Psalm 87:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. The gates are put for the city itself. The love of God is greatest to his own elect nation, descended from his servant Jacob, yet the central seat of his worship is dearer still; no other supposable comparison could have so fully displayed the favour which Jehovah bore to Jerusalem, -- he loves Jacob best and Zion better than the best. At this hour the mystical teaching of these words is plain, God delights in the prayers and praises of Christian families and individuals, but he has a special eye to the assemblies of the faithful, and he has a special delight in their devotions in their church capacity. The great festivals, when the crowds surrounded the temple gates, were fair in the Lord's eyes, and even such is the general assembly and church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven. This should lead each separate believer to identify himself with the church of God; where the Lord reveals his love the most, there should each believer most delight to be found. Our own dwellings are very dear to us, but we must not prefer them to the assemblies of the saints; we must say of the church --

"Here my best friends, my kindred dwell:
Here God, my Saviour reigns."

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates, etc. The gates of a walled city give access to it and power over it, and are therefore naturally here put for the whole. The Hebrew participle (loving) implies constant and habitual attachment. --J.A. Alexander.

Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion. Because of the going out and coming in of the people of God. Thus indeed the disposition of lovers is shown, that they are filled with a remarkable affection of love towards those places through which those whom they love frequently pass, as doors and gates, and those ways which they daily traverse. What other reason could God have for loving the gates of Zion? --Musculus.

Verse 2. The gates of Zion are the doctrines of the Gospel, the tabernacles of Jacob are the teachings of the law, the law was accomplished in the gospel; therefore it is said that "the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." --"Plain, Commentary", 1859.

Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more, etc. No doubt the prayers which the faithful put up to heaven from under their private roofs were very acceptable unto him; but if a saint's single voice in prayer be so sweet to God's ear, much more the church choir, his saints' prayers in concert together. 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. -- William Gurnall.

Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all, etc. It is here assumed that the Lord loves the dwellings of Jacob -- he loves those that are true Israelites. These are succeeded by the name Christian, for the Christian Church is now become the true Israel of God. He loves his saints on account of that image of himself which they bear; he loves them on account of those graces which are infused into them when they are renewed by the Spirit; he loves them on account of the relation they stand in to him as his people, and as his church, who are qualified for the duties of the relation by that love of their Father, that reliance upon his care, that delight in his person, that enjoyment in his service, which belongs to dutiful and affectionate children. He loves them because they imitate his perfections in some humble measure -- because they receive the word of his mouth -- because they are ready to obey every call of his providence, setting themselves in the paths of his testimony wherever he may direct -- because they yield themselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and their bodies as instruments of righteousness, no longer walking after the deeds of the flesh, but after the will of God. He takes a delight in them; the Lord delighteth in the righteous; he knoweth their way; he loves, approves, and confirms them. The most common occupations of life -- the honest industry of the servants of God, is looked upon by him with approbation. By these they show forth their Father, and the praises of him who called them from darkness to light. The most ordinary duties of our calling become sacrifices to God, and religious duties, when performed in the Spirit, and directed to the great end of glorifying God. He looks with peculiar complacency on the dwellings of his people on account of those domestic devotional acknowledgments of his majesty which are there maintained, when the head walks before his family as a priest to offer praise and thanksgiving; this attracts peculiar approbation and delight. He loves to see his people training up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and their children walking after them in the paths of that obedience which he has enjoined. He delights to see the course of purity which runs in Christian families. He loves to see the progress which the younger parts of religious families make in piety, while they grow in grace, and in favour with God and man. He looks down with peculiar delight on such circles as these: there he deigns his presence, and bestows peculiar blessings. However obscure the dwellings of Jacob may be, to him they are open and manifest at all times; and whether in cottages or in palaces, his eye rests there with complacency; and he says of such places, "Here will I dwell forever and ever." Prayer and devotion sanctify every family, and diffuse a spirit of piety through all the avocations of life, so that we need not retire from the world, but are rather called to show forth the virtues of the Christian life in it.

But it is said, that, although "he loves the dwellings of Jacob", yet "he loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob" -- that nothing in the dwellings of Jacob so much attracts his attention as the people of God connected together in a spiritual capacity.

(1.) In the first place, the Divine Being regards with peculiar complacency the worship of his saints on its own account.

(2.) On account of that union of mind and consent of heart, evinced in the assembling of God's people together, and constituting themselves into a church.

(3.) Because of the testimony which the church bears toward the truth.

(4.) Upon account of that deference to his authority, which is evinced by maintaining and keeping up the practice of those institutes which rest entirely on that authority.

(5.) By making the assembly of the saints the grand means of conversion.

(6.) That peculiar presence of God is generally vouchsafed to his saints, and made manifest to them, although it be hidden from the world, which induces the conviction that God is present of a truth.

(7.) The Divine Being shows his preference of the gates of Zion to the dwellings of Jacob, by continually maintaining in operation those gifts which are for the edification of the saints, and without which the union of the saints would be with difficulty maintained.

(8.) The Divine Being shows his preference to Zion by that marvellous protection which is afforded to the interests of the church of God: whereby, though weak, and frequently reduced to a handful of disciples, yet they have been protected, and their society on earth continued. --Robert Hall.

Verse 2. Some absent themselves from public worship, under pretence that they can serve the Lord at home as well in private. How many are apt to say, they see not but their time may be as well spent at home, in praying, reading some good book, or discoursing on some profitable subject, as in the use of ordinances in public assemblies! They see not but private prayer may be as good to them as public, or private reading and opening the Scripture as profitable as public preaching; they say of their private duties, as Naaman of the waters of Damascus, 2 Kings 5:12 : May I not serve the Lord as acceptably, with as much advantage, in private exercises of religion? May I not wash in these and be clean? They see not the great blessings God has annexed to public worship more than to private. Oh, but if it be thus, if one be as good as the other, what means the Lord to prefer one before the other? To what purpose did the Lord choose the gates of Zion, to place his name there, if he might have been worshipped as well in the dwellings of Jacob? How do men of this conceit run counter to the Lord? He prefers the gates of Zion, not only before one or some, but before all the dwellings of Jacob; and they prefer one such dwelling before the gates of Zion. --David Clarkson.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2-3.

  1. The foundation of Zion.

    1. It is but one: "foundation."
    2. It is the Lord's: "his."
    3. It is in conformity with holiness: "holy mountains."
    4. It consists of eternal purposes.
    5. It is built up on immutable principles.
    6. It is situated in a glorious position.
  2. The favour enjoyed by Zion.

    1. God "loves the dwellings of Jacob." He led, fed, guarded, lighted, visited them.
    2. He loves Zion "better"; and gives all those blessings in a richer form.
    3. There are more to love.
    4. Their occupations are more spiritual.
    5. Their songs and worship are more enthusiastic.
    6. Their testimony is more powerful.
    7. Their knowledge of truth is more clear.
    8. Their fellowship is on a scale more heavenly. Let us be in the Church, and love her.
  3. The fame of Zion. "Glorious things are spoken",

    1. of her in history;
    2. in her by ministry;
    3. for her by Jesus;
    4. about her in prophecy. Here is a fruitful theme.