PSALM 87 TALK: RE-BORN TO COME INTO GOD’S PRESENCE WITH A SONG

PSALM 87 TALK: RE- BORN TO COME INTO GOD’S PRESENCE WITH A SONG

 (A Psalm that looked forward to people from every nation on earth coming to know God’s presence in their dally lives. The God of the bibles presence was first known in Zion – Jerusalem but through the coming of Jesus Christ God’s presence can be known in our hearts through God’s Holy Spirit reviving our hearts and lives.)

 THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

I recently returned from a big touring trip through Europe and again I saw and visited many old churches and cathedrals. These buildings are usually very big and impressive examples of amazing architecture and I took lots of pictures and in one sense was very impressed by them. However I still don’t get it, why did Christians in the past spend so much money and make such an effort to build these massive buildings to meet and worship our Lord and Savior?

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Australia where the oldest buildings are less than 200 years old. Or maybe it is because I was always taught that the church is not the building but the people who meet in it under God and his Son Jesus Christ. Whatever the reason I do not feel close to God because of any form of architecture.

In the times of ancient Israel this was not the case. A number of Psalms speak very clearly about how their writers were moved greatly by the building known as the Temple that sat on a hill called Zion in the ancient city of Jerusalem. To these Psalm writers The Temple and indeed the city of Jerusalem was God’s dwelling place on earth and he manifested his presence in the midst of his people their, 2 Chronicles 7: 1 – 1 – 3.

I have already sought to open four Psalms that deal with God’s earthly presence in the Temple and Jerusalem already, Psalms 46, 48, 76 and 84. Now we come to another Psalm that touches on the subject of the presence of God with his people in the Temple and Jerusalem, Psalm 87. There are two more Psalms that deal with this to come after Psalm 87 and they are, Psalms 122 and 137.

Psalm 87 has a very unique message because it seems to be a vision of the future concerning who will experience or know the presence of God in the future and those people will be non – Jews from every nation on earth represented by a example of nations mentioned in this Psalm.

Using Old Testament concepts about the presence of God this Psalm says that people not born into God’s special nation Israel will be re- born into the family of God and will join together with all true believers to sing and worship the God of heaven and earth as depicted in the book we call the bible today.

I hope we will see from the study of this Psalm that as Christians we know that the Messianic prophecy of this Psalm was for filled by the coming of God’s son, Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to make a way for people of every nation on earth to be able to come back to God by his death and resurrection. Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit will bring about new birth in the lives of people from every nation as they put their faith and trust in him and what he has done for them.

Psalm 87 is a very short Psalm and some commentators have suggested that maybe it is a portion of a bigger Psalm that for some reason or another survived in its present form in the third book of Psalms. It does have a very clear link to the previous Psalm in the sense that it fleshes out one verse, Psalm 86 verse 9, that says,

“All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name”.

 So far as its authorship, we only have the Hebrew heading that reads,

“Of the Sons of Korah, A psalm. A song”

 The Sons of Korah were a family group of musicians and singers in the Temple of Jerusalem from the time of David and Solomon to the time of the return from exile and are an appropriate group of people to write a Psalm about the Temple in Jerusalem. I suggested that the Psalms of the Sons of Korah in book two, 46 and 48 were written in the time of Solomon because book two seems to be a Solomon collection of Psalms. Psalm 76, however is written by a man named Asaph and it is in book three of Psalms that include Psalms written up to the exile into Babylon and written after the defeat of the great Assyrian army who besieged the city of Jerusalem in 701BC.

I believe Psalm 87 fits well in the same time period of the time of King Hezekiah after the defeat of the Assyrian army outside Jerusalem in 701BC as Psalm 76 for three compelling reasons:

  1. Contact with Babylon, the new emerging super power of that time had been made as spoken of in 2 Kings 20: 12 – 13 and mentioned in verse 4.
  1. Nations like Babylon sent gifts to Hezekiah after their God’s great victory over

the Assyrian army in 701BC as recorded in 2 Kings 20: 12 – 13 and many

other Nations in 2 Chronicales 32: 22 – 23. Some commentators believe that

some kind of new interest could have been made to the God of the

bible owing to his victory over the mighty Assyrians which could have

prompted the writer of Psalm 87 to reflect on the Messianic future of God and

the nations as eluded to in Psalm 86 verse 9.

