SSL 5 - Psalm 84:1-12
Prayers & Announcements
LAST WEEK: We studied Psalm 138, a song of praise attributed to David in which he gave God thanks because He sent "help" and declared that God would perform wonders which will ultimately make all nations thank Him, not just Israel. Two main points that we can apply to ourselves:
1. The entire theme of Psalm is about praising God. Like David, we should praise God with our "whole heart" (v.1), which means we should always praise and thank Him with our entire being, holding nothing back. As Spurgeon said, we need a broken heart to repent but a whole heart to praise God's perfections.
2. Like the psalmist, before we ask God to do something for us, we should first give God thanks and praise for who He is and what He has already done for us, and likewise, praise Him for giving His revelation to us-His Holy Word-so we can know who he is.
THIS WEEK: We take up Psalm 84, a psalm of peace ascribed to the Sons of Korah, who were the doorkeepers of the Temple (1 Chron. 9-:17-24; 26:1-19), which has been informally titled "The Pilgrim's Love and Longing for God and His House." Spurgeon said if the 23rd was the most popular of Psalms, then the 84th was entitled to be called the "Pearl of Psalms." The occasion for the psalm was a time when the writer, for reasons not explained, was unable to attend worship services in the Temple. Scholars generally believe it was written sometime before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. We all have memories of certain places that evoke strong emotions. It could a house you grew up in that no longer exists or maybe the church where you gave your life to Jesus Christ. In 2008, the 120-year-old house I grew up in NE Ark. was destroyed in the Miss. River flood. Though no one lived in the house at the time, I felt like part of my past had been erased.
Read Ps. 84:1-4 - Longing for God and His house
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah (musical pause)
v. 1a: "How lovely is your dwelling place" - The psalmist begins with an expression of affection, a Hebrew term of endearment, "lovely," that went beyond just beautiful.
v. 1b: "O LORD of hosts" - Literally means Yahweh who controls, rules, and guides all the armies of heaven and earth (Isa. 1:9).
v. 2a: "My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD" - Here we see the psalmist express a longing from his very soul, such a intense desire to be in God's house that it made him reach the point of exhaustion, where he was about to faint. Have you ever wanted something that bad? The "courts" were various areas within the tabernacle where services of public worship were held.
v. 2b: "my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God" - The writer meant his whole nature, body and soul, all his desires and hopes, sang for the indescribable joy of being where he meets God. The "Living God" means the one true, God, who is alive, right now, in contrast to pagan idols. Spurgeon said, "There was no superstition in this love. He loved the house of God because He loved the God of the house. His heart and flesh cried out, not for the altar and the candlestick, but for God."
v. 3a: "Even the sparrow finds a home...the swallow...altars" - It may be that the psalmist noticed birds finding rest and refuge around the Temple grounds. It wasn't unusual in those days to have small birds flitting and fluttering around inside a large building like the Temple. That they would make a nest, the swallow even on the altar, made him consider and perhaps envy, that those birds were blessed, very fortunate, to be there.
v. 3b: "my King and my God" - The double "my" signifies a precious and close personal relationship in which he freely submits to God's authority.
v. 4a: "Blessed are those who dwell in Your house" - It isn't clear whether the term "dwell" refers to the Levites and priests who actually live at the Temple or others who simply enjoy constant access to it. Whichever it may be, they are "blessed" with a good life, a happy and fulfilled life that comes from choosing to obey and serve God. For Christians, the Temple has been replaced by a new reality.
In 1 Cor. 3:16-17, Paul, indicating "you" as the church, the new Temple, described it this way: "16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple."
v. 4b: "ever singing your praise!" - The sense here is making the choice to praise God continually. For us, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the symbolism portrayed by the OT Temple and the Ark of the Covenant. While the Ark represented the presence of God in the mist of His OT people, Jn. 1:14 declares "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." We aren't limited to places or locations.
Note: Often seen in Psalms, "Selah" is a musical notation, like a pause.
Read Ps. 84:5-7 - Finding Strength in the Pilgrim's Journey
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
v. 5: "Blessed are those whose strength is in You...heart are highways to Zion" - "Blessed" again, as in v.4a, meaning a happy life characterized by obeying and serving God. This statement describes a pilgrim who doesn't dwell there permanently but whose heart is always there and will go to God's house whenever he has the opportunity, i.e., travel "the highways to Zion." This describes Christians today who are so connected to their church, that they are there "every time the doors are open."
v. 6a: "the Valley of Baca" - The name means a "place of weeping" or "desolation." Although the location is unknown, its name implies it must have been a very dry and barren place.
v. 6b: "make it a place of springs...early rain" - The sense of this statement is that the pilgrim's focus on his destination-God's House-makes the journey through a desolate place seem like an oasis, making the trip pleasant and joyful despite the topography of the surroundings. And the joy and cheerfulness of the pilgrim on his way to God's house is likened to the refreshment brought to a dry place by an "early rain."
v. 7: "go from strength to strength...before God in Zion" - Rather than being weakened by the journey, the pilgrim grew stronger as he went, knowing God's House was that much closer.
His great expectation of appearing before God in Zion excited and energized him. "Zion," the name of the hill upon which Jerusalem stood, is often associated with the Temple built by Solomon.
