That is what the psalmist urges in Psalm 48, as he considers the glory of ancient Jerusalem:
“Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion in the far north,
The city of the great King …
Walk about Zion and go around her;
Count her towers;
Consider her ramparts;
Go through her palaces,
That you may tell it to the next generation.”
Psalm 48:2, 12-13
And if the psalmist could say such things of ancient Jerusalem, how much more should we praise, and consider, and behold the beauty of the new Jerusalem, which is the church of Jesus Christ? How much more ought we walk about our Zion, considering her towers, ramparts, and palaces? How much more ought we to see the beauty of the church?
And she is beautiful, when she is what she ought to be! Holy in her array, so different from the shambles out of which her bridegroom bought her! And diverse in her make-up, too … made up of all sorts of different people, because we are all on equal footing, and we are all children of God, through the work of the cross! And melodious in her song, as well – which is marvelous to hear, when a congregation really lifts up its voice to the king. And then there is the fact that the church is ever expanding through the glorious work of missions! “Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth.”
And so I say that it is a good thing to “walk about Zion” and to take in the glory of the new Jerusalem – to think about the work of God, first of all, in your own church, and the strength and beauty that He is producing there. And then to consider some of the other churches that you know of – great and small, rich and poor, western and eastern, past and present – noticing that there is beauty in each true gospel church, whether they meet in a mud-daubed hut, or under a towering steeple. In both places we find Christ’s palaces … and in every gospel church in between. And we should think on these things, sometimes – just walking about the North American continent, musing on (and praying for!) the gospel churches that we know; and then extending our thoughts ever outward, to churches and missionary outposts that are far afield – admiring and praying for the work of God within all these distant ramparts!
Maybe this would be a good use of some of your Lord’s Day afternoon, this week … just meditating on and praising God for the beauty of the church in various places and eras of the world! And then, as the psalmist says, “tell[ing] it to the next generation” as well! Telling your children and grandchildren the story of the church – near and far, present and past. Walking with them around her palaces and ramparts, just as you would do if you took them to the Alamo, or Niagara Falls … and pointing out to them the glories of Calvin’s Geneva, or of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, or of the Scottish Covenanters, or of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (in D.C.) today, or of the missionary works your church supports, or of the fellowship of churches with which your local congregation is involved.
It will do good to the soul (both to your own soul, and to that of your children) to really consider what God is doing in his new Jerusalem; in His church, the world over!
Six resources that will help you “walk about Zion”:
1. A good church history book, like Sketches from Church History by S.M. Houghton or Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley.
2. A good set of missionary newsletters, connecting you with the work of the church in distant parts of the globe.
3. Operation World, which will give a broader picture of how the gospel is faring in every nation on the planet.
4. sermonaudio.com, where you can listen to sermons from hundreds of churches in different parts of the world, and be encouraged that the same gospel that is doing its work in your church is also doing so in nooks and crannies of which you’ve never heard!
5. 9marks.org/church-search/ where you will find a list of (mostly) solid biblical churches to visit while you’re away on vacation or business. Being in other solid gospel churches now and again is one of the better ways to begin to see the beauty of God’s larger church!
6. Your own local church! The easiest, best, and most biblical way to “walk about Zion” counting her towers and considering her ramparts is to make sure you appreciate and make full use of the palace and ramparts where God has placed you on a day-to-day basis. Familiarize yourself with your own local church, praying for her members, observing the good work God is doing, basking in the beauty of her sung praise, and taking in the spiritual manna that God reigns upon her through the pulpit ministry.
The church of Jesus Christ is beautiful! She is a palace! And so let’s not miss out on all that there is to see! Let’s not be like tourists who stay in the hotel all day, watching TV! “Go through her palaces”, my friends. “Consider her ramparts.” “Count her towers.” “Walk about Zion and go around her” … and you (and your children) will be amazed by what you see!