The *psalmist had trouble. Bad people were attacking him. We do not know why or when. He prayed to God about it. This psalm is his *prayer, or the words that he prayed.
But this *prayer is special. The*psalmist did not use his own words. He used the words of David! He also used words that Moses wrote in the Book of Exodus. He took some bits from Psalms 25-28, some pieces from Psalms 54-58 and some from other psalms and other parts of the Bible. And he made a new psalm from them!
What Psalm 86 means
In verse 2, "one of your people" is a special Bible word. It is someone that has accepted God’s love. Some Bibles translate it "*saints". "I lift myself to you" in verse 4 means "I give myself to you". Some Christians show this by lifting their hands when they pray. In verse 5,the word "*forgive" means more to Christians than maybe it did to the *psalmist. To him it meant "excuse". To Christians it means that God gave their *sin to Jesus for them when Jesus died for them. That was when God *punished Jesus for our *sin!
"Answer me" in verses 1 and 7 does not mean that the *psalmist will hear God speak. It means that God will give him help. The gods of verse 8 are the false gods of the people attacking the *psalmist. The united heart in verses 11 and 12 means a heart (or person) that serves (obeys) God only. He does not try to serve (obey) God and somebody or something else. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "You cannot serve God and Mammon". Mammon means money or what money can buy. "When I think of your name" in the *Hebrew Bible is "to be afraid of your name".
"Kind love" in verses 13 and 15 is a word *like "your people" in verse 2 in the *Hebrew Bible. God’s people (or *saints) are the people that have accepted his kind love. Read the note on Psalm 85:10. In verse 16 we read that the *psalmist's mother was also a servant of God.
Something to do
1. Only one verse in Psalm 86 does not have one of God’s names in it. (The names are: God meaning "powerful", *LORD meaning "always alive" and *Lord meaning "with authority"). Which verse is it?
2. Here are some verses from other psalms, and one from Exodus. Can you find them (or something *like them) in Psalm 86?
Psalm 9:1. With my whole (or united) heart.
Psalm 17:6. *LORD, turn your ear (to me), answer me!
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 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)