Psalm 84 is the next Psalm I am highlighting in my series, “Psalms that awaken a longing for heaven.” The 12 verses in this psalm paint a picture of the Israelites on a pilgrimage, and God is their destination and the source of all their hopes and dreams. As they travel to be with God, they go from strength to strength.
Psalm 84 begins: For the director of music. According to gittith.[b] Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
A gittith is a musical instrument used by the people of Gath, so this Psalm was meant to be sung. The Sons of Korah were an important branch of singers and are thought to be the composers of this psalm. I imagine this song to be lively and joyful.
I will be dividing this psalm into three sections:
1. Longing for God (Psalm 84:1-4)
2. Pilgrimage to God (Psalm 84-5-9)
3. In the Presence of God (Psalm 84:10-12
1. Longing for God
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
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,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.[c]
Have you ever longed for something so much that your heart ached? My heart has ached from longing many times in my life: I have had a longing to be married, a longing for a child, a longing for my own home that I could decorate and call my own, a longing to be with my mother who lives thousands of miles away, a longing to talk to my father just one more time after he passed away…. and the list goes on.
I remember when I experienced that first heart wrenching longing for God. I was 19 years old, sitting alone at a table in a college bar watching my friends dance, drink, swear and flirt the night away. These weekend rituals had become tedious to me, and I longed for more meaningful relationships. I said a silent prayer at that table – the kind of prayer that was in the same spirit as the words spoken in verse 2:
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
My prayer to find God was answered within a couple of months when I met some Christian girls and a pastor and his wife who took me under their wing and studied the Bible with me. I decided to be baptized into Christ and God answered my prayer for deep, meaningful relationships.
I love the description of the sparrow finding a home near the altar of God to have her young. This implies that God is a safe and secure place where no creature, no matter how small, is over looked by God. I can truly say that I was that sparrow when I was 19 years old. I felt so lonely and insignificant; yet, I found a home with God and his people and I felt safe and secure.
2. Pilgrimage to God
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d]
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield,[e] O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
This pilgrimage to be in the presence of God is like the gym to the athlete, the library to the law student, the road to the runner and the palette to the artist.
It takes focus, effort and determination to claim the promises of God in your life. The Bible is the compass. Reading God’s Word with the intent to obey protects the traveler from harm and the holy spirit continually corrects your steps to point you to the right path.
Verse 6 says that those who pass through the valley of Baka make it a place of springs and the autumn rains also cover it with pools. My infertility fueled in me and my husband the desire to adopt a child from an orphanage in China, and eventually desire gave birth to a child being born in our hearts. Holding my daughter in China for the first time felt like a place of springs and the autumn rains. God came through and He did not disappoint.
Verse 7 says they go from strength to strength till each appears before the Lord. This is my favorite part of the psalm. When we are willing to walk through our personal Valley of Baka with the determination to obey God’s Word and believe in his promises, then our strength only becomes stronger. This is a promise of God. Isaiah 40:31 describes this process beautifully:
31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
3. In the Presence of God
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
12 Lord Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.
Verse 10 perfectly expresses what it feels like to be in the presence of God: you simply don’t want to be anywhere else. I remember when I started to fall in love with my husband, Kevin. We weren’t exclusively dating yet, so I would go on dates with other men in my church, but all I wanted was to be with Kevin. I would rather spend time with him on a one hour walk rather than go on a date with someone else to the most amazing concert or venue. When we love God like this, then we can honestly say:
You can take this world, just give me Jesus.
Verse 11 says that God bestows favor and honor and no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Wow. Let’s repeat this line:
“No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
Do you believe this? I have had to memorize, meditate and practice God’s Word with a whole lot of intention and focus to truly believe this. In my sinful nature I lean towards the skeptical, cynical and faithless heart. My mind becomes a battlefield for my thoughts to claim God’s goodness.
I have learned that these statements in the Bible are 100% true even when I don’t feel it or see it – especially when I don’t see it. Hebrews 11:1 says:
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
As for the reference in the beginning of the psalm about the Sons of Korah: I close my eyes and I imagine the Sons of Korah singing this psalm with this funny looking instrument, the gittith, and I can almost hear the crescendo in their voices and the conviction of their strumming as they sing the last verse of this psalm.
12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
Perhaps they sing this line over and over and end with a final confident stroke on the gittith. As the song ends, I sit there contemplating what the Sons of Korah have sung to me and realize that all my longing for God in my life has set me on an amazing pilgrimage, and somewhere during the journey I have found God, and He has become my delight and all I desire, and ultimately I will be with God in Heaven.