Psalm 87


This psalm speaks about the heavenly Zion above where all nations come together to pay their respect to God, Hebrews 12:22-23.


‘Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm. A song.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this was psalm, and a song. The sons of Korah were Levites, from the family of Kohath, who by the time of David, served in the musical aspect of the temple worship, 1 Chronicles 9:19 / 1 Chronicles 26:1 / 1 Chronicles 26:19 / 2 Chronicles 20:19. It was David who originally organised the temple singers, 1 Chronicles 15:17 / 1 Chronicles 16:41-42 / 1 Chronicles 25:4-5.

Korah is probably most famous for his lead in the rebellion against Moses during the wilderness days of the Exodus, Numbers 16 / Jude 11. God judged Korah and his leaders and they all died, but the sons of Korah remained, Numbers 26:9-11. It’s possible they were so grateful for this mercy that they became prominent in Israel for praising God.

‘He has founded his city on the holy mountain. The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, city of God: “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” The LORD will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you.” Psalm 87:1-7

The psalmist begins by remining us that it was God who founded His city, that is, Zion, Jerusalem, Psalm 48:1-2 / Matthew 2:1. Jerusalem is the earthly source of the metaphor that refers to heaven. What Jerusalem was to the Jewish faith, heaven is to all Christians.

The gates of the city signified the strength of its walls against the enemy, as well as the place where the elders met with those who wanted some counsel, Ruth 4:1 / Job 29:7 / Matthew 16:18-19.

Other people spoke about the glorious city of God, the other people are the Gentiles, who looked to God for protection and guidance, John 10:16.

You may notice at the end of verse three, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate how other nations spoke of God’s glorious heavenly city.

The psalmist continues to think about the Gentiles in the mentioning of Rahab and Babylon. The Gentiles who acknowledge God will be included with those who have given themselves to the Lord. Rahab is a name that was used in Hebrew poetry for Egypt, Isaiah 30:7.

Philistia was located in the western portion of Palestine, Psalm 60:8 / Psalm 108:9 / Isaiah 14:29 / Isaiah 14:31. Tyre is another Gentile region, Psalm 45:12 / Isaiah 23:1, as was Cush, Psalm 68:31 / Isaiah 18:1. God was going to bless all the nations, not just Israel, as He promised Abraham, Genesis 28:14 / Ephesians 2:19.

All the Gentile nations would say, ‘this one was born in Zion’, in other words, the believing Gentiles whose spiritual heritage came out of God’s city would also have their citizenship in Zion, Philippians 3:20.

Notice the psalmist repeats what he just said regarding the citizenship of the Gentiles. They repeat this to speak of how much they would cherish their birthright and their freedom in being citizens of the heavenly Zion, Galatians 4:26.

Notice it’s not man but the Lord who writes people’s name in the register, the names of those born in Zion, Isaiah 44:3-5 / Hebrews 12:22-23.

Remember, Israel as a nation were supposed to be a kingdom of priests, trying to reconcile the world back to God, Exodus 19:6, they failed because of sin, but now all Christians are priests in God’s kingdom, 1 Peter 2:5 / 1 Peter 2:9, and all Christians have to obey the command to go into all the world, Matthew 28:18-20 / Mark 16:15-16.

You may notice at the end of verse six, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate all the nations being blessed by God.

All the citizens of Zion will praise God in song and sing, ‘all my fountains are in you’. In other words, it’s God who is the source of flowing water, John 4:10 / John 7:37-39, it’s God whom is the source of life, John 10:10.


The psalmist spoke clearly about the blessings which come from being a part of the heavenly Zion. Hebrews 12:22-24 tells us ‘we have come to Mount Zion’. We haven’t come to the physical but, by implication, to the spiritual, we have come to Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem.

We haven’t come to the physical city, but to the city of the living God. By faith Abraham looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God, Hebrews 11:10. That is the city we have come to.

We have also come to ‘thousands of angels in joyful assembly’. Too often we read these descriptions and do not ask what this is telling us, we simply say that we have come to innumerable angels. But what does that mean for us?

Consider these Scriptures and think about where these innumerable angels are, Daniel 7:9-10 / Revelation 5:11-12. What is the writer saying that we have come to innumerable angels?

We have come to the very presence of God. We haven’t come to the God who had to tell the people to not come near Him because of His holiness. We have come near to God, which is the point, the writer of Hebrews made earlier in his writing, Hebrews 4:16.

What else is the author telling us we have come to? Remember that the writer of Hebrews is teaching us what we have left and what we now have.

The Hebrew writer also tells us we have come ‘to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect’.

He’s telling us that we’re a part of the new covenant, we’re the assembly of the saved, and our names are written in heaven. We’re a part of something great, we’re haven’t come to the physical, rather, we’re a part of the group of people whose names are registered in heaven.

We’re of the firstborn, not only because Jesus is the firstborn of the dead, but because we have valued our birth right. We haven’t been like Esau, the firstborn, who despised his birth right inheritance and gave it away for the pleasures of this world. We value our inheritance with God and are part of the family of God, Hebrews 2:11.

Part of this assembly are those have died. They are also part of the family and we are joined together. Death separates us, but we are still joined together as God’s saved family.

The final person we have come to is, ‘Jesus’. We’ve not come to the physical, we’ve not come to Sinai, but we have come to Jesus. Moses was the mediator of the Sinai covenant and Jesus is the mediator of the Zion covenant. We have come to the sprinkled blood, which is a picture of atonement.

Go To Psalm 88


"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

Proverbs 3:5