PSALM 84 TALK: THE BLESSINGS OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD

PSALM 84 TALK: THE BLESSINGS OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD

 (A Psalm that explores the real source of true blessing or happiness in life which is found in being close to God and God being close to us which is made possible through faith in his Son Jesus Christ).

 THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 INTRODUCTION

 A few years ago my wife and I had the privilege of going on a quick one -month bus trip through most of Europe. I enjoyed seeing many wonderful things but one disappointment for me was the negative impact the many enormous Christian cathedrals had on me. I found that they left me cold and uninspired as they struck me as large and spiritually empty museums to an idea I simply just did not get. The idea was that these massive buildings brought you closer to God through their magnificent architecture and religious paraphernalia.

What made this feeling of disappointment even worse was a lot of them seemed to be more for the adoration of Mary than Jesus and in Rome the great cathedral their called St Peters seemed to worship even him. As I left that monstrous building in Rome said to be built on the spot Peter was crucified and buried I wondered what Peter would have thought of it if he had come back and went on the same tour as did.

The one saving grace for me on that trip was that my wife and I had five days in London before we went on the bus tour and on the Sunday when we were there we attended the wonderful evangelical church of All Saints Langham Place and the fellowship, music and sermon that day really inspired me and made me feel I had experienced a taste of heaven on earth.

That is really the point of coming into the real presence of God for it is found when we come together in faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”.

 Now this coming together in his name could be in a great cathedral or a simple humble home for it is not the setting that creates closeness to God but real faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ.

Psalm 84 features this idea of the blessing that God gives us when we are in his presence. The word blessing appeared for the first time in the book of Psalms in the first word of the first Psalm. In my Psalm talk on that first Psalm I said this about what the word blessed actually means,

Being Blessed by God or being truly happy is what all people really want but true happiness seems to be such a fickle thing. Many people buy lottery tickets to win large cash jackpots and think that if only they could win millions of dollars, then they would really be happy. The reality is that many who win big lotteries often find very little happiness at all. Relatives, friends and con men trying to get a piece of the prize hound them. They buy houses, boats and go on expensive holidays but still, in side themselves they aren’t happy.

 Others go deeply religious and do all kinds of religious activities. Martin Luther before he found Christ and the great liberating truth of Justification by faith, crawled up the steps of St Peters in Rome, praying as he crawled and when he got to the top said, he felt more of a sinner after doing the crawl than before he started it.

 Yes the bible makes it clear, to be truly blessed by God you need to find his forgiveness first, Psalm 32 verses 1 and 2 says:

 1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit”.

Stephen J. Cole in his excellent talk on this Psalm picks up the point that one of Satan’s greatest lies is that,

“The Christian life is void of pleasure, whereas pursuing sin brings real satisfaction”.

 Real happiness is only found in knowing God in our life, which in the terms of Psalm 84 means being in God’s presence or God being close to us.

Psalm 84, I believe was written as the Hebrew heading says, by a Son of Korah and more than likely it was written by the same person or persons who wrote Psalms 42 and 43 because of the many similarities between these Psalms. Again it is Stephen J. Cole who beautifully pins down the major similarity of these 3 Psalms.

“Both the earlier psalms and in Psalm 84 the author strongly wants to be at God’s temple, and more, to be in the presence of the living God himself”.

 We know that the Son’s of Korah were musical leaders and gatekeepers in both the Tabernacle in David’s time and the temple in Solomon time and right up to the time of Ezra we find Levite singers and gate keepers operating in the Temple in Jerusalem (see 1 Chronicles 6: 31 – 48 and 1 Chronicles 26: 1 and Nehemiah 7: 43 – 45).

In my Psalm talks on Psalms 42 and 43 I put forward the strong theory that a Son of Korah wrote what was then one Psalm when he fled with David in terrible Absalom rebellion and this is worked out from the possible locations of the place names in Psalm 42: 6 and the concept the Psalm speaks of as being separated from leading worship in verses like Psalm 42: 3 and the obvious attack of vicious enemies in both Psalms,

However Psalm 84 seems to be speaking of being separated from the Temple in Jerusalem as it speaks of birds nesting in verse 3 in the temple which was not built in David’s time and there is no mention of enemies in Psalm 84 except for a prayer for the king in verses 8 and 9 who is described in these verses as our shield or protector from the enemies the people of Israel faced at that time.

My theory is that this was written by the same son of Korah as Psalms 42 and 43 who for some reason was stopped from going to the temple in the time of Solomon for some reason like sickness, temporary banishment or some other circumstance we just are not told of.

Finally the other interesting aspect of the Hebrew heading is the words,

“According to gittith”

Which also appears in the headings of Psalms 8 and 81 and has two possible meanings,

The first is “on the wine – fats” which could be just a name of a tune and secondly a stringed instrument from Gath where David sojourned for a time when on the run from King Saul.

If this is speaking of the string instrument that should be used to play this song on then a date of writing the Psalm doing the time of Solomon is more likely.

With the concept of Blessedness or Happiness found in the presence of God my headings for this Psalm are:

  1. 1 – 4   THE BLESSINGS OF BEING CLOSE TO GOD
  1. 1 – 2   The beauty of God’s presence
  2. 3 – 4   The blessings of being close to God
  1. 5 – 7   THE BLESSINGS OF GOD’S STRENGTH AND PROTECTION
  1. 5 – 7   The blessed journey to God’s presence
  2. 8 – 9   A prayer for the protection and blessing of the king
  1. 10 – 12 THE BLESSING OF BEING IN GOD’S PRESENCE
  1. 10 – 11 God’s worst is better than Satan’s best
  2. vs.   12 The blessings of true faith in God

 Lets now have a close look at this beautiful Psalm.

