In this psalm we are encouraged to exult in the corporate realities of God’s salvation. God saves individuals one by one, but He never saves them to be alone. Just as we are not saved by good works, but rather to good works (Eph. 2:8-10), so also we are not saved by a crowd or a congregation, but we most assuredly are saved to a crowd and a congregation.
“His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob . . .” (Psalm 87:1–7).
Summary of the Text:
The physical city of God was in the holy mountains (v. 1). His heavenly Jerusalem is in the holy mountains of His everlasting wisdom. The Lord Jehovah loves the individual dwellings of Jacob, but He loves the public assembly of His people more (v. 2). The city of God is glorious, and it is right to ascribe glory to her (v. 3). The psalmist then mentions a series of pagan powers which will be brought to worship the Lord, which will be “born” in Zion (v. 4). And of Zion itself, it will be said that men of eminence were born in her (v. 5). When the Lord Jehovah conducts His great census, He will be the one who marks that this one was born (again) there (v. 6). The musicians will be there, and all our springs will be in the Lord (v. 7).
His Foundation in the Holy Mountains:
The Temple that Solomon built was on Mt. Moriah. The Tabernacle of David, in which the sacrifices were largely musical, was on Mt. Zion. The tabernacle from the wilderness was on Mt. Gibeon (2 Chron. 1:3), about 6 miles northwest of Jerusalem. In a way, all of them merged into the Temple, and began to be known as Zion.
God’s intention was always to rebuild the Tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11-12). James cites this prophecy as the basis for including the Gentiles as Gentiles in the Christian church (Acts 15:16). And that lines with what this psalm teaches us about God’s purposes. And the thing that enabled the Gentiles to come in—the blood sacrifice of Christ—was also that which enabled us to substitute musical sacrifice for blood sacrifices.
So the eternal counsels of God are the holy mountains in which we dwell.
Rahab and Babylon . . .
Rahab is a poetic name for Egypt, and signifies her insolence and pride. Who will be brought into Zion, and reckoned among her children when the Lord conducts His census? The proud of Egypt will be there (Acts 2:10). The worldly of Babylon will be (Acts 2:9). The fiercely angry from Philistia will come (Acts 2:9). The covetous of Tyre were no doubt in the mix. The strangers of Ethiopia will be strangers no more (Acts 8:27).
It is striking that when the foreigners are itemized in Acts on the day of Pentecost, the only ones who are not indicated in this psalm in some way are the Greeks—Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia.
He Loves the Gates of Zion:
God does love the individual dwellings of Jacob. He loves it when children are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He loves it when the things of God are discussed with affection around the dinner table. He loves it when a family prays and sings together. He loves familial piety.
But He loves the public assembly more. God loves the public gates of Zion more than the private dwellings of Jacob. The two need not be adversarial, of course, but we need to know how God prioritizes things. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25).
Pride in His People:
From the context we can tell that “this and that man” were born in her, and it is referring to men of some eminence. This is how we tell stories, is it not? When I was a child in Annapolis, the public library was a former tavern/inn from the 1700’s, and when you went down into the kids’ section in the basement, there was a plaque that informed you that “George Washington slept here.”
This expression is literally “a man and a man,” which may be a peculiar form of the superlative. The Israel of God has produced some of the most amazing warriors, inventors, workers, heroes, scholars, and adventurers who have ever lived. From David to Augustine, from Livingstone to Cranmer, and from Edwards to Antipas, the kingdom of God is the place of which we may say, “This one was born in her.”
Of course, the one who boasts must boast in the Lord. We know that unless the Lord had accomplished it, none of it would have been accomplished at all.
The Lord Himself Shall Count:
When Elijah despaired of everything, the apostle Paul reminds us that God had reserved for Himself 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18; Rom. 11:4). God is the one who maintains the number of the elect firmly in the palm of His hand (John 10:29).
When the Lord counts His people, you can be assured that He will not have to count twice.
All My Springs Are In You:
There are two ways to take this cryptic statement. All my springs are in the Lord could mean that all my life, all my resources, all my strength, come from Him. I draw on Him, my limitless source of living water. My springs are in Him. This takes it as that which flows to me.
The second way can take it as that which flows from me, as in, a man’s posterity (Prov. 5:16). All my posterity, all my descendants, all the children of my children’s children, are in the Lord.
And of course, if Christ is everything to us, it is possible to take it in both senses.