Read Ps. 84:8-9 - The Pilgrim's Prayer
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!
9Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of Your anointed!
v. 8: "LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer...give ear, O God of Jacob" - This statement contains two essential truths: (1) In terms of place, the psalmist was still a great distance from God's house, where He had promised to hear Israel's prayer (1 Kings 8:29-39), but addressing Him as the God of the armies of heaven and earth (i.e., of hosts) implies omnipresence that enables Him to hear his people's prayer from any place they may be; and (2) the mention of Jacob (= the "deceiver"), whom God chose as the patriarch of Israel over Esau when he didn't deserve that favor was a clear example of God's unmerited grace. In the same way, God hears His people's prayers, not because they deserve to be heard but because of God's grace toward them.
v. 9a: "our shield" - This statement contemplates a shield used in battle to protects you from the enemy swords and arrows. Symbolically," the our" represented God's protection of Israel, but for the pilgrim, who was either an exile or a displaced person, it was an appeal to God as his protector. As Christians, we enjoy God's protection corporately as a church. In Mt. 16:17b, Jesus said, "I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." And we are protected individually, as Pauls tells us in Rom. 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."
v. 9b: "face of Your anointed" - Although the Hebrew word for "anointed" is the same as Messiah, in this context it refers either to the author of the psalm or to King David, to indicate that they were ceremonially appointed (i.e., anointed) to their position by God, thus the pilgrim is praying for God's anointed leader as we also pray for ours today, which includes leaders of the church and the nation.
Read Ps. 84:10-12 - The Greatness of God's Presence
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
v. 10a: "a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere" - The final three verses describe the person who trusts on the LORD. In the first statement, the pilgrim declares that one day spent in the House of God is better than a 1,000 spent anywhere else. It is a place where he finds true happiness and a sweet remembrance.
v. 10b: "would rather be a doorkeeper in the house...than dwell in the tents of wickedness." This statement signifies a conscious choice of the pilgrim: that he would rather be performing the lowliest task in God's House (a doorkeeper's job could be uncomfortable, being exposed to the elements outside on your feet all day) than enjoy the comforts of an enclosed tent. The term "Wickedness" implies that people inside the tents were somehow breaking covenant with God.
v. 11a: "God is a sun and shield" - The sun signifies God's blessings and the shield His protection. As Spurgeon put it, "A sun for happy days and a shield for dangerous ones. A sun above, a shield around. A light to show the way and a shield to ward off its perils."
v. 11b: "LORD bestows favor and honor" - Here the pilgrim received God's favor, which is the same word as grace, in this life, and His honor, which is the same word as glory, in the next life. We know that grace is God's first gift to us, and glory-eternal life with Him-His last.
v. 11c: "No good thing does He withhold...those who walk uprightly" - "Good things" refer to meeting our needs, not our wants; "walking uprightly" doesn't mean were perfect but is a person with genuine faith who desires to do God's will in his or her life.
v. 12: "O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you" - In this context, "blessed" is a synonym for happy. So, the pilgrim is happy in every respect of his life and experiences a genuine and permanent joy based upon his trust in God. He makes it simple...and it really is.
1. The enjoyment and privilege of being in God's house should energize our desire to be in His presence (84:1-4). As NT believers, we understand that there are no longer any sacred buildings as with the OT Temple. We can be in God's presence alone or in a stadium full of believers, because we, as His people, are now His temple, both individually and corporately. But all of that being said, we can share and appreciate the psalmist's yearning to gather together with fellow believers to be in God's presence corporately. We should come to church looking for God to show up!
2. The benefits of experiencing God's strength in our weakness should motivate our need to overcome any obstacles that may keep us from getting to God's house for worship and prayer (84:5-9). Like the pilgrims in the psalm, when we overcome the obstacles of getting to God's house-whether it's things like laziness or inconvenience, or letting recreational activities get in the way-we go from strength to strength, gaining God's strength, not our own, through the practice of corporate fellowship, worship, and prayer. For example, getting to church an hour earlier for Sunday School may be a stretch sometimes. What should you do? Re-read the psalm; take inspiration from it.
3. The sheer happiness of enjoying God Himself and His abundant goodness should excite our desire to be in His house (84:10-12). The psalmist told us being in God's house for one day was better than a 1,000 anywhere else. Then he told us that being just at the doorstep of God's house was better than dwelling in the tents of the wicked, as one commentator said, "God's worst is better than the devil's best." In a day when many Christians have the means and the time to skip church to pursue recreation, hobbies, and other interests, are these verses applicable to us? The attitude of the psalmist was that enjoying the presence of God in the company of God's people was greater than anything else the world had to offer. Should we share that feeling...apply it to ourselves?
According to the vv. 11 and 12 of the psalm, the requirement for enjoying God and His abundant blessings is to "walk uprightly and to trust in Him." To walk "uprightly" doesn't imply perfection; but it does mean to live before God with truth and integrity. It means you strive-daily-to walk openly with God (being transparent, no deceit), confessing your sin and seeking His forgiveness, and you trust in His grace and strength to overcome the sin in your life. Lastly, you seek to please God by obeying His commandments. For this, "the LORD will not withhold any good thing from you."