The Two Jerusalems

Psalm 87

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 87

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Gordon Churchyard

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Jesus said, "You must be born again". (John 3:7)

Psalm 87

  (This is) a song with music, for the sons of *Korah.

v1   He built it on the mountains of *holiness.

v2   The *LORD loves the gates of Zion.
  He loves them more than all the places where *Jacob lives.

v3   (People say) *wonderful things about you, city of God.   *SELAH

 

v4   I will remember the people that I know, from Rahab and Babylon;
  also from Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia.
  I will remember that this man was born there.

v5   They will say in Zion, "A man ... this man ... was born there".
  So he ... the *Most High ... will build her up.

v6   The *LORD will write in his book (the name of) everyone that says,
  "This man was born there".   *SELAH

 

v7   The singers and the *musicians (will say),
  "All my *springs are in you".

The Story of Psalm 87

This is an important psalm but we do not know who wrote it. It was for the sons of *Korah. This is probably the name of the *musicians in the *temple in Jerusalem. The *temple was the house of God that Solomon built. Solomon was the son of David. He was the third king of Israel.

The psalm is about Jerusalem. The psalm calls Jerusalem by the name Zion. Really, Zion was the name of the hill on which Solomon built the *temple. The *Jews thought that God lived on this hill. It was his home on earth. Because they thought that God was *holy (or very, very good) they thought that Zion was *holy also. So they called the hill of Zion a "mountain of *holiness".

But the psalm is really the story of two Jerusalems! Verses 1-3 are about Jerusalem on earth, the capital city of the *Jews. Verses 4-6 are about another Jerusalem. We can see this very clearly in the translation from the *Greek Bible below. (The translation above is from the *Hebrew Bible.) 250 years before Jesus came to the earth, the *Jews translated their Bible into *Greek.

This meant that more people could understand it. In some places, the two Bibles are different. We do not know why. We do believe that both translations teach us what is true.

What Psalm 87 means

Verses 1-3 are about Jerusalem, the capital city of the *Jews. Verses 4-6 are about the *Church. The *Church is the City of God, the New Jerusalem. The person that wrote Psalm 87 did not know this. But God inspired them to write verses 4-6. "Inspired" means "gave them words to say". The person that wrote the psalm thought that Jerusalem would become the most important city on earth. God knew that the NEW Jerusalem would be the most important city! But it would not be on earth, but in *heaven where God lives.

Verses 1 – 2: These verses are about the Jerusalem that is on earth. To give you help to understand this difficult psalm we have shown it like this:

He built  it on the mountains of *holiness

the *LORD  loves the gates of Zion

He loves them  more than the places where *Jacob lives

To the left it is about the *LORD God; to the right it is about the Jerusalem on earth, the capital of Israel. The "mountains of *holiness" are the hills on which they built Jerusalem. They were *holy because they thought that God lived there. "The gates of Zion" means the whole city of Jerusalem. *Jacob is another name for Israel, and the land where the *Jews lived.

Verses 4 – 6: These verses are about the *Church. The person that wrote the psalm did not know about our *Church. He thought that people from all over the world were becoming *Jews. This was probably true. But the *New Testament of the Bible repeats Psalm 87:5 and says that it is about the *Church (Galatians 4:26). People come to it from all over the world: Rahab (Egypt), Babylon (Iraq), Philistia, Tyre (Lebanon) and Ethiopia (Sudan) were countries near Israel.

We think that God is speaking in verses 4-6. He says that everyone that is born in Jerusalem is in his book. What does "born in Jerusalem" mean? We believe that it means "born again". This is another way of saying "becoming a Christian". The name of every Christian is in God’s book. He will not forget any of them. They are all included in those that say, "this man was born there". In verse 6, this means "I was born there". Here is Psalm 87:5 in another translation. It is not from the *Hebrew Bible. It is from the *Greek Bible:

"A man will say, 'Zion is my mother'. This man was born in her. So he ... the *Most High ... will build her up".

It is the translation from the *Greek Bible that the *New Testament uses. In Galatians 4:26 Paul wrote, "the Jerusalem that is above ... is our mother". Remember, Jerusalem and Zion are the same place.

What does all this mean? It means that when we are born again (or become Christians) we are born in a place called Jerusalem. This is not the Jerusalem that is on earth. It is a Jerusalem that is in *heaven, where God lives. The people that live there are all the people that have become Christians. The Jerusalem that is in *heaven is made up of people, not buildings.

Verse 7: This verse is difficult to translate. It probably means one of:

  ·   the singers and *musicians must use music that is called "All my *springs are in you"

  ·   the singers and *musicians all say that their *springs are in Jerusalem (this means that Jerusalem gives them new life)

Something to do

1. If you have a Bible, read Galatians 4:21-31, Hebrews 11:13-16, and Hebrews 12:22-24.

2.  Ask God to put your name into his Book of Life!

Word List

Adonai ~ *Lord or master; (or better, my *Lord or my master) in *Hebrew.

church ~ all those people that believe all about Jesus.

covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the covenant.

Greek ~ a language.

heaven ~ the home of God.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the Psalms of David.

holiness ~ something that is very good; in Psalm 87, a place where God is.

holy ~ very, very good; only God is really *holy, the land where he lives with his people is also *holy because he is there.

Jacob ~ another name for Israel, both the people and the land. (Jacob was Abraham’s grandson).

Jehovah ~ how some languages say *Yahweh, one of the names of God in *Hebrew.

Jew ~ someone who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Korah ~ look in the Introduction in Book 3 of the Psalms of David.

like ~ another word for "as".

Lord ~ a name for God; it means he has authority, or "master"; *Adonai in *Hebrew. Look also at *LORD below.

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. It is the *covenant name of God. In *Hebrew it is *Yahweh or *Jehovah. Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the names of God.

Most High ~ a name for God.

musical instrument ~ something that makes music when you hit it (cymbals, drum), blow in it (flute, trumpet, horn, shofar) or touch it in a quiet way (harp, lyre). Many of these are in Psalm 150 in Book 5 of The Psalms of David.

musicians ~ people that make music. They sing, or play *musical instruments.

New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus. It is about the things that Jesus did and taught and about the church [see church].

SELAH ~ a place to pray or think or make music.

springs ~ another word for "wells" (of water) in Psalm 87.

temple ~ a place where people meet to *worship God.

wonderful ~ great and surprising.

worship ~ tell someone that they are very great and that you love them.

Yahweh ~ the *covenant name for God. Most Bibles translate it *LORD with 4 capital letters. It means something *like "I am" or "always alive".

 

© 2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).

January 2002

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