  1. 1 – 4   THE BLESSINGS OF BEING CLOSE TO GOD

 I have broken this first section into two parts:

  1. 1 – 2   The beauty of God’s presence
  2. 3 – 4   The blessings of being close to God

Lets have a close look at the first part:

  1. 1 – 2   The beauty of God’s presence

Even though I find Cathedrals cold and uninspiring many others find them awe-inspiring feeling that the architecture of such buildings brings them closer to God. For our writer of Psalm 84, this seems to be the case for he writes in verse 1,

“How lovely is your dwelling place. O Lord Almighty”.

 The writer here is first speaking about the Temple and Tremper Longman 111 says this,

“The speaker cannot contain his emotions as he thinks of the temple. He finds himself drawn to that beautiful structure”.

 1 Kings 7: 13 – 51 speaks of the building of the extravagant interiors of the Temple by King Solomon and there is no doubt that this building was physically beautiful.

However we must always remember what the Tabernacle and later Temple represented. They represented God’s dwelling place on earth, which mirrored God’s dwelling place in heaven. Moses is told by God to make the Tabernacle in Exodus 25: 8 – 9,

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you”.

Note how Moses is instructed to make this Tabernacle after the pattern he had shown Moses which could mean that on Mt Sinai when Moses met with God he could have caught a glimpse of God in heaven.

Inside this meeting tent is a special place called the Holy of Holies which sat the Ark of the Covenant which God also gave strict instructions of how that should be made in Exodus 25: 17 – 22,

“Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you. 22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites”.

Note how this cover has symbols of a heavenly place with the mention of special angels called Cherubim who sit on either side of the place God would meet with Moses to give Israel its commands or word of God.

From the time of Moses and onwards the High priest would enter the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed animal on this mercy seat to symbolize that only through a sacrifice for sin could Israel or any man approach God.

The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that the Tabernacle and its Holy of Holies was but a symbol for God’s dwelling place in heaven and that Jesus, rather than symbolically shed blood for a sacrificed animal for sin but actually Jesus shed his own blood so that we could approach God’s presence, Hebrews 9: 23 – 28,

“It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him”.

So the writer of Psalm 84 is saying in verse 1 that the beauty of the dwelling place, the Temple is that God promises to meet with his people their and that place also symbolically represents the lovely and beautiful place of God’s dwelling in heaven.

Verse 2 then speaks of the emotions the writer feels when he thinks of God’s dwelling place or shall we say, God’s presence on earth,

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God”.

This emotional description gives us the first clue that the writer not only loves the Temple and what it stands for but also is somehow separated from it at the time of the writing of this Psalm. Allan Harman says,

“The psalmist is spiritually hungry for the presence of God”.

This is the first time in this Psalm that the words the psalmist uses echo Psalm 42 as its second verse says,

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God”.

If Psalm 42 was written by the same person as Psalm 84 and Psalm 42 was written by a Levite who was with David when he ran from his rebellious son Absalom then this psalmist has been there before, separated from Jerusalem and the special dwelling place of God on earth, the Tabernacle or Temple.

He longs or stronger yearns to be in the Temple precinct, “courts of the Lord”. This separation from God and the worship of God even courses him to “faint” which Stephen J. Cole points out,

“The psalmist total being (soul, heart and flesh) are crying out to the living God that he might join the worshippers at the temple”.

Some of the Sons of Korah played a major role in the worship of the Temple in both providing musical a compliment and leading the singing as well. In Psalm 42: 4 he speaks of this kind of Temple worship leading, longingly,

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God”.

Finally notice how in both Psalms 42: 2 and 84: 2 he calls God,

“The living God”

God was not some kind of dumb idol to this man he was as real as any person. He was a God who spoke and acted in the lives of his people Israel.

Jesus says this about himself in Revelation 1: 18,

“ I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades”.

I remember seeing during my teenage years a documentary about a Jesus rally in London in the late 1960” and a anti – God protest was taking place at the same time and a young Christian man went up to an older man carrying a poster that read, “God is dead” and said, “How can he be dead for I spoke to him this morning”.

The resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference and Paul makes this amazing claim about it in 1 Corinthians 15: 14,

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”.

Paul had already pointed out that in his time there was many who could testify to the truth that Jesus had in fact rose from the dead, he says this in verses 3 – 8,

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of who are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”.

There have been many skeptical atheists who have tried to put Christianity down by disproving the resurrection and have ended up coming to the conclusion that it is true. Men like Frank Morrison who set out to research the facts and write a book debunking the Christian claim that Jesus rose from the dead and ended up seeing that the evidence pointed towards its truth and he wrote, instead a book called, “Who moved the stone” and confessed that he now was a Christian as a result.

We, like this Son of Korah believe and look to a living God who answers our prayers and speaks to us through his word and to be separated from him would cause us great pain and anxiety as it did that Son of Korah long ago.

  1. 3 – 4   The blessings of being close to God

The Psalmist longing to be back in the temple close to God’s special presence there makes him think of some birds he often saw high up in the temple buildings he writes, verse’s 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”.

The birds are there but he is not there and therefore he even envies these tiny birds for they are close to God but he feels far away from him.

We might say, but God is everywhere and therefore this Levite should not need to be in the Temple to feel close to God but this is a bit like those who say I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. In one sense that is true, going to church does not make you a Christian but how much are you missing out on when you don’t join with other Christians in worship and fellowship.

One person put it this way, you might call yourself a footballer but never go on a football field to play or a surfer but you hate surf. This would not make sense and therefore to say I am a Christian but never go to church is just as silly.

You could say I’m a Christian but don’t go the church but think of all the things you are missing out on by not joining with other like minded people. The writer to the Hebrews saw the problem of Christians not joining with other Christians in his day and said this, Hebrews 10: 24 – 25,

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

Notice how the writer speaks of meeting together as a means of spurring one another on to good deeds and this is what going to church should achieve it should make us more blessed or truly happy and help make us more committed to the God we all believe in.

