Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 30 2019 - Psalm 87 – The city of God

Psalm 87 is another of the psalms of the Sons of Korah – the temple singers. It is not surprising then that its subject is the temple mount in Jerusalem, Mount Zion, which, because the temple, God's house, was built there, was also known as the city of God (v. 3).

The psalmist speaks of the way in which God has shown his love for this place by choosing it to be his dwelling place among his people. But God's love is not confined to this mountain, nor is it limited to the descendants of Jacob – the children of Israel. God's love would embrace the whole world, embracing even those who have been the traditional enemies of his people. So we read of people from Egypt (here called by its poetic name, Rahab), Philistia, Tyre and Cush (upper Egypt or perhaps the Arabian peninsula), all coming to acknowledge the God of Israel, the God who reigns from Zion, as the living God and to own him as their God. Nor will they be embraced by God as second-class citizens next to the descendants of Jacob: they will be accepted as if they had been born in this city; they will be registered as having a right to dwell there. They also will join in the praise of the living God, acknowledging that he is the source of all their blessings (v. 7).

This wonderful psalm is truly prophetic. The psalmist has been moved by the Spirit of God to look beyond the situation of his own day and to see the fulfilment of the promise God made to Abraham, "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3).

It is clear to us that this psalm finds its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the seed of Abraham through whom people of all nations are being reconciled to God and gathered into his kingdom. Imagine that last day when peoples of every nation, tribe and tongue shall gather around God's throne to unite in praise of God and of the Lamb who has atoned for their sin. Imagine yourself amongst that great throng.

John Newton, the slave trader turned preacher of the gospel, wrote a well-known hymn of praise based on this psalm:

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for his own abode...

Saviour, if of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name;
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.

Paul echoes the thoughts of this psalm when he writes to Gentile Christians at Ephesus saying: "You were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one" (Ephesians 2:12-14). We have been given new-birth into the family of God's people because of Jesus and his saving work.

Father we thank you for the wonder of your grace; that we who have no natural right to be called your children have been welcomed freely into your family through our Lord Jesus Christ. Enable us by your Spirit to encourage others to come into your kingdom through faith in Christ that it might be filled with people from every nation and background who will join us in praising you.

Peter Misselbrook