Psalm 87, Sons of Korah: A Wonderful Prophetic Psalm :: By Ron Ferguson

This posting is going to be a bit different from normal. It is a Sunday message in the series I was doing on the Psalms of the Sons of Korah. It is a prophetic Psalm, and verses 3, 4, 5 and 6 are most interesting. The psalm is a positive delight.

Psa. 87:0 A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song.

Psalm 87:1 His foundation is in the holy mountains.

Psalm 87:2 The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.

Psalm 87:3 Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. Selah.

Psalm 87:4 “I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me. Behold, Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia: ‘This one was born there.'”

Psalm 87:5 But of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; and the Most High Himself will establish her.

Psalm 87:6 The LORD shall count when He registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Selah.

Psalm 87:7 Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, “All my springs of joy are in you.”

We come to another Psalm of Korah and not an easy one to speak from. You notice right at the start this is a song, so in the Hebrew, it is a poem set to music. There is nothing unusual about that, as the sons of Korah were the singers and choir people in the Tabernacle and the Temple.

At first glance, you may have noted the emphases in the psalm on the places of birth, and we will look at that soon. Let us look at this psalm now.


VERSE 1. “His foundation is in the holy mountains.” The opening with the pronoun “His” we usually understand by “The Lord” or by Jehovah,” and it would not be wrong to think that. The verse is speaking of Zion, as the following verses explain, and it is founded in the holy mountains.

This is what Isaiah 14:32 says – “How then will one answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD has founded Zion, and the afflicted of His people will seek refuge in it.” The foundation of Zion comes from the LORD. He founded it. It belongs to Him, and beware, all those who have taken Israel away from God.

It is correct to say Zion is God’s foundation, for God’s presence was there as many psalms would acknowledge, but that changed through Israel’s sin. We can also say the “His” of verse 1 means Zion, so it can be applied both ways. Jerusalem is the city founded among the hills that were called mountains. Rome and Constantinople are also situated in the hills.

Dr. Horne, a commentator, wrote:

“The psalmist having meditated on the strength, the beauty, and the glory of the holy city, and imagining the thoughts of his hearers or readers to have been employed on the same subject, breaks forth at once in this abrupt manner. “Is in the holy mountains” – the mountains of holiness; by which he means those mountains, or “hills of Judea, which God had chosen and separated to himself from all others, whereon to construct the highly-favoured city and temple, namely, mount Zion, mount Moriah, and other lesser hills. They are called holy mountains, or mountains of holiness, because the city and temple were, in a peculiar sense, consecrated to God, and because God in special manner dwelt therein, the ark of his presence being fixed there.”

A place is deemed holy because of what it represents. Peter used the same expression when talking about the transfiguration – 2Peter 1:18 “We ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” The hills of Jerusalem are holy because of the presence of the Lord then and in the past.


Let us move to VERSE 2. “The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.” This verse specifies the special place of Zion. The gates meant entry and safety. When the people entered through the gates, they were entering a special city. That is especially so on the yearly pilgrimage to Zion/Jerusalem when the pilgrims were singing as they ascended the hills, and at last, before them, there were the gates of Zion. It generated a very special feeling. They were welcome. When in China, I had a lesser but expectant experience when we went through the tunnel that led to the Forbidden City.

I said the second reason was safety inside Zion. That was God’s security, and He kept the city, but when He was rejected by the people God, He removed His protection, and Nebuchadnezzar marched in through the gates. When Jesus was rejected by His people, He was taken out through the gates to Calvary. Then some 40 years later, Titus went through the gates in the overthrow of Jerusalem that resulted in over a million deaths recounted by Josephus.

Have you heard of the Golden Gate? It is said that at the Second Coming, Jesus will pass through that gate that has been sealed and unopened for 2,000 years.

The gates just mean, again, Zion and Jerusalem. They are most special places to the psalmist in his song. I appreciated a quote from Benson –

“For though the tabernacle was for a season in some other parts of the land, yet the temple, the place of God’s fixed residence, was nowhere but in this city of Zion. Concerning this, God had said, ‘This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.’ There he met his people, and conversed with them, received their homage, and showed them the tokens of his favour, from which we may infer how well he loved those gates; God indeed loved, and loves, the dwellings of Jacob. He has a gracious regard to religious families, and accepts their family worship; yet he loves the gates of Zion better; not only better than any, but better than all the dwellings of Jacob. God was worshipped in the private dwellings of Jacob; and family worship is family duty, which must by no means be neglected; yet when they come in competition, public worship is to be preferred before private.”

