Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
consider well 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.
This exhortation from the end of Psalm 48 is fascinating and encouraging to me. Here, regarding the Kingdom of God, we are invited to thoroughly examine its nature. Number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels. We are called, as citizens of this kingdom, as residents in the citadels, to know it experientially and concretely, so that we can with the psalmist say “as we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of our God.” And we are given a reason for this study: that we may tell the next generation that “this is God.”
The witness of one who has encountered God is a powerful testimony. The Samaritan woman in John 4 runs to the city and tells everyone “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” They invite Jesus to stay with them for a couple days, and then they tell the woman, “At first we believed because of your testimony, but now we believe because we’ve seen him for ourselves.”
The Kingdom of God, his Holy Habitation, Mount Zion. We must know her well, that we might bear witness to God faithfully. What are her characteristics? She is stable, for God is in her midst (Psalm 46:5). She is self-sustaining and life-giving, able to withstand any siege (Matthew 16:18b); a river runs through her, bringing gladness to her people (Psalm 46:4). Within her walls God reveals himself to be our fortress (Psalm 48:3) and the very strength we need, near to be called upon (Psalm 46:1).
Psalm 48:14b says “he will guide us forever.” What has this to do with this mighty city? The Kingdom of God in this life is transient in nature; it is the kingdom of the exile, the diaspora, the sojourner. It is the already, and the imminent. As we sojourn through life, a heavenly city among earthly cities, we are like exiles to seek the good of the earthly kingdom. And though we are in the kingdom now, we are also on the path through the wilderness toward the culmination of the kingdom (Isaiah 35:8). In all this, our God is our God forever, and he is our guide. Even if we are fools, we shall not go astray, for her inhabitants are righteous — not by their own striving and raging, but in the “Be still” of Christ’s work for us on the cross. The citizen of Christ’s kingdom can echo a better cry than Moses: “YHWH has fought for us, and we had only to be silent.”