Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain,2 beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
3 Within its citadels God
has shown himself a sure defense.
Within the citadels of the great city God has made Himself known. The church of Jesus Christ, the people of God, is the dwelling place of God. He inhabits His people. He lives where they are. The church is the current city of God. There is a city being built that will be the future abode of the righteous, but it is valid to call the church the city of God today. In the city of God, in the church, God is to be praised. This takes us right to Romans 12:1-2:
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The people of God are to be different from those who are not the people of God. That different life, lived for God, is worship. Christians are to be a worshippers in all they do. To get involved in the behaviour and thinking of those outside the city is to betray our God. It may indicate that we are not citizens of the city at all. God is to be greatly praised in the behaviour of His people. Our worship together, when that happens, is to be from our hearts, genuine, heart felt, true.
We can do this because God has revealed Himself to us. He has done all that is required for us to praise Him. We will praise Him when we get a grip on the Gospel of grace. The picture in the Psalm is one of God providing protection for His people in the city. He is their defense (verse 3). When the kings of the earth came to conquer they fled because of the power and defenses they encountered. They knew better than to try to mess with that city (verses 4-8). The thing that drove them off was the obvious truth that this city could not be taken.
How far has the church drifted from such a perception in the eyes of the world? Will those who seek to influence the world with their philosophies and behaviour not bother with believers in Jesus Christ because of their obvious praise of God?
James tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from us. What would make him flee? The sight of God being praised and citadels built by God. Can the tempter and those he uses say about us: “It is no use trying to make them dessert their God. God is in them and we cannot win.” The usual response to this is for someone to say, “But we all sin. We all fall.” True, but we never excuse it and we do not use our sin as the default position.
And we also do not focus on ourselves. The kings of the earth do not flee from the city because of its inhabitants, but because of its defenses. God is our defense. Jesus dwells within us. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is God at work in us and for us that will make the enemy flee. Of course he can destroy us. But He cannot destroy the One who has called us and saved us and who lives within as our sure defense.
Christianity is not “I think I can , I think I can.” It is “I know He will, I know He will.” And this is what enables us to live in holiness.
Then why do we fall? Because we dessert the God who lives within. We do not revel in the Gospel. We do not tap into the power that is there for us. We try to do everything alone and not with others believers. And that makes God look pretty weak and needing help Himself. Our testimony is about the God we serve.
We need to remember that the One who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. And we need to prove it by relying on Him daily for the strength and protection that He gives to all those who are His.