Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Glorious City (Psalm 87)

"Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!" (Ps. 87:3).

The mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, and his co-author express natural wonder at the surprising greatness of their 4,000 year old city, Jerusalem:

Archaeologists and historians have long wondered why Jerusalem should have been established where it was, and why it should have become great. It enjoys none of the physical features which favored the advancement and prosperity of other important cities in the world. It stands at the head of no great river. It overlooks no great harbour. It commands no great highway and no cross-roads. It is not close to abundant sources of water, often the major reason for the establishment of a settlement, though one main natural spring offered a modest supply. It possesses no mineral riches. It was off the main trade routes. It held no strategic key to the conquest of vast areas prized by the ancient warring empires. Indeed it was blessed with neither special economic nor topographic virtues which might explain why it should have ever become more than a small, anonymous mountain village with a fate any different from that of most contemporary villages which have long since vanished.

Psalm 87:1–3 The reason for its greatness, of course, is that it was chosen by God. He founded it in the holy mountains, and He loves its gates more than all the other cities or towns in the land. And its greatest glory is still future—when it will be the capital of the Messianic Kingdom, the royal city of the long-awaited King. This Psalm looks forward to that day when glorious things will be spoken of Zion, the city of God.

There is a sense in which it will be the spiritual birthplace of many nations:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths” (Isa. 2:2, 3).

Psalm 87:4 That is what seems to be in view in verse 4. Zion is personified as saying that among those nations that know her as mother, she can mention Rahab (that is, Egypt) to the south and Babylon to the north. Also people will speak of Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia as having been born in Jerusalem. These will be among the nations that recognize Zion as the spiritual, political, and economic capital of the world, and will go up to worship there and bring their tribute to the Great King (Isa. 60:5–7). The nations that refuse to go up to keep the Feast of Booths will suffer drought and plague (Zech. 14:16–19).

Psalm 87:5 Zion therefore will be reckoned as the place where the nations experience spiritual rebirth, because the Most High Himself shall establish her in that place of universal sovereignty.

Psalm 87:6 And when the LORD takes a census of the peoples, He will note carefully that certain nations realized their true destiny in becoming citizens of Zion. They visit the capital not to admire its architecture, or gaze upon its battlements, or envy the tribes who had come up to worship in the city which is compact together, but to claim its municipal immunities, experience its protection, obey its laws, live and love in its happy society, and hold communion with its glorious Founder and Guardian.

Gaebelein writes:

Jehovah keeps a record as one after another of the nations are brought into the Kingdom through Zion’s exaltation and blessing. Then Zion becomes the glorious metropolis of the whole world.

Psalm 87:7 It will be a time of festival and holiday. Singers and players on instruments will join in the chorus, “All my springs are in you.” No longer the place of tears and trouble, Jerusalem will be a fountain of blessing, a source of refreshment, and a spiritual home to all the nations of the earth.

But before leaving the Psalm, there is a personal application that should be made. It is this. A time is coming when God is going to register the people. It will be the census of heaven’s inhabitants. The great, single qualifying factor will be the new birth in Jesus Christ. Only those who have been born again will see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3–5). So when God writes up the people, He will say, “This man was born again in such and such a place.”

Will He be able to say that concerning you?

There is a way in which you can qualify for heavenly citizenship. That way is set forth in John 1:12:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.