Christianity 201

May 4, 2011

Counting The Towers

Today’s post first appeared on Tim Stafford’s blog as Jerusalem the Golden.

The end of Psalm 48 has lately stuck to me; I’ve been pondering it all week.

“Walk about Zion, go around her,
count her towers, consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels,
that you may tell of them to the next generation.
For this God is our God for ever and ever;
He will be our guide even to the end.”

There is a paradox here: you count the towers of Jerusalem in order to tell the next generation about them. That assumes they won’t be able to count them for themselves. The towers, ramparts and citadels won’t stay the same.

Yet somehow they show God’s everlasting qualities. Did the psalmist intuit their coming destruction? Now, caught in the moment before their collapse, they demonstrate God’s eternal lovingkindness.

Counting the towers is something like counting your blessings, except that it is decidedly physical and external. The psalmist does not have a metaphor in mind. He exults in the holy city, “beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth.” (verse 2) This is a place, situated on a hill, protected by God, but made by human skill and art. Stone and bricks are involved. In Jerusalem God’s creation, his ongoing nurture of a people, and human creativity mesh together.

Two thoughts: first, we appreciate God’s eternity (which we cannot grasp) when we focus on the very tangible, very changeable but very precious realities of life. Right now I love my garden, with its fountain and roses and abundant spring sunshine. All—even the parts I designed, bought or built—speak of God.

Second, the New Jerusalem will be like this too. We will build it, with our hands. God will protect it, God will make new heavens and new earth to build upon. But the towers and citadels will be our work. We will not, and we never have been, merely passive spirits. We are God’s partners.

~Tim Stafford