PSALM 87—GOD’S HEART IS SET ON ZION
Now we come to the end of Book III, Psalms 85 to 89. In Psalm 85 the saints ask God for restoration, and in Psalm 86 for salvation; but in Psalm 87 we see that God’s heart is set on Zion, His city, with Christ within it. Zion here refers not only to the house, but to the house with the city. God does not care for restoration as we do; God does not desire salvation as we do. His desire, His heart, is set upon Zion with Christ within it. It is indeed significant that preceding Psalm 87 are Psalms 85 and 86. In Psalm 85 the Psalmist says, “Turn us, O God” (v. 4). According to the original language, this verse should read, “Restore us, O God.” Psalm 85 is a prayer for restoration. In Psalm 86 the Psalmist says, “O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee” (v. 2). Psalm 86 is a prayer for salvation. These are the desires of the saints, but God’s desire is not for these things. His desire is for Zion with His Christ.
Today we are the same as the Psalmists: we are continually desiring restoration and salvation. God would say to us: “Do not be like that. I am for Zion; I am for the church. If you allow me to have my church, no problem will exist regarding your restoration. If you allow me to have my church, nothing can withhold any kind of deliverance, any kind of salvation.” The church is the real restoration, the real salvation, the real deliverance.
In Psalm 87 we see how Zion is central in God’s heart. Let us look at this Psalm more closely. The first three verses are easy to understand, but the following three verses are more difficult. There are seven verses in this Psalm with two Selahs, one at the end of the first three verses, and the other at the end of the next three verses. “His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah” (vv. 1-3). Christ is the unique foundation laid by God. No other foundation can any man lay. This Christ, this foundation of God, is in the holy mountains, the local churches. It is there that we have no other foundation but Christ. This is clear. “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” In the eyes of God the church is more lovable than anything else. The gates are the places of coming in and going out: this is the communication, the fellowship, among God’s people. The most lovely aspect of the local church is the fellowship. It is so good, so pleasant, for the brothers to be always coming and going in fellowship. How blessed to have brothers from one church visiting another, coming and going in sweet harmony and fellowship! This is lovable in the eyes of God. He loves the gates of Zion more than all other places. “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.” How glorious is the local church!
NONE CAN COMPARE WITH ZION
Verses 4 to 6 are written poetically. In these three verses God’s intention is to make a contrast, a comparison, of all other places with Zion. In verse 2 God declares that He loves the gates of Zion. But besides Zion on this earth there are many other places. First of all, there is Egypt, which is mentioned here as Rahab (v. 4). People in ancient times boasted of Egypt. It was a wonderful place. Secondly, Babylon is mentioned. In ancient times Babylon was indeed great. Thirdly, there is Philistia, and fourthly, Tyre, which were famous centers of civilization in ancient times. Fifthly, there is Ethiopia, which also had built a reputation. Egypt was well known for its natural resources. When there was famine in Canaan, there was food in Egypt. Babylon was famous in the realm of human success and glory. It was a continuation of Babel, where man endeavored to glorify himself by building a tower to heaven. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, built a great and powerful empire, a monument to man’s success and glory. Philistia was a place in close proximity to the holy land. The Philistines, according to the Bible, were exceedingly clever. When the ark of God was captured and brought into their country, they had a way to deal with it. They were adept in handling holy things according to human wisdom. On this earth, in all these centuries, there have been many Egypts, many Babylons, many places with many peoples who are near to the holy things and who handle them with human cleverness. They boast of this. Tyre, according to history and the Bible, was full of merchandise and commerce. This was their glory. Ethiopia was a place from which people were continually coming to learn of the holy land. The queen of Sheba was from Ethiopia, and she came to learn something of Solomon. The eunuch in Acts chapter eight was from Ethiopia; he also came to the holy land to learn.
Here are five places, representing five categories of peoples. But none of them can compare with Zion. People may say that this man was born in Egypt and that one was born in Babylon; this man was born in Philistia and that one was born in Tyre. But God says that this man and that man and so many men were born in Zion. David was born there; Elijah was born there; Peter and Paul were born there; Martin Luther was born there. Eventually, we read, “The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah” (v. 6). Who is this one? This is the unique One, Christ. Verse 5 tells us of this man and that man, including all the saints, but verse 6 records that this One, even Christ Himself, was born there. This is Zion’s boast. Zion boasts in Christ and in all the saints. Egypt could say that the Pharaohs were born there; Babylon would say that Nebuchadnezzar was born there; but Zion can say that David, Elijah, Peter, Paul, so many saints, and ultimately Christ Himself were born there. Who is greater, Pharaoh or David, Nebuchadnezzar or Paul? There is no comparison. And who can compare with Christ? All those in Zion may well boast in Zion. God, the Most High Himself, shall establish her. Hallelujah!
Verse 7: “As well the singers as the players on instruments shall say: All my springs are in thee.” Praise the Lord! In Zion we do not have the mourners; we just have the singers and the players—all of them praising the Lord. In Zion we have many giants—David, Elijah, Peter, Paul, and others. But we also have many singers. We may not be the giants, but at least we are the singers. You may think that you cannot sing well, but at least you can praise. All the singers and players are for praising. In Zion there are not many preachers and teachers, but there are many singers and players. They all say, “All my springs are in thee.” The springs are the fountains of waters. All the springs and all the fountains are in the city of Zion. This is the church and the local churches, and we are the singers and the players.
PSALM 89—CHRIST AS KING POSSESSING THE EARTH
In Psalm 88 one saint cries in himself for God’s deliverance from his suffering, but in Psalm 89 another saint praises God for His covenant with Christ as the center. Here is another contrast: one crying for his own deliverance, and one praising God for His covenant.
Let us consider briefly the content of Psalm 89. In verses 19 to 21 we see Christ as God’s Holy One, God’s Mighty One, God’s Anointed One, whom God has chosen and exalted, and whom He shall strengthen. In verse 26 He calls God His Father and His God. (See John 20:17.) God has made Him His firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth (v. 27), and He shall take the earth from the sea to the rivers (v. 25). It is rather difficult to say what the sea is (singular), and what the rivers are (plural). But I believe this means, poetically, that Christ will take over the entire earth. His throne is for ever and ever (vv. 29, 36-37). He will be the King in the Kingdom, and His throne is eternal.
Now we have reached the end of Book III and have seen two additional outstanding Psalms—Psalm 87 and Psalm 89. Psalm 87 is of Zion, the house and the city, and Psalm 89 is of Christ as the King who will possess the entire earth. Hence, there are five outstanding Psalms in Book III: Psalm 73, God as our unique portion; Psalm 80, Christ in the place of pre-eminence; Psalm 84, an all-inclusive Psalm with the sweeter experience of the house of God; Psalm 87, Zion, including the house and the city; and Psalm 89, Christ as King possessing the entire earth.
(Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)