one who is, firstly, fit to rule – because he is trustworthy, holy and true; and secondly, powerful enough to rule this world; to establish that order and justice which we all long for in our hearts. His reign, begun at Calvary, promises the restoration of right judgement and ordering of all things – for the blessing of not only God’s people, but the whole creation, which will in time be made new, revealed in all the glory that God designed for it.

We rejoice at the prospect of all things being restored and set to rights; we recognise that this must mean our own sinfulness has no place, and we dread being banished by the great and holy one whose rule we welcome. But, when we approach his throne, to praise his justice and righteousness, we hear words of welcome and love, because his judgement on us has already been carried – by Christ himself, the promised one, born of Mary at Bethlehem so long ago.

The promise of Christmas is indeed a source of joy to all those who have accepted the forgiveness and cleansing offered by Christ, and a source of hope to all who will yet hear and accept his offer; we have complete assurance of our place in his kingdom, where all shall be well, for evermore, to his glory and our blessing. Amen, Lord come soon and make it so!

 

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The best I can do?

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple.

Let the people on Mount Zion rejoice. Let all the towns of Judah be glad because of your justice.

Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers.

Take note of the fortified walls and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. 

For this is what God is like. he is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.

(Ps 48. 9,11-14)

I used to wonder why the psalmist exhorted his hearers to go and count the towers of Jerusalem, it seemed a pretty weird thing to do as a way of worshipping God! But I now realise that this physical act of walking and counting was a very practical way of directing attention to how God had kept his promises to his servant David, that a temple would be built, and a city established where a king would reign. The city itself was a memorial, a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Yes, it was strong, but it was God’s strength which established and maintained it, and it was His presence which made Mount Zion a place of rejoicing

The Old Testament stories are full of memorials, ways that God appointed to help the people to remember the truth about Himself, so that their faith could be strengthened and passed on to future generations. The twelve stones carried from the bed of the Jordan river to create a pillar at Gilgal when Joshua led the people out of forty years wandering into the Promised land; the Ebeneezer stone raised by Samuel marking the defeat of the Philistines; and the great Passover Feast itself, which recalled the dramatic events leading up to the deliverance from Egypt. These each in their own way prompted the people to recognise that it was God who was at work – rescuing, leading, preparing the land for them – and to celebrate the God who was so powerful on their behalf and crucially to trust that God would continue to be with and for them in the future.

As followers of Jesus, we have one particular memorial, established by him, the night before he died. The Lord’s supper, communion, call it what you like, is a memorial, a physical act which he commands us to carry out for just the same reasons. When we take bread and wine, remembering his death for us, we recognise that God was at work, celebrate His power to achieve what was beyond us, and strengthen our faith in His ongoing presence and work in our lives now.

There is another reason for memorials, hinted at in the psalm – that we might tell future generations about the God whose acts are celebrated.

We may not be confident in debating the philosophical grounds for belief in God, but we can legitimately share our personal experiences of His power at work in our lives. We can tell the stories of our own private memorials – celebrating times when we saw Him at work; showing people the God who has saved us and come to live with us. We can do what the early disciple Andrew did, when he went to find his brother Peter, in order to bring him to meet Jesus. We can pray for others for God to bless them in the way that the four friends of the paralysed man fought so hard to bring him into Jesus’ presence. We can do as the Samarian woman did after she encountered Jesus at the well in the noonday heat – bringing her neighbours to meet the man who knew all about her.

We cannot in our own power force anyone to accept Christ as their Saviour, but we can and must make every effort to ensure that our lives reflect Him. We may be the only stories about Jesus that a person ever hears, what are we telling them?

It is always good to care for physical needs, to show practical love and care, but the best thing we can do for anyone, is to bring them to Jesus, because ultimately their eternal salvation matters more than anything else. It is God alone who convicts people of their need, who brings faith to life, and we can have confidence in His power to do this. Our job is to say, “Come, we have found the Messiah, we have found God dwelling with us!”

May we have confidence to obey, and wisdom to know how to do it, so that many souls will yet be gathered into the kingdom!