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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 87



Verses 1-7


Superscription.—"A Psalm of Song for the sons of Korah." It so far combines the properties of a religious Psalm and a patriotic song that either of the names may with propriety be applied to it. "For the sons of Korah," see Introduction to Psalms 42. The Psalm was either composed by them, or given to them to sing in the Temple service.

Occasion.—Hengstenberg argues very forcibly, if not quite conclusively, that the occasion of its composition was the joyful events under Hesekiah,—the destruction by the angel of the Lord of one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians of the army of Sennacherib, which was before Jerusalem, and the consequent deliverance of Jerusalem from the siege and capture threatened by Sennacherib (2 Kings 19; 2Ch ).


In this brief and joyous Psalm, the poet celebrates the praise of the Church of the Most High. In so doing, he shows us some of the things in which her glory consisted. The Church of God is—

I. Glorious in her sanctity. "His foundation is in the holy mountains." The sanctity of Mount Zion consisted in its being chosen by God as the abode of His Church; and the "mountains" (plural) are said to be "holy" because Zion is part of a mountain range. Zion was holy as being the dwelling-place of God. The Church of God upon earth is glorious in so far as she is holy, and she is holy in so far as God dwells in her. "A glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish." God hath chosen the members of His Church "that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love." "Holiness is inward glory. Glory is conspicuous holiness." The Church is called to be separate from the world. Its members are called to be saints. Christ our great exemplar is perfectly holy. And His redemption is from sin to holiness. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." "Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."

II. Glorious in her security. "His foundation is in the holy mountains.… The Highest Himself shall establish her." Jerusalem was "a mountain city, … enthroned as compared with Jericho or Damascus, Gaza or Tyre, on a mountain fastness. In this respect, it concentrated in itself the character of the whole country of which it was to be the capital,—the ‘mountain throne,' the ‘mountain sanctuary' of God. ‘They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which may not be removed, but standeth fast for ever.' ‘God is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be removed.' It was emphatically the lair of the lion of Judah, of ‘Ariel,' the Lion of God. ‘In Judah is God known; His name is great in Israel. In Salem is His leafy covert, and His rocky den in Zion.' … ‘Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of the robbers.' And this wild and fastness-like character of Jerusalem was concentrated yet again in the fortress, the ‘stronghold' of Zion. That point, the highest in the city, the height which most readily catches the eye from every quarter, is emphatically the ‘hill fort,' the ‘rocky hold' of Jerusalem—the refuge where first the Jebusite and then the Lion of God stood at bay against the hunters."—Stanley. The foundations of the holy city were high and firm, and on nearly every side it was guarded by the ancient mountains. So the Church of God is secure. The city of Zion has gone. The Temple at Jerusalem is no more; but the Church of God, which the Highest has established, remains and prospers. The Church is founded upon the rock of Divine truth, and all the raging storms of earth and hell cannot shake her. The Church is guarded by God Himself, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Can infinite wisdom be baffled? Can Almightiness be overcome? Can the word of the Unchangeable fail? Then the Church of God is inviolably secure.

III. Glorious in being beloved by God. "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." When Sennacherib and his host were encamped before the city, the Lord suffered them not to pass the gates though "all the rest of the country was subject to their sway," and while the gates remained safe, the whole city was safe. God loved Jacob much, but He loved Zion more. He loves the worship of His people in their homes much, but He loves their worship in His sanctuary more. "A father is glad to see any one of his children, and makes him welcome when he visits him, but much more when they come together; the greatest feast is when they all meet at his house. The public praises of the Church are the emblem of heaven itself, where all the angels make but one concert." This love of God for His Church should lead every believer—

1. To seek union with the Church. 2. To esteem the worship of the Church a solemn duty and precious privilege.

3. To unite in that worship with deep humility, profound reverence, and great delight. He who "loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob" is present in His Church, and is well pleased to accept the spiritual worship of sincere worshippers.