  1. Thirdly and finally Leopold points out that Isaiah is the chief prophet in

King Hezekiah’s time and he is the one who calls Egypt Rahab in Isaiah 30: 7 which is used in Psalm 87: 4.

The Psalms structural design makes it a difficult Psalm to interpret owing to what Leopold calls its the,

“unusual conciseness of the psalm, a conciseness which borders almost on obscurity at times”.

 Some modern commentators have even tried to re-construct the Psalm to make sense of it. However using the two Selah’s (probably musical pauses for reflection) as a way of breaking this little Psalm down and coming to a understanding that this Psalm is about people from all nations coming to know the presence of the God of the bible in their lives has helped me both break this Psalm down and has helped me understand what God is telling us through it.

  1. (1 – 3) ZION – THE PRESENCE OF GOD
  1. (1 – 2) Zion – God’s chosen place for his presence on earth in the

           O.T

  1. (3) Zion – The Glory of God’s presence
  1. (4 – 6) THE VISION OF PEOPLE FROM EVERY NATION KNOWING

                         GOS’S PRESENCE

  1. (4 -5) The nations of the earth’s re- birth into God’s presence
  2. (6) The record of those who have been re-born in God’s presence
  1. (7) THE MINISTRY ROLE OF THOSE LIVING IN GOD’S PRESENCE
  1. They will worship God in song
  2. They will draw on God – the source of life

 The two Selah’s then have been, I believe very strategically placed to help us understand the way we should understand this tricky little Psalm and the first indicates that the first section of this Psalm is verses 1 – 3. My headings for this first section are:

  1. (1 – 3) ZION – THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Broken into two little parts:

  1. (1 – 2) Zion – God’s chosen place for his presence on earth in the

           O.T

  1. (3)     Zion – The Glory of God’s presence

 Lets look at the first part this first section then in a little more detail:

  1. (1 – 2) Zion – God’s chosen place for his presence on earth in the

           O.T

 The Psalm starts in its familiar abrupt style with the words,

“He has set his foundation on the holy mountain”

 A couple of years ago I saw very interesting documentary on Jerusalem and it said that Jerusalem was one of the most ancient cities of the world still being lived in and it pointed out that occupation of the site of Jerusalem stretches back 5,000 years long before King David conquered it and made it the capitol of Israel. Therefore Jerusalem was chosen by God to become his special holy city on earth.

The bible makes it clear that this “setting of his foundation” on earth was God’s decision and doing, Psalm Isaiah 14: 32,

“What answer shall be given to the envoys of that nation? ‘The lord has established Zion and in her his afflicted people will find refuge”.

 Note Isaiah’s name for Jerusalem is Zion, which more specifically is one of the hills in the city that God chose which had an ancient fort on it. From the time of David on the name Zion and Jerusalem became synonymous and we will see in this study that the name Zion took on lots of meanings in the bible in both Old and New Testaments.

In David’s time this old fortress (Zion literally meant fortress) was the seat of power and it was there that king David had his palace. In Solomon’s time the Zion hill area was expanded to include the Temple which represented the special dwelling place on earth of the Lord himself, Psalm 132: 13,

“For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling”.

 As the bible develops so to does the meaning of what Zion and what it represents, like Isaiah 60: 14,

“The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel”.

 Here Isaiah is speaking of the nation of Israel as Zion and in the New Testament the Church or the New Israel of God is also called Zion in Hebrews 12: 22 – 23,

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect”.

Note here that Mount Zion is also the “Heavenly Jerusalem” which is also the church meaning that the old physical place called Jerusalem has been superseded by the heavenly realm which we will see later is a result of what Jesus has achieved for us through his death and resurrection.

So verse 1 of Psalm 87 speaks again of God setting down his foundation of his presence with his people on the Holy Mountain called Zion in verse 2. This setting down or establishing Zion as God’s special dwelling place through King David and his son King Solomon became even more meaningful when David retrieved the Ark of the covenant from the Philistines who stole it and then brought the Ark into Jerusalem to sit it in a tent like sanctuary on top of the hill called Zion.

