Reading: Psalm 87
“...the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” (Psalm 87:2)
What a statement of comparison. God had chosen Jacob; Israel was His firstborn son. But here, God speaks of Zion, as loving its gates even more than the very dwelling places of Jacob. Zion is the place I want to be! But Zion can be elusive at times for me as I read the Scriptures. Sometimes I wonder, “Where is Zion? What is Zion?”
Originally, Zion was a fortified hill in pre-Israelite Jerusalem.1 In 2 Samuel 5:6-10 we read of how David conquered Zion and made it the City of David. Shortly after that David sets out to bring the ark of God, where God was enthroned between the cherubim, to the city of David. Subsequently, Zion becomes associated with the place where God's throne, the ark, is. Therefore, when David's son, Solomon, moves the ark into the temple, the temple mount becomes associated with Zion. Zion is that place where God's rule is centered; the place where His presence in mercy is manifest amongst His people.
However, when we arrive at Psalm 87:4-6, there are some surprising things spoken about Zion. Twice we read that God will write or record the names of individuals, including Gentiles, in the records of those born in Zion. These are not proselytes, they are now natural born citizens. And from amongst the enemies of God's people: Rahab is another name for Egypt where Israel was in slavery (Psalm 89:10); Babylon held God's people captive during the exile; Philistia was the persecuting neighbor of God's people (Judges 10:7; 13:1). Now God will create from them those who are part of Zion! A third time we read that it will be said of Zion, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” Zion is being transformed into a place that doesn't have ethnic boundaries.
This psalm is also very similar to some verses we covered in a recent message in our Isaiah Series, Calling Blind and Deaf Witnesses. In Isaiah 44:3-5, we read of the day when God will regather His people from the ends of the world by pouring out His Spirit. At that time,
One will say, 'I belong to the Lord'; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, 'The Lord's,' and will take the name Israel.
Isaiah also speaks in many places of how this regathered people of God will come out of Gentile nations (i.e. Isaiah 19:23-25). Isaiah envisions the boundaries of Israel as a place expanded from the rising of the son to the place of its setting.
When we get to the New Testament, we find that Christ is the place where God's rule is centered; the place where His presence in mercy is manifest amongst His people. The Son of David, the Messianic King, relocates the throne of God to Himself, the temple of God (John 2:21) and therefore Zion is centered in Jesus Christ and where those who come to God through Christ are found.
22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)
Zion is that place where God's rule is centered; the place where His presence in mercy is manifest amongst His people. Zion is that heavenly city which we are part of through faith in Christ and where we worship God in Spirit and in truth. Zion is where we gather on Sunday mornings, not in our church buildings, but with all the true saints there worshiping God together. Zion is a place where we have access because the blood of Christ speaks better things of us (righteousness: love one another) than did the blood of Abel (the guilt incurred in brotherly hatred).
Christ is the Way to Zion! When we come to God through faith in Christ, then it is said of us, indeed God records of us, “this one was born in Zion.” This is the new birth. This is inclusion into the family of God. Here there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, between slave and free, but Christ is all and in in all (Galatians 3:28) We are no longer outsiders looking in; we are fellow-citizens, members of God's household (see Ephesians 2:11-22). We are in the place of which it is said, “...the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 4, pg. 959.