Psalm 87

Psalms 87 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson

 The outline is easily discerned by noticing the ‘Selah’ after verse 3 and verse 6.  The careful reader will see the natural breaks.  Kidner refers to the “enigmatic, staccato phrases” of this Psalm.  For those of love the hymns of John Newton, you will notice the title of his well known hymn at the beginning of verse 3.  Robert Godfrey writes, “Psalm 87 may well be the greatest missionary psalm of the Psalter.  Here is a vision, not of the destruction of enemies, but of their conversion.”  This reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

The center of Israel’s worship was the tent of meeting, then the temple.  The temple resided in Jerusalem.  So when one spoke of the presence of God, either Jerusalem , Zion or the temple would do.  God choose Jerusalem at the city where the temple would be built.  David conquers the city (II Sam 5) and God chooses this city to be the center of Israelite worship.  In fact, verse 1 says he founded or established Jerusalem.  This choice is not well received by the nations (Ps. 68:15ff) who are envious.  The mount or hill is holy because He is there.  God makes Jerusalem a beautiful city.  It is not a ‘city of God’ because of Jerusalem’s natural beauty.  Jerusalem is the city of God because of God and no other reason.

Verses 4-6 are difficult to understand.  It seems the God is adopting the nations and including them in His family.  Or better, this is what will happen in the future. The Revised Version writes the phrase, ‘I will make mention’ “as if it were a formal proclamation on a state occasion’ per Kidner.  The nations are listed  in verse 4 as Rahab (Egypt), Babylon, Philistia and Tyre (nations close to Israel) and Cush (Ethiopia representing nations far from Israel).  These nations are described in v. 4 as “those who know me’ which is a rather unusual phrase to describe these nations. 

So people from these nations are said to be ‘born there’ v. 4.  How is this so?  One way to view this is since these nations will believe in the future God is claiming they are native born in Jerusalem.  This is what Tate describes in his Word commentary, “. . . the Assyrian practice of justifying the deportation and movement of peoples involved in empire building by the use of a common refrain, found in Neo-Assyrian inscriptions about conquered people, “I counted them among the Assyrians.”  God in indeed conquering people but they area adopted into His family!  And they are so much better off for it. 

God loves people from other nations.  We are from other nations.  We are not Jewish.  Most of us and a combination off different ethnicities.  God does not favor the US, speak English as His first language, favor our democracy over other governments.  We were outsiders, had no claim on God.  Now we who believe are part of His family.  That is stunning.

On the last verse, the phrase ‘All my springs are in you’ is “a metaphor for the source of life and blessing (see Ps 36:9; Is 12:3; Joel 3:18; cf. Is 41:18; Hos 13:15; note also the river of Zion in Ps. 46:4).’ Tate Word Biblica Commentary on Psalms 51-100 p. 392. 

            Paul never gave up on his vision of Jews and Gentiles worshiping together  He called the Gentiles ‘fellow-heirs, members of the same body and partakers in the promise of Christ Jesus’ (see Eph. 3:3-9).  The author of Heb says in chapter 12, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gatherings, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven (vs. 22-23).

            Paul refers to Zion as our mother in Gal 4:26, “The Jerusalem above . . . she is our mother.”  The redeemed of the earth will stand with the triumphant Lamb on Mt. Zion, with the name of the Lamb and his Father’s name on their foreheads, the will number 144,000, but are only the firstfruits of God and the Lamb of a great harvest, of a “great multitude with no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev 14:1-5; 7:9). Their song of victory and salvation confirms the vision of Ps. 87 (Tate, p. 393).

            Father, why I was ever included in Your family, conquered by Your love, bought by the death of Christ while I was still hating You, rejected You, and ridiculed Your Name and Word is something I will never get over.  Help me to live in this international, grace-filled, eternal gospel every day of my life.  Your gospel is so much grander and so much more satisfying that any competing vision for my life.  I will continue to praise Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.  Amen.