Thoughts on Psalm 48 (Paper 2)
Brian Currie, Belfast, NI
In our previous paper we introduced this wonderful Psalm, and suggested it would be of profit to trace two main thoughts:
(1) The Appellation of the City,
(2) The Occupation of the Inhabitants of the City.
The first of these we have previously considered and in this paper we shall ponder the second, namely the occupation of the inhabitants. This would appear to be three-fold :
(1) Adoration: "greatly to be praised", v. 1. "so is thy praise", v. 10. "Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad", v. 11.
(2) Meditation :"We have thought of thy loving kindness", v. 9.
(3) Propagation :"tell it to the
generation following", v. 13.
The first of these three is most important.
The saint whose spirit is overwhelmed with the thought of the greatness of the Lord will be one who will praise. It would seem that one reason for so much hymn singing when we seek to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread is because not enough brethren are taken up with the Lord's greatness. While not desiring a prohibition on reading of the Scriptures before the breaking of the bread, we do feel that when two and sometimes three brethren not only read but seek to give an oration of a number of "points", this often takes the thoughts of the saints from the Lord to the brother in question. On one occasion not long after conversion, the author was in conversation with an old, well-taught and respected brother. When we were discussing the thoughts we had of the Lord at the breaking of bread, this wise brother said, "I hope you told the Lord about it and not your brethren". As one said recently, "There can be too much speaking to each other, but never enough worship", 1 Cor. 14. 27-31. The highest occupation of a believer is to be engaged in worship. Some today put service first, but the Scriptures are plain that God's portion must be first. "Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and him only shall thou serve", Matt. 4. 10. When Noah went out of the ark, the first thing he did was to build an altar, Gen. 8. 20. These things are most instructive, and if we were dwelling more on the greatness of the Lord, then "the sacrifice of praise" "the fruit of our lips" would be much more forthcoming as we gather to remember Him.
Closely linked with this is the thought of meditation. In verse 9 we see a people in the presence of God (in the temple), and their thoughts are of His loving kindness. Not only the Lord's greatness and glory, but His grace occupies the hearts of His people. The word rendered thought bears the meaning of considering, comparing, or as A. G. Clarke comments, "resting in thought". How sweet it is to sit quietly in the presence of the Lord and consider, rest in thought, on His matchless grace. This would rectify some aspects of the behaviour of various brethren during the meeting for the Lord's Supper. Some seem to have the idea that there must not be a pause in the meeting. Hence we may arrive at the arrangement where a hymn, a prayer, a reading, leave no time to meditate on His glory and His grace. This attitude is rebuked by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 14. 26, "How is it then, brethren ? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying". Some would try and read this as an exhortation, but it is evident from the verses following that the Spirit through the apostle is rebuking over-activity. The idea would be that each brother should come exercised, but not determined, to take part. If each spent more time throughout the week meditating upon the Lord's greatness, glory and grace, then we should be able to open our baskets and give the Lord a worthy portion on the first day of the week. An illustration of worship may be found in Esther 8.1, "And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her". We should be telling the Father of One who suffered without the gate, who overcame a greater than Haman, and who is honoured by the King, and laying before Him what He means to us.
For the continuance of any assembly there must be a propagation and an interest in the "generation following". This is the exercise of a good man in Proverbs 13. 22, "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children". This shows that we should be interested in our own generation, the one following and even the one after that. This was also Paul's exercise as he instructed Timothy, 2 Tim. 2. 2. We need to be careful lest we introduce to an assembly in our day something which will cause heartache in a generation to follow. The things in which they were to instruct their children were things that had been proved, tested and found to be sound, the towers, the bulwarks, the palaces. These were not new, modern or passing, but structures which had stood the test of time. It is sad today sometimes to see modern and worldly methods being introduced by way of entertainment, practices which will eventually lead to breakdown in a future generation.
The three structures mentioned would suggest different aspects of assembly life in which we ought to instruct the Lord's people.
The towers remind us of that which looks out, and therefore of evangelism. The bulwarks teach us of that which separates the city from all that is without. The palaces instruct us of places of rest and refreshment within the walls of the city.
As to the towers, we need to instruct the saints in proven and worthy methods of evangelism. The exercised believer is grieved as he sees worldly methods being used in an attempt to reach the unsaved. It was when Abraham and Sarah were impatient that they tried to produce life apart from the power of God, and Ishmael was born with sad results. Today some cannot wait for God to work, and in their impatient zeal try to hurry on the work of God. There must be no spirit of complacency, but all work should be scripturally based, combined with a patient waiting on God. It is hardly scriptural to combine the sober message of the gospel with sport, film shows, choirs and the like in an effort to make the gospel more attractive, thus to remove its inherent reproach. The simpler our approach the more scriptural.
When we consider the bulwark we are reminded of the separation of the assembly from the world. 2 Corinthians 6. 14 to 7. 1 needs to be poured into the hearts of every believer. With the increasing tendency toward" ecumenism, we need to be well established in the truth of separation. How it must grieve the heart of our God to see those who have been bought with a price associated with that which is due for judgment, that which is stained with the blood of God's Son. Those who are truly serving the Lord can say, "the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world", Gal. 6.14. It was the Christ of the cross that separated Paul from his sins, but it was the cross of Christ that separated him from the world.
Finally the palaces tell us of rest and refreshment in the assembly. Those who have a love for the assembly will be found enjoying the Lord's presence at all the meetings convened for the saints' blessing. A visiting brother who remembered the Lord with an assembly was impressed with the size of the company. He went back on the night of the prayer meeting and was heard to comment, "there's not so many in fellowship after all". It is our business to impress on all Christians their loyalty to the assembly and the necessity of attendance to find rest and refreshment by having close-fellowship with their fellow-saints.
There are those who speak about us changing as the world around changes, telling us not to be old-fashioned. To such the last verse of the psalm should be a timely word, "this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death". We trust that by God's grace we may be able to "strengthen the things which remain" and continue steadfastly in fellowship with God's people until the Lord returns. Concluded