The Ark of the Covenant symbolized God’s agreement with Israel as it contained the tablets of stone on which God wrote the 10 Commandments the basis of God’s covenant with his people. On top of the Ark of the covenant was the two gold Cherubim (winged angels) and between them was the mercy seat where God met with Moses to give Israel its commands, Exodus 25: 22,

“There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the Ark of the Covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites”.

Later in Solomon’s time, when the Temple was built the Ark of the Covenant was moved to the Holy of Holies in that Temple. Old Testament believers could look at the Temple on what they called Mount Zion and visually see evidence of their God dwelling with them.

Verse 2, of Psalm 87 goes on to say,

“The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob”.

 Most commentators believe the concept of the gates of a city usually refer to the city itself, Joseph Benson writes,

“That is, the city of Zion, or Jerusalem, gates being often put for cities”.

The dwelling of Jacob is a poetic description of the nation of Israel as Jacob is the old name for Israel and is often used in the Psalms as the name that relates to the more human sinful side of Jacob, “the supplanter” who became Israel, “may God prevail” after Jacob wrestled with God and became obedient or faithful to God as a result (Genesis 32: 22 – 32)

Adam Clarke then explains well the meaning of this verse,

“The Lord loved the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob – that is, he preferred Zion for his habitation, to be the place of his temple and sanctuary”.

 Clark goes on to make a startling New Testament application of this verse when he writes,

“Mystically, the Lord prefers the Christian Church to the Jewish; the latter was only a type of the former, and had no glory by reason of the glory that excelleth”.

 This can be seen in the New Testament in the verses from the book of Hebrews which I quoted earlier, Hebrews 12: 22 – 23,

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect”.

The next verse Hebrews 12: 24 goes on to speak of Jesus, God’s word and glory become flesh, John 1: 14 and how Jesus through his death on the cross made a new covenant or agreement so that men and women can come into God’s eternal presence,

“To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

  1. (3) Zion – The Glory of God’s presence

So we have seen in the first two verses that God chose Zion or the city or Jerusalem as the place for his Temple, which contained the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of his presence or dwelling with his people.

Now in verse 3 the Psalm declares,

“Glorious things are said of you, O city of God”.

 This wonderful expression here probably had a double meaning for the people of the writers day, if this was written soon after the defeat of the Assyrians at the gates of Jerusalem in 701BC.

For the people of the writers day could have heard the glorious things the people of other nations would have been saying in 701BC of the most powerful nation of their time being defeated at the gates of Jerusalem by the God of the bible.

But of course the glorious things that had been spoken of Jerusalem and its Temple are found in the Psalms and the rest of the bible. Here are three examples of those glorious things that had been spoken or said in the Psalms leading up to this Psalm,

  1. Psalm 46: 4 – 6,

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; the lifts his voice, the earth melts”.

  1. Psalm 48: 1 – 3,

“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress”.

  1. Psalm 84: 1 – 4,

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you”.

Psalm 84, was written by a Son of Korah also and to me captures the most glorious things that had been spoken about Zion and its temple – the symbol of God’s presence with his people on earth.

Allan Harman reminded me in his excellent commentary on the Psalms of the famous Christian hymn written by one of my favourite hymn writers, John Newton with his hymn “Glorious Things of Thee are spoken”, which goes like this,

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
God, whose word cannot be broken,
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

 2 See, the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.

 3 Round each habitation hovering,
see the cloud and fire appear
for a glory and a covering,
showing that the Lord is near.
Thus deriving from their banner
light by night and shade by day,
safe they feed upon the manna
which God gives them when on their way.

4 Savior, since of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in your name.
Fading are the world’s best pleasures,
all its boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasures
none but Zion’s children know.

 This amazing hymn applies this verse so well to the teaching of the New Testament and reflects passages like 1 Peter 2: 4 – 10,

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,” The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”and,” A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

  1. (4 – 6) THE VISION OF PEOPLE FROM EVERY NATION KNOWING

                         GOS’S PRESENCE

 We come then to then what seems like the central message of this little Psalm and I have divided this into two parts:

  1. (4 -5) The nations of the earth’s re- birth into God’s presence
  2. (6)     The record of those who have been re- born in God’s presence

 Lets look at the first part that presents the Psalmist vision for the nations in the future.

