Tuesday, March 21, 2023

2023.03.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 84

Read Psalm 84

Questions from the Scripture text: Into whose hands was this Psalm committed (superscript)? Upon what was it played? Who wrote it? What does it begin by praising (Psalm 84:1a)? Whose is it (verse 1b)? How does the psalmist feel toward this place (Psalm 84:2a–b)? How does he summarize the entirety of his being in verse 2c? For what (Whom!), specifically, does his being cry out? As what sorts of birds does he describe himself in Psalm 84:3a–c? How does he describe what he needs for himself (verse 3a–b)? For whom else (verse 3c)? Where is this place of safety and nurture for the believer and his children (verse 3d)? Why—Who is there and whose is He (verse 3e)? Into what condition do they come, and how (Psalm 84:4a)? What sort of blessed life do they have there (verse 4b)? Where is the blessed man’s strength (Psalm 84:5a)? Where does he set his heart upon going (verse 5b)? On their way to worship, what effect do such people have upon their saddest situations (Psalm 84:6)? To what do they come (Psalm 84:7a)? Why/how (verse 7b, cf. Psalm 84:5a)? How does the psalmist introduce the rest of the psalm in Psalm 84:8—what two things does he call God, and what does he ask God to do? What does he ask God to do in Psalm 84:9a? What (Who!) is this shield (verse 9b)? How does time in public worship compare to time elsewhere (Psalm 84:10a)? How does lowliness in public worship compare to “home ownership” elsewhere (verse 10b–c)? What two things is Yahweh like unto His people in Psalm 84:11a? What two things does He give them (verse 11b)? How much of what is good will give to whom (verse 11c–d)? What does he ultimately call God (Psalm 84:12a)? What is the condition of whom (verse 12b)? 

What comfort is there for those who long to gather to God again in worship? Psalm 84 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twelve verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when we are pained by not being with God’s assembly now, we may be gladdened by the hope of future gathering and the enjoyment already of Him Who is the blessedness of that gathering. 

It's obvious from the Psalm that this “son of Korah” has a painful longing to be back at the temple, where his priestly family were the ordained singers. He misses the blessedness of it all, and the Spirit now carries him to write a prayer-song about that blessedness.

Blessed longing, Psalm 84:1–4. Why is his soul longing for the temple courts to the point of fainting (Psalm 84:2a–b)? Because his whole being—heart and flesh—cries out for God Himself (verse 2c). The existence of a choirmaster and the ordination of the sons of Korah inform us that this is during the temple period, but he uses the tabernacle word in Psalm 84:1a to focus upon God’s dwelling, God’s presence. 

Isn’t God everywhere? Yes, He is, and the fact that the longing worshiper can have God’s ear in v8 shows that he is well aware of it. But, the Lord communicates His presence to us in the worship assembly in a way that is special and different. We cannot, just anywhere, have Him in that way.

The psalmist has a memory from when he has been at the temple: tiny birds who even built their nests either in the great bronze altar in the court or the altar of incense in the holy place (Psalm 84:3). Those birds were happy enough with a home, but how the psalmist wishes he could be where they are! Yahweh of hosts is his own King. Yahweh of hosts is his covenant God. There’s nowhere that he belongs more than at the public worship where that bird gets to be, where his own King and his own covenant God is. It’s like Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 6:26. The birds of the air are blessed to be fed by God, but how much more blessed we are, when we are fed by Him, we are fed by the One Who is our heavenly Father. 

This is the great thing about the temple, that is our Father’s “house” (Psalm 84:4a). Children often have fond memories of their grandparents’ house and can just imagine what they would be doing if they were there right now. Some adults who had happy childhoods remember fondly what they used to do in their father’s home. The psalmist knows just what he would be doing if he was back in the house of his King and God: praising Him! Praising God is what they always get to do in that happy place (verse 4b).