Maybe the feeling the Psalmist felt when he was away from the fellowship and worship of the temple is what I felt on my tour of Europe in those cold enormous cathedrals when I was just a tourist looking at the building and not being a vital member of that congregation with other believers as I did in London in All Saints Langham Place.

This Levite played a vital part of the worship of God who promised Old Testament believers that his special presence would be manifest in the Tabernacle /Temple.

This special place the Temple was then the place that God’s special presence was going to be up to the coming of God’s Son Jesus Christ.

Then once Jesus died on the cross we read in Matthew 27: 51,

“ At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split”.

The significance of this was that access to God’s special presence was now made through Jesus and his death for us. It was only 70 years or so later that the Temple was totally destroyed forever by the Romans just as Jesus had predicted it would. It was destroyed because animal sacrifice was not needed for the forgiveness of sins because Jesus gave his life for our sins once and for all time and opened up the access to God through faith in him.

Now as the church, the congregation of true believers we are God’s Temple and Paul makes this clear speaking to the congregation of true believers in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 3: 16 – 17,

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple”.

The final words of verse 3 are a great three- pronged description of the God this Psalmist long to be in the presence of,

“O Lord Almighty, my King and my God”

This is a great summary of who the God of the bible actually is.

  1. The Lord Almighty
  2. The King
  3. My God

Lets have a quick look at each of these descriptions of God.

  1. The Lord Almighty

Gotquestion?org. explains what this title means this way,

“In Hebrew, the title “God Almighty” is written as El Shaddai and probably means “God, the All-powerful One” or “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5), although there is a question among most Bible scholars as to its precise meaning. The title speaks to God’s ultimate power over all”.

 God made everything and everyone as so he is our maker and deserves to be called the Lord, supreme one and the almighty one or the most powerful person and force in the universe. He has a special relationship with his people, who the writer of Psalm 84 recognised and Isaiah speaks of this as well in Isaiah 54: 5,

“For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth”.

  1. The King

This is similar to The Lord Almighty as that title we have just seen contains the word Lord that is another bible word for King or supreme one. The Psalmist in Psalm 84 later prays for God’s anointed one or King in verses 8 and 9 but over Israel’s king and indeed all earthly kings is God the king of everything.

Another Son of Korah Psalm, Psalm 47 expands the meaning of God as the king of everything in verses 7 – 9,

“For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted”.

In the New Testament Jesus is presented as God’s King or Lord and we see this in a verse like Revelation 1: 4 – 5,

“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth”.

Note how John speaks of Jesus as the firstborn from the dead, an obvious reference to his death and resurrection and through this Jesus proved that he is the true King of Heaven and earth when he died on the cross for our sins, defeating sin and rose from the dead defeating death itself. Interestingly the crime Jesus was crucified for was that he claimed to be king and Pilot cheekily placed a sign above Jesus head that read, “King of the Jews”, infuriating the Jewish leaders who wanted it changed to, “He claimed to be King of the Jews”.

Jesus told pilot in John 18: 36,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place”.

Ultimately Jesus will come again as the great King from Heaven as implied by Revelation 11: 15,

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said; ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever”.

  1. My God

Spurgeon makes this comment on the term, “My God”,

“We are not strangers to him; we are his worshippers, and he is our God: ours by covenant, by promise, by oath, by blood”.

 This Son of Korah led the people of his time to worship the God of the Bible who he calls here in verse 3, “My God”, worthy of worship as he is almighty and King of everything. The Temple and particularly the Holy of Holies mirrored the real dwelling place of God, heaven and there wonderful worship takes place with all the heavenly beings and what do they say in worship. The book of Revelations records a lot of the songs of worship in heaven. Revelation 4 verse 11 records these words of worship by the angels in heaven,

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being”.

 This is an example of a true acknowledgement of God as “Our God” and the writer of Psalm 84 longs to join again with others in the Temple to worship his God again in song and words of praise.

Finally as he thinks of the privileged position of the little birds in the Temple he realises what wonderful blessings or real happiness comes from being close to God and express’s this in verse 4,

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house, they are ever praising you”.

 The Temple was not designed for people to live in as its design was purely there for the people of Israel to worship their great God. So it is curious when this verse and other verses like it in the book of Psalms speak of dwelling or living in God’s house. So I must seek to answer the question,

What did the Psalmist mean by the expression dwelling in the house of the Lord forever?

Twice in the first book of Psalms David spoke of his longing to dwell in God’s house forever. The most famous one is Psalm 23: 6,

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my like, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

 In an earlier Psalm, Psalm 15 verse 1 David asks this question,

“ Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

 Obviously David is not speaking about the earthly Sanctuary, a large tent like structure designed for worship, which became the Temple in Solomon’s time on a different hill called Mount Zion.

In my Psalm talk on Psalm 15 my explanation of this first verse goes like this,

“David only set up the Sanctuary, a large tent like structure on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem (the Temple was set up on Mount Zion). This tent contained “The Ark of the Covenant” which contained the tablets of stone given to Moses, which had written on The Ten Commandments. The place the ark sat in was called “The Holy of Holies” and was a representation of God’s throne in Heaven. This also then would represent God’s dwelling on earth in the midst of his people as Moses was told to do in Exodus 25 : 8 – 9,

 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you”.

 All Israelite knew that only the High Priest, once a year entered this place so David is not asking who will dwell in the sanctuary but who will one day live with God in heaven, the real Mount Zion or Holy Hill.

 If you want a more detailed picture of this sanctuary you can read Hebrews 9 : 1 – 9.

 So the sanctuary represents God’s dwelling place or home. Therefore as Christians we are headed for a heavenly home and the old song’s words are true, “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through”.

 The writer of Psalm 84 then in verse 4 is speaking about; I think the physical and spiritual house of God in verse 4 when he writes,

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house, they are ever praising you”.

The dwelling in God’s house is an image for being in the presence of God which on earth for the Jews of the writers time was at the Temple but even for him the spiritual eternal home was with God in heaven, which the temple represented.

