Imagine the Glory of being made a part of a group you didn’t belong to…
I can remember as a kid being the one who was always picked last and that grudgingly. Can anyone here attest to that – it’s a terrible feeling. You know that you’re no good at the sport. Everyone else knows that you’re no good at the sport, and when it comes time for the “pick me lineup” you stand there with your head hanging down – refusing to make eye contact. One by one, everyone is picked until you’re one of the last two standing. You know what’s next: The lucky team picks their man and you hear the captain of the other team grunt in disbelief that they have to put up with the unwanted player again.
Can you imagine the relief if one day the team captain called your name right next to the star athlete? That’s what Paul tries to describe in Ephesians 3:4-6 as what he calls “The mystery of Christ…”
Ephesians 3:4-6 “…the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…”
In Christ we who had no claim to the promises of Jesus have been brought to where we receive the promises of Israel along with them. In fact the day is coming when Christ returns, and his kingdom is established and God brings the New Jerusalem upon the new earth, when all of the nations will stream into Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
That’s the theme of Psalm 87, turn in your Bibles to that text if you will for a moment.
<Read Psalm 87>
It’s a very brief Psalm which shows us not only God’s love of Jerusalem, but in light of our text in Ephesians, reveals the formerly hidden mystery that those who are born again through Jesus Christ are recipients of the blessing of being considered a resident of Jerusalem – the most loved city of all God’s cities.
It starts in the first verse with the phrase “His foundation is in the Holy Mountains…” Now when you read through the next verse you begin to recognize what is meant here, and that is namely that when the Psalmist starts with “His” he means “God” here so that he’s saying: “God’s foundation is in the Holy Mountains.”
But what’s the foundation? We read in 1 Corinthians 3:11 “no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” So the foundation is really Christ and none less. God has determined to build upon Christ – who himself is the cornerstone and foundation that was laid in Jerusalem, for Jerusalem.
If you haven’t gotten the message yet it is this: God Loves Jerusalem and the Foundation of Jerusalem is Jesus Christ God’s Son. Just as a house with a good foundation is secure – Jerusalem also is established upon Christ – or at least one day will be established upon Jesus and it will be unshakeable – and indestructible.
The very next verse tells us that God loves the gates of “Zion” or “Jerusalem” more than he loves any other city in Israel – which is His chosen nation. Because God loves Jerusalem, it is the city he has chosen to bear his name. It is the city God has chosen to put his presence in. IT is the city God has chosen to contain his Temple and ultimately it’s the city of eternal day.
The FUTURE of Jerusalem is what is in view in the third verse when the writer says, “Glorious things are spoken of you.” He’s not just saying that people say nice things about Jerusalem. The phrase is spoken prophetically. As if to say, “God has big plans for you Jerusalem.” The greatness of God’s plan is precisely the point.
In Revelation 21 John Sees the New Jerusalem descending from Heaven upon the New Earth. It is a monstrous city of Gargantuan size According to Revelation 21:16 the new Jerusalem will be “…fifteen hundred miles…” on each side. And the nations of the earth will stream into her in order to worship God in his temple.
And speaking of those surrounding nations, the fourth verse begins to talk about God adopting those other nations. He starts with “Rahab” and we ought to pause there and wonder just who exactly Rahab is. Have you ever heard of the nation of Rahab? I haven’t either. It’s a Hebrew word meaning “Proud” and it’s used on various occasions as a synonym for Egypt.
So he says, I’ll mention Egypt and Babylon as those who know me. When you think about the political landscape of the day, Egypt to the South-West and Babylon to the East comprise the greatest superpowers of the day. And then Philistia in the South-West and Tyre in the North are the closest neighboring countries to Israel while Ethiopia to the South envisions nations farthest away.
Egypt, Babylon, the regions of Philistia and Tyre are certainly not Christian nations today – they are dominated by the false religion of Islam. They were dominated by other idolatries in the days in which this Psalm was written, therefore the future must be in view, and a wonderful future it is – a day when Israel will not be at war with all the surrounding nations. But Israel, and specifically Jerusalem will be known not for warfare but for salvation, and wonder upon wonder of that, salvation of her neighbors who hate her so much today!
The idea is primarily that God speaks of a time when all the nations Great or small, near or far will come to Him and will, by his grace, not only be called his own, but will be considered “citizens of Zion.” (Look in the prior Psalm at 86:9.)
So the Foundation of God is Christ, the Favorite place in Israel is Jerusalem which is founded on Christ, and the Future of Jerusalem includes a time when all of the nations will come to Her in Christ.
Right now our country has at least 33 million people who were born somewhere else but came to America and worked hard to obtain full citizenship. Why would they do that? Why would someone turn away from the country of their birth? There may be any of 33 million individual reasons but ultimately it adds up to the fact that they believed they would be better off as citizens of our country.
The blessings of United States citizenship are many but they still don’t compare to being considered by God as a citizen of Jerusalem. God will look upon the nations and will point to the ones who believe in him and will say, “This one was born in Jerusalem, not born of the flesh in Jerusalem perhaps but more importantly born of the Spirit in Jerusalem.”
When God takes a census at the end of all things he will record with a special flourish those who were born in Jerusalem. This is the heritage of being born again; we are counted as citizens of Jerusalem with full right and privilege of the position.
So what should be our response as citizens of Jerusalem? On that day, our response will be automatic. But even now our response should be worship. Look at verse 7 the final verse.
Psalm 87:7 “Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, “All my springs of joy are in you.”” (NASB95)
Fountains in the Old Testament are symbolic of blessing, especially understandable in light of an often arid climate. Just like we’ve been commenting on the fact that the new parsonage well is “a gusher” and we’re happy with that when water is relatively plentiful. One can imagine how great a blessing it would be to have springs of water in an arid land.
In a much greater way our rejoicing will be towards the blessings which God has given us, and we will in the final days sing as the translators of the NLT put it “The source of my life springs from Jerusalem!”
We, the church of Jesus Christ are built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, the Foundation that God himself has fixed and secured. We have become citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, and for that we will praise him.
Praise the LORD!