Psalms 84 verse 1 – 12
To the choirmaster according to the gittith.
A Psalm of the sons of Korah
Nobody really knows what “according to the gittith” means but it is believed to be a musical or liturgical term. The Psalm was written by a group of musicians who served in the Temple over several generations so it is impossible to say precisely when it was written.
A Yearning for God
1: How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
2: My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3: Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young–a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4: Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah
This is a song for those who have put their faith in God and yearn to live in relationship with him. The Temple in Jerusalem was deemed to be the dwelling place of God and so it became an alternative focus for the living God himself. The Psalmist envies the sparrow and the swallow who have made their homes in the eves of the Temple building as they live constantly in the presence of God, their very being there is an expression of praise and worship and therefore they are truly blessed.
The Body of Christ
Within a couple of generations from the life and death of Jesus Jerusalem and the Temple were razed to the ground by the Romans. As Christians we believe that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we have been reconciled to our Father God who now dwells in each believer by the indwelling of his Holy Spirit and it is therefore not necessary to visit a specific place to be in the presence of our Father God. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians 6 : 19)
Jesus always intended that that his followers would become a new community bound together by their love of God through Jesus Christ and their love for one another empowered by the Holy Spirit. Knowing that he was instituting something new and unique he gave the disciples, the embryonic church, a new commandment:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
(John 13 : 34 – 35)
It is this mutual, selfless love giving and receiving that distinguishes the church from any other human community. In fact it was God’s intention that we, the church, should be his physical presence on the earth until Jesus comes again. So very often, because of our humanity, we don’t always demonstrate Godlike virtues to the world at large but it is very humbling that God still trusts us to be the means by which the good news of Jesus Christ is spread. In our relationships we should always be aware that we should be demonstrating the love of God to the world.
Paul again wrote to the church in Corinth:
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
(1 Corinthians 12 : 27)
This was written in the context of Paul’s writing about charismata, gifts of grace given to the church through each and every individual so that the church is built up in faith and the Gospel spread far and wide.
The Pilgrimage of Faith
5: Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6: As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7: They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. 8: Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. Selah
It was incumbent upon the Jews to visit Jerusalem for the major festivals and the Psalmist states that God blesses those who can summon up the strength by his Spirit to make the arduous journey up to the Temple in Jerusalem. There are two ways of interpreting “the Valley of Baca” the first is that it is a valley of darkness and trials, and the pilgrims, strengthened by God, transform it into a refreshing episode prior to arriving at Jerusalem. The second is that it means, “the Valley of Mulberry Trees,” which are very fruitful, providing sustenance to the pilgrims, which together with the natural water supply enable them to go from strength to strength until they present themselves before God at the Temple. The second explanation makes more sense to me.
As we walk our pilgrimage of faith in the presence of God we experience ups and downs but our faith is strengthened as we become to depend more and more on God’s providence. What we have learned from the past gives us added strength to face the future.
The Presence of God
9: Look upon our shield, O God; look with favour on your anointed one.
10: Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11: For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
12: O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
This final part starts with a petition prayer for the King, whoever that might have been when this Psalm was written, whose responsibility it was to provide protection and peace for the nation. We as Christians automatically think of Jesus as being the anointed one, the Christ, who after becoming the ultimate sacrifice for our sins returned to heaven and combined the roles of our heavenly King, High Priest and prophet. Through our faith in him we have forgiveness of our sins and eternal life.
The Psalmist expresses his heartfelt view that nothing can be better than to live continually in the presence of God. Indeed the lowliest position in God’s courts is preferable to not being there at all.
God is gracious, loving and generous towards those whose walk is blameless. We know that we can only overcome the burden of sin that separates us from our Father God and become righteous in his sight by accepting his offer of love through Jesus Christ our Saviour. We can then, being filled by the Holy Spirit, receive his power to change and to work for him in the church using the gifts that he wants to give us and eventually be with our Father God, his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in eternity.
May we always yearn to be near you and worship you in Spirit and truth. Strengthen us, we pray, by your Holy Spirit, as we tread our pilgrimage of faith, loving you with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds and our neighbours as ourselves. As children of the family of God, the church, help us to love one another as Jesus loved us even unto death on the cross. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and lord. Amen.
Category: Sermons , The Bridge