Finally the writer to the Hebrews makes it clear what Mount Zion and even Jerusalem are really now for Christians in Hebrews 12 : 22,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.”

This verse looks forward to the day the entire congregation of all true believers meets together with God and all the heavenly hosts in heaven to worship our King and our God.

For what does the writer of Psalm 84 say will be the activity that God’s people will be engaged in, in God’s house?

His answer is,

“They are ever praising you”

 As I said earlier The Book of Revelation has many incidents of worship in heaven and another on of these speaks of the great praise for God all who stand around the throne of God will make, Revelation 7: 12,

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever Amen”.

Even while we live in this life, praise to God should be our aim in like as Paul advices in to do every thing to the glory or praise of God in 1 Corinthians 10: 31,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

 So the writer of Psalm 84 says that those who dwell in God’s house or God’s presence will be blessed. That is they will know the true and deep happiness that only God can give.

  1. 5 – 7   THE BLESSINGS OF GOD’S STRENGTH AND PROTECTION

 The writer of Psalm 84 continues to tell what blessings, true happiness God’s presence can give us in this second section of his Psalm, which I have broken into two parts as well:

  1. 5 – 7   The blessed journey to God’s presence
  2. 8 – 9   A prayer for the protection and blessing of the king

We will now look at the further blessings being in God’s presence and worshipping him will bring us in the first part:

  1. 5 – 7   The blessed journey to God’s presence

He starts verse 5 with the same word as he used at the start of verse 4, Blessed and as I have already made clear this word could be translated as being truly happy. So we read in verse 5,

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage”.

 We see two wonderful things God gives us if we are in his presence or are close to him. Those two things are:

  1. His Strength
  2. His Way or direction in life
  1. His Strength

The first blessing or source of true happiness is we will have God’s strength, the writer of Psalm 84 says,

“Whose strength is in you”.

 Leopold writes,

“Close fellowship with him (God) makes them strong and fills their bosoms with happiness”.

 David continually spoke of how God made him strong especially when his life’s circumstances made him feel so week like Psalm 31: 2,

“Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue, be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me”.

 Note how David is implying he is in great danger and he needed God to rescue him and he believed that God and God alone was his rock, steadfast reliable one who is his strength and even refuge.

In Psalm 28: 7 David declares that God is his strength and that strength is the source of his joy and praise for God,

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him”.

 So as we face, like David, the battles of life we can find when we are in those great battles a God who will give us strength because he is a strong God and being close to him will make us strong to fight on victorious.

Paul famously spoke of the great battle all Christians are involved in, in Ephesians 6: 10 – 18. He tells us how great the forces are that we are battling with in verse 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

 But even though these forces we are battling with are very great Paul tells us in verse 10,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.

 In the rest of the passage Paul sets down the many resources God has given us to make us strong in this battle.

So a major blessing, or source of true happiness from being close to God is the strength of God in our lives that comes from God and his presence in our lives given to us through God’s Holy Spirit which Paul says we have in God through prayer, Ephesians 6: 18,

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

  1. His Way or direction in life

The second half of verse 5 and what follows is at first not as easy to interpret as the first half owing to the English translation of the final word in that verse at what the original writer really meant by using it.

The NIV translation that I use, translates these contested Hebrew words in this verse as, “pilgrimage”. Adam Clarke gives us the Hebrew words and their literal translation,

“Mesilloth bilebabam, “the high ways are in their hearts;”

 James Coffman points out this about this Hebrew term,

“The current popular opinion that makes this psalm a pilgrimage song is founded upon a single word in this verse, “ways” which means pilgrimage but is constantly treated as if it did, “highways”.

 Coffman and Leupold dispute this translation of “ways” as pilgrimage and I like the way Coffman explains the alternative translation and meaning here,

“These are not roads, in the ordinary sense, they are ‘in the hearts’ of those who love God. These, ‘ways’ are being pondered (in men’s hearts) and they refer to ‘directions’, or ‘courses’ of action that should be followed in specific situations”.

 Leupold gives us Luthers interpretation which is,

“Wholeheartedly they follow after thee (God)”

 So I will seek to interpret this last part of verse 5 as our direction in life rather than pilgrimage. So the writer is saying that blessed are those who strength is the Lord and who set their hearts on following the Lord or going the way God wants them to go in life.

Jesus made it very clear the way we should go in life in John 14: 6,

“I am the way and the truth and the life, No one comes to the Father except through me”.

 Jesus uses a similar word to the Hebrew “ways” here which many translate as “road” and Matthew Poole makes this comment on this verse to help us understand what Jesus was actually saying here,

“I am the way; that is, the way by which those must get to heaven who will ever come there. Christ is our way to heaven by the doctrine which he taught; by his death, by which he purchased this heavenly inheritance for us; by his holy life and conversation, setting us an example that we should follow his steps; by the influence of his Spirit, guiding us to, and assisting us in, those holy actions by which we must come unto glory”.

 Of course, spiritually following God’s way in life is a sort of Pilgrimage, which as Poole points out, gets us to heaven the great and final blessing of God to all believers. So in this sense the writer of Psalm 84 is speaking of a pilgrimage to the presence of God, which was for him the Temple and worship there of his God which he seems to be longing for all through this Psalm.

He then speaks, poetically in verse 6 of how sometimes this “way” God wants us to go in life can prove to be difficult and even a struggle but God is there with us to help and refresh us, he writes,

“As they pass through the Valley of Beca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools”.

 There is no place in Israel called the “Valley of Beca” and this is purely a poetic concoction as “Beca” literally means according to Coffman,

“The valley of Weeping”

 Which Leopold tells us Luther translates as,

“Valley of sorrow”

 So as “the way” or “God’s way” leads us into difficult times in our lives, which might even cause us to cry or experience pain, God is there with us helping us in these times to be even a time of blessing or using the Psalmist poetic description,

“A place of springs”

 Which is made even clearer with another poetic image,

“The autumn rains also cover it with pools”.

Some preach today that becoming a Christian is the ticket to a blessed life, which they say means a life without pain and difficulty, and filled with only prosperity. However the bible and particularly the New Testament does not teach this. Let me give you two key New Testament references that suggest what becoming a Christian actually offers us.

First is the words of Jesus himself he Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 Note how Jesus is not offering in this life, no more suffering or difficulty in life but rather he is offering assistance and help in the midst of life’s difficulties. He is offering rest and assistance in the midst of weariness and burdens.

 Second the teaching of Paul Romans 5: 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

 Note how Paul in this great statement of the joy and peace we have through being justified by faith in Jesus Christ is not suggesting that this means no more suffering. Rather, he suggests that we now can glory in our suffering realising that it to has a plan and purpose for us, which is perseverance, character and hope.

All the other New Testament writers like Peter (1 Peter 1: 6 – 9) and James (James 1: 2 – 6) speak of the positive role of suffering in the Christians life.

So the writer of Psalm 84 in verse 6 is saying, poetically, that even in the difficult times we will experience if we follow God’s way in life, God will be with us helping us and refreshing us and as it says in verse 7,

“They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion”.

 So the writer speaks of two things here about going God’s way and they are:

  1. The promise of growth
  2. The promise of heaven

So lets have a close look at each of these two things God promises us if we go his way in life.

  1. The promise of growth

I said before that the bible and the particularly the New Testament does not promise prosperity and a life free of problems and difficulties but this is not fully correct. This is because physically or so far as day to day living Christians will face problems and difficulties just as everyone does in this life however spiritually we will have a form of prosperity.

The writer of Psalm 84 says this about following God’s way at the start of verse 7,

“They go from strength to strength”

 This is the promise of growth and maturity I believe. Yes, we all face problems and difficulties in life, believer and non- believer but the difference is Christians can rely on God for strength and help in the midst of our problems and difficulties. Also this verse implies that our lives and I believe our spiritual growth will increase.

Jesus in his promise of help and assistance in carrying our burdens in Matthew 11: 28 – 30 says that if we come to him and let him help us we will,

“Find rest for our souls”

Which means he will give us his strength to cope and we will find peace that only he can give in the midst of turmoil and strife.

Paul speaks of our spiritual growth in Romans 5: 1 – 5, when we face suffering with faith in Jesus Christ as,

“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

Paul speaks more clearly of the wonderful cycle of spiritual growth that takes place in the lives of all true believers in a passage like 2 Corinthians 3: 16 – 18,

“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

Changing with ever- increasing glory is another way of saying we will go from strength to strength, which is what the writer of Psalm 84 is saying in verse 7. He has learnt that following God’s way does not get him out of the Valley of Beca, the times of sorrow and difficulty but with the Lord being with him he can have the experience of knowing God’s nourishment and help in those times and those Valley of Beca experiences will lead him to go from strength to strength in his walk with the Lord.

This thought reminds me of another famous Psalm which speaks about this, David’s Psalm 23: 4,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

  1. The promise of heaven

The second half of verse 7 speaks of the final destination of this following God’s ways, the end of the road or the goal of our spiritual pilgrimage, which he expresses this way,

“Till each appears before God in Zion”.

 Now this brings us back to what the Temple and Mount Zion meant to the ancient Hebrew and as I said before it had a double meaning. Mount Zion and the Temple that rested on it represented God’s dwelling with his people on earth. It was the place God said he would make his presence known to the world as God says in Exodus 25: 8,

“Then have them make a sanctuary (later Temple) for me, and I will dwell among them”.

However this sanctuary or later Temple with its Holy of Holies containing the Ark of the Covenant that sat on Mount Zion was only a great symbol for God’s actual dwelling place, heaven itself as Isaiah made it clear in Isaiah 66: 1 and 2,

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord”.

The New Testament makes it even clearer that Mount Zion is a name for heaven which is not only God’s resting place but the final destination of all true believers, Hebrews 12 : 22,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.”

When the writer says, “but you have come” he is speaking to all Christians who follow the way of Jesus. Interestingly one of the early names for Christians was followers of the way as Paul called them in Acts 22: 4.

So this last phrase in Psalm 84: 7,

“Till each appears before God in Zion”

 Applies to us as Christians as well because our final destination is heaven also and we have a much clearer understanding of this as Jesus said as we saw in John 14: 6 that he is the way to the father and when Jesus returns he will bring Zion and the New Jerusalem from heaven to earth and Revelation 21: 1 – 8,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”

Note how in heaven suffering and difficulty will be no more as God will wipe all that away and make all things new.

  1. 8 – 9   A prayer for the protection and blessing of the king

Then we come to two verses that seem to be out of context as they are a prayer for the king. However a closer look at them and the possible context of this Psalm makes them very much in context.

In ancient Israel the king was very important for their national security and God working through his appointed king fought off the many enemies of Israel over its long history. So it was Gods grace or as verse 9 says God’s favour that made it possible for a Godly Israelite to go God’s way or live as God would want them to live.

In fact when the king looked away from following God and lost favour with God the Nation was put under great unrest and the ability to go God’s way or live as God wanted people to live was very difficult to do indeed.

So our writer of Psalm 84 has just spoken of following God’s way in his heart and life and now prays,

“Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. Look upon our shield, O God; look with favour on your anointed one”.

 Some commentators have even suggested that maybe their was a national crisis happening at the time of our psalmist writing this Psalm and that was what was keeping him from being able to worship God in the Temple. This too would explain why he prays this prayer at this stage of his psalm.

