“This one was born there.” Psalm 87.6
The sons of Korah sang about the city of Zion that was situated among the holy mountains of Jerusalem. This royal city was special because the God of Israel had founded it. It was the LORD’s city. God is omnipotent; there is no place on earth that can be considered God’s dwelling place. Yet, Zion was special because God had decided to invest his name there (Deuteronomy xii.11).
What is even more interesting is the glorious future of the city. In verse three, the psalmist says, “Glorious things are spoken of you.” Although it might appear that this is just a reference to people’s praise and admiration, it could refer to all the prophetic oracles that were uttered concerning the city’s future. There will be many, the psalmist says, who will be happy that they were born in that special city.
There was indeed a time when this holy city bore the brunt of God’s judgment. It was utterly ruined. God had predicted the restoration of this holy city. Not all such predictions, however, are about the physical restoration of earthly Jerusalem. For example, the prophet Isaiah sang this oracle:
How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains
the feet of a messenger who announces peace,
a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!
This clearly is a prediction of the arrival of the Messiah, the deliverance He would offer to Zion, and about His disciples who would then spread the gospel. (Cf. Romans x.15). And again, Zechariah declared,
Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
Look! Your king is coming to you: he is legitimate and victorious,
humble and riding on a donkey –
on a young donkey, the foal of a female donkey.” (Zechariah ix.9)
This prediction was fulfilled in Jesus who entered Jerusalem as a triumphant king. Yet, this King did not restore the fortunes of earthly Jerusalem. According to the Jews, this “king” appeared to be a total failure. He did not restore David’s kingdom. Instead, he met with a ghastly end on a Roman cross. Why then do Christians consider Jesus to be their Messiah and King? What did he accomplish? Indeed, Jesus set Israel free from her sin – the root cause of her political and spiritual slavery. He rose again from the dead and ascended to heaven to set up a heavenly Jerusalem. The Jews who refused to believe in Jesus continued to remain in slavery. They fail to understand that the earthly Jerusalem was just a shadow of the heavenly reality that was to be unveiled in Christ. The apostle Paul states this truth in his epistle to the Galatian church, “Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians iv.25-26).
Christians who are redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ as citizens of heavenly Zion. They need not assemble on a holy hill to worship God. When they gather anywhere on earth, they remind themselves that they “have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering … “(Hebrews x.22). Like the patriarch Abraham, all believers look “forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Their hopes are not pinned on any piece of earthly real estate.
What a privilege it is to be “born anew” in Christ into this heavenly Zion! We are “children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John i.13) When “the LORD writes in the census book of the nations,” He will certainly take note of the children of heavenly Zion. Of them, He will say, “This one was born there.”