Sunday, January 20, 2008

Born in Zion: Psalm 87

Over the past year, I have been spending a lot of time reading in Isaiah, in preparation for a Sunday school class I have been teaching. In that book are many oracles "against the nations", in which the Lord punishes them for their idolatry and for oppressing his people. There is a lot of doom and gloom in Isaiah, far more than those know who merely read the Christmas prophesies and the Suffering Servant segments, which are the climactic Good News that comes only after a lot of very bad news laid out in the preceding forty or fifty chapters. And it is not only the gentile Nations that are in trouble, but Israel and Judah especially, for they of all the nations should have known better, but behaved no differently.

How delightful then to find, again and again, in Isaiah and throughout the old and new testaments, that the delight of God rests, finally, not only in Israel but also in all the other nations of the world, even those who were her particular enemies. Zion is more than simply a hill in Jerusalem, but becomes figuratively that place, that city to which all of God's children eventually come.

In Psalm 87 we see a list of countries who were at one time enemies of Israel, and some of them her chief enemies: Egypt, Babylon, and Philistia. These are among "those who know Me", and it seems that God is pleased to say that they know Him. Furthermore, though being born in these countries granted one a certain panache in the ancient world, such as being from New York or Moscow or Beijing today, yet all those who know God are said to be "born in Zion." She is the central City, the only City in the end, after the fall of the only other city, Babylon. Once you become a citizen of Zion, that identity gathers into itself all one's other identities. When we are born again, this is the city in which we are born, so that it will be said, "this one and that one were born in her...."

That City will gather into herself all that is good, all that is beautiful and worthy in all the cultures and peoples of the world, and make it her own, because, of course, it was hers all along. As God makes his rain to fall upon the wicked and the righteous both, so His beauty is shed abroad among the nations, even to those who persecute His people and suppress his truth. All will bear fruit that will be gathered in again at the end, into his holy city for His pleasure and the pleasure of His people.
By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their
glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day--and there will be no
night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

(Rev 21:24-26)

1 comment:

  1. yes yes yes! i love to read your comments... only today as i was about to get on my bike on the way home, these words sprang into my mind, 'This one and that one were born in Zion...' - people of all nations as soon as they are born again are born into the Jerusalem above, members of the Israel of God, the 12 tribes who are sealed in Rev 7 to save them from destruction, God's Very Special People...

    deep stuff, good to read another mind running down the same vein, i've been compiling a lengthy conclusive list of verses that show even the OT (though most clearly the NT) had gentiles in mind as part of the Kingdom of God... Isaiah 19:16ff got the enemies worshiping at one with Israel again, though a slighter darker vibe to get them there, but hey that's my life, 'till i was afflicted i went astray'.

    Blessings in the Christ,