  1. (4 -5) The nations of the earth’s re- birth into God’s presence

 To me these two verses jump off the page in there breath taking statements about how some of the great national enemies of God will one day not only turn to the God of the bible but be re-born as a citizen of God’s holy city Zion or Jerusalem.

These two verses read this:

“I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me – Philistia too Tyre, along with Cush – and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion”.

As I said in the introduction these verses and the amazing concepts they convey seem to be a fleshing out of Psalm 86 verse 9, which is the previous Psalm to this one simply says,

“All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name”.

David Guzik explains some of the meaning of these verses this way,

“After a focus on Jerusalem itself, God spoke of the Gentile nations on every side of Israel, their rivals and often enemies, God promised that even among them there would be those who know me – those who have true relationship with him”.

 These verses are breathtaking because they are saying that hardened non believing nations in this world will one day have some of their people turning to the God of the bible in knowledge and faith in him.

I would like to flesh out the full impact and teaching of these two verses by answering the following three questions:

  1. What is the scope of the nations that will turn to the God of the bible and come to know his presence in their lives?
  1. When will this great coming to the God of the bible happen?
  1. What does the words in verse 5, “This one was born in Zion” mean?

Let me now seek to answer these three questions.

  1. What is the scope of the nations that will turn to the God of the bible and come to know his presence in their lives?

The nations identified in these verses are no random list but have been very carefully chosen to say people of every nation on earth will come to know and be reborn so that they can come to know the presence of the God of the bible in their lives.

 Let me explain by speaking about each nation mentioned in these verses:

  1. Rahab – Egypt

We know that Rahab is a image name for Egypt from the writings of the prophet Isaiah who twice refers to Egypt as Rahab, the first is Isaiah 30: 7,

“To Egypt whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do – Nothing”.

 And Isaiah 51: 9 – 10

“Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days gone buy, as in generations of old. Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces who pieced that monster through. Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters if the great deep who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over”

 This second reference is a reference to the Exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the red sea by Israel and the destruction of the Egyptian army by the hand of the God of the bible when he closed the sea on the Egyptian’s.

Rahab also has another meaning in Hebrew, which Allan Harman says is,

“To behave proudly”.

 Egypt to the south of Israel represents the old enemy of the nation that proudly like Pharaoh had a stubborn heart towards God and sought to first enslave Israel then destroy them yet people from that nation will acknowledge him and combined with Psalm 86: 9, they will come and worship the God of the bible and will bring glory to his name.

  1. Babylon

If this Psalm was written after the great Assyrian defeat in 701BC then Babylon was the new emerging super power of the world of that time. Unlike Egypt it lay to the North east of Israel and of course Jerusalem. However Babylon in the bible from the time of the tower of Babel on symbolised as Gotquestion?com says,

“Evil and defiance” (Rev. 17: 5 and 1 Peter 5: 13)

 God uses Babylon in years after this Psalm was written to judge Israel by taking most of its inhabitants into exile for 70 years before it would fall to the Mede’s and Persians and be destroyed.

So Babylon represents yet another powerful evil and defiant nation acknowledging God and therefore experiencing his presence as we have seen Zion symbolizes. In the book of Revelation Babylon seems to be a symbolic name for Rome or The Roman Empire at the time the apostle John wrote it, Revelation 17 – 18.

  1. Philistia

Philistia lies to the immediate south of Jerusalem and Leopold describes it as,

“A so long time thorn in Israel’s side”.

 Interestingly Philistia by the time of the writing of this Psalm had been majorly defeated or subdued by Israel particularly by David yet it seems to offer the writer, I think a poetic symbol of another defiant ant- God of the bible people coming into God’s presence through a real knowledge of him.

  1. Tyre

Tyre lies to the north west of Jerusalem and Israel and it contains the people known as the Phoenicians and Leopold calls them,

“The worldly commercial city who symbolize sophistication”

 Even people like the materially rich nation like Tyre will come to know the presence of the God of the bible.

  1. Cush (or Ethiopia)

These people lay to the south of Jerusalem and Israel and are so far away they represent I believe people almost unknown to Israel of that time coming to knowledge of the real presence of the God of the bible.

