How does this day find you, dear Saint of God? Cheerful and filled with joy, ready for the day and week ahead, or-- weary-- and longing for strength, direction and refreshment? May the Spirit of the living God encourage you, as He has done with me this morning, through a brief look at Psalm 84. If you are reading this, it is because God wants to bless you.
Disclaimers are never a good way to begin, but I feel the need to say that this Psalm deserves a sermon, not a blog post. There’s just so much wealth to mine here. But this is the time we have. So LORD, in the same spirit of this Psalmist, who seems to wish he was in Jerusalem, but is not, “give ear,” and “bestow favor and honor” to us as we meditate on Your Word, wishing we had more time, but do not.
1How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Charles Spurgeon, often called the Prince of the Preachers, referred to Psalm 84 as “The Pearl of the Psalms”(Psalm 84, The Treasury of David). It is a poem—set to music—about one of the annual journeys of outlying Jews to worship God in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem was the Ark of the Covenant, which at this time was most likely still housed in the Tabernacle, it’s temporary home, prior to the construction of the temple. Either way, here on Mount Zion, in the City of David, was located THE specialized, geographical, officially recognized spatial location of the presence of God—making Jerusalem the destination for blessing. Which is why the Psalmist wishes he was there—to be in the presence of the LORD, with the assembled people of God.
I love that he mentions envying the swallows, which didn’t have to journey towards God because they constantly lived in His presence. That resonates with me… but in my case I envied their freedom more than their dwelling place. The church where I grew up attending had fifteen-foot tall arched windows—with no screens. As a boy I coveted the carefree existence of the swallows, swooping in and out at will over the course of the three hour worship service, bringing grasshoppers and katydids to the young nestled snug in their hardened mud homes, high out of reach in the rafters, sanctuaries within a sanctuary.
3Even 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.
4Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!
With twigs and mud they set their homes where their hearts were, sticking their nests and staking their claim to the dwelling place of God Almighty. ‘Such wisdom,’ marvels the Psalmist, ‘and such a blessing…’ If the Psalmist was David, as some believe, exiled by his son Absalom and thus prohibited from entering the place of blessing, his envy is understandable, and his sorrow almost palpable. As a child, I envied the freedom of the swallows to go out of the sanctuary. Whoever the Psalmist is, he clearly envies their freedom to go in…
We who are saved also travel on a pilgrimage to the place of blessing, to a “…city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). We’re on a highway to heaven. Only it doesn’t feel so much like a highway at times… as it does a goat path. It’s twisty, it’s a steep grade, and it seems as though landslides are constantly obliterating the way. But even if it were a highway… who likes to be ‘on the road’ forever? Road trips are fun, but let’s face it, they’re a lot like that new CD you put in the car stereo as you first pull out of the driveway. It still sounds great at mile ten, but five-hundred miles later it’s getting a bit old. That’s about when we feel the first twinges of longing for an end to our travels, for our home, for the refuge it represents, for its safety. For the place where we take off our shoes and stop living out of suitcases. Where we lock the day out and surround ourselves with the rewards of having again survived the winding goat trail that got us there. We long for our home.
Maybe you’ve never felt this way before but… I’ve often envied the saints of old who are already Home. Those Christian men and women who’ve run the race ahead of us and already have crossed the finish line. Their work is done. Their tests are passed and in the past. Their home is now where their hearts always were, in the presence of their King. The author of this Psalm longed to be in the place of blessing. So do I. But then he mentions another blessing, one not just for those who ‘have arrived,’ but for those still on the journey...!