Key Verse: “This God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”
THE APOSTLE PAUL TELLS us that Israel’s experiences as God’s chosen people were for our benefit. “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (I Cor. 10:11, New American Standard Bible) Paul also says that the law given to Israel by God was a “shadow of good things to come” with regard to the ordinances of the priesthood, the Tabernacle, and the various animal sacrifices “offered year by year” to keep the nation in covenant relationship with God.—Heb. 10:1
One of the requirements put upon Israel was that three times a year, all males should come to the place which God would choose, with offerings to be presented “before the Lord.” In addition, these three annual gatherings provided an opportunity for the Israelites to commune together as God’s chosen people, and to praise him for all of his blessings.—Deut. 16:16,17
Today’s lesson, from the Psalm 48, has Jerusalem as its setting during the days of David their king. Although at this time the Temple was not yet constructed, David had set up a temporary tent, or tabernacle, on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. (I Chron. 15:1; 16:1) In the “midst of the tent” he placed the Ark of the Covenant. This signified the special presence of God in Jerusalem, as well as with the people, when they came there to present their offerings and sing praises unto the Lord.
The importance of this setting in Jerusalem is evident in the psalmist’s description of the city, its structures, mount Zion, and the temple soon to be built. “We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.” (Ps. 48:9) “Walk about Zion,” continues the psalmist. Take note of the towers, the bulwarks, the palaces and buildings so they might be told to successive generations. (vss. 12,13) Then comes the call for praise in our Key Verse, and the acknowledgment of God “for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”
We find Jesus in this same setting at Jerusalem as he neared the close of his earthly ministry. Jesus had just come out of the Temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him and pointed out all its buildings and grandeur. “Do you not see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” (Matt. 24:1,2, NASB) With these words Jesus explained that Israel’s literal Temple would not stand forever. Rather, as Paul later pointed out, it was a picture of the Gospel church, made up of the followers of Christ. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”—I Cor. 3:16,17
The Apostle Peter also describes this symbolic temple. He first speaks of Jesus as “a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God.” “You also,” he continues, “as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 2:4,5, NASB) Thus it is our privilege to sing this psalm, and render praise to our God.