IV. Glorious in her exalted reputation. "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." Many glorious things were spoken of Mount Zion as to its situation. "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion," &c. As being inhabited by God. "God is known in her palaces for a refuge." "The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." As to the diffusion of religion from it (Isa ). The city and temple passed away, but true religion has spread widely, and is still doing so. The Church of God has an exalted reputation—

1. As possessing the highest intelligence. The revealed mind and will of God on the most important of all questions, as contained in the Sacred Writings, is given into her keeping. "We have the mind of Christ."

2. As animated by the Divinest spirit. The true Church of God is composed only of those who "have the spirit of Christ." He came "not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom." The spirit of self-surrendering love actuates every member of the Church of God.

3. As engaged in the most useful and glorious work. Its members, in their measure, go forth to seek and to save the lost. They labour to "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus," to abolish sin and suffering, to establish holiness and joy, and to make the moral wastes break forth into beauty and fragrance and fruitfulness.

V. Glorious in her increase. This increase is—

1. Variously composed. "I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this was born there." Some regard these as the words of God Himself, and translate, "I announce Rahab and Babylon as those that know Me," &c. But with either rendering the idea is, that converts to the Church of God would be added from those nations. Hengstenberg expresses what we regard as the true idea: "At the time when these hopes were expressed, the number of the members of the Church of God had been very much melted down. The ten tribes had already been led away into captivity, and Judah remained alone in the land. In these circumstances, the longing after the fulfilment of the old promises of a posterity to Abraham as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea, must have been awakened with peculiar power, and must have seised with especial ardour upon everything, such as the above-mentioned events in the time of Hezekiah, which furnished a foundation on which such a hope could rest, and brought into view a compensation for the loss of Israel in the coming in of the heathen." These foreign nations are here set forth as actually incorporated by a new birth into the Church of God. Even the worst enemies of the Jews, Egypt and Babylon, are regarded as citizens of Zion. God Himself acknowledges and registers them as such. The grand fulfilment of this splendid hope is found in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. "Many shall come from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God." They are coming from all nations into His kingdom, and they shall continue to come until all the nations of the earth loyally submit to Him.

2. Distinguished in character. "This and that man was born in her." The word translated man is אִישׁ= ἀνήρ=vir, a man of eminence. Men of distinguished ability and excellence shall be born in the Church. The most illustrious names in the annals of the world are those of men who have been members of the spiritual Zion. The Church of God has been, and still is, the abode of the men most renowned for knowledge and wisdom, for patience and courage, for tenderness and truth, for piety and usefulness, for independence and reverence.

3. Registered by God. "The Lord shall count when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there." In the great census the Lord will clearly distinguish those who were born in Zion. The Divine registration is infallible. There are no mistakes in it. None but the true citizens of Zion will be found "written in the Lamb's book of life." And the name of no true citizen will be omitted.

VI. Glorious in the joy which her supplies produce. "As well the singers as the players on instruments: all my springs are in thee." This verse is generally acknowledged to be a very difficult one. Various interpretations of it have been propounded. The idea seems to us to be that the citizens of Zion rejoice with music and song in the fountains of refreshment and blessing which are found in Zion. The streams which make glad the city of God are found there. How abundant and rich and free are the provisions which God has given to us in His Church! We have there the helpful communion of saints, the dispensation of the treasures of the truth of God by the Christian ministry, the exalting and sanctifying and blessed exercise of worship, and the participation in the Divine sacraments. In the work and worship of the Church of God "with joy we draw water out of the wells of salvation."


1. Are we born into the Church of God? Are we citizens of the spiritual Zion? Are our names in the heavenly register? Registration in the records of the Church on earth will avail us nothing, unless our names "are written in the Lamb's book of life."

2. If we are citizens of Zion, let us rejoice in the honour and privilege; for, at such, we are members of the most glorious society.


(Psa .)

Man has the capacity to worship God, and as God reveals Himself man is under obligation to worship Him. To be acceptable to God, this worship must be the tribute of free and sincere affection. Wherever such an offering is made, whether in the secret chamber, at the family altar, or in the public sanctuary, it is "a spiritual sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God." It also sends back into the heart of the worshipper that joy and peace which are unspeakable and full of glory. But public worship is more lovely in the sight of God than private worship.

