July 15: Great Is the Lord
The words of this anthem come from verses in Psalm 48, a psalm of the Sons of Korah. Since the psalm spends most of its time lauding the city of Jerusalem and the temple, it is one of those psalms I’ve had a hard time relating to over the years. I “get” the first part about God’s greatness and His worthiness to be praised, but the “city of our God and the mountain of His holiness” is something that seems very removed from my own experience.
But today, as I was thinking about this psalm and this anthem, I realized a couple of things which helped me gain a new perspective on both. First, I had been reading in 1 Kings, where God responds to Solomon’s dedication of the temple; the Lord says that His heart would always be directed to that place. The text quotes the Lord as saying “always” and “forever.” God really means what He says, so even though that temple is gone (and even the one after it), even though there now sits a site of worship to a false god, Jehovah’s heart is still set on Jerusalem — still set on that holy mountain where His temple once stood. So when we join in praise regarding this site, we are praising His heart and His plans. We are praising His promises and His faithfulness to fulfill all He promised to Abraham and David regarding the land, the city, and the reign of the Son of David who will one day come back and claim that holy mountain as His own.
Another thing that I realized is that, when some of us do not personally relate to the words about the city of our God and the mountain of His holiness, it is not irrelevant — it is important. It actually is as it should be. We need to remember and take to heart that while the love and plans of God include us, they also extend far beyond us. It is essential that we confront these realities — that it is not all about us — and this includes not turning away from things in the Scriptures that we feel “don’t apply” directly to us personally. In fact, as with this anthem, we need to celebrate those “beyond us” things and what they tell us about God. This ensures our eyes are where they are supposed to be: on Him, not on ourselves.
He is so much greater than anything we imagine — Great and greatly to be praised! His ways are beyond our understanding. His grasp, His span so immense we cannot conceive of them, but we do well to try to take them in to our full capacity. Psalm 71 says that we proclaim God’s salvation, “although [we] do not know its measure.” Though we cannot fathom it, though we struggle to find the words to describe the concept we cannot explain or reason out, still we celebrate what we do know, and then go farther to worship what we take by faith, embracing, and exalting the mysteries which are beyond human comprehension.
We know that Jesus came to earth to give His life to save us, personally — but there’s more. We know He came to redeem people who collectively become His treasure, His Bride, His co-regents — but there’s more. We know He came so He can come again to bring in a new kingdom — but there’s more! We know that He came to make and new heaven and a new earth — but there’s more! We know He came to set right what went wrong at the fall of man, but also when Satan fell from heaven . . . Is there more? Very likely. Things not yet revealed, mysteries unfolding that will make heaven and earth wonder and praise Him with breathless awe.
So whether you relate to the words of this anthem and sing them with a passion born of that experience, or sing with eyes of faith expressing confidence in the mystery that exceeds your understanding, you are still joining a chorus of praise that rejoices in our God who is Great and greatly to be praised!
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries