How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God...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. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You. (Psalm 84:1-2; 10-12)
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We are going to start this morning off with a little bit of Bible History 101. Now hear me out in this...I promise that it will help make sense of this Psalm.
So first off...know that the Psalms, as a whole, are one big hymnal for the people of Israel. And the neat thing is that every Psalm - every song - has a story of its own.
Today's passage - though having an unknown author - was written for Israel during their time of pilgrimage. They were traveling, longing to be at a place that they could call home. But more than this, they desired to visit and enter the "temple of the Lord."
You see, before Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, man's relationship with God looked quite different. In Old Testament times, the "presence of the LORD" was experienced primarily in the temple (where the "Ark of the Covenant," aka dwelling place of the Lord was located).
While traveling as pilgrims, Israel longed and yearned for their next real encounter with God's presence. They sung fervently while anticipating that formal place of worship. With all of their hearts, they desired and pushed forth through everyday trials in order to be in His courts again.
Picture the Israelites singing this psalm while trekking through the heat. Sweat is dripping, their bodies shaking, feet numb, but their mouths proclaiming these well-known words: "How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God... Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere!"
Living in today's world, we have a very different understanding and experience of God's presence. Because of Christ's life and triumphant display on the cross, we have been given the LORD's presence - His Holy Spirit - as a "deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (2 Corinthians 1:22).
This means that while we travel in our day - driving from place to place, walking the halls of our work or school, or moving and working around our house - the Spirit of the LORD goes with us. In a beautiful way, we are the "dwelling place" of the Lord.
And how lovely is His dwelling place. Honestly, we could talk for hours on our need to perceive His dwelling place - our bodies - as lovely.
But when reading this passage, we cannot stop here. Though we read "dwelling place" and experience it differently than the Israelites, we cannot miss the true meaning of this Psalm.
They are longing - with expectation and eagerness - for the Lord's "formal" place of worship. They long to experience God in His temple with others.
There is a large part of our faith in Christ that exists in our personal times with Him. Though this is true, it does not negate the BEAUTY and POWER displayed in formally worshiping Him with other believers.
"Better is one day in your courts - in your church and with your people - than a thousand elsewhere."
But if we are honest with ourselves, Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights can easily become a dreaded task instead of an expectant privilege.
Though we are called to take individual ownership of our faith, we should never allow that to get us away from meeting, worshiping, learning, and "fellowshipping" with other believers. God desires for our faith to be fully committed, longing to experience Him both individually and communally.
Today, I challenge you to experience God personally, to fervently declare: "How lovely is Your dwelling place!" But I also challenge you to already begin growing the expectation and longing of meeting with the Lord this Wednesday night, Saturday night, or Sunday morning.
We pray that you do just that.
Greg, Declare Glory