A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Psalm 84
Almost a year ago when we began our series in 1 Peter, I spoke of being elect exiles in a world no longer our own because we belong to an eternal kingdom that will be our eternal home. But until either Christ returns or we go to be with him through death there will be a longing in our hearts for that place because this place is not our home. In one of the first messages in 1 Peter I spoke of a Welsh word that describes this longing; it is the word is Hiraeth (hererythe) which means a longing or homesickness. There is in every Christian a sense of “hiraeth”, a longing to be in God’s presence.
For eleven weeks we have each experienced our own personal “hiraeth” as we have longed for the courts of the Lord, and as we have longed to experience the “gathered church”.
Psalm 84 doesn’t give us the details to help us know where the Psalmist was when he wrote this hymn. Was he on his way to Jerusalem for a festival and he longed for God’s sanctuary? Was he in exile and unable to be in God’s sanctuary? Or was he actually in God’s sanctuary and just marveling that he was in the presence of God? What we do know is that this man had a deep longing for God himself, a longing that expressed in the words that follow. What can we learn from this man today?
Psalm 84 is a Psalm of “hiraeth” (longing) that vividly describes believers longing to be in the house of the Lord. The sons of Korah from the tribe of Levi were appointed as “gatekeepers”, “custodians (janitors)” in the temple courts, and they wrote this beautiful Psalm as an expression of their love for the nearness of God. Their longing to be in the courts of the Lord reflected the depth of their love for the Lord.
The Psalm is divided into three stanzas, and in each stanza, there is a “blessing” that is experienced when God’s people gather together to be with the Lord. Obviously, God’s people are gathered together in the house of the Lord, but more importantly in this Psalm is “why” they are gathered. As wonderful a blessing it is to be with God’s people the Psalmist is more concerned about being with God himself.
Stanza 1: Psalm 84:1-4 – How lovely is God’s dwelling place
God’s dwelling place is lovely because it is where God dwells. The temple was a beautiful place physically. It was made of precious metals, stones, and wood. It was attractive to the eye, but to the Psalmist what made it truly lovely is the person who dwelled there. God himself. His very presence. For us today where no temple exists, the equivalent “lovely” place is his church, his people who are his temple individually and corporately. How lovely it is to be together with God’s people because God is present among us.
If this hymn writer was some distance from God’s temple it is clear he had every intention of getting there that he might experience the presence of God in God’s dwelling place.
The about God’s lovely dwelling place is not that is beautiful, but that it is beloved. It is the place that is dearest to this man’s heart. So dear his heart “faints” in desire for the God’s courts. It is the place where he sings and praises God. He doesn’t praise the sanctuary where God dwells but the “living” God himself. The God who speaks, the God who cares, the God who hears prayer, the God who saves. He loves the house only because of whose house it is, and every part; heart, flesh, and soul yearns to be near God.
Even the lowliest of creatures finds a home with God. In the bible sparrows are a symbol for something that is almost worthless, and yet even they find a home near God. Matthew 6:26 – “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matt.10:31
Where do these birds find their home and their rest? At the very altar of God where sacrifice and offering for sin is made. It is at the altar – the cross of Christ where we find our home and our rest. The worthless find worth in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
The ruined soul that has been saved from the debt of their sin finds blessing in the house of the Lord because by grace they have come to know the Lord. All who dwell in God’s house are blessed because they have been blessed by saving grace.
Stanza 2: Comfort for the journey
It appears this pilgrim is on a journey to Jerusalem to be in God’s temple which is similar to a “song of ascent” when pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem. On this man’s journey he is blessed by the knowledge that he is not alone. It is God’s strength that gets him home. What propels this man on his journey is the longing in his heart to be with God, and the strength he has received from God on a difficult journey. He believes the Lord will get him there.
The Hebrew word “Baca” means ‘to weep’. The Baca valley is a hard place, an arid land filled with danger and sorrow. Many times, the journey to Jerusalem was harrowing, and filled with hardships, and yet because of the longing in a pilgrim’s heart to reach the “city of God” where they God they pressed on. In God’s providence, by God’s grace, and by their faith even their difficult path became an oasis. Just like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress who had to journey in many harrowing valleys, dry lands, and dangerous paths to get to the city of God where God dwells, this is a vivid picture of our journey as we sojourner in this world.
What enables a believer to go from “strength to strength” is grace. Like Christian we keep our eyes on the celestial city. Until then our journey here on earth, together as the church, is to make our way towards that city until we all dwell together in God’s presence.
We keep our eyes and our voices (in prayer) directed towards God, the “God of hosts” (referring to the army of God – a picture of God’s protection over us).
Stanza 3: Secure in God’s dwelling place
Here the psalmist looks to his earthly king as is his protector, his shield, and he is asking the Lord to give him favor. This might have been King David, but whichever king it was, the psalmist looked to God to protect him by this king. But there is something more here for us. Our king is the risen Christ who is our shield. God looks on his son with favor, and now looks on us with favor because of Jesus.
The psalmist’s point is this in 8, and 9 – God cares for and watches over his children.
Position is not important, only location. What we do is not important, but who we are with. In God’s presence nothing else matters. The distractions of our lives, the temptations of the world, and even the difficulties and pain we experience as exiles are seen for what they are; temporary, but our relationship with God is eternal. That’s what we long for.
Look around. These people, your friends, your brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what David means in Psalm 34:8 when he says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”. It is together as doorkeepers, floor sweepers, chair setters, singers, and servants that we experience God’s presence. May we all humbly stand as doorkeepers, and may the trials and troubles of our world fade away when we gather together.
Even though there is a “human” king, the psalmist finds his security in the heavenly king. He is our sun and shield, and he has given us all things richly to enjoy. He withholds nothing from those of us who belong to him, but with one condition – we must endeavor to “walk uprightly”.
Blessed are those who trust in God. We have yet to see him face to face, but “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The God, who has created us, loves us, sacrificed his own son for us, saved us, redeemed us, and remains with us simply asks us to trust Him, and when we do the blessings are the riches we have in Christ.
Numbers 6:24-26 – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make us face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace.”