Psalm 84 – A Day in Your Courts
Where’s the one place in the world you most want to be? If you could pick one place to be everyday-more than anywhere else-where is it? Maybe it’s your beach house or a place along the water or your condo in Florida-and every time you leave you’re counting down the days until you can return. That for you that is where life was meant to be lived-it’s where you’re the happiest and most content. On a chair, at the beach, a book in hand and your feet in the sand. If everyday could be like that-you’re set. Or maybe for you the place you’re longing to be everyday is the golf course swinging the clubs or maybe you’re longing to be on a boat fishing all day. Or maybe it’s Yankee Stadium-that getting a hot dog and watching the game is the best thing ever-no other place you’d rather be. Or maybe it’s Broadway-and you can’t wait until it returns so you can sit in your seat eagerly waiting for the curtain to rise and the show begin. Or maybe the place you’re longing to be is a cafe in Paris or a luau in Hawaii. Or maybe it’s out in the woods hiking your favorite trail or on a tropical island snorkeling in pristine waters. I still remember that documentary I commented on a few months ago-My Octopus Friend-and the one place that guy most wanted to be was underwater with his octopus everyday. I felt like I got really close to being at the one place I’ve wanted to be a couple of years ago-April 2020 we had booked tickets for Disneyworld-and in particular at Hollywood Studios in the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge-I had booked a reservation for the Cantina! To be in the place where Luke Skywalker meets Han Solo and Chewbacca. Where Greedo and all the weird creatures are hanging out-and the alien band is playing the famous music-is there a better place for me? But alas it was 2020 and it got canceled because of Covid. So I’m still waiting to be in that place. But would anybody say-that more than anywhere else-if you could pick the one place you’re most longing to be everyday-that’s better than any other place-is work? That you’re saying-If I could be at my job more that would be great! Where do I want to be everyday? Where is it better than anywhere else? The place where I work! I want to be there! Is anybody saying that? Is anybody so sad when you leave work you’re counting down the hours until you can return? Probably not-but oddly enough that’s exactly what we’re going to see as we dive back into God’s Word. We’re quickly finishing up our Summer in the Psalms series and as we come to our psalm this morning we’re going to read about a group of guys who longed to be at their jobs more than anywhere else. In fact, these guys would rather spend 1 day at their job than a 1,000 elsewhere. But they had good jobs!
So open your Bibles to Psalm 84-and we’re going to see that as we set the context-Ps 84:1-2. So right away we see that this is Psalm about longing. It’s about wanting and wishing to be somewhere, feeling that tug and pull of your heart to be somewhere that’s better than anywhere else. And where is that? Not the beach or Disneyworld. But Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts. And how great is that desire? My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord. If you have the NIV it says my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. That’s an intense longing! When was the last time you felt that way-literally fainting for something? Probably for food-that you were so faint with hunger you were famished and ready to collapse. Give me something to eat-anything! Maybe you’re feeling that right now! But the word longing goes beyond hunger and thirst and can be defined as yearning, pining, craving, aching, burning. And maybe you remember feeling that way when you first met or started dating that special someone-your heart was aching for them, pining away! The romance was in the air and you were longing to be together every moment of the day as there was such an emotional connection in this new relationship. The psalmist is using that sort of language to describe the spiritual state of our hearts when we’re in a relationship with the Lord. There’s such a longing and craving to be in His presence. That He alone is our joy and desire that nothing else can satisfy. Another synonym for longing is itching-as if the psalmist has a spiritual itch that can only be scratched by being with the Lord. When you have poison ivy or some sort of rash what is the only thing you want to do? The only thing you can think about doing? Itch it! Forget your hunger, forget sleeping, forget almost anything else in life-when you’ve got poison ivy scratching that itch is the one thing you want to do. It’s all-consuming. And again that’s how the psalmist is describing his heart-an all-consuming itching and longing for the Lord-that everything else in life is secondary to Him. And maybe you’ve experienced that before. Maybe it was in worship singing at church and your heart was struck with an intense longing for the Lord-or in your devotional as a certain verse impacted your heart and you were overwhelmed by the Lord’s greatness-or during a time of prayer and reflection where you felt His presence. Few people have described it better than the old mathematician-Blaise Pascal-Pensees. So he’s saying exactly what the psalmist is saying-v. 2. That He alone is the All-Satisfying Object I’ve been made to know and worship. That this longing goes far beyond any finite thing on the planet.
