The Greatest Longing (Psalm 84)
There are many things in life that are desirable and captivating. In-fact, things can become so desirable that people are willing to line up for hours and even days so as to obtain that which they desire. People are prepared to line up in a huge line for hours so as to go on their favourite ride at an amusement park.Others will camp out overnight so as to buy tickets for a sporting event or to hear their favourite band. Just this week I read of individuals who were lining up for the new iPhone 6 outside a New York store (6 days before Apple had made an announcement and 16 days before it would be released into any stores). One of the employees confirmed,
“They’re out there and they don’t even know what they’re waiting for yet, we haven’t announced anything.”
That certainly reveals a strong sense of commitment to satisfying their longing! There are many different things that we long for, and depending on the depth of that longing will determine our commitment to satisfying the longing. In this message I would like to share with you some thoughts concerning the greatest longing one could ever have, because it provides us with the greatest satisfaction. It is not food, a movie, a sporting event or even a smart phone. It is the longing of an individual to be in the house of God. To many this may sound strange, and of course when stacked up against the thinking of the world it is. However, this is the longing of someone who had their priorities right. Three times in this Psalm the author declares the words, “How blessed” (84:4, 5, and 12). I am going to share with you three great blessings that come as the result of longing to worship and be near God. We will see the blessing of Praise, the blessing of pilgrimage and the blessing of provision.
THE BLESSING OF PRAISE (84:1-4)
We are seeing increasing numbers of people not interested in going to church and having no regard for God. Sadly, even when many do come to church it is with a sense to have their own desires satisfied. They come for the music or for the programs. Sometimes they come for the preaching, but only if it is to their liking. For the author of this Psalm, to be among other believers worshiping God was his passionate longing. He declares,
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God (84:1-2).
The psalmist in these opening verses declares his longing and passion to be in the community of God’s people with the view of worshipping God. The reference to “your dwelling place” is the temple. The temple was the central location in which the people of God would gather to worship God. Notice how this longing took hold of his entire being, “My soul longs” and “my heart and flesh sing for joy”. This is the heart cry of a man who loves God and longs to be in the corporate gathering of God’s people with the purpose of praising God. This longing was so overwhelming that it took hold of his entire person (“soul”, “heart” and “flesh”). The writer so craved to worship the Lord that he envied the birds that nested in the temple area as well as those who daily served in the temple, he wrote,
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! (84:3-4)
That is truly amazing! It was David who said,
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4)
Were are told in the NT that as believers we are the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16), which certainly means that we can praise or worship God in private or in public with other believers. But don’t miss the point of the Psalmist. He longed to worship God with other believers. The blessing in these verses is upon those who long for God and to be in the appointed place for corporate worship. Do you desire God? Do you long to worship Him with His people? What is your expectation when you come to church? Looking forward to the future, do you yearn to be in Heaven with our Lord? There is a promised blessing for those who have this desire for praise.
THE BLESSING OF PILGRIMMAGE (84:5-8)
The second blessing in this Psalm is to those who are making their journey to the temple to worship and praise God. What makes this journey to worship a blessing is the anticipation to praise God. What is it that overcomes wearisome efforts to obtain our desires? Think about these people who sleep outside to get a ticket or a product. Think about those who will endure such effort to obtain their desire. What it is that causes them to overcome such tiresome works? It is the anticipation of receiving what they desire! In these verses we see that the anticipation of worshiping God at the temple overcomes the people’s expected exhaustion of a long journey. Such anticipation fills them with strength that grows. We read,
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion (84:5-7)
Here is a picture of pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem to worship God at the temple. Along the way they pass through arid lands and difficult terrain. We are not sure what the “Valley of Baca” is, but it seems to symbolize a place of difficulty. But notice that their longing to be in the temple turns this place of difficulty into a place of strength. This strength comes from the Lord, and in full dependence on the Lord the psalmist prays, “O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah” (84:8). Many today tend to think that those who are blessed are those who are self-sufficient. But the blessing in these verses is not on the person who thinks they have arrived or are self-sufficient -- instead, the blessing in on those who depend on the Lord. As they long for Him and look to Him, God grants them spiritual strength. The dry regions in their heart become a paradise in which water abounds and the grass is lush. This spiritual strength comes as the responds of a pilgrim who has their eyes on the Lord. You too are a pilgrim and you are on a journey to Heaven. There will be times you will go through your “Valley of Baca” and you will feel spiritually drained and weary. Set your mind and heart on Heaven. Paul said to the Colossians “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Allow this wonderful anticipation provide you strength to strength.
THE BLESSING OF PROVISION (84:9-12)
We come finally to the third blessing in this Psalm, and this is the blessing of provision. Because God provides for His people, His people can trust Him. Consider the great provision of the Lord,
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! (84:9) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly (84:11)
Because this writer is persuaded that God is his protector and provider, he responds with sheer delight. He says,
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness (84:10)
The psalmist was prepared to give up a thousand days of the best the world to offer just to have one day worshiping God in the temple. He would choose to be a doorkeeper at the temple than to be in the popular and prosperous position among unbelievers. Why? Nothing in this world is able to give him what God can give. What would you give up for a day in the house of the Lord? Let me briefly mention some things that the world has chosen to give the house of the Lord up for: a meal, to watch TV, to to socialise. These things are not bad, but for this author, nothing in this world was more important to him than to meet with God’s people and to worship his Lord. He concludes by saying, “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” (84:12).
How can you take hold of such blessings? It begins in your heart. Do you know God and do you desire Him? This psalmist longed to be in the temple with God’s people and to worship. Let us be reminded that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you are a believer you have direct access to God’s throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). You can worship and praise Him anywhere and anytime. But also understand that such a privilege of private worship is to be followed up by corporate worship with God’s people. The writer to the Hebrews said,
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
When the day of Christ occurs we will be gathered together with all the people of God from all ages, and together we will worship the Lord in the fullness of His presence.