Today’s passage: Psalm 87
I have no idea what I’m going to say about this one. It’s only seven verses long, but I got to the end and immediately asked myself, “What did I even read?” To all appearances, it’s just the psalmist saying that some people are from Philistia or Tyre or Ethiopia or what have you, but other people are from Zion, where God himself takes the census. The NASB’s summary header reads, “The Privileges of Citizenship in Zion.” I guess that’s what it’s about? Maybe I can make some sense of this thing with a commentary.
So I turn to Matthew Henry for clarification, and already I’m starting to get a grip on things. Zion is the mountain where the city of Jerusalem is located, and within this psalm are reasons why it’s great to be from Zion. It’s the most favored place in the entire nation of Israel, to begin with: “The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob” (2). And God’s not the only one who favors it. The psalm goes on: “Glorious things are spoken of you” (3). The city is established by “the Most High Himself” (5), and as noted before, God himself is the census-taker who knows and enumerates each individual citizen of his city (6). For all these reasons, as the psalm concludes in verse seven, Zion is a source of joyful song for those who call it home.
Matthew Henry writes of this psalm, “It is an encomium [i.e. a speech praising its subject] of Zion, as a type and figure of the gospel-church, to which what is here spoken is very applicable.” And that makes sense to me. If it’s great to be a citizen of Zion, how much greater is it to be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven? But one crucial difference stands out to me. You might be born in Zion, as the psalmist notes, “Of Zion it shall be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her'” (5), but nobody’s born a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, at least not the first time. You have to get your citizenship from Jesus Christ. You have to be born again.