In the first part of this short psalm, or song, the writer praised Jerusalem. For the nation of Israel, Jerusalem was special, because it was within the walls of Jerusalem that the Lord God had chosen to dwell with His people in His temple. The words “holy mountain” and “Zion” were descriptions of Jerusalem.
The praise was for a physical location, because the covenant God had made with Israel was a physical covenant. The people were promised land and children. The signs and symbols of that covenant were physical in nature. Faith was joined to sight. The temple could be seen and touched, the city physically existed, the growing population was tangible proof of God’s promise to Abraham. All of these were essential to the faith of Israel.
From the first words of praise, the psalmist expanded the picture to consider other nations as well. In verse 4, the word “Rahab” was a poetic name for Egypt. Notice that all the historic enemies of Israel would eventually acknowledge the Lord. The psalmist could see that one day, all nations would accept Jerusalem as a special place.
In verses 6 and 7, the message was that the Lord would designate, or set apart, those who are HIS people. Throughout the Old Testament scriptures the message was stated that God would know, protect and accept His people.
In arid lands, water was survival and a source wealth. Without water, a person could not hope to survive. The discovery of water was good news and great blessings. For the Israelites, their survival and wealth was found in God. Eventually, others would realize that their own survival and salvation would come from the true headwaters of life – the Living God.
For the Christian, the imagery in this psalm carries a double meaning. Israel’s hope was a physical hope. But for every promise within this psalm, the Christian can say, “If Israel was blessed in such a way, how much GREATER is my blessings?!” Jerusalem is special for a different reason. Jesus Christ died there and was resurrected there. Throughout the New Testament scriptures, Jerusalem (Zion) is a symbol of the NEW covenant established through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:18-24). Where Israel had a physical temple, the church is the temple of God. The world is hostile, but will be forced to acknowledge the good done, the special place of God’s family. If Sod’s people are known, God’s CHILDREN are certainly known by their Father. If Israel looked to water for survival, Christians look to the “living water” which flows into every Christian.
Psalm 87 is a song of praise and reassurance of the care and promises of God. What a blessed assurance Christians have through Jesus Christ – Lord, King and Savior!