I would like to break this prayer into three aspects:

  1. Who he is addressing his prayer to
  2. What he is asking for
  3. What he says about the king

So lets have a closer look at each of these three aspects of the prayer,

  1. Who he is addressing the prayer to

The two expressions of God he is praying to are:

  1. “Lord God almighty”
  2. “Oh God of Jacob”

 Lets have a closer look at each of these:

  1. “Lord God almighty”

First of all we have the title, “Lord God Almighty” which we have already seen at the end of verse 3 and there I said that God made everything and everyone and so he is our maker and deserves to be called the Lord, supreme one and the almighty one or the most powerful person and force in the universe.

To this great and powerful God our writer prays knowing that he has limitless power and resources to answer that prayer. The letters of Paul contain many prayers and we can learn a lot about prayer from them. Paul acknowledged God’s great power and love in his prayers and to the Ephesians he records this prayer for them, Ephesians 3: 14 – 19,

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.

  1. “Oh God of Jacob”

The second title for God that the writer of Psalm 84 uses in prayer to God is, “Oh God of Jacob”. This is the covenant name for God and the writer is seeking to link with all the wonderful covenant promises of God in his prayer request for the king here in verse 8.

God first made his covenant with Abraham and then his son Isaac and then his son Jacob and we find the heart of this covenant expressed in Genesis 12: 2 – 3,

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

 The other interesting fact here is the name Jacob that I call his pre-conversion name, as Jacob became was also known as Israel the father of the Israel nation. By referring to the God of Jacob the writer is again is looking for God’s grace or undeserved favor. Jacob’s name means “supplanter” as Jacob lived his life right from he start as a conniving rebellious person who wanted to steal the birthright of his twin brother Esau. However Jacob had a close encounter with God in the form of a wrestle with an Angel. He would not let go of the angel so the angel touched his hip giving him a permanent limp and a new name Israel that means, “may God prevail” or “he struggles with God” was given to him.

The writer then is praying to the God of Jacob who is the God of the covenant and it many promises of God’s blessings and the God of Jacob the rebellious man who God changed through his grace or mercy.

  1. What he is asking for

The writer of Psalm 84 is asking God for in verse 8,

“Look with favour”

He is asking for God’s undeserved favour or love to be on his chosen king of Israel. When God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai and Moses asked to see God and his glory God says this about himself in Exodus 33: 19,

“And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion”.

Notice how the God of the bible is a God of mercy or in New Testament terms a God of Grace that both terms present that God is a God of undeserved love. As Christians we know this fact even better as Paul proclaims in Ephesians 1: 6 – 9,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”.

Even the great king David always recognised that he was only able to protect and save Israel from their enemies because of God’s love and mercy or undeserved favour as we see in Psalm 21: 7,

“For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken”.

  1. What he says about the king

Finally the writer of Psalm 84 prayer in verses 8 and 9 is for the king of Israel who he gives two titles, he is,

  1. “Our shield”
  2. “You anointed one”.

 Lets have a closer look at these two titles:

  1. “Our Shield”

 First he is “our shield” which basically means protector and as I said before Israel relied on their Kings to provide protection from their many enemies during their long history. The kings responsibility was to lead there people into battle and help them have victory over their many enemies.

However the king himself had to rely on God who is called Israel’s shield by David in many occasions like Psalm 7 verse 10,

“My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright of heart,”

 Or Psalm 3: 3,

“But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head”.

 Words we believe David wrote when he faced the enemy of his own rebellious son Absalom and God shielded or protected him from the danger of his rebellious son over and over again unto David’s General Joab defeated and killed Absalom.

However the kings of Israel had to trust in God and go his way in their lives and rule and when they didn’t then their role of being Israel’s protector or shield failed as it did in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 720BC by the invasion of the Assyrians and the southern kingdom of Judah in 586BC by the invasion of the Babylonians.

So the writer of Psalm 84 even declares that God is their shield in verse 11 as the King was only really God’s instrument of protection if he was loyal to God and sought to follow his ways.

We too need to look to God alone as our shield or protector and the New Testament teaches that without God we are powerless but with God we are strong as Paul prays in 2 Thessalonians 3: 2 – 3,

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

Also we have a king who is our shield, the King of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ

  1. “You anointed one”.

The final title for the king in this prayer of the writer of Psalm 84 is the title, “anointed one”, which looks back to the prophecy about David and his line of Kings in Psalm 2: 2 – 6,

“The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

 Here David is called the anointed one and is promised victory over his enemies and the next 3 verses of this prophecy seem to promise a great victory for a son of David or may we say a descendant of David which was not fulfilled by his Son Solomon or an other king of Israel but was fulfilled by the greater descendant of David, Jesus Christ. Psalm 2: 7 – 9 says,

“ I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.You will break them with a rod of iron]; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

 We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in Psalm 2 in the two greet comings of Jesus. First of all in the first coming God acknowledges Jesus, a direct descendant of King David as his beloved son at his baptism, Matthew 3: 17,

“And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

 The great victory over the nations, his inheritance is spoken of as part of the second coming of Christ in passages like Revelation 2: 26 – 28,

“To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—

27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery —just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star”.

So this prayer of the writer of Psalm 84 in verses 8 and 9 is a short but powerful prayer for his king who he wants God to use as his nations protector and shield against the many enemies his nation faced and could have been facing at the time of him writing this Psalm.

For us we are taught by Jesus in his model prayer to pray for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 6: 9 – 10,

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”.

Paul also exhorts us to pray for those who rule over us so that we might have peace in our world and be able to tell others about the message of the Gospel, as he writes in 1 Timothy 2: 1 – 4,

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”.

  1. 10 – 12 THE BLESSING OF BEING IN GOD’S PRESENCE

 After the psalmists brief interlude of prayer he returns to his original thoughts of the blessings of being close to God or being in his presence. I have broken this final section into two parts as well:

  1. 10 – 11 God’s worst is better than Satan’s best
  2. vs.   12 The blessings of true faith in God

Lets take a close look at the first part:

  1. 10 – 11 God’s worst is better than Satan’s best

 Verse 10 reads like this,

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house if my God the dwell in the tents of the wicked”.

