Bible Book List
Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–3
Verses 1–3

Some make the first words of the psalm to be part of the title; it is a psalm or song whose subject is the holy mountains—the temple built in Zion upon Mount Moriah. This is the foundation of the argument, or beginning of the psalm. Or we may suppose the psalmist had now the tabernacle or temple in view and was contemplating the glories of it, and at length he breaks out into this expression, which has reference, though not to what he had written before, yet to what he had thought of; every one knew what he meant when he said thus abruptly, Its foundation is in the holy mountains. Three things are here observed, in praise of the temple:—1. That it was founded on the holy mountains, Ps. 87:1. The church has a foundation, so that it cannot sink or totter; Christ himself is the foundation of it, which God has laid. The Jerusalem above is a city that has foundations. The foundation is upon the mountains. It is built high; the mountain of the Lord’s house is established upon the top of the mountains, Isa. 2:2. It is built firmly; the mountains are rocky, and on a rock the church is built. The world is founded upon the seas (Ps. 24:2), which are continually ebbing and flowing, and are a very weak foundation; Babel was built in a plain, where the ground was rotten. But the church is built upon the everlasting mountains and the perpetual hills; for sooner shall the mountains depart, and the hills be removed, than the covenant of God’s peace shall be disannulled, and on that the church is built, Isa. 54:10. The foundation is upon the holy mountains. Holiness is the strength and stability of the church: it is this that will support it and keep it from sinking; not so much that it is built upon mountains as that it is built upon holy mountains—upon the promise of God, for the confirming of which he has sworn by his holiness, upon the sanctification of the Spirit, which will secure the happiness of all the saints. 2. That God had expressed a particular affection for it (Ps. 87:2): The Lord loveth the gates of Zion, of the temple, of the houses of doctrine (so the Chaldee), more than all the dwellings of Jacob, whether in Jerusalem or any where else in the country. God had said concerning Zion, This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell. There he met his people, and conversed with them, received their homage, and showed them the tokens of his favour, and therefore we may conclude how well he loves those gates. Note, (1.) God has a love for the dwellings of Jacob, has a gracious regard to religious families and accepts their family-worship. (2.) Yet he loves the gates of Zion better, not only better than any, but better than all, of the dwellings of Jacob. God was worshipped in the dwellings of Jacob, and family-worship is family-duty, which must by no means be neglected; yet, when they come in competition, public worship (caeteris paribus—other things being equal) is to be preferred before private. 3. That there was much said concerning it in the word of God (Ps. 87:3): Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God! We are to judge of things and persons by the figure they make and the estimate put upon them in and by the scripture. Many base things were spoken of the city of God by the enemies of it, to render it mean and odious; but by him whose judgment we are sure is according to truth glorious things are spoken of it. God said of the temple, My eyes and my heart shall be there perpetually; I have sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever, 2 Chron. 7:16. Beautiful for situation is Mount Zion, Ps. 48:2. These are glorious things. Yet more glorious things are spoken of the gospel-church. It is the spouse of Christ, the purchase of his blood; it is a peculiar people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Let us not be ashamed of the church of Christ in its meanest condition, nor of any that belong to it, nor disown our relation to it, though it be turned ever so much to our reproach, since such glorious things are spoken of it, and not on iota or tittle of what is said shall fall to the ground.