Thursday, March 29, 2012

Greatly to be Praise

[A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah]

1 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.

2 Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

3 God is known in her palaces for a refuge.

4 For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.

5 They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away.

6 Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.

7 Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.

8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah.

9 We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.

10 According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.

11 Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.

12 Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.

13 Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.

14 For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.

—Psalm 48 KJV Bible

Psalms 46, 47 and 48 appear to be three parts of one story. Many think they are an account of the time when King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked Jerusalem in 701 BC, during the reign of Judah's King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13-19:37). Because of the possible time period, and because the writing style of the psalmist is similar to that found in the Book of Isaiah, many think the psalmist could be the prophet Isaiah.

The psalm superscription states it is for the "sons of Korah." The three sons of Korah—Assir, Elkanan and Abiasaph—were loyal to God (Exodus 6:24; Numbers 26:11). The descendants of these were also described as the "sons of Korah." Some later became singers in the Temple choir (2 Chronicles 20:19). Twelve of the psalms (42-49, 84-85, 87-88) are specifically dedicated to the "sons of Korah," possibly because of their musicality, or possibly as a reference to those who remain faithful to God even in the most difficult times.

The Hebrew "selah" is used after verse 8 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

This psalm is a song of Zion. The psalmist praises God and Zion (Jerusalem), God’s dwelling place. The psalmist then describes the defeat of the enemies of the city. He offers thanksgiving and then invites the people to praise and trust God.

In verses 1 through 3, the psalmist praises God and Zion (Jerusalem), His dwelling place. In verse 2, the psalmist's reference to the "city of our God" is Jerusalem--the location of the Temple, the dwelling place of God. In verse 2, the psalmist compares Jerusalem to the regions in the "north." In heathen lore, the far north is often thought to be the abode of the gods; thus, the psalmist is claiming that Jerusalem is the place where the true God reigns.

In verses 4 through 7, the psalmist describes the defeat of the city’s enemies. In verse 7, the psalmist tells of God's ability to break the “ships of Tarshish.” Though these large trading vessels were the greatest of ancient ships, they could not withstand God’s mighty power.

In verses 9 through 10, the psalmist offers thanksgiving. The psalmist recognizes God's faithful, everlasting love—the Hebrew "hesed."

In verses 11 through 14, the psalmist invites the people to praise and trust God. In verse 11, the psalmist says “the daughters of Judah” should be glad. This is a reference to the cities and villages of the southern Kingdom of Judah, home to the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

O God, You so deserve our praise. I thank You for saving me. I ask all of creation to rightly and justly praise Your name.


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