His foundation upon the holy mountains
the LORD loves:
The gates of Zion,
more than any dwelling of Jacob.
Glorious things are said of you,
O city of God!
I tell of Egypt and Babylon
among those that know the LORD;
Of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia:
“This man was born there.”
And of Zion they shall say:
“One and all were born in her;
And he who has established her
is the Most High LORD.”
They shall note, when the peoples are enrolled:
“This man was born there.”
And all shall sing, in their festive dance:
“My home is within you.”
(Psalm 87:1-3, 4-5, 6-7)
87:1 the holy mountains Refers to Mount Zion, the temple mount in Jerusalem. Zion’s Place in Israelite Religion
87:2 Zion Another name for Jerusalem in general or the temple mount specifically.
87:3 O city of God Zion and Jerusalem are often used interchangeably as names for God’s sacred city. Jerusalem was associated with God’s presence because the temple was located there on Mount Zion.
87:4 The psalmist speaks in the persona of Israel and depicts conversation between Israel and the surrounding nations. The neighboring nations focus on Jerusalem and emphasize Israel’s unique relationship to the holy city (and the God who dwells there). those who know the LORD The psalmist personifies the nations as individuals.
Babylon An international power that eventually destroyed the southern kingdom of Judah (586 bc) and became a symbol of wickedness and animosity toward God. in Philistia and Tyre The Philistines were bitter enemies against Israel, especially during the time of Saul and David. Tyre was an important trading center north of Israel on the Mediterranean coast. The trading activities of Tyre involved settling port cities around the Mediterranean, possibly resulting in religious syncretism that influenced Israel.
87:6 when the peoples are enrolled The psalmist portrays Yahweh as recording those coming to Jerusalem in a ledger. This man was born there This line shows the LORD’s focus, and acknowledgement of, those who were originally connected to Jerusalem.
87:7 in their festive dance This could refer to skilled people, perhaps temple personnel, or more generally to the people coming to Jerusalem to worship.
Psalm 87 is a song about Zion and its role in the LORD’s rule of the world. The psalm expresses two basic ideas. The first is the central premise of the songs of Zion: Zion is the city of God. The second is the elaboration that the city of God is the spiritual home for people who live in all the nations.
This vision of the LORD making distant and scattered people citizens of Zion is theologically powerful. Having Zion as religious home becomes thereby a spiritual reality rather than an accident of historical exigencies. Exiles from Judah and the Jews among the dispersion could know that by the grace of God they were “born there.” The psalm can be read as a dramatic portrayal of the Old Testament hope that all nations would be drawn to the kingship of the LORD.
Christians read and sing this psalm it in the light of St. Paul’s teaching to the Philippians: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Many residents of Philippi are honored recipients of Roman citizenship. Paul points out that civil privileges such as those they have received are only a dim reflection of the benefits they possess as Christians. Believers are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, enrolled among the angels and saints in the family of God.
– James Mays
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.