Psalm 84 expresses the joy of a pilgrim traveling up to Jerusalem, then up to the temple to celebrate one of the feasts. The pilgrim focuses his attention especially on the thought of being in the very presence of God.
In Old Testament times the pagan gods had their palaces or temples where their lived. Their images could be seen and worshiped there. Their followers would go to these houses to visit them. Their priests cared for them and made certain that proper worship was offered in their temples on behalf of the people.
On the other hand, God didn’t really live in the temple in Jerusalem. He granted the gift of His presence in the temple, but that presence could be removed. Moreover, when Solomon dedicated the temple, he said in 1 Kings 8:27, “But will God indeed dwell on earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of the heavens cannot contain you. How much less this temple which I have built!”
Nevertheless, when the Jews prayed they prayed facing Jerusalem. Jesus called the temple “My Father’s house” in John 2:16. To go to the temple was to seek the presence of God. While it couldn’t contain Him, It was a place where He could be found. The temple was a copy of heaven itself where all who believe will be home forever. Thus the earthly sanctuary reflected the heavenly sanctuary where Jesus went after making the final sacrifice upon the cross for our sins.
It’s inspiring to read a psalm like this that celebrates being in God’s presence. Although we may not always recognize it, we all feel that longing for connection with God. The writer of Psalm 84 longed for God’s house, delighted in God’s house and blessed the pilgrimage to God’s house. The temple was not an end. It was a means to the end of being in the very presence of God. Thus his longing for God’s house became a longing for God. It was a longing for the God who lived there.
Jesus loved the temple, His Father’s house. He was upset and longed for its purity and holiness. At the same time, He spoke harsh words of judgment upon it and knew that His resurrection body would be the living temple through which we would have access to the Father.
The psalmist possessed a deep-seated longing to experience more of God’s glory, more of God’s presence in his life. The phrase, “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” is not an artificial excitement but the joyous reality of living in God’s presence.
If the psalmist had only one day to live, he would rather be the lowly doorkeeper in the house of God than enjoy all the wealth and luxury of evil. He would rather be found serving the Lord than serving himself. The psalmist spoke of a set of values that is totally the opposite to the world’s values. The world values success, riches and status. A doorkeeper has none of these. But the psalmist has the joy of serving, pouring out life to help others in God’s name.
The phrase “My God” implies a sense of devotion to God. It is the quality of life before God, rather than the quantity of life, that fulfills us. It isn’t the beauty of the place that attracts the psalmist but the beauty of the person. In this case, the psalmist was attracted to the beauty of God. Similarly we were made for an intimate relationship with God. Anywhere with Him is better than anywhere else without Him. We find deep and ultimate satisfaction only in Him.
God’s blessing and the response of praise are not merely reserved for this life. They characterize heaven too. To be in the temple is to experience God’s blessing. To be on the road to the temple there is to be similarly blessed. The same blessing is given to any one whose strength is in the Lord.
When was the last time you longed to go to church with the same intense desire that the psalmist had to go to the temple and worship God? As the church is being renewed today, Jesus’ grace and glory are especially being experienced in worship. Like Israel of old, as we gather in His name and direct our sustained praises to Him, His Spirit descends and His presence is in our midst. Jesus is here, and we are saved, healed and delivered from our enemies.
The person who trusts in the Lord throws his weight upon Him and rests in Him. To go to the temple, like going to God, is to find our whole selves, soul, heart and flesh, refreshed by the living God. Our true dwelling place is with God. Our homesickness is over. We are safe at last.
What is your default mode when life comes crashing down? What is your automatic response when confronted with a crisis too big to imagine, overwhelming grief or sudden loss? As Christians, our proper response is to go to God in prayer. We don’t belong here on earth. We are on our way to our heavenly home. If we want to reach our destination, we need a road map, a grid through which we push all of our decisions and actions along the way. We need a biblical worldview where we trust that the Bible has all we need to experience the peace and strength of the Lord in our journey. We also need to seek out guides who share our biblical worldview.
Real strength comes from weakness. When we come to God in faith, our hearts are changed. Our perseverance grows. Patience and trust allow us to wait on God. These traits are not created overnight. We become more like Jesus. That should be our measurement, not whether our circumstances are prefect or without pain.
When we repent of our sins and receive God’s forgiveness, we are cleansed and our walk is blameless. God wants to pour His favour and honour on us. If we feel that there is anything in our lives that we need to be cleansed from, we need to go to God today and confess to Him. He will make us new so that we can receive the good things He has in store for us.
God wants to bless us even more that we want to be blessed. Often the reason we pray is because we have a need or a crisis. We need a healing. We need direction. We pray because we are in trouble. God will allow conflict in our lives so we will see our own weaknesses and then see the greatness of God as we depend on Him. It is not as though God simply gives us everything we have ever wanted and our lives are free of problems or conflicts. If He can pour his blessings on us, we can walk in victory all the days of our lives. If we run away from him, we leave our shield. If we walk faithfully under His Lordship, we can’t be taken from the world until He says it’s time.
Do people see a difference in our lives just by looking at us? If we have been touched by the light of Christ, people should be able to tell. No longer do we walk selfishly and in sin. Through Christ, we walk upright, and God shines forth through us.
Would you describe yourselves as being passionate for God? Do our hearts and flesh sing for joy to the living God? Who can we lead to Jesus today? Our sphere of influence may be large or small. It doesn’t matter. What matters is our faithfulness to lead like Jesus where He has placed us. In God’s kingdom, every person matters and every act matters. It is our Christian duty to plant a strong desire in other people-the same desire the psalmist had-the desire to know God and have a close, personal relationship with Him. The Bible tells us to look forward to His coming and to long for His courts. One day we’ll hear an angel call our name and say, “Good to see you here. Welcome home!”
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.762)
- Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 14: Psalms 73-150 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1989; pp. 101-108)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
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