The City of God

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain” (v. 1).

- Psalm 48

In Psalm 48, the writer extols the glory of God as it is revealed in His holy city, Jerusalem. The Israelites cherished this sacred city because within its walls dwelled the ark of the covenant—the symbol of the presence of God among His people. While it is true that God is present throughout the whole world, God purposed that His glory be given a more vivid representation in the sanctuary located in Jerusalem. This ancient city served as a beautiful and magnificent theater in which God would have the greatness of His majesty beheld and worshiped. God’s presence was symbolized in the ark of the covenant, which God established there as a token of His peculiar favor on His people.

The psalmist describes the protection of God over His holy city, thus teaching the people that although the city was fortified by strong towers and opulent palaces, continued safety only came from the power and aid of God alone. “By these words, the people of God are taught that although they dwell in strongholds and palaces, they must, nevertheless, be carefully on their guard, that this magnificence of loftiness may not shroud or conceal from their view the power of God,” Calvin wrote. Despite the glory and beauty of the physical city, the people of God were to remember the spiritual beauty of God’s protecting presence as it rested on Jerusalem.

The writer of this psalm delights in the promise that Jerusalem would remain steadfast through all attacks. Of course through the centuries, the city has been destroyed only to be rebuilt again and again. However, the psalmist most likely was looking forward to that spiritual Jerusalem that would never perish. Since the coming of Christ, whatever was spoken of regarding the physical Jerusalem belongs now to the spiritual Jerusalem. That spiritual Jerusalem is the church, the holy priesthood of believers from all nations. Like the city of old, the spiritual Jerusalem is adorned by the beautiful presence of God, protected and preserved by Him forever. If the symbol of God’s presence in the ark of the covenant stirred the Jewish nation to such depths of adoration, how much more should we as the church today, glory in God, letting the beauty of His temple shine forth in the midst of us.

Coram Deo

How has God adorned the church to make it beautiful? How can that beauty be increased in your own life? How can the church be a “joy of the whole earth”? Think this week about what part you play in adding to that joy. Ask God to help you grow in spiritual beauty.

Passages for Further Study

Hebrews 11:8–16; 12:14–29; 13:14
Revelation 21

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