What do you think of Christ’s church? “I’m not really that excited about it.” “To be honest, it is peripheral in my life (though I know this is wrong).” “I think that I love God in Jesus Christ, but I have little enthusiasm for His church.”
Psalm 87 is a part of God-breathed Scripture specifically designed to help us in this regard. It sets forth the glory of Jehovah’s church. In what does its glory consist? How must its glory be conceived? Psalm 87 calls us to emulate God and His attitude to His church, as well as the faithful saints of all ages and their estimation of her: “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (3)! You and I must think God’s thoughts after Him about His beloved bride, the church. We must say from our hearts what God says about His church.
God’s evaluation of His church is not that of the ungodly world. The Samaritans declared, “this city [of Jerusalem] of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and ... rebellion and sedition have been made therein” (Ezra 4:19). The Edomites cried out concerning God’s city, “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof” (Ps. 137:7)! The false church of Rome has called Christ’s church, reformed according to the Word of God, an “assembly of heretics.”
But listen to God extol His church in His Word! “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King” (48:2). “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation” (132:13). The church is the apple of God’s eye, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15).
The people of God speak glorious things of the church. Augustine’s famous book, The City of God, was named after Psalm 87:3 and similar verses. John Calvin declared, “The state or kingdom of the church constitutes the principle and august theatre where God presents and displays the tokens of His wonderful power, wisdom and righteousness.” Again, “A right judgment cannot be formed of the happiness of the church, except when we estimate it according to the standard of God’s Word.” Again Calvin said, “If we do not prefer the church to all the other objects of our solicitude, we are unworthy of being accounted among her members.” Spurgeon wrote, “Whatever glorious things the saints may say of the church in their eulogies, they cannot exceed what prophets have foretold, what angels have sung, or what God Himself has declared. Happy are the tongues which learn to occupy themselves with so excellent a subject.”
In order that we, God’s children, may speak glorious things of the church, we are taught of her glories in Scripture, including in the Psalms (e.g., Ps. 46; 48; 87; 122; 137). As part of God’s Word, He has commanded His ministers to preach these Psalms (II Tim. 4:2). Also He has commanded us to sing them (Ps. 95:2; Col. 3:16). Psalm 87 tells us in its title that it is a “Psalm or Song.”
In Psalm 87:1, “His foundation is in the holy mountains,” “His” refers to God. God founded Jerusalem in the “holy mountains” (1)—this is one of the “glorious” things spoken of the church (3).
Jerusalem is situated on a chain of mountains running north-south, parallel to the east coast of the Mediterranean. More precisely, Jerusalem is situated on four “holy mountains” (1): Zion, Moriah, Scopus and Ophel. As a city founded on the mountains, Jerusalem is elevated. It is not one of the world’s highest peaks—too high (and cold) a mountain would be unsuitable for a pilgrimage and capital city—and even Hebron to the south is higher, but apart from the southern approach, you must ascend to get to Jerusalem. This is especially evident in the pilgrimage Psalms (Ps. 120-134). “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (121:1). “Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: whither the tribes go up” (122:3-4).
As a city founded on the mountains, Jerusalem is well defended. Enemy troops must climb up to reach it—tiring! This also makes it difficult for them to transport munitions and supplies. The elevation of Israel’s capital city was a defence: “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever” (125:2). Also, Jerusalem’s walls were built on her hills. If it is harder to attack your enemy when he is in a high fortification, it is easier to attack your enemy from your own high fortification. “Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell [i.e., number] the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following” (48:12-13).
As a city founded on the mountains, Jerusalem is steadfast, firm and unshakeable. Hills are a picture of firmness (46:2), especially Jerusalem’s hills: “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever” (125:1).
Now in the New Testament age of the one, holy, apostolic church of Jesus Christ, consisting of believing Jews and Gentiles, the earthly city of Jerusalem is no more beloved or favoured of God than Dallas, Delhi, Dublin orDakar. Jerusalem fell to the Romans in AD 70, for the church had outgrown her Jewish swaddling bands and become catholic or universal. The hour Jesus had spoken of has come and now is “when the true worshippers ... worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23) and the earthly mountains of Jerusalem and Gerizim are irrelevant (20-21; cf. Mal. 1:11).
Next time, Lord willing, we shall consider to what the glorious elevation, mighty defence and unshakeable firmness of Jerusalem’s foundation refer in the New Testament age, the days of the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ.
- Volume: 13
- Issue: 8
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851