Verse one takes the guess work out of where the reader’s focus should ultimately be.
“Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!…” Ps. 48:1
As we read this psalm we are being called to fix our attention on the greatness of God. More than the city, God is the center of attention. He is the One whose presence with His people is like a fortified city.
“He has made himself known as a fortress.”
(from verse 3).
This reminds me of the great hymn penned by Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, which opens with the following line:
“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper, He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing”
Or as psalm 46 begins… “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (verse 1)
God is the focus of this psalm. The Jews of old delighted to go to Jerusalem because that’s where they would meet with God. The city was symbolic of His presence with His people.
Meeting with God was very much tied to the city of Jerusalem and the Temple then, but now because of the gospel of Christ this is no longer the case. Meeting with God is no longer tied to geography…a place on a map. Now God’s people meet with Him through His Son…Jesus. Jesus is the true temple! It is in Him, that the people of God dwell securely.
Note what John records about Jesus in chapter 4 of his account of the gospel. This is taken from Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman.
21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 esv
Psalm 48, this song of Zion is meant to cause us to fix our attention on the God of Zion…and to praise Him for His greatness and for His protection, provision and deliverance for His people. It should cause us to look beyond Jerusalem and it’s physical temple to something greater. To Someone greater. Jesus is the perfect manifestation of God’s presence with His people. In Him, the people of God dwell in safety, having been rescued from the domain of Satan and place securely in the Kingdom of Christ!