The Gates of Zion

Psalm 87

Despite our best attempts at picturing creation on Day 7, we really can’t do it. The glories and wonders of new and absolutely unspoiled handiwork of God beyond our ability to fully grasp. But it must have been something, especially since God said it was “very good” and then rested from his works of creation. God was satisfied with results, but at same time knew it wouldn’t last. Sin, the Fall and all its consequences included in God’s “Plan A”.

Praise God his plan didn’t end with the Fall! Not only had design for creation, had planned for re-creation as well. Not simply a redo, a remake of original. Re-creation is a way that shows God’s glory and genius in ways original creation could not. Just as God designed and intended his original to display his glory (Psalm 19:1), he intends the same for his re-creation.

All who look at God’s creative handiwork should praise and worship him. Same is true for new creation – Paul says so in Eph. 1:5-6, 12-14

5) he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

12) so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Where does all that work of God – predestining and sealing – and all that accompanies it take place? In the context of the church – “the Catholic or universal Church, which …consists of the whole number of the Elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof”. True, it happens in local churches throughout the world and history. But psalmist is using wide-angle lens here in references to Zion – speaking of that entity which the Lord loves above all else: the body of Christ, collectively and individually (1 Cor. 12:27).

Psalmist speaks of God’s dwelling as a city, Zion, reference to Temple and Jerusalem. That only a preview of greater things, God’s dwelling in hearts of the redeemed. Things here in our text too big to apply simply to Jerusalem, so we take them as applying to the church, God’s people of all ages. Declares truth about entrance into the city, the excellence of the city, predicts the enlargement of the city, and closes with enjoyment in the city.

A. entrance into the city v.1-2

place of God’s choosing (1)

selected a place that is holy, set apart for his use; “holiness is the strength and stability of the church” Henry

also includes / implies expectation by God that she would remain holy – devoted fully and unwaveringly to her head

city of his establishing

men don’t establish churches, God does; men led by God recognize where God has established a church, drawn a group of saints together, then do what Scripture requires for decent and orderly fellowship (1 Cor. 14:40)

“After due deliberation, finding twenty five brethren and sisters who were well united in heart and who had followed the Savior in the ordinance of Baptism wishing to be embodied into a church, concluded that it would be for the glory of God and the good of his precious cause to comply with the request of the brethren and accordingly proceeded to organize.”

has a firm foundation

is a foundation which God has laid and is irreplaceable: the Lord Jesus – 1 Cor. 3:11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

city is as secure as her foundation, built on a Rock; the kind of secure dwelling Abraham looked for (Heb. 11:10)

object of his special affection (2)

God is love, so says John 2x (1 John 4:8, 16); God loves his Son (Matt. 3:17); God loved the world (John 3:16); God loves those who love and believe his Son (John 16:27)

God’s love in each of those contexts is distinctive – loves his Son differently from the world, etc.

has a particular love for his city, the church: he loves the church, those who come through her gates, what is done inside

focus on the entrance

God “wants” to bring people in, not keep them out – Isa. 60:11Therefore your gates shall be open continually; They shall not be shut day or night, That men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, And their kings in procession.”

we talk about Christianity being exclusive, only one way to God and heaven; that’s true, but remember this: God didn’t reveal that one way as means of keeping people out of his heaven, revealed it so people would know the right way in, not stumble around trying to find it

B. excellence of the city v.3

described / spoken of / referred to in ways nothing else is

the church – those called out of the world who make up the body of Christ and are in union with him, ones whom the Lord “nourishes and cherishes” (Eph. 5:29)

the bride – the one whom Christ loved and gave his life for; committed to sanctifying and cleansing through ministry of the word – goal is to “present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:26-27)

the new Jerusalem – specific future in view: “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2) Takes the rest of chapter 21 to describe city; just know words can’t do it justice, present eyes couldn’t fathom it

hard to see how glorious things can be spoken about various parts of modern church

places identified as church that proclaim message of hate, prosperity, tolerance, legalism, works-salvation

let’s widen out a little: churches that are relatively true to God’s Word, at same time take great pleasure in fact they are this kind of Baptist or that kind of Presbyterian or not one of those

then there’s the church in “fill in your choice of closed country” – in tatters, afraid to meet, without Bibles or teaching materials, often without leaders

two things to remember:

first, those glorious things apply to the true church – genuine saints redeemed by the blood of Christ; they truly are a glorious sight when consider what God has done for them, to them, and is doing in them

second, the gates of hell will never overpower the gates of Zion; no power known to man or devil can thwart progress of Christ’s church or purpose of her head, Lord Jesus; her strength and her glory come from her union with Christ, the one who walks among the candlesticks and holds the stars in his hand (Rev. 1:12-20)

C. enlargement of the city v.4-6

people from away born there (4-5)

startling change of voice here: God shows up for worship! interrupts the proceedings, declares his “missions program”

surveys gathered and diverse congregation, identifies worshipers as “people from there who were born here” – those who somehow have roots in other places but belong and have full rights here

God talking not about dual-citizenship but dual-birth – those who by one standard were foreign-born aliens and strangers, by God’s standards native-born citizens

even more significant: peoples identified were significant enemies of God’s people; enemies in physical sense, yes, primarily enemies of their souls

Rahab (Egypt) and Philistia – oppression and war; Babylon – idolatry; Tyre – prosperity ==> reborn by power of God, changed into brothers

God has always had multi-ethnic view of his church in this sense: people from all nations will be reborn into his one family “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” (Col. 3:11)

DON’T FORGET: it is presence of Living God that provides strength and stability and security to the church; not its size, diversity, collective wisdom, willingness to tolerate and be inclusive, it is union of Christ with and presence in his body

citizenship determined by God (6)

notice it is Yahweh who “writes in the census book of the nations” – makes no mistake on their birth record

“All believers of all ages have their true identity in Zion. Wherever a person may have been born, when that person comes to faith in God the Savior, his or her place is Zion, the city God loves.” Ronald Allen

yes, God loves Zion, Christ loves the church in her fullness and entirety; at the same time, that love is individual – saints are saved one at a time, names are written in the “Book of Life” one at a time (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8)

D. enjoyment in the city v.7

source of life and joy

John 4:14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

1 Tim. 3:15 “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

essential function of church as a body is to proclaim and support and maintain the truth as it is found in God’s Word; essential function of church as individual members to proclaim same truth by their words and deeds

the truth and source of true life can be found nowhere else but from God and his people; knowledge of the truth, possession of true life essential for experience of joy, to have a hope and a future

singers and players have discovered important life lesson: all their springs are in Zion; sole source of life and satisfaction – means it is pointless to do as Solomon, search for life and meaning apart from true God and what he supplies through his Son, Lord Jesus

For this picture to be realized, what must happen? Untold numbers of people from every nation and neighborhood must know the way to the city. Then must follow that way to arrive at their destination. Two-way road – one by which individual comes to God (John 14:6), by which spiritual blessings come to individual (Eph. 1:3).

There’s a beauty to our circumstances compared to those of psalmist and his contemporaries: in ancient time, model was pilgrimage to Jerusalem to find God at his Temple; conversion to Judaism (change of earthly citizenship) in order to be allowed in to worship. The Jews held all the cards, were entrusted with all the treasures of the Gospel. (Rom. 9:4-5) Beginning at Pentecost, glories of the Gospel have permeated every land just like yeast in 50 pounds of flour (Matt. 13:33)

God is much nearer his people, the truth is much closer to those who need to hear and respond in faith. No nation on earth is without the Gospel, it is that close even to the UPG’s. Like God himself, we must love the gates of Zion, do all within our power to attract and direct people through those gates into God’s very presence.

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