Moving to VERSE 3. “Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.” Selah. This is a famous verse. Horne said:

“Pleasant for situation, and magnificent in its buildings, it was the delight of nations, the joy of the whole earth; there was the royal residence of the kings of Judah; there were the temple, and the ark, and the glory, and the king of heaven dwelling in the midst of her: her streets were honoured with the footsteps of the Redeemer of men; there he preached and wrought his miracles, lived, died, and rose again; thither he sent down his Spirit, and there he first laid the foundation of his church.”

Glorious things are spoken of Zion; that lies in the past, sadly, but won’t remain in the past, for when the Messiah returns and the restoration of Israel occurs, greater will be its glory then than at any time in the past. Zion/Jerusalem becomes the chief city of the earth, and something like 12 names are given to this redeemed city. Just one of them is from Jeremiah 33:16 – “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.'”

It is lamentable that today horrible things are spoken about Jerusalem, but that will only last until the Second Coming when the Lord will rule from Jerusalem, as detailed in Zechariah 14. Then the most glorious things will be spoken. (In prophetic scripture, “mountain” is used as “kingdom,” as in this verse) Isaiah 2:2 – “Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it.”


Let us move to VERSES 4 AND 5 AND 6. Psalm 87:4 “I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me. Behold, Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia: ‘This one was born there.’ 5 But of Zion it shall be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her,’ and the Most High Himself will establish her. 6 The LORD shall count when He registers the peoples, ‘This one was born there.’ Selah.”

The word Rahab there is not the Rahab who protected the spies. It is a different word, and here it means Egypt. In Isaiah 51:9, we read – “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD. Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon?”

That verse says that it was the Lord who judged Egypt. Egypt was considered the ancient enemy of Israel. The Hebrew word properly means fierceness, insolence, pride; and it may have been given to Egypt by the Hebrews on account of its haughtiness, pride, and insolence. The word also has the sense of strength.

Also mentioned in verse 4 is Babylon. Those studying Revelation know that the Babylonian system that has infiltrated the Church since the time of Constantine is a vile system and meets its end in Revelation 17 and 18. In this verse, the nation of old Babylon is referred to, the one founded by Nimrod in Genesis 11 that reached its height under Nebuchadnezzar.

These two verses in Psalm 87 are wonderfully prophetic verses that have not yet happened. Later on, I will mention a God-dishonoring doctrine known as Replacement Theology that takes all the promises for Israel in the Old Testament and the prophecies for the nation and applies them to the Church, effectively wiping out any restoration of Israel. I hate that. God hates that, for He has a glorious future for His earthly people.

Verses 4 and 5 say that Egypt and Babylon will know the Lord. Historically we know that such a thing has never happened. In fact, Iraq today, which roughly is the Old Testament Babylon, is a sworn enemy of Israel and a war-torn country under the control of terrorism. Yet we look beyond that, for the word tells us they will know the Lord. That will not happen this side of the Rapture but will happen in the reign of Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. God is going to do a work of great restoration and conversion, following the Tribulation. Isaiah speaks of this very clearly, but before we look at the relevant passage, Assyria, in its territory as it existed back then, covered the region today of Iraq and Syria, modern enemies of Israel –

Isaiah 19:23-25 “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.'”

The political situation today would make this impossible, but God is not mocked. His promises will come true, and the day is coming when the Lord is reigning that Israel, Egypt, and Assyria will be the three-part blessing in all the earth. As it is today, Russia is building a military base in Syria for their deluded aim of exterminating Israel. There is a great war coming, which I believe must be at the end of the Tribulation, the Gog/Magog war, where Russia, Syria, the nations to the north, and Iran and Libya and Ethiopia will attack Israel, but themselves, their armies, will be wiped out dramatically. You can read all about that in Ezekiel 38 and 39. You might ask, “Because Iraq/Syria is going to do that, why, why, why is God going to bless them and make Assyria great in the earth? Surely He must exterminate them as the Daleks would? God is not like us. Nor do we understand His counsels.

You will notice, too, in Psalm 87:4 that Philistia, Ethiopia and Tyre will be brought into blessing. Let us think about that. The old Philistia was the Philistines, the hated enemy of God, yet He is going to bless them? Philistia today is roughly known as the Gaza Strip, the great enemy of Israel of the PLO and Palestinian terrorists. Is that just? Tyre is just off the coast of Lebanon and, of course, Ethiopia is going to be part of the Gog/Magog war.

Those two verses of Psalm 87 are talking about citizenship, and those people, when their blessing comes, will have citizenship rights because they were born THERE. However, for Israel/Zion, their citizenship rights come from being born IN IT. The end of verse 5 means that it is not for us to work all this out, but it is the Lord who will establish it.

