This is the first of two studies on Psalm 84, recorded during lockdown in England. The aim of both studies is to encourage people to yearn for God’s presence.
I’ve included the brief notes and suggestions for prayer below the video.
Some thoughts on Psalm 84v1-2
On Sunday we saw that when a Christian prays he/she is in the presence of God. We draw near to Him, through Christ.
The psalm is written by a person on their way to Jerusalem for worship. From a new covenant perspective, we know that the Lord is not limited to one place. God’s dwelling place is not the temple and it is not the church building. In the new covenant, we God in His dwelling place in two main ways (this is not denying that He is everywhere, but His presence in the sense of a meeting with Him):
- He is in heaven and we enter into His holy presence, we come before His throne of grace, we come through the curtain, through that way made for us by Christ. Hebrews 10:19-22, 12:22-24.
- The church (that is the people) is the temple of the living God (1 Peter 2:4-5). He is in the midst (where two or three gather) and we (together) are a dwelling place for God in the Spirit (Eph 2:19-22).
As we look at this psalm, both apply to us. I encourage you to consider:
- Do you long to meet with God right where you are? Not simply to say prayers, but to have that precious sense of meeting with Him?
- Do you long for the days when we can meet together again and meet with Him together? This is really what the psalmist is talking about. He could pray in any place. But he wanted to meet with Him with His people.
How is the longing expressed (v1-2)?
- How “lovely” or how “beloved”. Both are true. Our meeting with God is both lovely and something to love. For the psalmist it was the building, for us it is the One we meet with. We meet with the God of the universe, we meet with the One who is Holy. We come through the living way made by Jesus, our perfect Saviour. We worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
- His “dwelling place”/tabernacle. The tabernacle was where the Lord dwelt among His people. It is amazing that God desires to be among His people. He is pleased to be with us as we approach the throne of grace. He is pleased to dwell in the midst of the corporate gathering of His people. He was pleased to come to His people in Christ as it says in John 1:14 and “tabernacle” among them. He is even pleased to indwell every Christian!
- He is Almighty – He is “the Lord of hosts” (the Lord of heaven’s multitudes and of the multitudes of His people). This phrase in the OT means that He is in charge of all – He rules over heaven and earth and everything in them. We come into His presence.
- My “soul” (my life, my very being) longs for God’s presence. My soul “faints” – it is as if I cannot truly exist without Your presence.
- Your “courts” – even to be in the outer area of the temple (they couldn’t go into the Holy of Holies) was truly glorious.
- My “heart and flesh” – my inner and outer being, all that I am…
- NIV: “cry out for the living God.” ESV (“sing for joy”) misses the translation here. Although the word can mean sing, it can also mean “cry out/shout out”, and in the context, crying out in longing is far more appropriate here. He is crying out to meet with God. This man is not indifferent to the Lord but longing for Him.
- “Living God” – just as v1 tells us who He is, so does v2. He is the Living God, the source of life, the true life, the eternal God.
Brothers and sisters, what do you yearn for? Do you long for health, prosperity, comfort, marriage, children, a good job, a nice retirement? There are all kinds of things that we long for, and many of them are not bad but, when we look at two verses like this, we need to ask ourselves, “What do we long for most of all?”
This challenges our priorities – do we prioritise prayer? And even when we’re not actively praying, are we those who desire to walk in the light of His presence?
When our praying seems dry and empty, does that concern us? Yes, there are times when we need to persevere, when prayer is hard. But, when prayer is hard, we need to pray for our praying.
Is the meeting together of God’s people in His presence our priority, or do we “take it or leave it?” I realise we can’t come together at the moment, but before this, was the meeting together of God’s people your priority.
Surely, therefore, the meeting together of God’s people again is something that we should be crying out to Him for. Remember 1 Thess 3:10 – “night and day”. Yes, there are many things that have to happen so that we can meet together (and let’s pray for those also). But, the meeting of God’s people in His presence is so precious; let’s pray for it.
I think we have to be honest – for most of us, this is not our experience. We looked on Sunday at how we pray for each other and ourselves – about scriptures’s focus on spiritual needs more than physical needs. I would suggest one more thing to pray for: that our spiritual desire would increase so that Psalm 73:25 would be ours.
I would also encourage you to think about who God is – the Lord Almighty, the Living God – and therefore the blessing of prayer. You are coming to the Lord of heaven and earth. You are coming to the One who is mighty. You are coming to the source of life. He is not a dead god but He is the Living God. And so to come to Him is life to your soul and to come to Him is placing yourself into His sovereign care. So, as you think about these things, you can challenge yourself and it will encourage you to pray.
If we come out of this lockdown with a greater desire to meet with God personally and corporately, that will be a good thing. So, let’s ask the Lord to help us.
Suggestions for prayer
I) Longing for God’s presence
Let’s ask the Lord to increase our spiritual desire.
Let’s also pray the same for each other, along with the prayer contained in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13:
- The spiritual growth of the church and all members.
- The word of God, which is the means of spiritual growth.
- Our mutual love
- Our love for the lost
- That we would live lives set apart for Christ
- Being ready for Christ’s coming.
II) Meeting together again
Let’s pray that we would be able to meet together again.
Let’s pray for the things that are needed in order for this to happen…
Pray that God would give real wisdom to us. Although 4 July has been suggested as the time from which churches may be able to start meeting in some form, the government are currently saying restrictions on the way we meet and how many can meet at one time could be necessary until next year. Please pray for wisdom for the trustees and elders.
Let’s also cry out to God for His mercy upon us and upon our nation. Pray that the virus would quickly decline, that infections would plummet, that the sick would be healed. Pray for mercy for the bereaved. Pray that the Lord would minister comfort, healing and, for those who don’t know Him, salvation.
Pray that this would serve to advance the gospel, that this would be a Genesis 50:20 experience (“what you intended for evil, the Lord intended for good”). Many evils have come from this virus and the way that people have responded to it. There are many uncertainties about the future. But let’s pray that the Lord would use all of these things to advance the gospel powerfully.
The government is planning for schools to reopen in part on 1 June (next Monday). There has been a huge amount of debate about this and there are arguments on both sides. As Christians, whatever our opinion, we are called to pray.
- For God’s wisdom for all involved in decisions about reopening schools, how they should reopen and when.
- For God’s mercy and that the virus would not spread rapidly again.
- For protection of staff, children and families.
- There is much taught by schools that is not according to God’s word. Pray that God would use the current situation to change education for good and that some of the ungodly things that were planned for the curriculum would not now be taught.
- That the seeds sown by believing parents over the lockdown would bear fruit in the children’s lives and that they would be better able to discern between truth and lies.
IV) The suffering people of God
The situation in North Korea is desperate. Although the government is denying that there is any coronavirus, they have shut the borders, making support to N Korean Christians very difficult to provide. There are massive food shortages. Pray:
- For North Korean Christians to stand firm in their faith and see the hope of Christ every day.
- That there would not be a famine in the country.
- That Open Doors’ networks in China would be able to reach those needing sustenance, despite obstacles.
- That authorities in North Korea would have their hearts opened to the truth of Jesus and His love, and that will lead them to care for the millions of people living under starvation and persecution.
For Christians in North Africa. A convert to Christianity risks death at the hands of his/her own family. Pray for the support networks of secret believers. God knows each one of His children. Ask Him to lead them to the right place where they can find the help that they need.