READ: Psalm 87
THINK: In one of my favorite movies, What About Bob?, the main character Bob Wiley goes on a bus trip to visit his vacationing therapist at his lake home in a very small town. After deciding to stay in town for a bit, Bob buys himself a t-shirt that says “Don’t Hassle Me, I’m Local.”
On top of being hilarious, the shirt is also a powerful social commentary. Across the world, in every single culture and place, humans tend to treat outsiders differently than insiders. We have boundaries set up that define us by the nation, state, or town that we live in and we draw a clear line between natives and immigrants, locals and wannabes. And those who are born in a certain place have the built in advantage of belonging in that place, but it often takes others who move in a lengthy amount of time before they’re embraced as locals or natives and allowed to truly belong.
This phenomenon was true in the ancient world as well, and, in fact, it was far more pronounced because of the limited mobility of ancient peoples. The people of Israel took incredible pride in their heritage and their land. They weren’t just a people, they were God’s chosen people. So it meant something incredibly significant for them to have been born in the land of Israel. To have been born there meant that you were a part of the riches of the inheritance of the family of God.
Psalm 87 is kind of an odd Psalm, and a surprising one given the historical context of the importance of nationality to the Israelites. But God is doing something cool here. The Psalm talks about the way in which he is going to bring all the nations together. He is calling a people to himself from every tribe and every nation and his plan is to count them all as locals and natives in his kingdom. Whether some are born in Egypt or Ethiopia, Babylon, Philistia, or Tyre, or even the United States (though it is not mentioned in the Psalm) they will be counted as part of God’s holy nation.
And how does this happen? How are we counted as native citizens of God’s kingdom? We are born there. Or reborn as it were. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, and commit to following him then we are born again as locals in the kingdom of God. No matter where we come from or where we’ve been we are now citizens of the city of the living God and our names are forever listed on its register. That’s pretty awesome!
PRAY: Praise God for the death and resurrection of Jesus that makes it possible for us to be born again. Thank him for giving us a citizenship in his kingdom that is so solid, so permanent, so unshakable, and so much a part of our identity that nobody can hassle us because we’re local.
I love this! I was just overwhelmed the other day about this very idea- that Paul gave his life so Gentiles could be accepted as locals as you said. Makes me rethink how I’ a taken my faith for granted! I don’t deserve salvation in so many levels- but I have it! Wow!