Verse 6 leaves the counting and registering to the Lord. He will do it all.

Let us move to VERSE 7. “Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, ‘All my springs of joy are in you.'” The psalm ends with praise and joy. Singing and flute playing here means joy, but flutes in the Old Testament don’t always mean joy. They were also attached to the horrible blaring at pagan idolatrous festivals. Does your version have “you” at the end of the verse? It means Zion. All the springs of joy are in Zion. It was in Zion where God placed His name among His people, and from where great kings arose, and from where the Messiah would come, and to where the Messiah returns at the Second Coming. Great joy will be found there when the Lord returns to His own people and establishes His Kingdom. I won’t explore that right now.

Earlier I mentioned this devilish doctrine of replacement theology where all the great statements promised for Israel are said to be replaced by the Church and transferred to the Church, and not Israel. In some writings, all the blessings God promises for Israel are made to apply only to the Church, while all the judgments they keep for Israel. Such hypocrisy. Everything good for Israel becomes the Church; everything bad remains for Israel.


What I have done so far is to look at the psalm as it was and as it will be. That is fixed and won’t change. Now I want to make parallel applications for us. No replacement! Just parallels!

In Psalm 87, we know the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than any other place. Then we have the account of enemies being brought into blessing. Then there is teaching on one’s birth. Then we have springs of joy and praise. Let’s look at another perspective, that of the Church.

There is another residence of God, a most precious one Paul describes – Ephesians 2:17-22, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near, for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. Therefore then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

It, too, has foundations, the most essential Cornerstone, and the work of the apostles and prophets. The foundations are finished, of course, but the building is the delight of all creation. It is the Bride of Christ, the great Pearl of greatest price. Zion was/is founded among the hills of Judea, but the Church is founded from among the nations. The Lord loves the Church more than any other thing, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh.

Do you remember from Psalm 87 that it was an honor to have been born in Zion? Well, that honor Christians too share, for we have been born into the Church, into the Bride. We have been born again into a glorious hope once we surrendered our lives to the Lord for salvation. We hold special citizenship because we were born into the Church of the living God.

Then, we had the account of enemies being brought into blessing, even the Philistines. Well, we, too, were enemies of God but were brought close by the blood of Christ and into blessing. The next thing was the praise and joy, as in springs bubbling up. In the Church, there is joy and praise.


To close all this off, I want to use a couple of quotes. The first is from The Shepherd of Hermas, written between 70 to 100 AD –

“He says to me, ‘You know that you who are the servants of God dwell in a strange land; for your city is far away from this one. If, then,’ he continues, ‘you know your city in which you are to dwell, why do you here provide lands, and make expensive preparations, and accumulate dwellings and useless buildings? He who makes such preparations for this city cannot return again to his own. Oh foolish, and unstable, and miserable man! Don’t you understand that all these things belong to another, and are under the power of another?

“Have a care, therefore: as one living in a foreign land, make no further preparations for yourself than such merely as may be sufficient; and be ready, when the master of this city shall come to cast you out for disobeying his law [such as in coming persecution against Christians] to leave his city, and to depart to your own, and to obey your own law without being exposed to annoyance, but in great joy. Have a care, then, you who serve the Lord, and have Him in your heart, that ye work the works of God, remembering His commandments and promises which He promised, and believe that He will bring them to pass if His commandments be observed.

“Instead of lands, therefore, buy afflicted souls, according as each one is able, and visit widows and orphans, and do not overlook them; and spend your wealth and all your preparations, which ye received from the Lord, upon such lands and houses.'”

Augustine, 1,600 years ago, writing on Psalm 87, ended it this way –

“Let, us prepare ourselves to rejoice in God: to praise Him. The good works which conduct us onward, will not be needed there. I described, as far as I could, only yesterday, our condition there: works of charity there will be none, where there will be no misery: you shall not find one in want, one naked, no one will meet you tormented with thirst, there will be no stranger, no sick to visit, no dead to bury, no disputants to set at peace. What then will you find to do? Shall we plant new vines, plough, traffic, make voyages, to support the necessities of the body? Deep quiet shall be there; all toilsome work, that necessity demands, will cease: the necessity being dead, its works will perish too. What then will be our state?

“As far as possible, the tongue of a man thus told us. ‘The dwelling of all who shall be made perfect is in You because there shall be such joy there as we know not here. Blessed are they that dwell in Your house: for ever and ever they will be praising You.’ Let us praise the Lord as far as we are able, but with mingled lamentations: for while we praise, we long for Him, and as yet have Him not. When we have, all our sorrows will be taken from us, and nothing will remain but praise, unmixed and everlasting. Now let us pray.”

The Lord bless us.