Blessed journeyPsalm 84:5-8. The man who knows that Yahweh is his King and God longs to come appear before God in Zion (Psalm 84:7), but knows that even where he is, he may have God’s ear (Psalm 84:8). 

It is because God is already all the strength that we have (Psalm 84:5a) that our hearts should want more than anything (verse 5b) to be in the worship gathering of His people, where He makes Himself most known. So, He is already our strength, but we are eager to come be strengthened by Him, and we may rejoice that He is our strength all along the way (Psalm 84:7a).

What a blessing already to have Him as our strength (Psalm 84:5a), because there is much weeping to go through on the way home to God. “Valley of Baca” in Psalm 84:6a is literally “valley of weeping.” But they are not wasted tears. The image in Psalm 84:6 is exquisitely beautiful: tears that turn out to be not salty and deadly but a spring—fresh water that irrigates the valley and makes it wondrously productive.

Believers know that God is not wasting our pains. He Who is our strength, He Who is bringing us home to Himself, is blessing the entire journey. He makes us to flourish. He uses us to bring life to others. It is a blessed journey to belong to Him, even when it is wet with our tears.

Blessed certainty of arrivalPsalm 84:9-12. Finally, this journey is sure to reach its goal. For God has given Himself as our shield (Psalm 84:11a) in the Person of His Christ (Psalm 84:9b). The word “anointed” is Messiah. Christ. What does the Lord see in the assembly of His people? Christ! Whom are we to see, when we gather to God? Christ!

This is the glory of public worship. It is so great that it’s more than a thousand times as good as everything else taken together. And it is so great that it is better to be there, even on the periphery as a servant (doorkeeper, Psalm 84:10b), than to have residential status among the wicked (verse 10c). Of course, this son of Korah wasn’t a doorkeeper; he was a singer. An office that the Christ Himself now holds (cf. Hebrews 2:12), and an office that every single Christian now holds in Him (cf. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

When we realize that God considers us in Christ, we become absolutely certain that we must come into the full enjoyment of every good thing (Psalm 84:11c). If I walk uprightly (verse 11d, cf. Romans 5:19), it is because I have been made righteous in Christ (cf. Romans 5:18).

He radiates His infinite glory upon us like sun (Psalm 84:11a–b), and He wields His infinite power to strengthen us by His grace as a shield (verse 11a–b). What would He possibly withhold, since He has already given Himself to us (verse 11c, cf. Romans 8:32).

Here, then, is wonderful training for the pilgrim’s progress from this world to that which is to come. Yes, this valley is a valley of tears, but the Lord is already our Shepherd in it. He is continually with us, and He will receive us into glory. Goodness and mercy will be hot on our heels all of our days, and He will bring us all the way home. We will dwell in His house forever.

And He has given us a weekly rhythm to train our hearts in this pattern. We delight in Him already, and He is our strength already. But we know that the Lord’s Day is coming. We long to be back at the assembly, where He strengthens and satisfies our hearts in Himself. The more we learn to delight in that day, and its holy assembly, the more we will benefit from this weekly microcosm of life as a whole—learning both to enjoy the blessedness of how we have Him along the way and to long for the ultimate blessedness that we will enjoy when we come at last into His temple.

In what ways are the other six days a valley of tears for you, by comparison to the Lord’s Day? Who is the sweetness of that day to you and the sweetness of its holy assembly? How does this lend sweetness to days when you do not have these other things? In what ways is your life in this world a valley of tears? How does the weekly pattern instruct your heart and your mind as you long for heaven?

Sample prayer:  How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! Our souls have longed for You Yourself, and so we long for every Lord’s Day, and especially for that great day when we finish our works in this world and enter Your rest. Guide us by the hand, we ask. Be with us continually, and receive us at last into glory. Look upon us in Christ, and show Yourself to us in Christ, withholding no good thing from us, we ask, in His Name, AMEN! 

Suggested songs: ARP84B “Advancing Still” or TPH84B “O LORD of Hosts, How Lovely”

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