I. Adduce some facts in the Divine administration indicative of God's-higher estimate of public worship.

1. The facts of the Divine institution of public worship. The Sabbath is favourable for all religious worship. But, when God gave special ordinances to His ancient people, conspicuous amongst them all was this solemn institution of public worship. Three periods in the year were assigned as seasons of holy convocation, &c. In addition to these more conspicuous solemnities, there were the public services for the new moons, the year of rest, and the year of jubilee. Moreover, each day at the Temple was the morning and evening sacrifice offered, &c.… In the fact that God thus instituted public worship, we read His higher appreciation of it.

2. The fact that on special occasions public homage to God has been specially demanded, indicates His high pleasure in it. Many instances occur in the history of God's dealings with His people when some special interposition was followed by as special a requisition for the public acknowledgment of His supremacy and authority as their Lord and Sovereign.… On occasions like these the elders were commanded to "proclaim a fast, to call a solemn assembly," &c. So also when there had been a special deliverance from pestilence, or famine, or, &c.; or when there had been remarkable providential bounties, the whole nation was called to public thanksgiving, &c.

3. The fact that the ordinance of public worship is perpetuated under the Christian dispensation. The example of inspired apostles and primitive saints is left on record, in relation to their frequent "coming together in one place" and "with one accord;" and the solemn injunction given as applicable to all ages "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together," &c. These facts abundantly indicate God's higher regard for it.

II. State some reasons why, in the nature of the case, God should prefer public to private worship.

1. Public worship is attended with greater sacrifices. That piety is best which will make the greatest sacrifices. That faith or love is the strongest which will bear the greatest strain. In pro portion as the sacrifice of public exceeds that of private worship is the service of the former more acceptable to God than the latter. It is a higher expression of your piety. It is a brighter test of your faith and love.

2. It exerts a more powerful and extensive moral influence. The influence of regular secret prayer upon the heart and life of a Christian is very great. So also is the influence of morning and evening family worship. But, in the public courts of the Lord, there are many influences flowing in upon the soul, and many emotions are there awakened, which can never spring out of the devotions of the closet or the family. The sanctuary is emphatically "the house of God and the gate of heaven." The Christian's graces kindle anew in Christian communion, as the coals glow with increasing light and heat when brought into contact.

3. It stands connected with the most signal displays of the power of Divine truth. Nowhere upon earth has this two-fold work of the Spirit, in comforting the saint and convincing the sinner, been so signally effected as in connection with the solemnities of public worship. It is in the house of God, when the quick and searching words of Divine truth have been applied with wise discrimination, and urged upon the conscience with faithful and affectionate importunity, that the sinner has been the most thoroughly arrested in his course, and made the most to feel himself alone with his God, and most vividly to anticipate the coming scenes of the judgment and the awful issues of the final sentence. Yes, and here also the voice of mercy has fallen upon the ear of penitential sorrow, with the most melting, soothing tenderness, and filled the contrite bosom with new joys and peace, unknown in any other place but heaven.

4. It is the grand instrumentality for perpetuating and extending the Church. The light of this day of Christian activity and benevolence would go out in darkness, ere our generation had passed, were the sanctuary to be deserted, and all manifestations of devotion to be shut up within the family and the closet. How direct is the tendency to all that is good in the ordinances of public worship! Keep up this agency in its purity and strength, and civil and social and religious blessings abound; but, as you abolish this agency, religion droops and virtue fails, the dark passions of the depraved heart rage unchecked till the judgments of heaven cut short the rebellion and impiety in hopeless desolation.

5. It is most like heaven. The worship of heaven is pure and perfect, and also united and public, devotion. The place on earth the most like to heaven, is the house of God on the Christian Sabbath, filled with sincere and humble worshippers. Nowhere shall you come so near heaven in all its glory as when you enter the sacred courts of the Lord, and mingle your prayers and praises with His children, while He bows His ear to hearken.


1. All the arrangements for public worship should be amply and cheerfully provided.

2. A regular attendance upon public worship is demanded.

3. Yield to the influence and instructions here imparted.—Rev. L. P. Hickok, D.D. Abridged from "The Preachers' Treasury."


