>Sojournings: Psalm 87

>1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;

2 the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God.
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush- “This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”;
6 The Lord records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.”
7 Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”
Here is a very intriguing Psalm. It begins in verses 1-3 by celebrating Zion (Jerusalem) as the city of God. God’s special presence was found in the Temple (the “holy mount”) where the people of God could come to worship YHWH.
A shocking transition occurs in verses 4 and following. The Sons of Korah list a “role call of nations”, including Egypt, Babylon, and Philistia: all major enemies from Israel’s history. Instead of the anticipated imprecatory judgement usually reserved for the enemies of God (cf. Psalm 58; Psalm 137), these nations are said to be recipients of the blessing of God!
In The Mission of God, Christopher J. H. Wright comments,
“The expectation clearly is that ‘Zion’ will ultimately come to include not just native-born Israelites but people of other nations who will be adopted and enfranchised as citizens if the city, with as much right as the native born to be registered there by YHWH.” (490)
I found the following sentence especially shocking:
“Significantly, YHWH is here also named Elyon (v. 5), the original name of the God of Jerusalem, with strong connections to Abraham (Gen. 14:18-20).”
It’s an amazing picture: the enemies of God being being given the privilege of gathering to worship him. More so, YHWH, God’s special covenantal name, is also made known as the more general “Elyon”. This more general word for God, often translated “most high”, is used concerning Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-19) and by Balaam (Numbers 24:16).
For me this about settles contextualization issues concerning what word to use for “God” in other religious contexts (an issue I have been musing about for several years now). The God of Israel is the God who adopts people from all nations- even those who are his enemies. Ultimately any human word is insufficient to communicate the infinite glory and holiness of God. But we see in this passage that God takes our flawed words and ideas and reinterprets/recapitulates them: ultimately in the work of Jesus Christ.
Verse 7 gets it right: this is cause for singing and dancing!

About mjbutterworth

Coffee. Books. Bicycles.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christopher Wright, Contextualization, Missiology, Psalm 87, Psalms, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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