Psalm 87 – The City of God

Psalm 87 is a celebration of Zion, the City of God. Zion is so special that people gain recognition simply by being born there.


Psalm 87 is considered one of the most difficult Psalms to study. Many scholars think that this psalm is incomplete and possibly even out of order. But this is the version that God preserved for us, and therfore, God must have considered it worthy of our study.

In the original Hebrew the psalm is 48 words long which is also the numerical value of the word for "Zion". (The numerical value of a word is determined by adding together the numerical value of each letter. A letter's value is based upon its position in the Hebrew alphabet.) Since the psalm is clearly about Zion this is very likely intentional.

The meaningful center (verse 4-5b) stands out because it is the only section spoken by God. Interestingly, there is also a quote from God in verse 6, but it is spoken by the narrator rather than God Himself.

Altogether, there are four quotes in the psalm. Three of the quotes are almost identical, noting who was born in Zion, and the fourth talks about rejoicing in Zion.

Another possible structural element in the psalm is the use of 5 concentric location words:

"of you" (Psalm 87:3)
"there" (Psalm 87:4)
"in her" (Psalm 87:5)
"there" (Psalm 87:6)
"in you" (Psalm 87:7)

The City of God

Psalm 87:1-3

The first section declares the greatness of Zion. It is:

  • On the holy mountain
  • Founded by God
  • Loved by God
  • Praised by people
  • The city of God

Today, as people of God, we have many of the same attributes:

  • Called to be holy
  • Selected by God
  • Loved by God
  • Our behavior should be such that others see it and recognize that God is with us
  • God's Spirit dwells in us. We are the temple of God

Do I recognize the greatness of the gifts that I have as a child of God?

Recognized by Man

Psalm 87:4-5

The second section tells us that Zion is so famous that people gain special recognition just simply by having been born there. Twice in this section we have people quoted as saying, "This one was born there." Notice also that those who make this declaration are all foreigners. In other words, the glory of Zion is recognized even by other nations.

I wonder if my life reflects Christ in such a way that even unbelievers recognize that I was reborn in Christ?

Recognized by God

Psalm 87:6

The third section tells us that even God takes special recognition of those who are born in Zion. God is pictured as having a book with a list of people's names written in it. In this registrar He writes, "This one was born there" next to those who were born in Zion.

But God, in the New Testament, warns us that only those born in Christ will be recognized at the final judgment. Have I placed my faith in Jesus so that my name is written in the book of life? (Revelation 20:12-15)


Psalm 87:7

The final section ends rather abruptly with the singers and dancers delighting in the city of God. The greatness of Zion impells them to joyful celebration!

I wonder, do I take delight in being found in Christ? Do a demonstrate a joy in being born in Christ?


Although this Psalm is talking about the physical City of God, I believe that today we can apply this psalm to those who are born "in Christ" into the new spiritual Jerusalem.

When we are given a new birth in Christ, we receive all the spiritual blessings listed in Ephesians 2 (check it out!). It should lead to a new lifestyle of holiness, joy and praise, and others should take note and say, "This one was born there!"

Jerry Wyrick

This post is part of a series on the Psalms.

by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory

Posted in General Worship, Psalms and tagged .