Conclusion

So these 5 nations are mentioned in verse 4 because they lay in all directions from Jerusalem and Israel and because of what they represent as enemies of the God of the bible. Yet people it seems from these verses will one day come to knowledge of the God of the bible and will be like a true citizen of Jerusalem,

“born in Zion”

 and know the presence of God, which Zion and the Temple represents in their very lives.

  1. When will this great coming to the God of the bible happen?

Psalm 87 does not give us a direct answer to this question but a biblical understanding of verse 5 gives us a great clue to when this was and would be for filled.

Verse 5 says,

“Indeed, of Zion it will be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High will establish her”.

 This I believe is speaking of the time of the coming Messiah. As Christians we believe this was begun to be for filled by who we believe is the Promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, who right from the beginning of his earthly ministry preached the message of the coming of the Kingdom of God, Mark 1: 14 – 15,

“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus busted right open the old Jewish – Gentile divide calling all men and women to come into the Kingdom of God through repentance and faith in him and his message of the Gospel.

The Gospel, or “Good News”, as we have just read in Mark is that God sent his son into the world out of love to save it, (John 3: 16) and this Gospel going out into the whole world will draw people from every nation to God (Matthew 24: 14) and when Jesus comes all nations will gather before the throne of God in the heavenly Zion as we read in Matthew 25: 31 – 32,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him”.

  1. What does the words in verse 5, “This one was born in Zion” mean?

Psalm 87 verse 4 and 5 speak of the people from every nation being born in Zion,

Vs. 4, “This one was born in Zion”

 Vs. 5, “This one were born in her and the Most High himself will establish her”

 So what does being born in Zion mean here?

 In the writers time it would have meant that people from these foreign nations who opposed their God, the God of the bible were changed so much they were re-born to become citizens of Israel and therefore were able to come into God’s presence in Zion. This new birth would have to come from God because humanly speaking it would have been considered impossible to happen without God’s special and powerful intervention.

In the early part of John 3 we have the record of the encounter of Jesus with a Jewish leader, Pharisee of his time on earth named Nicodemus. Nicodemus speaks of Jesus coming from God because of the miracles he was able to do and Jesus then makes this amazing statement to Nicodemus in John 3: 3,

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again”.

 The Greek meaning for the term born again also means “born from above” commentators tell us that Jesus is saying that anyone from any Nation Jew or Gentile needs to experience new birth if they want to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus goes on to say this new birth is a spiritual birth and therefore the work of God’s Holy Spirit as we read in John 3: 5 – 8,

“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

 Even recently I have become frustrated trying to talk about spiritual things with some non – believing friends and they seem to just not get it as they are spiritually blind to the truth. I am praying that God will work in them and give them a spiritual awaking or new birth that I believe Jesus is speaking of here.

Conclusion

So the answer to the question:

When will this great coming to the God of the bible happen?

The bible answer is when the Messiah, God’s Son comes to this world and makes a way back to God possible through his death and resurrection as the writer to the Hebrews points out in Hebrews 2: 9 – 11,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters”.

Note how those who come to Christ, no matter what nation they come from are now considered brothers and sisters in the same family when they come to Christ, the family of God or as Jesus called it in the Gospels, the Kingdom of God.

Finally there is a sense when this coming into God’s presence of people from all nations is still to come which is according to the bible when Jesus comes again as we read in Matthew 25: 31 – 32,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him”.

 The book of Revelation, 14: 1 – 3 speaks of this even as well,

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth”.

Please note I do not believe the number 144,000 is a literal number but a symbolic number that represents God’s complete number of all true believers.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of this also in Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

I will speak on the words in verse 23 that say, “whose names are written in heaven” in the next part of this Psalm Talk.

  1. (6) The record of those who have been re-born into God’s presence

 Verse 6 makes a startling claim,

‘The Lord will write in the register of peoples; “This one was born in Zion”.

 As we saw in both Revelations 12 and particularly Hebrews 12: 23 there is some kind of recording of who are in God’s Kingdom or family, i.e. Hebrews 12: 23a,

“To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven”.

