Exhortation for 19/2/06 – Reading Psalm 87: “This man was born there” – Bro Peter
The very purpose of these exhortations is to encourage our beloved brethren and sisters who do not have the benefits of long-established ecclesial structures. Throughout the Bible the distinction is made between those “called” to God’s purpose in every generation, and those who are merely citizens of “the World”. In Genesis these groups were defined as the believing “Sons of God” compared to the “Sons of Men” who knew not God. Later it became “Israel” the people of God and “the Gentiles” which is a title for all who are not Jews and outside of God’s covenant promises. But even in Israel not all were believers, but only the faithful “remnant” were those who would be saved. In Joel 2:32, during Israel’s history, this is described as the “remnant whom the Lord shall call”. Today it is often one here or one there in this or that nation who is called to the understanding of the truth of God. We who take the emblems today, wherever we may be located, belong to the greatest family on earth, having a common Father and also a “mother” as seen is this psalm.
Those who are “called” of God in this Psalm are seen to be the citizens of Zion. The “called” is a very definitive term of scripture. It is the very meaning of the Greek word “ecclesia”—a people called out for God’s purpose. This is why we adopt that description for our community—the Christadelphian ecclesia; the ‘called out’ brothers and sisters of Christ. Acts 15:14 says: “Simeon (Peter) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.” Peter was caused to understand this when God told him to visit Cornelius, a Gentile Roman Centurion, and showed him that God was calling both Jews and Gentiles. Peter then declared: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35).
All baptised believers have received this call of God. God firstly directs us to His Word, we subsequently believe it and act in obedience by baptism and a constant walking in accord with His requirements. He accounts us to be recorded in “the book of life” and at Jesus’ return will raise us and give us immortality: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality” (1Cor 15:52,53)
God’s purpose advanced from being limited to Israel to include the Gentiles by His direct call. Israel rejected their opportunity to believe their Messiah at his first appearing. Peter on the day of Pentecost said that they “by wicked hands have crucified and slain” him (Acts 2:23), and Stephen accused them in Acts 7:52: “of whom ye have now been the betrayers and murderers”. Therefore God decreed through Paul and Barnabas: “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). So this once exclusive calling through the nation and people of Israel now became a direct call to the people of all nations, whoever would respond to the Gospel.
In verse 47 they add: “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth”. In verse 48 we see the response of the Gentiles: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”. The new status of the Gentile believers is now described as “ordained to eternal life”.
And so a place in the kingdom is assured for all of us who remain constant to our calling. This is where we the believers of today stand. Whether in Australia, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Europe or Africa it matters not—we are the sons of Zion, the sons of God, the seed of Abraham by faith and the brethren of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Our Daily Reading reveals this understanding of God’s purpose. It speaks of a literal city which has a spiritual significance. Psalm 87 is a remarkable psalm that speaks of Zion as the destined metropolis of Jew and Gentile believers alike. “Zion”, the Holy Mount and “Jerusalem” are synonymous terms in the prophets for the place where God will dwell. The literal city of Jerusalem, rebuilt and more glorious, will be the centre of Christ’s millennial Kingdom, as Isaiah says: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa 3:3).
However, by the time we get to Revelation 21:2 it is also symbolically and spiritually defined as “the Holy City coming down from God out of Heaven”, and is a figure of the redeemed, resurrected and glorified believers, both Jews and Gentiles. The Bible interweaves these two applications, the natural and the spiritual, and we need to be careful to distinguish when it is describing the literal city or the spiritual concept of His people.
Paul in Hebrews 12:22-23 is speaking spiritually when he says: “Mount Zion…the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem...and ecclesia of firstborns, which are written in heaven”. In Rev 3:5 Jesus says of them: “I will not blot out his name out of the book of life”, where alternatively the false worshippers are described by him in Rev 13:8 as those “whose names are NOT written in the book of life”.
In Galatians 4:26 Paul again speaks of “Jerusalem which is above” as “the mother of us all”. This is a spiritual concept describing Jerusalem as the “mother” of the true servants of God who have God and Christ abiding in their hearts through faith.
What a wonderful vision and hope we all have! There is no other hope in the world which offers everlasting life. Rev. 5:9 describes for us the joy and appreciation of the redeemed as with immortal voices they offer praise and thanksgiving: “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue and people and nation”.
All of us are firstly “drawn” and then “taught” of God. Jesus describes this: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:44-45). Our commitment to him now, in this life, will secure our resurrection and glorification at his return as we see from verse 40: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” This “raising up” is the whole process, firstly, the physical resurrection from the dead and finally the change “in a moment” to immortality if found faithful.
How does Psalm 87 incorporate all these ideas?
The first verse opens with the fact that Zion is not just another mountain—it is the “foundation” or ‘establishment’ of God’s interest and involves holiness. These are spiritual terms. “His foundation is in the holy mountains”. Its hills are hills of holiness because He is there, honoured and worshipped in truth.
Verse 2 tells us how He “loveth the gates of Zion more than the dwellings of Jacob.” ‘Jacob’ is the name of the patriarch before his name was changed by God to ‘Israel’, and Zion is the city God chose in the land of Israel where He would place His name and dwell. God’s love for Zion springs from the great future He has in store for her and those who identify with that great Hope.
Verse 3 calls on the reader to contemplate the glorious things spoken of the “city of God”. The Hebrew word “Selah” means to contemplate or consider.
Verses 4 and 5 now poetically depict Zion as the birthplace of all those who have been called. The true worshippers of God are shown to have come from different centres, even some from nations who were Israel’s former enemies. Rahab speaks of Egypt from whence Israel were taken out in the first Exodus under Moses, Babylon were her former captors in the days of Daniel six hundred years before Christ, Philistia were the constant enemies of Israel’s early history, Tyre was the affluent merchant city, and Ethiopia the remotest of nations. The nationality of the saints does not matter as they all now believe in the God of Israel and are counted His people—their spiritual mother and birthplace is now Zion. This is seen from the following expressions:
§ “This man was born there” (v4)
§ “This and that man was born in her” (v5)
§ “This man was born there” (v6)
“The Highest Himself shall establish her (Zion)” as the mother of us all.
§ “这一个那一个都生在其中” （第5节）
§ “这一个生在那里” （第6节）
The Psalmist goes on to say: The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people that this man was born there”. This conveys the same idea as having our name written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21:27), recorded in the mind of God in heaven, never to be erased. What unspeakable joy to be among those numbered by Almighty God!
These are the ones of Rev 21:3,4: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
And again in Rev 20:12,13: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works.”
To be numbered in Zion will bring everlasting life and eternal joy in the kingdom. This is expressed in the final verse: “As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there”. Here the redeemed, both as choir and orchestra, shall praise with one accord, extolling the glory of their God with thankful hearts.
“All my springs (fountains of waters) are in thee” becomes the concluding sentiment. This reminds us of the refreshing water of life from God’s Word that sustains us in our pilgrimage. Of the Kingdom age we are told: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 22:1). This language is adopted to convey the spiritual beauty of the conditions prevailing for the redeemed in the kingdom.
The wonderful vision of this psalm encourages us to look to the joyful day when we shall all be united as one in the city of our God. As we remember God and Christ today may we be revitalised in our faith and commitment to dedicate our lives to Him in faithful and honest service.