So who is the psalmist? In this case it isn’t David. He wrote a lot of the Psalms-but this one was written by a group of guys known as the Sons of Korah. You might see that in the inscription in your Bible right before verse 1. But the Sons of Korah were a group of guys who are listed all the way back in 1 Chron 9:17. So Shallum was the main guy-chief gatekeeper-and probably the lead singer of the family band of his kinsmen-but notice where they served as gatekeepers during their day job-1 Chron 9:19. So Shallum is in charge-along with the rest of his kinsmen-the Sons of Korah-as they worked as gatekeepers to the entrance of the tabernacle-the tent of meeting where God’s people would come to worship. Remember the tabernacle was the temporary structure that existed before the temple was finally built. There was the outer courtyard-which contained the bronze altar and the wash basin-and then there was the Holy Place and after that the Most Holy Place that contained the Ark of the Covenant. So the Sons of Korah were the doorkeepers-meaning they guarded the entrance into the courtyard that housed everything. You can picture the doorkeepers at a fancy hotel or high rise apartment who guard the way into the lobby which then leads onto the rooms. They guarded the way into the courtyard-but even more than that as one commentator says-they were also the janitors at the entrance-keeping the place clean and swept up. So we’re talking about a group of brothers and kinsmen who are the doorkeepers-but also musicians who wrote 11 psalms-and you’ll see their psalms in the 40’s (42-49) and the 80’s-specifically Psalm 84, 85, 87, 88. These guys were literally big in the 80’s! Maybe they were singing as they stood outside the doorway. I’m picturing a bunch of guys with long beards and guitars as they composed their psalms. But the point of establishing the context is that these guys are singing about how they long to be in God’s presence-how their hearts faint to be there-and this is coming from a group of guys who are always there because it’s their job! Go back to Ps 84:1-2. We long to be right here. There’s nowhere better to be than right here. And where’s here? In your courts-meaning in your presence.
And they go on to describe that in a very poetic way-Ps 84:3-4. And this is the first of 3 times that word blessed is used in the Psalm which creates a structure for how best to understand it. So as we’re talking about A Day in Your Courts-Pt1:Blessed are those already there: Safely home and peacefully at rest. Those are two most important descriptions of being in God’s presence-you’re home and you’re at rest. You’re not lost, confused, stressed out, worried, chaotic or fluttering around from one place to the next. And that’s precisely the example here-the sparrow and the swallow. Two types of birds-and let’s be honest not too of the most exciting birds around. This past week we were at the Bronx Zoo and we went into the bird house and saw all sorts of tropical birds and colorful toucans and parrots-then there’s the flamingos and the ostrich. But no one goes to the Zoo saying-Do you have any sparrows? I want to check out the sparrow and the swallow exhibit! No-we’re there for the penguins! Why? Because sparrows are a rather lowly, common, ordinary, unimportant bird. Remember how Jesus described it-Luke 12:6-7. If you do the math that means 1 sparrow isn’t even worth 1 penny-but they are valuable before God. Not a single regular old sparrow is forgotten by God-and what’s Jesus’ point? That neither are you and me. That while you may feel forgotten by the world, forgotten by those around you, forgotten by your friends-the Lord hasn’t forgotten you at all. That you are just as important and valuable to Him. So who is it that finds a place in the Lord’s presence-Ps 84:3-4.
And of course the swallow is a crazy, fast-moving bird never settling down. At the house we used to live in we had a great front porch-it was nice to sit out there and relax-except for when the swallows showed up. And right in the corner of the front porch they made their nest-and it was full of mud they splattered everywhere-plus all the bird droppings on our porch. So I tried to discourage the nest before they to settled in! I didn’t want to kick them out of their house-but I sure didn’t want this nest on our porch-especially as they were always flying in and out-you had to duck and dodge every time you were out there! So I’m swinging the broom to get them to leave-but then they’re on the power lines across the street just waiting for me to go inside-so it was this constant battle. And then the next year they showed up again! This battle all over?!
