In the midst of the communal lament that extends past last night’s psalm, today’s psalm gives rise to a break in the lament. It is a pause in a series of laments individual and communal to give a praise break. The Psalter, it is important to remember was not always bound together this way. It has not always existed as 150 psalms that span individual and communal joys, hopes, pains, and sorrows; they were lived expressions of worship, that lasted through time and were eventually brought together. Psalm 48 is a Praise Break in the midst of the cries of a suppressed people.
Psalm 48 is the celebration of God’s favor for God’s people in the midst of a time in which they rarely felt God’s favor. Knowing God in this way is to know, as verse 1 says, “the joy of all the earth”. It is a song that rose high, higher, even, than the laments of yesterday’s psalm. It celebrates the safety and peace of God’s protection in Zion.
One thing to make sure, in reflecting on the Psalms, is to not step too quickly into the shoes of the narrator or singer; we must be careful to remember than these songs are the songs of God’s people, yes. While we, too, are God’s people, many American Christians have never known the persecution of the Israelite people; many have never know what a praise break feels like in the midst of a time of communal lament.
This song of praise is less the victorious cry of those who have rarely known defeat and subjugation, it is more the hard won, chosen prayer of praise when all around you points to more and more lament. It is a praise break arising from a community of black Christians who, amidst their assertions that their lives matter still find space for joy and praise.
The joy of all the earth is the joy that is found when it rises up among impossible odds and in which we are given the chance to sing songs of praise.