This Week's Focus Passage

‘Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.’

Focus Passage: Psalm 87:3

‘Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.’

The very first reference in the Psalms of the Older Testament is found in that beautiful picture given to us of the Lord Jesus Christ in the second psalm, where we learn that our Savior is both God’s King as well as His Son. The Father declared in unmistakable and unforgettable terms, that in spite of all the collaboration and imagined power of kings and rulers of the earth,

Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure: Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance.

These are the very words cited by the disciples which they referred to both Herod and Pontius Pilate as recorded in Acts, chapter four, verses 23 and following, The immediate application was to the manner in which Peter and John, as representatives of the church of Jesus Christ had been treated, or should we more correctly assert, mistreated. They cite the words of this second psalm and the primary reference is understood to be the mistreatment of the Christ by ‘both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the peoples of Israel. There is made an inextricable connection between the church and the King of Zion similar to that found in Acts, chapter nine, where this union is, more famously, spoken of by Christ directly to Saul of Tarsus when he answered the question of the soon-to-be apostle, ‘Who are thou, Lord?’ with the momentous response, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. Saul, of course, was persecuting the Way; the church of the followers of Jesus Christ. He is brought to understand by the words of Jesus Himself that there is a participation between the people of Christ with Himself. This union, or communion, is demonstrated in rather striking fashion—that fashion of the entire book of the Revelation—in language that is unquestionably setting forth the King of Psalm 2 as the Lamb of God standing on Mount Zion in Revelation 14. With Him are 140,000 who seem most likely to be representative of the church, for we are specifically informed of them that they are those ‘having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. Additionally, we are told that they are among the number having learned the song because they had been purchased out of the earth. These are definitive lines of separation from the world, and things that pertain only to the church of Jesus Christ, the Lamb standing on the Mount Zion; these are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, that dwell with Him, King of Zion and Head of the church.

We may trace the bride of Christ spoken of by Paul in Ephesians 5:25ff. beyond that epistle and unto the vision given John which speaks of this bride in terms of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. Specifically, in Revelation three in the letter that John is commissioned to write to the church in Philadelphia with the promise that to them that overcome will the Commissioner of this epistle write upon them the name of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God. This is that New Jerusalem of which he speaks again toward the end of this book as coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. Yea, one has titled this 87th psalm, “The voice of prophecy concerning the heavenly Jerusalem,” that is, the Church of Christ. Robert Hall has written, with regard to this psalm, ‘The Divine Being shews his preference to Zion by that marvelous protection which is afforded to the interest of the church of God; whereby, though weak, and frequently reduced to a handful of disciples, yet have they been protected, and their society on earth continued.’

The song-writer appointed by the Holy Spirit has joined together the ‘gates of Zion’ with the ‘glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.’ Song-writers have been profuse in joining these things together during the centuries following. Thomas Kelly, Timothy Dwight, Isaac Watts, John Newton, and manifold more have recognized the ‘Israel of God’ as the Church of Jesus Christ, and the heavenly Jerusalem, Zion, city of our God. John Newton, in particular, with unmistakable reference to this psalm, has written the beautiful hymn of, and for, the church that we take upon our lips and sing praise to God for His church, ‘Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God; He whose word cannot be broken formed thee for His own abode.’

Are we to easily allow ourselves to be outdone by the prophets of old in their accolades and praises to God for the church, the body of God, His bride? Yea, if Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob, how great ought our love to be for the doors of the church where we may gather with the saints and anticipate the special Presence of our God? Another psalm ascribed likewise to the ‘sons of Korah’ is Psalm 84, which speaks to what we may believe our response to the blessedness of the privilege, yea, the means of grace, provided by our Father in heaven for His sons and daughters in gathering together to worship Him. The psalm begins immediately with what implies warm thankfulness and praise for the privilege of coming together in the Presence of God Himself through the Son and by His Spirit.

How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Jehovah of hosts!

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of Jehovah;

My heart and my flesh cry out unto the living God.

Unhappily must we acknowledge how these ‘poor Old Testament saints’ put to shame virtually every believer today, and in much, if not most, of the New Testament era in spite of the greater enlightenment of which we are the beneficiaries. When was the last time any of us uttered such words truly, as, Blessed are they that dwell in thy house…..blessed is the man in whose heart are the highways to Zion? How often have we joined ourselves with that ancient believer who could testify that, a day in thy courts is better than a thousand, I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness?

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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