(Psa .)

Here we have an expressive testimony in favour of the Church. Let us illustrate and improve the subject.

I. Let us illustrate it. What glorious things are spoken of her? She is commended—

1. As having Jehovah Himself for her founder. She became a city through His love, mercy, wisdom, and grace.

2. As having the ark of His presence dwelling in her. To the saints He vouchsafes most delightful displays of His excellency and brightness; most captivating views of His glory.

3. As having the solemnities of His worship performed there. In this city, God is worshipped in spirit and in truth; worshipped in the beauty of holiness.

4. As having His laws to govern her. The laws of God are holy, just, and good; and all are found in the written revelation He has given us.

5. As having constant supplies from Him. The community is a great one; but they are richly clothed, well fed, and kindly nourished.

6. As having His immediate and constant protection. She is surrounded on every side by Him; and, guarding her night and day, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against her."

II. Let us improve it. We may learn—

1. In what light we ought to regard the Church. On account of the poverty of her members, and the fewness of their number, her glory is scarcely at all seen, but, notwithstanding her visible aspect, she is yet most beautiful, most glorious (Psa ; Isa 60:18).

2. What reason for thankfulness we have if we are enrolled her citizens. In comparison of this all else should be esteemed by us as "dung and dross."

3. How much we should exert ourselves to advance her interests. In reference to her, a glorious period is predicted (Isa ); and this we should long for and help forward by all means within our power to adopt (Isa 62:1; Isa 62:6-7).—W. Sleigh.


(Psa .)

From these words we may derive some instructive and useful remarks. Let us attend to the following—

I. It is highly important to every man to be regenerated. This will appear by considering the language of our Lord respecting it (Joh ) the degeneracy of our nature (Eph 2:1); the nature and design of the Gospel dispensation; the relation of the present to another world; the capacity of the soul for enjoyment or suffering; and the unsuitableness of the character of an unregenerate person for future happiness (Luk 16:24-25).

II. The present is the only state in which this momentous change can be accomplished. Death makes no change of a moral kind in man;—his probation terminates on his leaving the present world (2Co ; Rev 22:11), and all beyond is awarded according to character (Mat 16:27; Rev 22:12).

III. Regeneration is not a fancy or dream, but a reality. Its existence is evinced in the phraseology by which it is described (1Jn ; 2Co 5:17); in the accounts given of the first Christians of their having actually undergone a spiritual birth (Rom 6:11-13; Eph 2:4-6); and in the present experience of all believers, who are themselves living witnesses to the truth of this doctrine (2Co 5:17; Col 3:1).

IV. The Holy Spirit is the agent in the regeneration of men. Our own state and character before the change takes place, the images used to describe it, and the positive declarations of Scripture if duly considered will convince us of this (Joh ; Joh 3:4; Eph 2:8-10; 1Jn 3:9).

V. Though the Spirit can do this immediately, yet He generally does it in the use of the means. Those means are chiefly His written Word (Psa ; Jas 1:18; the ministry of the Gospel (2Co 5:18-20; 1Th 1:5); and prayer (Isa 45:19; Eze 36:37).

VI. It is not every one that thinks he is regenerated that is really so. We are not spiritually born merely because we have been baptized, nor because we have correct views of religion, nor because we observe certain rites, nor yet because our lives are reformed. Regeneration is widely different from these things, and those who rest satisfied with these are mistaking the shadow for the substance.

VII. Zion, or the Church, is honoured as the birthplace of the saints. This is that to which our attention is called in the words of our text. It is because of this, amongst the many things spoken of her, that she stands so high in the estimation of God and man (Psa ; Psa 137:5-6).

VIII. The work of regeneration is made apparent by its effects and evidences. Such are—deliverance from sin (1Jn ; 1Jn 5:18); victory over the world (Rom 12:2; 1Jn 5:4-5); spirituality of mind (Joh 3:6; Rom 8:5; Rom 8:14); love to the saints (1Jn 4:7); submission to Christ (Joh 6:45; 1Jn 5:1); true obedience (1Jn 2:29); and hope (1Pe 1:3; 1Jn 3:2-3).

