This psalm is a celebration of God choosing Zion as his dwelling place and defending it from its enemies. Zion is a word used for the people of the Lord. Israel represented the people of the Lord in the Old Testament. The psalm was probably written as a song of praise following an important victory for Israel over an invading enemy. The psalm is a celebration of God’s sovereign protection. One of the main themes of the psalm is that God will get glory both from his people’s deliverance and those who oppose him being destroyed.

God is eternal and has eternal power to match his word. He made heaven and earth, and can unmake them. He has the highest throne, the richest crown, and the largest dominion. Trust him with your soul and you cannot put it in surer hands. So we can depend upon God in good or bad times. He has the power of life and death in his hands.  This psalm calls for wisdom to seek the Lord’s mercy, and seasons of conflict are especially prudent times for repentance.

John Witherspoon, Member of the Continental Congress, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, preached a sermon from this psalm on May 17, 1776, not long before he signed the Declaration. You can easily find the entire sermon online. Here are some brief excerpts from it.

“In the first place, I would take the opportunity on this occasion, and from this subject, to press every hearer to a sincere concern for his own soul’s salvation. There are times when the mind may be expected to be more awake to divine truth, and the conscience more open to the arrows of conviction, than at others. That curiosity and attention at least are raised in some degree, is plain from the unusual throng of this assembly. Have you assembled together willingly to hear what shall be said on public affairs, and to join in imploring the blessing of God on the counsels and arms of the united colonies, and can you be unconcerned, what shall become of you for ever, when all the monuments of human greatness shall be laid in ashes, for “the earth itself and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up.”

Wherefore my beloved hearers, as the ministry of reconciliation is committed to me, I beseech you in the most earnest manner, to attend to the truth of Jesus Christ as the only Savior of sinners.  How soon and in what manner a seal shall be set upon the character and state of every person here present, it is impossible to know. Those who shall first fall in battle, have not many more warnings to receive. There are some few daring and hardened sinners who despise eternity itself, and set their Maker at defiance, but the far greater number by staving off their convictions to a more convenient season, have been taken unprepared, and thus eternally lost.

You are all my witnesses, that this is the first time of my introducing any political subject into the pulpit. At this season however, it is not only lawful but necessary, and I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature. There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.

 Suffer me to recommend to you an attention to the public interest of religion, or in other words, zeal for the glory of God and the good of others. Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue. On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigor, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed. This will be found equally certain, whether we consider the great principles of God’s moral government, or the operation and influence of natural causes.

Upon the whole, I beseech you to make a wise improvement of the present threatening aspect of public affairs, and to remember that your duty to God, to your country, to your families, and to yourselves, is the same. True religion is nothing else but an inward temper and outward conduct suited to your state and circumstances in providence at any time.”