Our front porch was not the home they were looking for! But these restless birds do find a home-they do find rest in God’s presence, in His courts. And far more than restless swallows-our hearts find a home in God’s presence. Back to Pt1. Because maybe your life has felt like a swallow lately. You’re flying about from here to there, your heart is restless, you don’t know where to land or where your soul can find stillness and rest. Maybe here, maybe there. You’re trying anything-and life is nothing but chaos, stress and anxiety. I think a lot of us are there. But when you come into the Lord’s presence-that wandering and restlessness is turned into calmness and peace, it’s turned into refreshment and rest because you are at home. As the Son of Korah are saying-Where He is-is where I want to be. Coming into the Lord’s presence is that place.
But as we turn to the next section of the Psalm, we’re quickly reminded that life is often about the journey to God’s presence. That while the Sons of Korah got to be right there at the doorway to the tabernacle-the one place they most wanted to be-lots of people weren’t there. Many Israelites were far away, scattered across the country and had to make the long journey to get there. I remember growing up-all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins all lived in Chicago-and my family in Iowa had to the make the long drive to get there-now it was only about 5 hours-but to my siblings and I it felt like a lifetime-and we were always so jealous that everyone else was already there-in the city, in Chicago-and we were the ones on the long journey. Well that’s the spiritual condition described here-Ps 84:5. It’s the second blessed-and it’s describing Jerusalem-and the temple that would be built under Solomon-ultimately, it’s that spiritual word for the place where God dwells. So it’s really about the One who’s there. Their heart is set on cruising those highways that lead to Zion where God is. And let me just ask the question-is your heart set on the highway to Zion? Is your heart on this journey though life to be in God’s presence one day? That’s what this is describing. Our hearts shouldn’t be set on staying put right here, or setting up camp or making life as comfortable and easy as possible. Our hearts should be set on the highways to Zion. Get out the playlist, turn up the road trip music-we’re on our way to see the Lord. That where He is-is where we want to be. But getting there is no easy journey!
Take a look at the route-Ps 84:6-7. There’s a lot of help for the journey because the Valley of Baca is no vacation spot! That Hebrew word for Baca can be translated as weeping-we’re talking about the valley of tears. This was a dry, arid valley. It was a place of pain and hardship. A place where in the midst of your journey you’d find yourself exhausted and at wit’s end crying. I remember when I was training for a marathon I was talking with another girl who’d done a variety of marathons-and the one she remembered most was the Green Bay marathon. Now it’s not warm there at all-but she said she was running this marathon 20 miles in-only 6 miles to go when the rain and the wind kicked in-she said she was running against 35-40 mph wind gusts. She said it was so miserable, and she was so tired to battle this at the end-she just cried the last 6 miles in. Now hopefully none of us will have a marathon experience like that-but I think we’ve all felt exhaustion and obstacles like that in life-where everything is against us, we have no strength left and we just want to give up and cry. That’s the Valley of Baca! Hardship, hopelessness and weeping-we’ve all been through. And yet look at the hope God’s Word does bring-springs in a dry, desolate place, pools to drink from, strength to strength until each one-all of God’s children on this journey-appear where? In Zion-yes-but before God in Zion-in His presence-to where He is! Pt2:Blessed are those traveling there: Encountering tears but experiencing strength. This passage describes that journey of life we’re all on-by faith-traveling through this world that’s full of tears and hardship-but we have to look for the strength that God’s promised. How easy it is to see the obstacles, to focus on all that’s against us, to be consumed with the difficulties and struggles-and thereby lose sight of the strength that’s available to us. Back to the passage-Ps 84:6-7. Are you doing those things? Are you looking for those springs of hope and pools of refreshment God’s provided for you? Are you going from strength to strength-or limping along from weakness to weakness. I believe that these springs and pools along the way are our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s one another on this journey to Zion together. Are you looking to your fellow believers to strengthen you, to pray for you and encourage you-or are you trying to do this alone in your own strength? Or those springs and pools are the truths from God’s Word that we need to read-are you letting your heart soak up the nourishment they bring-or are you neglecting the Word and trying to draw water from the dryness and barrenness around you? This Psalm is saying that all the things you need are provided, they’ll be there along the way on the journey-the question is whether your heart will be looking for them, whether you’ll be intentional in grabbing on to each bit of strength the Lord provides-or trying to do it yourself.
