The Top-One Place to Live—Psalm 87
I know you’ve done it. You’ve opened a magazine or clicked a link and read one of those articles that lists the top 10 cities or the best 25 small towns to live in. Or you’ve examined a list that ranks nations that way. Then you’ve looked for your city or country, or you’ve compared your home or the wealth and privileges that come with your citizenship to those on the list.
Perhaps you’ve been jealous. But I’m betting you also take some pride in whatever city or country is yours. You may have frustrations, but you’d also delight to tell me what makes these places great.
That’s the theme of Psalm 87. It tells what’s great about being a citizen of Jerusalem:
“On the holy mountain
stands the city founded by the Lord.
He loves the city of Jerusalem
more than any other city in Israel.
O city of God,
what glorious things are said of you!” (Psalm 87:1-3, NLT)
The author brags about his city because he treasures God. He knows he lives in the top-one city in all the world—because it’s God’s city. Living there, he’s with God. That singular fact makes it more honorable than living in other cities that might be bigger, stronger, or more beautiful.
For us, this means our greatest honor likewise comes from our citizenship in God’s city. “We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives” (Philippians 3:20, NLT).
Slave-trader-turned-pastor John Newton, famous for writing “Amazing Grace,” also wrote a hymn based on this psalm—“Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God.” That hymn celebrates the blessings of belonging to Jesus. It tells how Jesus is an even surer foundation than the rock fortress Jerusalem rests upon. It extols Jesus’ presence with us, the blood he shed to cleanse us, and the joy that only his people can know.
It’s a bold, faith-filled hymn. I like it for how it rightly dares to proclaim that Jesus gives the most glorious citizenship imaginable. But as bold as Newton’s hymn is, the psalm itself is even more audacious:
“I will count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me—
also Philistia and Tyre, and even distant Ethiopia.
They have all become citizens of Jerusalem!” (Psalm 87:4, NLT).
Egypt? Babylon? Philistia and Tyre? These are all enemies of God’s people. How can residents of those cities become citizens of Jerusalem too? It doesn’t seem right.
Well, it wouldn’t be right for any ordinary king of any ordinary city. But our God is King of the world. When he starts enlarging his empire, he stretches his rule as wide as his love—to encompass anyone he wishes. He even sent his Son to die for people like you and me. People of various nations and cities. Sinful people who deserve to be called his enemies.
This is the most astounding thing about citizenship in God’s city, and also the most precious. The greatest wealth it gives me is the privilege of being with him whose beauty is perfect and who loves me so much. It’s my delight to tell you all about it.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and children’s ministry worker living in Colorado.