Sunday, December 4, 2016

This One was Born in Zion
He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The LORD loves the gates of Zion
    more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are said of you, city of God.
(Psalm 87:1-3)
The Lord loves the gates of Zion — the holy city of Jerusalem. Reading this through the New Testament revelation of Jesus the Messiah, that is, through the lens of Christ and the gospel, we understand Zion to be the new Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that is free, the Jerusalem that is above, the heavenly Jerusalem that comes down, joining heaven to earth (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2). It is, in a word, the Church, the body and bride of Christ (understanding that the Church in the New Testament is not a separate entity from Israel in the Old Testament).

The psalm writer sings the praises of the holy city and of God’s love for her. The Lord has founded it on the mountain he has chosen for himself; Christ has built his Church upon the rock of who he is (Matthew 16:18). The Lord loves Zion; Christ loves the Church and gave himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). It is no surprise that glorious things are said about the city of God. What is surprising, though, is how the psalm writer describes that glory:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon
    among those who acknowledge me —
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush —
    and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” (v. 4)
Rahab? Babylon? Philistia? Tyre? Cush? These had all been troublesome, some even oppressive, for much of Israel’s history. Rahab is a reference to Egypt, who once held the children of Israel in bondage. Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and carried off the people into captivity. The Philistines had been foes of Israel in the days of Saul and David. Tyre, in the region of Philistia, and Cush represented other difficulties and temptations for Israel. Yet, God says of these that they are among those who know him and of whom he will say, “This one was born there.” Born where? In Zion, the city of which the psalm writer is counting the glories. So the NIV supplies “in Zion” where it is actually only implied — but then in the next verses it is made explicit:
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
    “This one and that one were born in her,
    and the Most High himself will establish her.”
The LORD will write in the register of the peoples:
    “This one was born in Zion.” (vv. 5-6)
This is not a work wrought by any of those nations, not even by Israel. It is the work of God, a matter of divine love, mercy and grace. God has founded the holy city and established the peoples in her, for he never intended Israel to be a nation unto herself but a people for the sake of all nations, as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), and to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham that all the families and nations of the earth would be blessed through him and his descendants.

The Lord has founded Zion, and the psalm writer portrays him as recording the people in the registry of the city. Of each one, the Lord writes, “Born in Zion.” Though they have come from elsewhere, now they are record as belonging to Zion, fully accepted as rightful inhabitants, and heir to all the rights and privileges of the city. Here there is no dividing line between Jews and Gentiles, between Israel and the nations. Through faith, Gentiles are grafted into the promises along with faithful Israel. When all the Gentiles have come in, Paul says, then “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25). In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, he addresses the Gentile believers about how the boundaries have been obliterated in Christ and we have become “fellow citizens with God’s people.”
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22)
The psalm writer, then, closes with this note of deep celebration, a song for all who know the blessing of Zion — of Christ.
As they make music they will sing,
    “All my fountains are in you.” (v. 7)

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