The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
The glory of a nation is in the quality of its manhood and womanhood. It is not determined by the number of square miles that it may possess, not by its geographical position, nor by its commerce, but by its men. There is a little village in the west of Scotland that has to-day no commercial value, but it is great because David Livingstone was born there. We come to this truth, then, that —
1. Personality gives value to place. Bethlehem was but an insignificant Eastern village; it was not the centre of any trade, it was off the main highway of commerce. It is the personality of Jesus that gives value to Bethlehem.
2. Zion is great also because God "records His name there. He loves the gates of Zion." A peculiar blessing ever attaches to the house of God. This is the place where the feet of our God rest, and is thereby made glorious. It is here where this man and that man was born into the new life of God.
3. We come then to this further truth that Zion is the place where souls are born. This is where men are detached from the world and attached to Christ, where they are polished and perfected. In all these souls born in Zion, God sees wonderful possibilities.
4. Let me say further that in Zion God is always wanting to work on the men born there, and to bring the best out of them. Aaron's rod was to him only a piece of ordinary timber, a dead stick, with no possibility of life in it; but when he laid it up in the sanctuary, and God began to work His silent wonders on it, Aaron gazed with astonishment on the transformed stick as he saw it bearing buds and blossoms and ripe almonds. We often wonder what God can ever make of the men and women that are born in Zion. They come in late, some of them, and come in sighing and moaning, "Give me back my lost years." There is a sense in which God cannot do this, but there is another sense in which He can. "I will restore unto you the years that the caterpillar and the locust and the palmerworm have eaten." "Where sin abounded grace did much more abound." It is a significant fact known to botanists that the late flowering plants have often the most magnificent blossoms. Of late florists have been treating plants to what is known as the "cold process." The plants are kept in an ice-house so that the blooms are repressed. This repression really does the plant no harm. They blossom all the more freely and rapidly when brought into a warm atmosphere. Many a man has for years been kept in a kind of spiritual ice-house, but some day, in the warmth of a gracious revival, he breaks out into unexpected splendour and glowing wonder. A recent writer states that an "Apollo" has been discovered in Rome amid a heap of rubbish. It was headless, and had only one arm. A sad sight. The artist's beautiful work marred by the rough handling of time and the weather. How many of Christ's works of art-saved men — get mutilated, debased, crushed, ruined. Some want a spiritual limb, an eye, a hand, a foot. They are full of defects and incompleteness; but it is the glory of God to work on them till not a coarse fibre is left, and His redemptive power produces in them spiritual completeness.
5. What lots of different material there is in Zion for God to work on. There are so many different characters, many of them unpromising and unlikely that God has much to do. Yet He never despairs. Out of Peter, that handful of sand blown away by a maiden's breath, God brings the man of rock-like solidity. He cares for the stars, will He not care for the man and woman for whom His own Son died upon the cross? The God who works with completeness in the starry realms will bring out perfectness in you, His own child.
6. And believe me, our God does not work haphazardly. He has a plan. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." No, God has not finished with us yet.
7. But all this must begin down here. "When God counts up the people, He shall say this man and that was born there." The only important question about any Church is, "Are souls born there?" This was the glory of the ancient Church. "Multitudes turned to the Lord." What value the Bible places on the individual! Christ thought very little of the tyranny of numbers. This old Jew saw them coming from the most unlikely places. From Rahab and Babylon, Philistia and Tyre and Ethiopia; "all sorts and conditions of men "were to find a resting-place, a home within the walls of God's Zion. God's house is not a select club for the rich. It is a home for all. What an honour to open the gates of Zion to the night-wanderer and the outcast.
(A. J. Campbell.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.