Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress.
For behold, the kings assembled; they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic; they took to flight.
Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labor.
By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts,
in the city of our God, which God will establish forever. Selah
So there’s that one old school worship song that I was brought to learn and appreciate during my earlier days in the church I serve in now. Looks like whoever wrote that song got his or her lyrics from the first verses of this Psalm. Here’s how it goes:
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise
The city of our God, the holy place
The joy of all the earth
I might as well go on, because the rest of the verse (which is the only verse, timely for its time) goes as follows:
Great is the Lord in whom we have the victory
He aids us against the enemy
We bow down on our knees
Now I’m not sure if that part of the verse is taken from another Psalm. I like it, but well, I got a little off topic there. I do want to focus on the first part of the song, and the rest of the set of verses coming from Psalm 48.
The way I understand it, we’re given a perspective of a city established by God. It is ‘beautiful in elevation’ – built on the hills to be seen and admired by everyone who resides below, and yet the people would not only admire this city for its beauty – for see, any city built on higher ground is not as easy to invade, not as easy to overthrow. And as we continue down the verses, we see that not only mere people but literal kings would also take notice – and even in their combined might, they would behold the city, and would not only be astounded; we’d see here that they do not stand on firm foundations on their own, because they would panic, and they would flee, trembling in anguish.
As I read this I remembered something mentioned in Deuteronomy 28 – those who fall short of the Old Covenant may attack in one direction, but they will flee in seven directions. These kings may have congregated, but it’s worse for them – they don’t even bother to attack, but they do flee, again, trembling in anguish. What’s more is that it’s sure that the people would see these prominent kings fleeing, and the thought of people as high as kings fleeing from such a city would only discourage even stronger forces from even considering coming near.
Obviously what makes the city strong is the presence of God in it, but I dare to go further – I seriously doubt that God merely ‘presides’ over the city. There’s much more that our great and glorious God can do, and IS doing.
Let’s take a look at what is mentioned in Psalm 46:4-5:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
I remember one king, Hezekiah. When he heard news of a possible attack upon the city of Jerusalem, he may have made efforts to increase its defenses, but he certainly made it a priority that the city would have a constant supply of water. Just as the human body cannot survive for long without water, so any city, any nation would surely fall sooner or later without a dependable water source.
China has the Yangtze River. The USA has the Colorado River running down the middle. Paris has the Seine River. Pasig has Pasig River. La Trinidad has Balili River. Every significant community has a river running through it. And here’s the thing: The city of God is sung to be the joy of all the earth… but apparently, the joy of all the city comes in the form of a river. The river is the community’s source, not only for it to survive, but to thrive.
What’s nice about the Bible is that you can take a point from one passage, and find confirmation or validation for it elsewhere in Scripture. In this case, if you still have doubts of the significance, the importance of a river to the progression of a community, let’s jump to the book of Revelation. In the beginning its final chapter we read the following:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
From this we see that not only does a river flow through ‘the middle of the street of the city’ (talk about revolutionary city planning) – what’s more fascinating is the fact that the river has its source ‘from the throne of God’. In other words, God has shown Himself to be the source of life for New Jerusalem – and, I dare say, He is the source of life for any community, no matter how big or small it may be.
And from all this I can derive the following:
For all the wonders we see in the skies, the seas, the mountains, and in all of nature, the joy of all the earth is seen in its cities – it’s in cities that people come together to stay alive, and it’s in cities that people come together to flourish, and to succeed.
And just as the cities are reflection of the condition of the earth, so the condition of a city’s water is a reflection of the life of cities. A city that suffers a shortage of water cannot survive for long, much less a city with water that is stagnant, polluted, and/or contaminated. On the other hand, if you see a community thriving, chances are it abounds with water that is pure and full of life.
At this point I’m reminded of a comic that I read. In the comic Jesus Christ was trying to join Professor Xavier’s School of Exceptional Mutants. When asked what His power was, Jesus responded, ‘I could turn water into wine!’ Professor X responded, sure, that’s a great trick for parties, but I don’t see it working in a tactical situation.
Around then a guard who happened to be around fell unconscious. Jesus looked at Professor X and told him, ‘the human body is made of 60% water.’
This tells me something. If we suffer a shortage of water in our body, then we couldn’t survive for long. Also, apparently, if our water is stagnant, polluted, and/or contaminated, then chances are we also wouldn’t survive for long.
Friends, last Sunday we talked about how Christ was the answer to our prayers – once we prayed, ‘give us this day our daily bread’… And when Christ lay down His body to be crucified on the cross, we see how He was as it was said when He broke bread with the disciples – He was broken and given to us. We talked about how Christ was our Bread of Life, who gives us satisfaction even if our bodies do not get bread daily. And in the way that Christ is our Bread of Life, so He fills us with satisfaction that goes beyond this world, so much so that we are naturally led away from temptation.
Long story short, Christ is our Bread of Life that leads us away from temptation. In this way we see God’s will being done here on earth as it is in heaven.
Today, we see another aspect to the salvation we have in Christ.
In John 4 we see how Christ was sitting beside a well in Sychar, a town of Samaria. As He was resting a Samaritan woman approached to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink, to which the woman responded (in my words) ‘You’re a Jew. I’m a Samaritan. How could You ask me for a drink?’
In verse 10 Jesus responds, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”; To this the Samaritan woman responded, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
Jesus wasn’t one to beat around the bush. He did not respond according to what the Samaritan woman had in mind, but straight up told her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Later on in the book of John, in chapter 7, Christ says the following: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”John 7:37-38
So see where I’m getting at here. Jesus was not just bread, but He is our Bread of Life. We receive satisfaction out of this world through Christ, who is our Bread of Life. And apparently, Jesus was not only our water, but He is our Water of Life. And this is not just water that relieves our thirst. Take note, He says, ‘Out of his heart (some translations say ‘belly’) will flow rivers of living water.’
Friends, Christ not only sustains us by being our Bread; and because we believe in Christ, not only are we filled, but we overflow with water – and not JUST water, but LIVING Water.
Yes, just as a city not only survives, but thrives out of a river, so we survive, and so we thrive, with Christ with us. And because of Christ and His finished work, we could claim the blessings of cities as mentioned in the verses we’ve gone through today.
Because of Christ, we are apparently not just the salt of the earth, but as the city of God, we are the joy of the whole earth.
Because of Christ, we are as fortresses, beautiful in elevation. The enemy only sees us, and they flee, trembling in anguish.
Because of Christ, we are established forever.
Because of Christ, we bear fruit in every season.
With all this mentioned, how can we not hold back, and sing the chorus of the song I mentioned at the beginning of this message?
And Lord, we want to lift Your name on high
And Lord, we want to praise You for the works You’ve done in our lives
And Lord, we trust in Your unfailing love
For You alone are God eternal
throughout earth and heaven above!
Here’s where I end this. I understand that I have a good build up, but I need practice in my climax. With that being said I will go through the second part of this message, and I will make sure I clarify things, and add things that I need to add. Friends, I’m not sure if you’ve reached this far, but if you have anything to contend, if you have any sort of feedback, please let me know how I could improve. I’d greatly appreciate it.
God continue to overwhelm us this weekend. May we see with our eyes, how we overflow with living water.