I often say a prayer of adoration, confession, asking, and thanksgiving using the words of Psalms. This type of prayer helps me understand God more intimately, and over time has changed my character.
While practicing this prayer pattern recently, I realized I didn’t understand the heart of Psalm 87, verse four, enough to use it as a prayer. I was reminded of God’s beautiful invitation when I came to an understanding of Psalm 87:4.
Verse four reads like this: “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”
I only recognized one of these names: “Rahab and Babylon.” Babylon built their nation on bloodshed, might, and torture. This nation destroyed Jerusalem and took the Israelites into exile for over seventy years.
After the exile, Jews labeled any nation persecuting them as “Babylon.” And in the vision Jesus gives the Apostle John, God’s people celebrate when Babylon and all the evil nations like it fell to their destruction (Revelation 18:20-24).
I understood Babylon, but I needed help with “Rahab.”
At first, I confused the word Rahab with the name of one of the ancestors of Jesus (Matthew 1), the woman who helped the Israelites capture the city of Jericho (Joshua 2). Spelled differently, and with a different meaning, the Rahab mentioned above actually describes the insolent and prideful nation of Egypt (Isaiah 30:7).
Jewish captivity to Egypt lasted 400 years. Every year, Jews still celebrate their rescue from slavery to Egypt with Passover.
Please forgive my paraphrasing, but God’s invitation in Psalm 87:4 is shocking: “I will make the two greatest enemies of My people, My people—and I’ll invite Israel’s neighbors, Philistia and Tyre, too. And I’ll broaden the invitation to be part of My family even to the ends of the earth.”
Did you catch all of the geography this prayer contains? Israel’s immediate neighbors to the north and south were Philistia and Tyre. And Cush was one of the furthest places from Israel on their maps.
God shockingly invites His opponents, Israel’s neighbors, and even the whole world to become members of His family.
But why? And how?
The Bible records this beautiful aspect of God repeatedly. We find God’s plan to rescue people and bring them home to Him in Genesis when He promises to bless all people through Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12); God prophesied to bless His enemies in Isaiah 19 and Isaiah 55; and even in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, God still invites people—all people—to come. And God does this through Jesus Christ.
Jesus offers a clear invitation, with full privileges to become part of the family of God.
The New Testament reveals Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. All of us can embrace the invitation from God for new life through Him. Because Jesus died and rose from the dead, He can change even enemies of God into friends and family of God.
If we would believe with our heart and confess with our mouths, Jesus is Lord, He will adopt us into His family—just as if we had been born that way.
Being a part of God’s family offers freedom, a strong identity, wisdom for justice, peace to satisfy the deepest levels of our soul, and the ability to both receive and give forgiveness. And the prayer of Psalm 87 reminds us God planned this opportunity even before Jesus walked the earth.
In Acts 2:5-41, during Pentecost, we see God partially fulfilling His promise establishing people from Egypt and Babylon as newly formed citizens of His Kingdom.
Jesus calls His followers to offer the same family invite found in Psalm 87 to everyone we encounter. Look how closely the words of Jesus from Acts 1:8 parallel Psalm 87:4, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Now, I’m inviting you to join me in extending the same family invitation to our neighbors, and then to continue inviting all people, even to the ends of the earth.
Any Jesus follower in Wilmington would love to discuss this invitation with you.
If you feel like God is inviting you to be a part of His family right now, I’d like to talk with you, too. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dale McCamish is Senior Minister at the Wilmington Church of Christ.
This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.