While growing up, my grandparents owned a farm in Davis, Oklahoma. During spring break and a couple of weeks in the summer, my cousins and I would vacation at the farm. One of the farm rules was once you finished breakfast, you were outside until dinner time. The only way you were allowed inside the house was if you were gushing blood from an open wound, could not breathe, or were bitten by a snake. Otherwise, rub a little dirt on it, get a pop from the outside refrigerator and stay out of Mima’s hair.
This outdoor freedom led to many situations that now, as an adult, make me cringe. Situations like being baited into jumping out a loft window of the barn, playing chicken with water moccasin snakes, and testing by hand whether or not the electric fence was live.
I was the only girl cousin on this side of the family with six boys, including my brother. And during these weeks at the farm, I wanted to be just like them and do all the things they did. The boys did not want the younger bratty sister/cousin messing up their fun. So, when the pranks and pestering from the boys became too much, I would run into the farmhouse crying, and my Papa Bill would let me take refuge in his oversized, comfortable recliner. I was always overjoyed for the reprieve.
Psalm 48 is a victory song of refuge and protection. It begins by praising the One to whom the victory and celebration belong saying, “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise.”
The Lord’s greatness cannot be worshipped or praised or elevated too much because He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4), the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8), the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and so much more. He chose His people to be a dwelling place, and when we truly stop and ponder this truth, we are convicted of our lack of greatness. In humble worship, we are brought to our knees, praising the Lord for His loving-kindness towards us despite our sinful state. And through our submission, those who rise against the Lord will stand in awe of the obedience and reverence of His people.
The psalmist continues to prompt us to consider: where else can we go that provides a refuge in an impenetrable stronghold? Our viewpoint lies in our response to the sovereignty and authority of God. We have a choice. We can choose obedience and submission to God, His authority, and the power that secures our refuge within His fortress, or we can choose the risk of being an enemy of God in disobedience and rebellion, looking upon the stronghold but never gaining access.
This world and all within it will one day know the greatness of God, just like the kings did in this psalm. Christians will not be the only people to bow before the Lord. Instead, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that there is one true God (Philippians 2:9-11). And He will be exalted by all peoples, including those who deny His authority and rage against Him. The psalmist points us again to who God is and why He is worthy of all our praise. As a people set apart as God’s dwelling place, we have a refuge – protected within His great fortress.
Ultimately where else can we go to receive the life-giving refuge that the Lord offers in abundance and endlessly supplies within His stronghold? It is a blessing to God when our praise is offered solely to Him. I believe the psalmist shows us three ways to offer our praise and worship each day in verses 9-13. We bless the Lord with a fragrant offering when we meditate on His greatness, meet with Him daily, and tell others of Him.
My Papa Bill’s recliner was my protection from rowdy boys, but it was always a temporary refuge. And while I celebrated the short reprieve away from them, I knew eventually my Mima would hurry me back outside where they would be waiting, eager to bait me again into doing something ridiculous. You see, my shelter was never outside of the farmhouse; it was always inside. This is true for us as believers. Our life-giving shelter is not outside of God. We will never find refuge and protection in this world, our idols, or ourselves that indeed cause us to offer holy praises in celebration. We are meant to dwell within the fortress of God, and there we will find all that we need. There He will conform us to look more like him and guide us to live a life worthy of our calling. Within the walls of God’s fortress, we can genuinely celebrate the victory of our battles, singing, “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise."