“Of the Sons of Korah; a Psalm — A Song.
On the Holy Mountain is its foundation.
Yahweh loves his city of Zion,
Better than all the abodes of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of you,
City of our God! Selah!
I must confess, when I read this psalm of the Sons of Korah, I cannot help but hear the old John Newton hymn. While Newton is best known for “Amazing Grace,” he wrote numerous other ones to teach Biblical truths to his congregation, this being one of them. Here is a song that sings of the glories of Zion, the city that God established, the city of David.
Yet, let us not be misled by the various Zionist groups whose focus would be upon the earthly city of Jerusalem. The author of Hebrews points out to us that the Zion that we approach is not a physical city that can be touched with human hands, but it is a heavenly Jerusalem into which we enter by faith. It is the Zion in which all believers are “enrolled in heaven” and God, who is the righteous judge has made all his righteous elect perfect through the work of Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 12:18-25). This is the same language used by the Apostle Paul when he speaks of the contrast between the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:21-31). The Zion below serves as a “type” that foreshadows the greater Zion whose gates are opened wide to believers through the work of Jesus Christ. And we say, ‘Amen and Amen!’
There is some debate over the origin of the word, “Zion,” or perhaps, better transliterated as “Tsiyon.” Gesenius likely gives the best explanation, arguing that it comes from the Syriac and Arabic that refer to a stronghold or a castle — to a fortified position of safety. Given that the city was originally a Canaanite city, we can certainly surmise the process by which the name would have come to use. Hitchcock argued that it’s origin is tied to the word for a monument, suggesting the city to be a monument of God’s kingship to the world, yet the kind of monument to which tsiyon most commonly refers is that of a gravestone. Indeed, there is some truth to that in our post-70AD experience, but it does not seem to fit the context of its many uses prior to 70 AD that are found in the Bible.
And thus, we follow Gesenius in meaning and we follow (most importantly!) Christ into the fortified city of the heavenly Zion; a place of holiness, set apart by God for his purposes and not for the purposes of man. Thus, it is a glorious thing of which we speak for it is the city of our God. Yet, one more thing, in the Christian era, it is anticipated by the church. Our anticipation is imperfect at best, indeed, but nonetheless, the church is the holy place to which we flee to seek to worship our mighty and glorious God!
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose Word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for His own abode;
On the Rock of Ages founded,
Who can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou mayst smile at all thy foes.