This journey has always been the way of God’s people. By living on this earth we’ve always been on the highways to Zion. Look at Heb 11:13-16. That includes us-and that city is Zion-the city of the living God-the heavenly Jerusalem. That while we may be traveling through the Valley of Baca now-the place of tears and sadness-we on the highways to the place where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes-and death and pain shall be no more. Listen to what David Platt says-Exposition, 310. And that last night comes from the great preacher Charles Sturgeon-but isn’t that so true? Don’t you feel like many of your journeys and travels have been through some really dark and difficult times? That the shadows of fear and uncertainty are creeping upon you and surrounding you-that often times you’re not sure where to go or where to turn? Look at what it says as we encounter our last blessed-Ps 84:11-12. Do you believe that promise? You you agree that when you’re trusting the Lord-not yourself, not your surrounding, not how far you’ve made it or how far you have to go-but when you’re trusting in the Lord you are blessed? And did you catch that phrase-no good thing does God withhold from you when you’re trusting Him. It’s so easy to think God’s withholding all sorts of things from us-isn’t it?
Well Lord, you know that I need this and I need that. If you take that away from me-if you don’t give me what I’m asking for or do what I say-this will be a train wreck-I’m done for! But God is so much wiser and higher than you are-and He knows exactly what you need-and He will not withhold it from you on the journey. But you have to trust Him. That means when He takes something away-or doesn’t give you what you want-you can know there’s something else good, something else better, some other blessing that He has in store. Last point-Pt3:Blessed are those trusting you now: Guided by your light and protected by your grace. That’s what it means for God to be your sun and your shield. His light blazes forth in the darkness of your journey-and His grace shields and saves you-until you finally arrive into His presence.
And that’s where this Psalm all funnels towards-what did we ask at the beginning? Where’s the one place in the world you most want to be? If you could pick one place to be everyday-more than anywhere else-where is it? And unlike our jobs-unless you love your job-the Sons of Korah definitely say their job. Ps 84:10. And that’s exactly what their job was-so these guys are talking from experience. But it’s such a profound truth to wrap our heads around. They would rather trade 1,000 days anywhere else for 1 day-24 hours-in the Lord’s presence. And 1,000 days is about 3 years. We’ll spend 3 years over there just so that we could have 1 day in the presence of the Lord our God-our sun and our shield, our Maker and Creator. And why would they say that? Precisely because being in His presence-worshipping Him is what we’re made for. The infinite abyss of our souls can only be filled by the infinite One Himself-and that’s God. Those other 1,000 days elsewhere will only still leave us longing and pining for Him. Those 1,000 days elsewhere will not bring the satisfaction that that 1 day will bring-the joy and wonder and delight that day in His courts is all about. Not even the tents of wickedness will hold anything of lasting value. In this tent anything goes, do whatever you want-no rules here-live it up to the full! And we think that sounds great-but it isn’t. It will only leave you empty and hollow inside. This was Moses’ experience-Heb 11:24-26a. Moses made the trade. Suffering for the sake of Christ-being identified and connected with Christ-knowing Christ was of far greater value than all the treasures of Egypt. And it’s no different for you and me. All the treasures of this world don’t compare one bit to knowing Christ. 1,000 days elsewhere, 1,000 days in the tents of wickedness doing whatever you want, 1,000 days any other place you could imagine, doesn’t even compare to 1 day in His courts. And here’s the point-we’re not destined for 1 day in His courts. 1 day in His courts is a good trade for 1,000 elsewhere. But that’s no the trade we have to make! By trusting in Christ to save you and forgive you and bring you new life, you are destined for an infinite number of days in His presence! 1 day in the Lord’s presence face-to-face would be worth every moment of our lives. But in Christ we are given eternity in His courts! Rev 21:3; 22:4-5. Where’s the one place in the world you most want to be? The place you were destined to be by believing in Jesus-in the courts of His kingdom. Have you believed in Him?