28 March 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
28 March 2022 (Psalms 48)

‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God’ (Psalm 48: 1) … the city of Jerusalem depicted on a tile in a restaurant in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are now halfway through Lent this year, and I am still in Milton Keynes University Hospital following my stroke ten days ago, waiting for a possible to transfer to John Radcliffe Hospital. Meanwhile, before this day begins, I am taking some time early this morning (28 March 2022) for prayer, reflection and reading.

During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 48:

Psalm 48 is a celebration of the security of Zion, composed by the sons of Korah. In the slightly different numbering in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate , this psalm is Psalm 47. Its opening words in the Vulgate translation are Magnus Dominus.

Psalm 48 is referred to in its heading as both a ‘song’ and a ‘psalm’. This is a hymn of praise to the beauty and endurance of Jerusalem. It sings the praises of Zion, the city of our God, the city of the great King (see 48: 1, 2). It is a companion to Psalms 46 and 47, which also proclaim God’s victory over God’s enemies.

Verse 2 describes Mount Zion as ‘Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.’ The word ‘Zion’ comes from the word ציון (tziyun), a monument, landmark or marker. One rabbinical source hints that this eternal monument alludes to truth and sanctity, that will last forever. Verse 4 refers to ‘the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.’

The psalmist affirms that God’s beneficent rule belongs only to the godly, the residents of Zion. Mount Zion stands for the vision of God’s kingship. God’s kingdom is greater than Jerusalem but receives its visible expression in the temple and palace of Jerusalem.

God has chosen to establish his kingdom and delights in those who submit themselves to his rule: ‘For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation’ (132: 13). The Zion theology-eschatology inspires God’s people with adoration, joy, hope, and commitment to the Great King. The godly are those who live and act in anticipation of the vision of Zion. This hope was the basis for ethics, praise and life as God’s people (48: 8-14).

Jerusalem in its glory overwhelms even enemy kings who come against it. The city has outlived all those who tried to conquer it, and it is protected by God.

God’s praise extends to the ends of the earth. The psalm celebrates the beauty and security of Jerusalem on Mount Zion, where God is to be praised.

God is present in the Temple in his steadfast love. Jerusalem is a joy to pilgrims who consider God’s gift of love when worshipping in the Temple. God is to be praised for ever and to the ends of the earth, and for all future generations

The sons of Korah describe Jerusalem as ‘the joy of all the earth,’ because the throngs of people came to the holy city and to the Temple.

Jerusalem is the eternally beautiful and ever glorious city, and God chose it as his eternal resting place on earth.

This psalm goes on to describe how the enemies of God would flee when they saw his might and power. May we and all future generations dwell in peace, with God as our guide.

‘Let Mount Zion rejoice … because of your judgments, O Lord’ (Psalm 48: 11) … ‘The Holy City,’ a batik by Thetis Blacker in the Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 48 (NRSVA):

A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites.

1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
3 Within its citadels God
has shown himself a sure defence.

4 Then the kings assembled,
they came on together.
5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic, they took to flight;
6 trembling took hold of them there,
pains as of a woman in labour,
7 as when an east wind shatters
the ships of Tarshish.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
which God establishes for ever.

9 We ponder your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
10 Your name, O God, like your praise,
reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with victory.
11 Let Mount Zion be glad,
let the towns of Judah rejoice
because of your judgements.

12 Walk about Zion, go all around it,
count its towers,
13 consider well its ramparts;
go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14 that this is God,
our God for ever and ever.
He will be our guide for ever.

Today’s Prayer:

The USPG Prayer Diary this week, under the heading ‘Let my people go,’ focuses on the approximately 230 million Dalits living in India. Considered outcasts, these communities suffer systematic exclusion and discrimination under the caste system, a system of social stratification. The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (28 March 2022) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for Dalits across India. May they be empowered to break free from their caste.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow</b>

‘As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God’ (Psalm 48: 8) … Jerusalem in bright lights in Jerusalem Restaurant in Camden Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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