God’s Presence In Israel
God is Known In Israel
The Psalmist begins the psalm with a declaration of God’s presence in Israel. He is known by the Israelites. They have a relationship with him through the covenant. They are thankful for his presence among them. They revere his name, saying it is great. By including both Judah and Israel in this declaration, the psalmist is including all of Israel in this declaration.
With the construction of the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple, God assured Israel that his presence would dwell with them as a nation, as his people. David moved the ark to Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, later built the Temple there. The ark, with the mercy seat, was where God’s presence dwelt. The word “Salem” in verse two is a reference to Jerusalem. The reference to Zion is a reference to Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, where the Temple was built.
The psalmist’s statement is a statement of belief. He believed God dwelt in the Temple in Jerusalem. It is also a statement of praise that God chose to dwell with the Israelites and to protect them from attacks of the Gentiles.
As a side note, it can be difficult to interpret the word Zion as you read through the Bible. Zion comes to represent Jerusalem, then all of Israel, and, ultimately, the heavenly city promised to believers. The Isaac Watt’s hymn “Marching To Zion” captures this last concept. The chorus of the hymn is:
We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful, Zion:
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.
The scriptural basis for this concept, and the hymn, is Hebrews 12:22:
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”.
God The Protector and Divine Warrior
These verses portray God defending Jerusalem from an attack. We do not know the specific event the psalmist has in mind. He might even have several in mind.
God broke the weapons of the enemy. (3) He kept them from “spoiling” Jerusalem. (5)“Spoiling” means taking the goods and valuables of the people you defeated. He stunned them. (6) He put them to sleep. This was a rebuke to them for their attack on Jerusalem.
This language seems to fit with God’s defense of Jerusalem against the attack of the Assyrians under King Sennacherib. 2 Kings 19:32-35 tells the story:
“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David. And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold these are all dead bodies.”
In the midst of this, the psalmist praises God as glorious and majestic. (4) He said that God is to be feared (7) No one can stand before him when his anger is roused and when he utters judgment. (7-8) God was acting to save the humble of the earth, which would include Israel, from those who are arrogant because of their military power.
“The wrath of man shall praise you” in verse 10 of the English Standard Version, means that God will create praise even from the actions of those men who act wrathfully.
Even as human leaders acquire power, God can use them to bring glory to himself. The story of God forcing Egypt’s Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt is an example. God said to Pharaoh: “But for his purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)
The psalm concludes with a call to worship. He tells Israel to make vows and keep them and to bring gifts to God. He says God is to be feared, even by the powerful on Earth. (12)
God is present with his people. He present with believers today in two ways. He is present when his church is gathered together. Jesus said “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. (Matthew 18:20)
God is also with us individually. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”
God defends and protects his people. He protected Israel from physical harm when they lived in obedience to him. He protects us spiritually. He gives us spiritual armor, described in Ephesians 6:10-17, so that we are able to stand against the schemes of the devil and to stand firm in the faith.
God gives us the power to submit to him and to resist the devil, causing him to flee from us. (James 4:7)
God still deserves our praise for his glory and majesty.
We are to fear God in the sense that we recognize his power and are reverent toward him.