Psalm 87: 6 and other references to this heavenly record speak of a register or book but I don’t believe it is a literal book as books are part of this material world but rather God knows who will come into his presence. Spurgeon puts it this way,

“At the great census which the Lord himself shall take, he will number the nations without exception and make an exact registry of them, whether they were by their natural descent Babylonians or Tyrians, or other far off heathen”.

These words in Psalm 87 of the heathen or non – Jews coming to know God and into presence in Zion to worship God would have been jarring to the ears of the Jews of the writers time.

This is because the Jews or the People of Israel would have thought that they alone were God’s special chosen people and yet here they are numbered with people from all nations of the earth.

God did choose the little nation of Israel to be his special nation on earth as Exodus 19: 5,

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,

 But God does not stop there, like the Jews so often have done and a still do today, for verse 6 says,

 “6 You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Israel was called, as a nation to take the message of God to the world and Isaiah knew this well and writes in Isaiah 43: 10 – 11,

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.11 I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior”.

Isaiah knew it then and Jonah knew it but ran away from it as we read in Jonah 4: 1 -3. After God saved the pagan city of Nineveh when they turned to God in repentance after Jonah preached God’s message to them Jonah acted like this,

“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah hated the enemies of Israel in Nineveh and did not want them to come to God, as the Jews were able to so he did not want to preach to these Ninevites.

As Christians we are given the same command in the New Testament to be a “Nation” or people of priests to the world, 2 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

So how would you feel if I suggested that some of the enemies of Christian believers today could be found written in God’s book of life in heaven.

Before Paul came to Christ he was a great and terrifying enemy of the Church and before his conversion many early Christians would not have believed God could call this Saul of Tarsus and have his name written in God’s book of believers in heaven.

We have no idea of who is going to turn to Christ once they hear the Gospel message but God will call through the preaching of the Gospel who he wishes as Romans 8: 30,

“And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”.

Note we don’t do the choosing that is God’s work alone but we must seek to preach the Gospel message to everyone and leave the results to God as Paul goes on to say in Romans 10: 14 – 16,

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”[ 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”.

  1. (7) THE MINISTRY ROLE OF THOSE LIVING IN GOD’S PRESENCE

 At the end of verse 6 there is a Selah, some kind of break for reflection on what has just been said of sung. Then comes one verse to complete this Psalm. This break indicates to me that this is a final little section of the Psalm.

It deals with the role of all people who come into the presence of God and for a Old Testament believer of the Psalmist day that would have been going to Zion – Jerusalem and its temple to worship the Lord.

However this Old Testament role of a person who is in the presence God gives a clue to what all believers are to do now that they have been born on high or born into the Kingdom of God. I have broken this final verse into two parts:

  1. They will worship God in song
  2. They will draw on God – the source of life

 Lets look a little closer at each of these two parts and we will start with:

  1. They will worship God in song

 The first part of this short verse speaks of what people do when in the presence of God and it simply says,

“As they make music they will sing”.

 Even this final statement of what people do when in the presence of God is very David like as he often spoke of making music and even dancing as a result of what God had done for him and is like as we see in Psalm 32 verse 11,

“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart”.

 Or Psalm 30 verses 11 and 12, which speaks of dancing and singing as a result of what God had done for him,

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever”.

 David often spoke of God inspiring him to sing a new song to the Lord , like Psalm 40: 3,

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord”.

 I don’t think David is speaking about new compositions necessarily but rather a new revived understanding of how great and wonderful the God of the bible is. I remember speaking about this idea of singing and making music when in God’s presence and how I was looking forward to that and a person came up to me after the talk and said they were not a singer like me and therefore the idea of singing for eternity did not appeal to them. I thought about that and then said I think heaven is not necessarily singing for eternity but rather being in God’s presence, which will cause us to be involved in great praise and wonderful fulfillment for the rest of eternity.

Psalm 96 is a psalm that picks up David’s idea of singing a new song to the Lord it starts with this idea and then fleshes it out with concepts like praise, rejoicing, worshipping, declaring God’s glory and ascribing to the people of the world the wonders of the great God and judge of the world that the God of the bible actually is.

Here is Psalm 96 for you reflect upon,

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness”.

The book of revelation has many pictures of heaven being a place of great singing and praise and I love I the picture of this in Revelation 5: 9 – 14, which starts with the concept of the new song,

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”1

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”14 the four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped”.