My tile for the first part of this second section of Psalm 84 comes from the commentary comments of the great preacher and commentator, Charles Hadden Spurgeon who says this about verse 10,

“Every man has his choice, and this is ours, God’s worst is better than the devil’s best”.

 Spurgeon’s comments capture the truth of this verse. The psalmist being a Levite is probably at least a door -keeper or gatekeeper as 1 Chronicles 26: 1 says,

“The division of the gatekeepers:

 From the Korahites: Meshelemaiah son of Kore, one of the sons of Asaph etc.

 So maybe he is saying he would rather perform his lowly task or doorman in God’s house than live it up in the dwelling of a wicked man. His commitment is to God and his goal is to be close to him, to be as it were, in God’s presence. He makes this clear by his willingness to sacrifice time or more life by spending time in God’s service, which he declares by his words that say,

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere”.

 How much are we willing to sacrifice for the opportunity of serving God?

How much are we willing to give up to be close to God?

Interestingly the early story of the Korahites is not a pretty one and this mans ancestors actually chose to reject their lowly job in God’s service, which is recorded in Numbers 16 where we read of the original Korah joining with 2 other Levites rising up against Moses leadership with 250 other Israelite men jealous of people like Moses being in a more exalted position amongst God’s people.

The consequences of this rebellion is both swift and brutal and Korah and the others who joined him were judged buy God the next day by being swallowed up by the earth and destroyed. Moses condemnation of Korah and the other rebellious levites is very revealing. It is recorded for us in Numbers 16: 8 – 11,

“Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

 So the choice of service of the original Korah and this distant descendant (a small remnant of the Korah family survived God’s judgment) is quite remarkable. As the original Korah sought more than being a gatekeeper in God’s tabernacle (or House) while the Son of Korah who wrote Psalm 84 would rather be a gatekeeper than anything else in the world in God’s service that the devil could offer him.

We all have to accept the life and calling God gives to each one of us and often that life or calling is seemingly menial as we all cannot be Billy Grahams or some other leading light in the Christian church.

Paul had to speak to the Corinthian church about this problem and his way of speaking about it I find fascinating. In 1 Corinthians 12 he uses the analogy of the body to show that all gifts and I would say callings have a place and part to play in the effective ministry of the church, he writes, 1 Corinthians 21 – 26,

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,

 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it”.

 Interestingly some of the descendants of Korah in David’s time were elevated from doorkeepers or gatekeepers in God’s house and were given the role of leading music in the worship in the Tabernacle in David’s time and The Temple from the time of Solomon and onwards, as we read in 1 Chronicles 25: 1,

“David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals”.

Note these Levites are even given the position of the ministry of prophesying which probably included the writing of Psalms as we see from this Psalm, Psalm 84.

So this Son of Korah was willing to be a lowly gatekeeper or doorkeeper as verse 10 reads but he was given a far more exalted position than this and his Psalm has been read by many generations of believers over a long period of time.

Then he tells us his motivation desiring to be in the presence of God in verse 11,

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold”.

His motivation to wanting to be in the presence of God serving him and his people comes from what he knows and understands of God and they could be divided into 4 things:

  1. God is a sun
  2. God is a shield
  3. God bestows favor (grace) and honor
  4. God gives us nothing but good things

Lets have a closer look at each of these four things:

  1. God is a sun

The first thing our writer of Psalm 84 says about why God motivates him to service is and makes him want to be close to God is,

“For the Lord God is a sun”.

 Allan Harman points out that this expression; “the Lord God is a sun” is a similar expression as the Lord is my Light in Psalm 27: 1,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid”.

 God is portrayed as light in a number of places in the bible and wicked or those who are against God are in darkness. Jesus made it clear that he is the Light of the world in John 8: 12,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.

 John 3: 19 that he is God’s light that has come into the world but men love darkness more than light,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil”.

 The writer of Psalm 84 wants to be in God’s presence, serving him because God is a Sun or light to him and if we are seeking to go Jesus way we too will want to be close to God because he is light and he therefore enlightens us and shows us the way we should go in life.

  1. God is a shield

The next motivation for this psalmist to want to be close to God serving him is.

“And shield”

As I said in my comments on verse 9, God was Israel’s shield or protector even though that verse speaks of the king being the shield and we saw that the Psalms speak a lot about how even the king needed God to be his shield and because God shielded the king he was able to be a shield to his people from their many enemies.

This concept of God being our shield is also in 91verse 4 says,

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart”.

 Note how here the concept of God being our shield is spoken of in the context of the image of a bird shielding its chicks with its feathers as it pulls them under its wings close to him.

James tells us in James 4: 8,

“Come near to God and he will come near to you”.

Notice how this is linked with our protection from the evil one as the previous verse, verse, verse 7 says,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.

The saying goes; “Being in the center of God’s will is the safest place to be”.

 And being in the centre of God’s will is when we are close to God doing what he wants us to do.

  1. God bestows favor (grace) and honor

Right through this great psalm the theme of blessing and favor or grace has been cropping up. Blessing and favor comes from the very presence of God whose very nature is to show love and mercy. So it is not surprising that in the second last verse of this psalm we read,

“The Lord bestows favor and honor”

 Spurgeon changes these two things God bestows on those who walk close to him to grace and glory and writes,

“The Lord will give grace and glory, both in due time, both as needed, both to the full, both with absolute certainty. The Lord has both grace and glory in infinite abundance, Jesus is the fullness of both, and, as his chosen people, we shall receive both as a free gift from the God of our salvation”.

 Favor and honor or grace and glory might not seem much when we say those words quickly but once we realise what they are they open up the very flood -gates of God’s blessing in this life and the next.

Jesus boldly claimed this in John 10: 10,

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” or as other translations put it, “have life abundantly”.

