Only in God’s economy do the words “you can’t” bring complete comfort.
Psalm 87 is a confusing yet beautiful display of God’s powerful hands once you understand it. Before we get into this truth of this Psalm, a prologue: isn’t it wonderful that we need to study God’s word in order to uncover wonderful truths? Isn’t this such a beautiful picture of our Lord – wonderful joy that comes as a result of work? We often despair at the confusing and disconnected nature of many Bible passages. But, have you ever wondered what it would be like if the Bible was simply a 50 page picture book with 5 word sentences that don’t transcend a 5 year old’s understanding? Though God’s truth can be understood in such terms, the fullness of His truth cannot. Instead, God has seen fit to reveal His truth in all its glory in the written Word in a way that requires real effort and grace to understand. The Holy Spirit must reveal the Word to us, and we must study it with devotion like David who meditated on it (and still does yet in a different way) “day and night” (Psalm 1:2). If you’re anything like me, food tastes better when I know I overcame my inability to cook and victoriously prepared a delicious dish. There is a sense of accomplishment that enhances the flavor. That effect is multiplied exponentially when we uncover golden nuggets of truth in the Word despite our human fallenness and former disgust of all things Holy. God saved you from sin. Then He gave you eyes to see. Then He guides your heart as you diligently mine His living “repository of redemptive revelation” (in the words of Hank Hanegraaff). What a joy it is.
That said, look at Psalm 87. It’s confusing. But then the spiritual light is flipped on (for me after reading commentaries – a gift from God) and we realize that God’s ability to save the unsavable applies to the most unlikely candidates.
PSALM 87: “A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song. On the holy mount stands the city he founded; the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob. Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God. Selah Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush— “This one was born there,” they say. And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her. The Lord records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Selah Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”” (Psalm 87:title–7, ESV)
Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush – these names represent Israel’s ancient enemies. Yet, the Psalmist says that they are “born in her”. “Her” refers to Zion. Zion refers to the City of God, the place that God has appointed for His chosen people, a place where salvation comes to all its inhabitants.
The Psalmist is saying that God’s ability to save is so powerful that the great and mighty Egyptian empire that could wipe little Israel off the face of the map is nothing more than a little baby born in God’s care. Though Egypt sought to kill Israel, God will make it that Egypt will be Israel’s spiritual brother. They are both “born there” in Zion. There is no animosity or anger that can separate us from God’s saving hand. His eternal decision to save you is unchangeable. If the creators of the Pyramids and Pharaoh himself cannot change His will, your failures can’t either. In God’s economy, “you can’t” are some of the sweetest words in the world. This is the counter-cultural essence of the Gospel. Society honors the strong. Popularity comes to those who are mighty. “Fortune favors the bold.” Jesus says, on the other hand, “Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:5).
Sin is a reality for all of us, no matter what stage of life and spirituality we are in. But, no sin can outrun God’s grace. His love “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8) and now we are free to let our love do the same. His love begins to dwell in us when we are saved by Him. His love grows day by day, in us, as we meditate on His word day and night. Eventually, we reach the boiling point and His love bubbles over and out of us, like happiness that forces itself out of your heart in the form of laughter – you can’t hold it in and you don’t want to. This is the Christian’s lot in life and it is all a result of His mighty right hand that causes enemies, deplorables, and losers to be born in His city. We lose sight of His power, from time to time, and let the anxieties of the world set in, whether they’re spiritual anxieties or worldly. Yet, the truth that “while we were enemies, we were reconciled” (Romans 5:10) stills the storm, if we would just believe it. Don’t look at the waves of worry, look into the eyes of eternity, the eyes of the eternal One. His eyes see you, right now, and He says to the anxious heart, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
When you feel like you’re just not good enough. Remember, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)