Finally making music, singing or praising God is not just our role as true believers in heaven but as we daily come into God’s presence through faith in Christ we should express what God has done for us with joy and praise. Particularly as we meet with other believers and gather together in his name remembering that he is in our midst or his presence is with us as Jesus promises in Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

In a sense when Christians gather in the Lords name and seek to worship him we are experiencing a little taste of heaven, as our eternal destiny is to gather with other believers in heaven to worship God forever.

Twice Paul speaks to two different New Testament churches and encourages them to give thanks to God when they gather together in the name of the Lord and sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, Ephesians 5: 18 – 20 and Colossians 3: 15 – 17 and it’s the Colossians passage I would like to share with you as it is a complete summary of what is the role of all true believers when they come into the presence of the God of the bible in this life and the next,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

  1. They will draw on God – the source of life

 The message of the music and singing that those who come into God’s presence is simply stated as the last words in this short but amazing Psalm,

“All my fountains are in you”

 The concept of God being the source of bountiful life is right through the bible. For example David picks it up in Psalm 36: 9,

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”,

 Isaiah speaks of it in Isaiah 12: 3,

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”.

Jesus speaks of it in John 4: 13 – 14,

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 Jesus speaks of this again in John 7: 37 – 38,

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”.

Jesus spoke these words on the last day of the feast of the Tabernacles, which commemorated the Jewish wilderness wanderings and included the pouring of water in the Temple from the pool of Siloam, which remembered when God made water flow out of a Rock for Moses in those wilderness wanderings.

Jesus is saying in a loud voice that he will provide greater water – blessings than the rock Moses struck in the wilderness. John, the writer of Johns Gospel, we believe then gives us an explanation of what this water Jesus is speaking about is in verse 39 of John 7,

“By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified”.

From the day of Pentecost on all new believers once they come to Christ will receive the Holy Spirit in their lives and Paul makes this clear in a number of places like Ephesians 1: 13 – 14,

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory”.

This also refers back to the concept in Psalm 87 verses 4 and 5 when it spoke of being born into a knowledge of God and experiencing through that his presence symbolized in the time of the Psalm by Zion – Jerusalem and God’s special presence with his people in the Temple and particularly in the Holy of Hollies through the Ark of the Covenant.

In conversion we are born again or even born on high and we express this in true worship of the God of the bible who is the source of this wonderful new life. So we can truly say with the writer of Psalm 87,

“All my fountains are in you”

I will let Spurgeon have the final words here,

“The springs of my faith and all my graces, the springs of my life and all my pleasures, the springs of my activity and all its right doings, the springs of my hope, and all its heavenly anticipations, all lie in thee, my Lord. Without thy Spirit I should be as a dry well, mocking cistern, destitute of power to bless others or myself. O Lord, I am assured that I belong to the regenerate whose life is in thee, for I feel that I cannot live without thee, therefore, with all thy joyful people will I sing thy praise”.

I close as usual with a poem / song and prayer:

 

INTO GOD’S PRESENCE WITH A SONG

(Based on Psalm 87)

 

God set his foundations on his holy hill

He has made Zion to declare his will.

For out of Jerusalem it came

The proclamation of his mighty name

And it speaks glorious words of God so strong

So we can come into God’s presence with a song.

 

God will call proud and mighty people everywhere

To turn to him in faith and prayer.

To come to the knowledge of God above

The God of the bible who is love

And they reborn will join God’s great throng

That come into God’s presence with a song.

 

Jesus came so that we can be born again

He died upon the cross to bare sins shame.

But he rose to life to live again

And he sent God’s spirit into our lives to change

So that we might appear in God’s book of life so long

To come into God’s presence with a song

 

We have been given the music of God above

The sweet music of the God of Love.

Through Jesus the waters of life do flow

And through that power we come to know

The life changing message of God’s son

That brings us into God’s presence with a song.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Dear Father up above help us to turn to you everyday of our lives in repentance and faith and trusting in your Son who died for our sins on the cross to be able to come into your presence and know your joy and power in our daily lives. Help us to join with others to share in praise and song the great message of your love and experience a little taste of heaven where we will join with many others and your heavenly hosts in eternal worship. In Jesus name I pray amen.

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