 Many non- believers and critics of the Christian faith propound the idea that the Christian life and faith is a life of giving up things, of not having an interesting life of missing out on the joys of life. However nothing could be further from the truth as Jesus said, what he offers is a life to the full an abundant life.

Sure, I might not go out and drink myself silly at a pub or party, I might not take mind- altering drugs and get high and I might not have sexual affairs with many women but I do live a full and happy life. I do meet people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds and have wonderful fellowship with them and I do get high or a buzz through the enjoyment of singing and making music with other likeminded believers.

These things I enjoy as a Christian come from one source the grace and glory of God himself made known to me through Jesus Christ. Made possible because Jesus, through the cross-made a way to the father for me to walk upon.

The writer to the Hebrews put it so well and so clear in Hebrews 12: 1 – 3,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

Jesus from the very right hand of God now bestows his grace and glory to all true believers. This is why Jesus can say he gives us life and life abundantly. This is why the true Christian life is not a life of giving up but rather a life of taking up and enjoying his grace and glory.

  1. God gives us nothing but good things

After what we have just thought about when we understood what the writer of Psalm 84 verse 11 meant when he said,

“The Lord bestows favor and honor”

 It comes as no surprise that he adds,

“No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless”.

 As I have just pointed out this Psalm features the blessings God gives those who come close to him who live within his presence, who know Jesus in their life and who seek to go his way.

Stephen J. Cole points out an important condition to God not withholding any good thing, he writes,

“The promise of God not withholding any good thing is for those who walk uprightly. His blessing is on those who trust in him. To walk uprightly is to live before God with integrity. It does not imply perfection, but it does mean that you walk openly before God, confessing your sin”.

At the start of the Psalm I said that Blessedness could be translated as true happiness. Now the writer of psalm 84 says that God does not hold back any good thing from those who walk his way and I love the way the song I often sang with children in my former children and Youth working days, which says, “Happiness is the Lord”.

This song, “Happiness is the Lord” captures all the good things God gives us that make our lives truly happy or blessed.

 Happiness is to know the Savior
Living a life within His favor,
Having a change in my behavior
Happiness is the Lord

Happiness is a new creation
Jesus in me in close relation
Having a part in His salvation
Happiness is the Lord

Real joy is mine
No matter if teardrops start,
I’ve found the secret —
It’s Jesus in my heart!

Happiness is to be forgiven
Living the life that worth the living
Taking a trip that leads to heaven
Happiness is the Lord; Happiness is the Lord
Happiness is the Lord!

 God does not hold back any good thing from those who walk his way because all good is found only in him. Even the good things of the sun and rain that enriches the earth Jesus says in Matthew 5: 45,

“He (God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

Note here that God’s good things like sun and rain even are given to unbelievers. How much more good things then does he give to true believers?

In the very next chapter of Matthew Jesus says this in Matthew 6: 33 – 34,

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

“All these things”, here in Matthew 6 are all the things we need in this life that Jesus has just said so many people spend their waking hours of their lives worrying about. However put Jesus first, walk his way and he will supply these in abundance.

  1. vs.   12 The blessings of true faith in God

We come then to the last verse of this amazing psalm, which I think, is a great summary and conclusion to the Psalm, it says,

“O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you”

We have two key terms used a number of times in this Psalm,

“Lord Almighty” and “Blessed is the man”

These terms or words similar to them capture the essence of the Psalm along with the final words of the Psalm, “trusts in you”.

This is because first of all the writer of Psalm 84 had a high and powerful view of who his God is, he is God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, the Lord or king of everything and everyone who gives those who trust in him his blessings.

I like Stephen J Coles conclusion to his treatment of this Psalm, he writes,

“Don’t believe Satan’s lie that following God is a drag. Following the Lord is the most blessed life possible. The many pleasures that the Lord gives to satisfy your soul should fuel your desire to be in His presence, both individually and when His people gather to worship him”.

I started this Psalm talk with my somewhat disappointment of my visits to large Christian Cathedrals in Europe a few years ago. I said that they left me cold and somewhat disturbed, as they seemed to have become large religious museums. However I have realised during my study of this Psalm that maybe the reason I found these Cathedrals cold and disturbing was because I was visiting them as a tourist not as a participant. Maybe some of these great buildings have congregations who meet in them seeking to trust in the Lord and worship him and then those buildings become as any other Christian meeting place can become a place where we gain a greater sense of the presence of God as we come together in the name and the glory of his son Jesus Christ to find his way and experience his blessing and favor together.

I close as usual with an original poem and prayer:

 INTO YOUR PRESENCE I COME OH LORD

(Based on Psalm 84)

 How lovely O Lord

Is your dwelling place.

How beautiful is your home

O Lord, where you dwell

Far from the path I roam.

 

Chorus:

 

So into your presence I come O Lord

Oh God the almighty above

Seeking your favor and glory O Lord

Found in the gift of your love.

 

My soul yearns and faints to be in

The courts of the Lord

My heart and my flesh cry out for love

From the living God

Who lives high on his throne above.

 

Chorus:

 

I want to be close Oh Lord

Like the angels who live in your home.

So blessed are the ones

Who praise you Oh Lord

And seek to travel on the path to your home.

 

Chorus:

 

It seems hard sometimes as I walk

On the path of the Lord.

But Jesus refreshes me with his power

Walking with him every hour

Giving me his love and word.

 

Chorus:

 

Better one- day Oh lord with you

Than a thousand days without your love

Be my sun and shield Oh God

Who bestows grace and glory

To those who seek the path to God above.

 

Chorus:

 

So into your presence I come O Lord

Oh God the almighty above

Seeking your favor and glory O Lord

Found in the gift of your love.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Father in heaven I pay that as I seek to come close to you, you will come close to me. Thank you that you sent your Son to make a way to you through his death for my sins on the cross. Help me to go your way in my life and not stray from the path you have made for me to walk upon. May I one day join the angels and those who through death have gone before me to forever sing your praise in your presence in your glorious home in heaven above. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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