One of the pains of travelling internationally is ensuring that you have the correct documentation. Once you leave the borders of your own country and enter the borders of another, you want to ensure that all your paperwork is in order. The last thing you want is to be told by a customs official that your paperwork is incorrect and that you are not welcome or afforded protection in the country into which you are entering. When you are in the land of your own citizenship, there is less to worry about, because your citizenship guarantees you certain privileges.
Psalm 87 opens with reference to the glory of Zion, God’s chosen city. Situated atop Mount Zion, Jerusalem was God’s particular treasure. He “loves Zion’s gates more than all the dwellings of Jacob” so that “glorious things are said” of this most holy “city of God” (vv. 2–3). What a privilege to be a citizen of this most glorious, heavenly kingdom—God’s own dwelling place. No wonder the Jews took such immense pride in being citizens of Zion.
But the psalmist does something interesting in the remainder of the psalm. Read carefully:
“I will make a record of those who know me: Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush—each one was born there.” And it will be said of Zion, “This one and that one were born in her.” The Most High himself will establish her. When he registers the peoples, the LORD will record, “This one was born there.”
Observe how Gentiles are incorporated by the psalmists as citizens of Zion. As a rule, Jews looked down upon Gentiles. Citizens Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush were considered to be second class human beings. Human fullness was to be found in Jewish identity. But as the sons of Korah led God’s people in worship, they painted a very different picture. Long before the new covenant was unveiled in Christ, the sons of Korah sang of a time when Jew and Gentile would be brought together as one body. Gentiles would be granted citizenship in God’s heavenly kingdom.
Centuries, later, the apostle Paul would write of Jew and Gentile becoming one man in Christ. He would write of the wall of partition being demolished by the gospel. John would write of the benefits of the gospel being not for Jews alone but for the whole world. The vision of the psalmist is realised fully in Christ. Jew and Gentile are brought together as one man. By implication, all class distinctions are erased at the cross. Not only Jew and Gentile, but black and white, Zulu and Afrikaner, man and woman, rich and poor all find their heavenly passport stamped with Zion’s citizenship.
Human tendency is to separate people along class, age, gender, wealth, and even ethnic lines. We find comfort in people who are just like us and find it awkward to interact with those who are a little different. But the gospel brings all differences into beautiful communion through Jesus Christ. The mission of Christ—and the mission of the church—is to unite us in the cross and present all people as citizens of heaven and children of the living God.
Allow this psalm to remind you today—and this Lord’s Day as you gather with your church—of the one new man that has been formed in Christ. Celebrate your Saviour together with those who are radically different and yet gloriously one with you in Christ.