presence of God

Today’s Scripture Lesson: Psalm 84

Please open your Bible or Bible app and read this Psalm in its entirety, allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to you through His Word.

The beauty found in the Psalms makes it difficult to rank one over another, but if I were so inclined, this 84th Psalm would likely rank toward the top of my list of all time favorites.

It is the inspiration behind the wonderful contemporary tune, “Better is One Day.” The 84th Psalm is a psalm of honest, simple longing for the ultimate fulfillment. It is a familiar cry from the heart, relatable to every walk of life and every soul.

Let’s take a close look at some of these verses and spend time reveling in and trumpeting the truths revealed.

Verse 1

How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts!

It sticks out to my mind that the God’s dwelling place is presented in its plural form. I point this out because not every translation has chosen to present it in the plural, and even the familiar song, “Better is One Day” uses the singular form. The original language allows for either translation, but you may do well to consider this verse through the lens of the New Testament.

In 1 Corinthians 3:16, we read, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Several verses from the New Testament reveal the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. With this understanding in mind, it must be understood that the heart filled with God’s Spirit is a lovely dwelling place. And it is made more lovely through every act of surrender to His ultimate will. It is lovely not because of its own merit, but because God Himself is lovely, and because God created us in His image. Nothing could be more lovely than the heart reflecting the heart of the Father.

To the point of God’s dwelling being the singular heavenly tabernacle, there is certainly merit to this beautiful interpretation and John presents a beautiful image of it in the book of Revelation.

Verse 2

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

kramer and georgeI’m reminded of the scene in Seinfeld when the quirky character, Kramer, awkwardly leans in exceedingly close to the ever self-conscious George and asks, “Do you yearn?” Telling the uncomfortable George moments later, “Sometimes I sit… and yearn.” It’s a wonderfully comic scene with Kramer revealing his plans to travel to California and pursue the one thing he’s ever done that truly made him feel “SO ALIVE.”  When asked if he was serious, Kramer responds, “In my mind, I’m already there.”

Yearning isn’t simply something we hope to do or think would be neat should the opportunity present itself. Yearning is intense. It is felt deeply in the soul, so much so that the flesh is uncomfortable with its current state and greatly longs for the ultimate fulfillment found in the object of our yearning.

The psalmist reveals his greatest longing is for the courts of the Lord, where he will find and be in the presence of the living God. The psalmist knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will only be made complete when he is in the presence of his Creator. This isn’t simply a knowledge of the mind, it is heart knowledge. Notice, he didn’t sing for joy from his mind, rather his flesh and his heart sang for joy to the living God.

Verse 3

The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

presence of GodIt is interesting to consider the tabernacle of the Old Testament and then imagine God allowing birds to safely enter the tabernacle, even nesting on or near the altar. It almost doesn’t seem conceivable. It just doesn’t seem as though God would allow birds to enter His holy presence and be so . . . well . . . birdlike.

Didn’t God’s presence consume Aaron’s sons who offered up the wrong kind of smoke? Yes. It did. So what are we to make of birds safely nesting in such a holy place?

Birds are innocent. Birds are in creation, just as they were intended to be in creation. Nothing more, nothing less. It is humanity who chose a sinful identity and must now be prepared and made clean, covered by the blood of the lamb, to be safely in the presence of God.

The psalmist refers to God in two ways at the end of the verse. He says, “my King” and “my God.”

We often recognize God’s omniscient power to do whatever He wants to do, and therefore, we’re happy to speak of Him as “God.” To speak of God as “King” requires that we not only recognize His power, but we recognize and submit to His authority. It is our willfulness which causes us to struggle with His kingship. Birds are totally comfortable with His power and His authority, and they live quite naturally in the truth that His power and His authority together are accompanied by His protection.

Verse 10

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Yes, a thousand times, yes! Better is one day than thousands elsewhere. I find it interesting that the psalmist uses the word, “courts” rather than “house” or “tabernacle.” Admittedly a few translations use “temple.” But by and large, the word is translated “courts” in most English language versions. What is so great about the “courts?”

In yearning for the “courts” of the Lord, not only do we seek God’s presence, we seek God’s justice. In God’s justice, there is true satisfaction. Yet, in yearning for the “courts” of the Lord, we must recognize that this is the only place where we may receive the ultimate mercy. It is a mercy for which all in His presence will be grateful throughout all eternity. It is His mercy and His kindness which causes us to fall to our knees in worship. But here’s the point I want to get across.

Do you understand that you have that now?

Because of His kindness, we’ve been led to repentance. Because of His mercy, we are forgiven and free. We are free to love. We are free to be merciful. We are free to show grace. We are free to show kindness, reflecting the lovely heart of God the Father. We are free to worship. You may do all this because in the truth of God’s Word, as you yearn for His courts, you are, as Kramer would say, “already there.”

So, What’s the Play Call?

Go. Share the kindness of your heavenly Father. Go. Reveal the mercy of God to those who need mercy by being merciful.

I leave you with these words from “My God, My Reconciled God” by John Mason:

“Where God doth dwell, sure heaven is there,

And singing there must be;

Since, Lord, Thy presence makes my heaven,

Whom should I sing but Thee?”

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