PSALM 84: A Hunger For the House of God

Psalm 84

Psalm 84 is a most amazing psalm to study because it contains to many different genres. It’s a hymn, lament, and a song of Zion all at the same time. It is also difficult to determine where this belongs in Hebrew history. What we do know about Psalm 84 is given in its superscription:

For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

This song was written for the Sons of Korah, not by the Sons of Korah. Who were these men? The Sons of Korah served at the Tabernacle and later at the Temple in Jerusalem. We have to go all the way back to 1 Chronicles 26 to learn about the history of this family.

The divisions of the gatekeepers: From the Korahites: Meshelemiah son of Kore, one of the sons of Asaph. (verse 1)

In the list of names that follow, we note that they all descend from Asaph and Kore. Asaph we know about, he was a musician and worship leader in the Temple during David’s time. But who was Korah? You will recall that Korah has the dubious distinction of having been swallowed up by the earth because he led a revolt against Moses. The whole story is found in Numbers 16 and proves one thing: our God is a God that forgives! By the time this psalm was written, Korah’s descendants were seen faithfully serving the Lord in the Temple.

1. Longing to be in God’s house, 84:1—4

The emphasis of these first four verses is not the house God but rather one man’s longing for the house of God.

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (verse 2)

Clearly as far as the psalmist was concerned, there was no distinction between the house of God and being in the presence of God; they were one and the same thing. To be in God’s presence with God’s people was his heart’s cry. The question for believers today is this: Do we feel the same way as the psalmist did? The question isn’t, “Do you want to be in church,” but rather, “Do you want to be in God’s presence with God’s people?” The simple fact is, worshiping God with God’s people is not an option. That’s not to say that God is only with you when you are are with other believers. In fact, God is with you all the time when you are walking in the light. But it is God’s desire that believers fellowship and worship Him together.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24—25)

We might think it strange that there are Christians today who don’t like going to church, for whatever reason. But when we read the Hebrews 10, we realize that their have always been “believers” who recklessly disregard God’s will and stay away from church. The writer to the Hebrews makes it plain that true believers need to continue in fellowship with one another, in spite of what others may be doing.

The psalmist had the right attitude:

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. (verse 4)

Being assembled together, fellowshipping with other brothers and sisters and worshiping God is a blessing; it is in that atmosphere that God blesses His people. No wonder the psalmist was desperate to be in God’s house!

2. From strength to strength, 84:5—8

Even though the psalmist was not yet at the Temple, he can still enjoy the presence of God on the way there:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (verse 5)

Even just planning on going to worship gives the believer strength. The pilgrims of the Old Testament received strength for their journey to Jerusalem. Similarly, God moves on believers today whose hearts are inclined to His house.

Strength was definitely needed for some to get to Jerusalem; the journey was not without peril or danger. In fact, some scholars believe this psalm to have been written during the Exile, when there was no Temple and no Jerusalem! For those exiles living in Babylon, all they had were the memories of being in the Temple, worshiping with others. Even in those memories, though, strength could be found. That is how powerful the House of God can be!

Verse 7 speaks of “strength to strength.” What does that mean? Isaiah 40:31 gives us an idea:

[B]ut those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

“Strength to strength” is just another way of referring to “renewed strength,” which is the possession of all believers, as long as they are longing for the House of God. It is in worship and desiring to worship that strength is to be found.

3. The reward of being in God’s presence, 84:9—12

The blessings of God’s house are second only to the blessings of His own presence. So great is the author’s devotion to the house of God that time seems to stand still for him:

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. (verse 10)

Sadly, this isn’t the experience for many Christians at church. It’s amazing how long that one hour can be, from 11 till noon some Sundays! And yet, while we smile at such a sentiment, that was never how God intended our worship experience to be. Your worship experience, however, is not the responsibility of the pastor or worship leader. You need to come to church, full of anticipation and expectation; prayed up and ready to hear from God. For most church members, it seems like church is merely an afterthought, an activity tacked onto the end of the weekend; something to be done if you have the time. We sandwich our church service in between Sunday breakfast and lunch out some place with friends. Moffatt, in his translation of verse 10, paints a clear picture of how you should view your church-going experience:

I would rather sit at the threshold of God’s house than live inside the tents of worldly men.

In other words, the psalmist would rather be “close” to God’s house than “inside” anybody else’s. I hope that’s how you feel about your church. Of course, the problem with today’s Christian isn’t so much the temptation to be “inside the tents of worldly men,” it’s the temptation to stay in bed!

With verse 11, the psalmist gives us what the presence of the Lord is like, and this may explain why some believers would rather not be in church:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

The thoughtless, careless Bible reader sees only the phrase “no good thing does he withhold,” and clings to it. But because that thoughtless, careless Bible reader misses the qualifier, “from those whose walk is blameless,” he lives in disappointment. His God is fickle and mean; his prayers are full of promises—bribes, really, as he tries to pry a blessing out of God. You can’t expect to receive anything from God if you are not trying to live in accordance to His teachings! Imagine the complete folly of calling yourself a Christian, yet giving virtually no evidence in support of that claim and still expecting God to answer a prayer.

The fact that “God is a sun” must scare the daylights out of that kind of careless Christian. For as surely as the sun above sheds light on everything below, so God as the sun shines light on that person’s true character, for all to see. Let’s face it, we all want to appear to be better than we really are, and if going to church risks the revelation of our sad relationship with God, then we stay away, thinking we are preserving the illusion. Of course, in staying away we fool no one.

But God is also “a shield.” Some see this as symbolic of His protection. While this may be so, can the shield not represent God’s grace, which covers penitent and repentant worshipers? God as the sun may reveal our disgrace, but God as a shield covers that disgrace with His grace, making us acceptable in His sight. What a marvelous picture of a God who love us more than anything.

Finally, the psalmist ends his psalm the way he began it; by addressing the “Lord Almighty.”

LORD Almighty, blessed are those who trust in you.

In relation to the Lord Almighty, those who trust in Him are blessed. Throughout this psalm, there has been the thought that as believers are faithful to the house of God, make every effort to be in the house of God, worshiping and fellowshipping with other like-minded believers, that they would be blessed by God. But there is the strand of another thought, running parallel to that thought, and it is this: the blessing promised by God doesn’t just drop on a believer simply by virtue of his being in the house of God like he is supposed to be. In fact, his whole being must long to be there. Being in God’s presence with God’s people must be something he wants more than anything. And this, more than anything else, may be why so many Christians today live disappointed with the quality of their lives. Everything else is more important than the house of God to them—their families, their jobs or careers, their vacations, well, you get the idea. And as they give preference to those temporal things, they do themselves eternal harm because they are missing out on the very best God has to offer.

Don’t be that kind mindless, careless, thoughtless Christian whose life is so full he has no room for God and God’s House!  In the end, you will probably find out that without God, your life wasn’t nearly as full as you thought it was.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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