“He has founded His city on the holy mountain.
The Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
‘This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High himself will establish her.’
The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
‘This one was born in Zion.’”
Psalms 87:1-2, 5-6 NIVUK
This Psalm is very short and written by “The Sons of Korah”, who were musical and choral leaders in the time of King David. So they probably wrote this Psalm as a song, to be used in worship in the temple. But what was all this about “Zion”, a word that has come to describe the nation of Israel. A word associated with the Jewish nationalistic movement. A word hated passionately by certain adjacent countries in the Middle East.
Zion was a place, geographically situated in Jerusalem, but spiritually, God’s home. And the importance of Zion to the Jews cannot be underestimated. As we can see from these verses today, people born in Zion were contained in God’s Register of Births. Obviously a special place. But can we draw any conclusions from Psalm 87 that will help us in our pilgrimage through life today? Although Zion described a place and a movement in the Old Testament, in the New Testament Zion has become a word associated with the Kingdom of God, our spiritual kingdom. We see this particularly in Hebrews 12:22, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,”. One day we will find ourselves living in this city, our ultimate spiritual home. But isn’t that too far in the future to bother about? Do we need to be aware of it today, when bills fall through the letterbox, when the washing machine breaks, when we sit at our office desk, earning enough to live on? Whatever we think though, we need a focus. We need to know where we are going. What we are working towards. Sometimes a vision of Jesus, of our future home, of the new life to come, will sustain us through the valleys encountered in our pilgrimage through life. Otherwise we will just flounder, perishing in the “now” and losing sight of “tomorrow”.
John Newton wrote a hymn in 1779 entitled, “Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God” based in part on verse 3 of today’s Psalm. The last verse is:
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.
A great hymn – I’m looking forward to “solid joys and lasting treasure” – how about you?