City of the Great King
Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
Beautiful in its loftiness,
the joy of the whole earth,
like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,
the city of the Great King. —Psalm 48:1–2
On Sunday, June 2, Israel celebrated Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the reunification of the city, ending 19 years of separation between East Jerusalem (controlled by Jordan) and West Jerusalem (controlled by Israel) after the War of Independence in 1948. This is one of six devotions looking at the spiritual and historical significance of God’s Holy City. To learn more, download our complimentary Bible study.
As you approach the holy city of Jerusalem from the east, you experience a steady climb from below sea level upward until you reach the rolling hills on the outskirts of the city. And there, at a certain vantage point, the entire city, nestled among the surrounding hills, suddenly spreads out before you.
It is an awe-inspiring sight for newcomers, but even for someone who calls Israel home, the vista never fails to take your breath away. I am overcome with emotion as I look out once again upon God’s holy city. It is confirmation to me, yet again, of God’s continual care and love for His people.
So when I read Psalm 48 — a celebration song about God’s holy city, Jerusalem — it is not hard for me to identify with the psalm writer. I can envision Jerusalem’s lofty beauty that is the “joy of the whole earth” (v.2). But its greatest feature was that God Himself “is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress” (v. 3).
The psalmist and the people knew that it was God who had secured the city and had protected them from their enemies. Because of His presence, their enemies fled in terror and were destroyed. God’s power and protection demonstrated His faithfulness and his unfailing love for His holy dwelling place and His people. As the psalmist wrote: “As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever” (v.8).
Finally, the people were invited to rejoice in God’s goodness to them by walking around the city and observing her ramparts and her citadels, which were unharmed because He had protected and preserved them. As they did this, they were encouraged to share stories of God’s goodness and provision with the next generation.
In some ways, this reminds me of how we celebrate Jerusalem Day, Yom Yerushalayim, today in Israel. One of the favorite traditions is to walk to the Western Wall, the holiest site in Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of people walk to the Old City where they join together in celebration and prayer. In doing so, we not only honor our current history and the reunification of Jerusalem achieved after the Six-Day War, but we remind one another that this very place remains God’s holy city and that He will continue to protect Jerusalem.
Like the people of Jerusalem, then and now, we can also look for the many ways in which God protects us and demonstrates His love for us in our lives. We, too, can share those stories with the next generation, so our children and grandchildren will know of God who protects and loves us. And as we express our gratitude to God, we leave a heritage of our testimony for others.
The psalm concludes with the affirmation that “this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end” (Psalm 48:14). We, too, can affirm that God is able to protect and defend us and will be our guide to the end of our lives.
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