And now, am I myself the subject of this change? Have I already experienced it? Am I born of God? Am I decidedly a new creature? If my best interests be deemed worthy of my attention, these questions cannot be improper; nor can I too seriously apply them to myself.—W. Sleigh.


(Psa .)

"All my springs are in Thee."


I. What is meant by the pronoun "Thee." The Psalmist meant Zion. All his springs were in Zion. From the time of Constantine to the present the name Zion has been applied to the western hill on which the city of Jerusalem stands. But anciently, and down to the time of the destruction of the city by Titus, the name Zion was applied exclusively to the eastern hill on which the Temple stood. So it was in Zion as being the place on which the Temple stood that the Psalmist found his springs. In this light, the significance of the Psalm is at once manifest. To the devout Jew Zion was the abode of joy and blessing, the place of special Divine manifestation, and of special communion with God, who is represented as dwelling there (Psa ; Psa 132:13-14).

In this Christian age, there is not one sacred place, for all places are sacred. Not one local mercy-seat, for Christ is the universal mercy-seat,—the meeting-place between God and man. The Jew found all his springs in the Temple, because by means of its ordinances he realised the presence and obtained the blessing of God. To us, "Christ is the true temple; all our springs are in Him, and from Him all our streams flow." But Christ is Himself the gift of God to us. So God is the primal fount of blessing. And through Christ we rise to God, commune with God, &c. So all our springs are in GOD. We trace all our blessings to the heavenly Father. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above," &c.

II. The number and variety of the springs from which we are drawing. How numerous are they! The sun, the atmosphere, the earth, &c.; society, books, &c.; many spiritual ministries, the communion of saints, religious worship, the comfort, and guidance and sanctification of the Spirit, the example and sympathy and sacrifice of the Saviour, and the great love of our Father, which is the fountain from which all other blessings flow.

How various also are they! Varied to suit the many needs of our complex nature in all our various circumstances and moods. When the heart overruns with joy, the joyousness of the ever-blessed God is adapted to our need, and so we delight to approach Him. When the heart is crushed with grief, the tenderness and compassion of Him who pitieth as a father and comforteth as a mother are the balm that heals us.

The number and variety of our needs are evidence of the greatness of our nature. Only great natures have great requirements. God has made us for Himself, and nothing less than Himself can satisfy the cravings of our soul.

III. The blessedness of having all our springs in God. "All my springs are in Thee;" then, they are all-sufficient. They will meet every variety of need. For the perplexed student, conscious of ignorance, and crying for light, there is an inexhaustible spring of knowledge and guidance. For the worn and wearied sufferer, sighing for rest and comfort, there are springs of patience and solace, and even joy. For the Christian, conscious of weakness and imperfection, there are springs of power and inspiration and hope. For the penitent sinner, sorrowing over a dark past, mourning his sin, there are springs of pardon and peace and purity.

These springs are inexhaustible. They are as full and as fresh now as ever they were. Exhaust the solar fires, exhaust the ocean, &c. But you cannot exhaust the Infinite. Our springs are all in God, so they cannot fail; in God, then, they will meet all our thirst for evermore.

Our springs being in God, we may draw from them liberally and joyfully because God is infinitely generous. "He giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not." His generosity is as great as His resources: both are infinite as Himself. He delights in imparting joy and blessing to man. I rejoice that all my springs are in God. Let us learn to practise more fully than hitherto these two things—

1. Adoring gratitude to God.

2. Joyous trust in God. Come what may, our resources cannot fail.

O God, the fount of blessing,

Our springs are all in Thee:

And though life's cares are pressing,

Weakness our soul possessing,

Our prayers to Thee addressing,

And looking for Thy blessing,

We find our springs in Thee.

The Preacher's Complete Homiletic





Psalms 88-109


Author of Commentaries on Numbers and Ezra

Psalms 110-120

By the REV. J. W. BURN

Psalms 121-130


Author of the Commentaries on Kings, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

Psalms 131-150


New York













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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 87:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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