We have here the good use and improvement which the people of God are taught to make of his late glorious and gracious appearances for them against their enemies, that they might work for their good.
I. Let our faith in the word of God be hereby confirmed. If we compare what God has done with what he has spoken, we shall find that, as we have heard, so have we seen (Ps. 48:8), and what we have seen obliges us to believe what we have heard. 1. “As we have heard done in former providences, in the days of old, so have we seen done in our own days.” Note, God’s latter appearances for his people against his and their enemies are consonant to his former appearances, and should put us in mind of them. 2. “As we have heard in the promise and prediction, so have we seen in the performance and accomplishment. We have heard that God is the Lord of hosts, and that Jerusalem is the city of our God, is dear to him, is his particular care; and now we have seen it; we have seen the power of our God; we have seen his goodness; we have seen his care and concern for us, that he is a wall of fire round about Jerusalem and the glory in the midst of her.” Note, In the great things that God has done, and is doing, for his church, it is good to take notice of the fulfilling of the scriptures; and this would help us the better to understand both the providence itself and the scripture that is fulfilled in it.
II. Let our hope of the stability and perpetuity of the church be hereby encouraged. “From what we have seen, compared with what we have heard, in the city of our God, we may conclude that God will establish it for ever.” This was not fulfilled in Jerusalem (that city was long since destroyed, and all its glory laid in the dust), but has its accomplishment in the gospel church. We are sure that that shall be established for ever; it is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, Matt. 16:18. God himself has undertaken the establishment of it; it is the Lord that has founded Zion, Isa. 14:32. And what we have seen, compared with what we have heard, may encourage us to hope in that promise of God upon which the church is built.
III. Let our minds be hereby filled with good thoughts of God. “From what we have heard, and seen, and hope for, we may take occasion to think much of God’s loving-kindness, whenever we meet in the midst of his temple,” Ps. 48:9. All the streams of mercy that flow down to us must be traced up to the fountain of God’s lovingkindness. It is not owing to any merit of ours, but purely to his mercy, and the peculiar favour he bears to his people. This therefore we must think of with delight, think of frequently and fixedly. What subject can we dwell upon more noble, more pleasant, more profitable? We must have God’s lovingkindness always before our eyes (Ps. 26:3), especially when we attend upon him in his temple. When we enjoy the benefit of public ordinances undisturbed, when we meet in his temple and there is none to make us afraid, we should take occasion thence to think of his lovingkindness.
IV. Let us give to God the glory of the great things which he has done for us, and mention them to his honour (Ps. 48:10): “According to thy name, O God! so is thy praise, not only in Jerusalem, but to the ends of the earth.” By the late signal deliverance of Jerusalem God had made himself a name; that is, he had gloriously discovered his wisdom, power, and goodness, and made all the nations about sensible of it; and so was his praise; that is, some in all parts would be found giving glory to him accordingly. As far as his name goes his praise will go, at least it should go, and, at length, it shall go, when all the ends of the world shall praise him, Ps. 22:27; Rev. 11:15. Some, by his name, understand especially that glorious name of his, the Lord of hosts; according to that name, so is his praise; for all the creatures, even to the ends of the earth, are under his command. But his people must, in a special manner, acknowledge his justice in all he does for them. “Righteousness fills thy right hand;” that is, all the operations of thy power are consonant to the eternal rules of equity.
V. Let all the members of the church in particular take to themselves the comfort of what God does for his church in general (Ps. 48:11): “Let Mount Zion rejoice, the priests and Levites that attend the sanctuary, and then let all the daughters of Judah, the country towns, and the inhabitants of them, be glad: let the women in their songs and dances, as usual on occasion of public joys, celebrate with thankfulness the great salvation which God has wrought for us.” Note, When we have given God the praise we may then take the pleasure of the extraordinary deliverances of the church, and be glad because of God’s judgments (that is, the operations of his providence), all which we may see wrought in wisdom (therefore called judgments) and working for the good of his church.
VI. Let us diligently observe the instances and evidences of the church’s beauty, strength, and safety, and faithfully transmit our observations to those that shall come after us (Ps. 48:12, 13): Walk about Zion. Some think this refers to the ceremony of the triumph; let those who are employed in that solemnity walk round the walls (as they did, Neh. 12:31), singing and praising God. In doing this let them tell the towers and mark well the bulwarks, 1. That they might magnify the late wonderful deliverance God had wrought for them. Let them observe, with wonder, that the towers and bulwarks are all in their full strength and none of them damaged, the palaces in their beauty and none of them blemished; there is not the least damage done to the city by the kings that were assembled against it (Ps. 48:4): Tell this to the generation following, as a wonderful instance of God’s care of his holy city, that the enemies should not only not ruin or destroy it, but not so much as hurt or deface it. 2. That they might fortify themselves against the fear of the like threatening danger another time. And so, (1.) We may understand it literally of Jerusalem, and the strong-hold of Zion. Let the daughters of Judah see the towers and bulwarks of Zion, with a pleasure equal to the terror with which the kings their enemies saw them, Ps. 48:5. Jerusalem was generally looked upon as an impregnable place, as appears, Lam. 4:12. All the inhabitants of the world would not have believed that an enemy should enter the gates of Jerusalem; nor could they have entered if the inhabitants had not sinned away their defence. Set your heart to her bulwarks. This intimates that the principal bulwarks of Zion were not the objects of sense, which they might set their eye upon, but the objects of faith, which they must set their hearts upon. It was well enough fortified indeed both by nature and art; but its bulwarks that were mostly to be relied upon were the special presence of God in it, the beauty of holiness he had put upon it, and the promises he had made concerning it. “Consider Jerusalem’s strength, and tell it to the generations to come, that they may do nothing to weaken it, and that, if at any time it be in distress, they may not basely surrender it to the enemy as not tenable.” Calvin observes here that when they are directed to transmit to posterity a particular account of the towers, and bulwarks, and palaces of Jerusalem, it is intimated that in process of time they would all be destroyed and remain no longer to be seen; for, otherwise, what need was thee to preserve the description and history of them? When the disciples were admiring the buildings of the temple their Master told them that in a little time one stone of it should not be left upon another, Matt. 24:1, 2. Therefore, (2.) This must certainly be applied to the gospel church, that Mount Zion, Heb. 12:22. “Consider the towers, and bulwarks, and palaces of that, that you may be invited and encouraged to join yourselves to it and embark in it. See it founded on Christ, the rock fortified by the divine power, guarded by him that neither slumbers nor sleeps. See what precious ordinances are its palaces, what precious promises are its bulwarks; tell this to the generation following, that they may with purpose of heart espouse its interests and cleave to it.”
VII. Let us triumph in God, and in the assurances we have of his everlasting lovingkindness, Ps. 48:14. Tell this to the generation following; transmit this truth as a sacred deposit to your posterity, That this God, who has now done such great things for us, is our God for ever and ever; he is constant and unchangeable in his love to us and care for us. 1. If God be our God, he is ours for ever, not only through all the ages of time, but to eternity; for it is the everlasting blessedness of glorified saints that God himself will be with them and will be their God, Rev. 21:3. 2. If he be our God, he will be our guide, our faithful constant guide, to show us our way and to lead us in it; he will be so, even unto death, which will be the period of our way, and will bring us to our rest. He will lead and keep us even to the last. He will be our guide above death (so some); he will so guide us as to set us above the reach of death, so that it shall not be able to do us any real hurt. He will be our guide beyond death (so others); he will conduct us safely to a happiness on the other side death, to a life in which there shall be no more death. If we take the Lord for our God, he will conduct and convey us safely to death, through death, and beyond death—down to death and up again to glory.