Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 23 2019 - Psalm 84 – God's lovely house

The heading of this psalm suggests that it was written by one of the temple singers who were known as "the Sons of Korah." This particular singer would seem to be far off from Jerusalem and unable to join in the praises of the people of God. His heart aches to be able to return to "the courts of the Lord" (vv. 1-2).

The temple courts were open to the sky and the eaves of the temple would have provided good sites for nesting birds. So the psalmist expresses his envy of sparrows who can so easily fly into the temple area and find refuge there, close to the altar of the Lord – almost as if he were singing, "O for the wings, the wings of a dove…".

He thinks with envy of those who are travelling up to Jerusalem in pilgrimage, travelling from their homes and villages for one of the major festivals as the child Jesus travelled with his family from Nazareth to Jerusalem for Passover. He thinks of the way in which they are willing to face all manner of hardships on the road; the valley of Baka (which may mean weeping) is turned into a place of springs or refreshment (v. 6). The picture is like that of Israel of old travelling through the wilderness and being provided with water by God. Despite the difficulties of the road "They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion" (v. 7). They anticipate arriving at Zion, the hill on which the temple was built, and this prospect gives them the strength to keep going. The psalmist longs that he could join these pilgrims.

Temple worship would have included prayer for Israel's king – the Lord's anointed. Though the psalmist is unable to join those worshiping God in the temple, he joins them in prayer for the king (vv. 8-9). In doing so, he may have looked beyond the imperfections of Israel's current king (whoever that may have been), and prayed for God to send his promised Messiah, his anointed king through whom he would restore his people and establish his kingdom throughout the world.

He ends by returning to his expression of longing for the courts of the Lord. He would rather be there than anywhere else. One day there is better than a thousand elsewhere. If he cannot be there as a temple singer he would be happy to be there as a doorkeeper. There is nowhere else he would rather be, for the Lord God is his "sun and his shield" (v.11), his light and his protection. God is the source of all that he longs for.

He ends with a word of testimony, "Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you" (v. 12).

The Temple was not like our church buildings; it was unique. It was a visible symbol of God's presence with his people and his covenant promises to them. We miss the passion and focus of this psalm if we liken it our longing to be in church.

This psalm, like psalms 42 and 43, expresses a longing for God himself – to be in his presence and to know his blessing. Meeting with other Christians in worship is an anticipation of the day when we shall be welcomed into God's presence, see his glory and worship him with the multitude of his redeemed and with crowds of angels. This psalm can encourage our longing for glory.

God answered the prayer of this psalmist and sent his Messiah into the world. Jesus has called us to follow him; he has made us pilgrims, travelling home to God. There may be hardships along the way but the prospect of glory turns our tears to joy and gives us strength to keep going as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the first focus of our faith and the one who will bring us safely home.

Father God, we thank you that your Spirit has given us a longing for you. Thank you for Jesus your anointed one who has made us your children and has called us to follow him. Help us to do so with joy and with longing for the day when we shall enter the heavenly city and know the beauty of dwelling in your presence for all eternity. May our testimony be that of the psalmist, "blessed is the one who trusts in you."

Peter Misselbrook