Theme: Born in Zion
In this week’s lessons we look at the nature of the church, which is itself a picture of the eternal City of Zion, of which every Christian is a citizen.
Scripture: Psalm 87:1-7
Two things are said of those who will be brought to the worship of God in the days the psalmist envisions.
1. The people will acknowledge God. The word “acknowledge” in verse 4 is a translation of the Hebrew verb yadah, which has a rich variety of meanings. It can mean “know,” “acknowledge,” “understand,” “be sure,” “know about,” “experience” and other variations. In the New International Version it is translated no less than 190 different ways to get as close as possible to the meaning. Here it means more than merely admitting that there is such a God as Jehovah or even acknowledging him as the one true God. It means coming to him in a saving relationship, bowing before him, and seeking to know him better. It means exactly what Jesus meant when he said in the great prayer recorded in John 17, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (v. 3).
Therefore, to those who consider themselves wise or strong or rich, the very categories suggested by the names Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Cush, we say with Jeremiah, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD (Jer. 9:23, 24).
The greatest blessing that can come to any person or nation is that those involved might know and worship God.
2. The people will be born again. The second thing recorded of the nations is that it will be said of them, “This one was born in Zion” (v. 4), “This one and that one were born in her” (v. 5), and “This one was born in Zion” (v. 6). Since this is repeated three times in such a short psalm, it is clear that it is very important.
But what does it mean? It cannot mean that all the people of the world will one day literally be born in Jerusalem. It can only mean that it will be set down in the official records as if they had been born there, meaning that they will be given the status of true citizens. H. C. Leupold says, “More than submission is involved. Though the New Testament doctrine of the new birth does not appear clearly in the Old Testament, the expression here used surely implies some deeper kind of transformation that is to take place. These people will be natives in the sense of native-born.”1
Yes, but probably more than this too. For if the vision of Psalm 87 is being fulfilled in the church, as I believe it is, then being “born again” is exactly what is involved and is necessary. Being “born in Zion” is to become a spiritual Jew, that is, a member of the people of God; and this is exactly what the new birth signifies.
Here is a confirming piece of evidence. In the Septuagint version of verse 5, which the Apostle Paul knew and from which he frequently draws in his epistles, the additional word “mother” appears, which gives the sense captured by the New English Bible’s translation: “and Zion shall be called a mother in whom men of every race are born.” This lies behind Paul’s saying in Galatians 4:26, “The Jerusalem that is above…is our mother,” which means that he interpreted Psalm 87 as pointing to spiritual rebirth.
1H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), pp. 624, 625.
Explain what acknowledging God means in our study.
What does it mean to be born in Zion?
What does the new birth signify?
Observation: Repetition of a phrase indicates its importance. In your Bible reading and study, make note of Scripture’s use of repetition.
For Further Study: To learn more about the doctrine of the new birth, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Rebirth.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)