Isn't it amazing how certain words can mean so much more to one person to another. One man hears them as a certain promise while another man hears a simple fact. One just assumes it to be true apart from any acknowledgment of God and another man sees that it cannot be true apart from God.
We live in a time when words can mean very little and a room full of ten people can mean that you will have ten views on something and they can all be said to be 'true'. Recently, I heard of an article in which the author pointed out that even though so many say that words do not mean anything we instinctively act as though they do. She argued that this is why our culture has adopted words that in the past had no moral meaning to now express a new morality while opting to not use words that used to have clear moral meanings. For example, instead of speaking about the sin of adultery we now simply say that they did something inappropriate.
When I first read through this Psalm I must admit that its words, though beautiful, seemed to be powerless apart from its context. I read the psalm over and over for quite some time and then as I began to see this psalm within the larger context it began to open up pretty powerfully.
For example, verses 12-14 say, "Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever." Le time simply address two things. First, what does the psalmist mean by saying, 'this is God'? Is he saying that we are to look at Zion, which is Jerusalem, and say that the city is God? We know that is not the case. Even within the context we know that this is not true.
Look at verse one, "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!" The aspect that the psalmist is bringing out is that the Lord is clearly seen as the God who has manifested Himself to Israel and has been found to be a fortress against all other foes and adversaries (v.3). His glory is not limited to a city but will spread throughout the ends of the earth as we see in verse ten. And His glory and kingdom will be forever and ever (v. 8, 14).
The psalmist is extolling the Lord because He has proven Himself faithful to defend Zion from kings who had assembled themselves against them. The Lord scattered them in fear and manic. Fear gripped their hearts. Their ships were shattered by the east wind. (v. 4-8). As a result, Zion stands strong and victories. Therefore, the psalmist says, "Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider her ramparts, go through her citadels." They are not going around inspecting the wreckage and carnage; but they are seeing these things as testimonies to the Lord's deliverance and they are doing it in freedom and liberty.
The second aspect of the above verse that I would like to bring out was the most enjoyable to consider for me. It is the words, 'That you may tell the next generation'. This is a promise that means little to those who have not had to face the threat of possible extinction and utter defeat. They just assume that the next generation will come and that they will continue on as it always has. But this psalmist shows us in this psalm that when he says this it is to be seen through the lens of how God had saved and delivered them from utter ruin. If the Lord had not intervened, their would have been no future generation. They would have been cut off forever and ever.
Consider verse one, "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King."
Such praise is sweet when spoken of from the lips of a generation that knows what it is like to be saved from certain destruction. Such praise is the most passionate and beautiful when it comes from a heart that beats only because the Lord has intervened. And notice how such a person says, "The Lord is greatly to be praised in the city of our God." He also says that it is His holy mountain. Such a person who has been given life and redeemed from the hand of the foe cannot, dare not, say that Zion is anything but the Lord's. All too many kings tried to make Zion their own. The Lord saved them and yet they lived as though they owed the Lord anything less than their whole heart. As such they went about making their own rules and making their own choices. I read of this just today in 1 Kings 20 when Ahab was given victory over a great foe but then struck his own deal with king Ben-hadad. It cost Ahab his life.
How am I to apply this psalm? In verse eight we read these words, "As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever." Each generation is to speak of the faithfulness of God to the next. For a season the upcoming generation may see these stories as simply tales their parents told. They may value them and even accept them; but there comes a time when every generation who has heard these things as true in their own eyes. They see that the Lord is faithful because He has been so to them. They are no longer cute tales of a distant time. They are no longer myths that other men had made up. They are no longer stories that need to be embellished to be accepted. Rather, they are found to be true because the Lord works mightily in our generation as He had done for them. And as a result, their mouths are full of worship and their souls are full of passion.
And then that generation, who has been given life and breath is tasked with the responsibility of telling the next generation. They become the heart and souls infused with passion to become a testimony to others who will follow.
Where is my generation? Are they passionate worshipers? Are they testifying to the faithfulness of the Lord because they have seen Him do so in their own lives? Have they invested time and attention to touring the great halls of the King in scripture so as to see what the Lord has done? Are they quick to give the Lord full reign over their lives as their King or do they still live their lives in their cities and in their homes?
As I read this psalm I so desire to be faithful to God in my life. I desire to, like my mom, hear the gospel, respond to the faithfulness of God and tell the next generation. I long to truly appreciate that apart from the mighty hand of the Lord there would be no next generation of Christians. And as a result, I ought to celebrate every heart that is turned to Him when the gospel is proclaimed. The Lord is faithful and He fights our battles. He is indeed a strong fortress. He delivers His people and will guide them forever and ever.