Glorious things of thee are spoken

Glorious things of thee are spoken


If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Psalm 87. I want to concentrate on two parts in this Psalm. First, in verses 1 – 3, I want you to see this depiction of the city of God, the city that He has founded. And then in verses 4 – 7, I want you to see that the city of God is a city of nations.

I. The City of God 

First, in verses 1 – 3, Jerusalem, the city of David, epitomizes the people of God in this Psalm, and we see something of God’s glory in His people. And in each of these verses I want you to see something just slightly different, but they’re important.

Firstly, in verse 1: God’s foundation is in the holy mountains. God has made the foundation of Jerusalem His people, and therefore she is secure. The emphasis is that God Himself is that foundation. The reason why God’s people are secure is because their foundation is God, and though every other foundation be shaken, nothing can shake that steady rock. And so as the psalmist meditates on the city of God and he meditates upon the glory of God’s people, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that God Himself is the foundation of His people, and therefore His people are secure.

Secondly, in verse 2 we see, “The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.” In other words, there is a special delight that God has set upon Zion. And again, Zion is a picture of His chosen people. He loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. This reminds us that Zion has not chosen God, but God has chosen Zion. Until our security is in that kind of divine choosing love, we will not be secure. If our security is somehow in something we have done, then we will never be secure because we know that we are fickle. We know that we change. But if our security is based upon something which never changes, which is outside of us, which is divine, then we can be secure in this life.

There’s yet one more thing in this first section that I want you to see, and it’s quite glorious. It’s the sentence that John Newton’s hymn is based on: “Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.” In other words, the psalmist is saying to you, “Do you realize that though God did not choose you because of something in you, yet nevertheless you are glorious in His eyes?” The psalmist is saying here that God’s people are exceedingly precious to Him. The psalmist is saying, “People of God, you need to understand: God delights in you.” And if that is how God thinks about His people, then shouldn’t we have a high estimation of His people? And that’s very important, because we don’t just love some abstract entity out there called “the church.” That love must be expressed concretely within the bounds of the local fellowship of believers, the bounds of fellowship which regularly manifest the effects of the fall, where we hurt one another and disagree with one another and let one another down. And yet, never is our estimation of the people of God to be different than God’s estimation of the people of God.

II. A City of Nations 

In verses 4 – 7, I want you to see that this city of God is not just a city filled with Jews; it’s a city filled with the nations. It’s quite striking in verse 4, “I shall mention Rahab….” That was a way that the children of Israel often spoke about Egypt. And so what we’re being told here is that, “I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me.” So who’s speaking? God.

God is saying, “I am going to number Egypt and Babylon among those who know Me.” And it doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “Philistia and Tyre and Ethiopia.” All of these belong in the Book of Life. Is God saying that everybody is saved? No. He is saying that more will be written in the Book of Life than just a meager number of the children of Israel. There are going to be people from all the nations numbered amongst those who are in the Book of Life, even as He said to Abraham in Genesis 12 that, “In your name all the families of the earth will be blessed. In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” This reminds us that missions is rooted in the Old Testament vision of the people of God as well as in the New Testament, and that we ourselves can never fail to have a concern for the work of world missions, because it is God’s purpose to bring the nations. It is His purpose to bring them in and to number and register them amongst the people of God. 

There’s a second thing I want you to see in this section, and that is that the children of Israel, in looking at this passage, were often tempted to think that even though the nations were going to be brought into and numbered in the Book of Life, nevertheless, the Israelites were better than them. In the context of this Psalm, it is stressing especially the blessing of being born in Israel. It is the same point we would make today when we talk about a child being born into a believing family. That is an enormous covenant blessing, but a child born into an unbelieving family who is saved by grace through Jesus Christ is no less a child of God than that child born into a covenant family with ten generations of believing parents. We’re all brought into the same family, all on the same basis. 

The Apostle Paul in the New Testament made it absolutely clear that both Jew and Gentile are equally guilty before God, and that the Law which was the great advantage of the Jew equally condemned Jew and Gentile, and that the basis on which they would be brought into the kingdom would be the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And it’s so very important for us to realize that. This passage makes it clear to us that God was going to bring the nations to Himself in the most striking of ways: through the humiliation of His Son, through the crucifixion of His Son, through the death and burial and resurrection of His Son. That’s what it was going to take in order to bring the nations to a saving knowledge of God. And this holy city, made up of the nations, will bow the knee to God the Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and in her there is joy. 

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