This study continues from the study on 26 May, which was on the first two verses of Psalm 84. The study covers the rest of the psalm and looks at the three “blesseds” around which the psalm is structured.
Some more thoughts on Psalm 84
Last time we saw the psalmist’s longing for God’s presence (v1-2).
This psalm speaks about the psalmist’s own journey to the earthly temple in Jerusalem, but it relates to us at three levels. Two of these we looked at last time: God’s presence in prayer, and corporate worship.
It is also important to be aware of another, because the language of the psalm points us to a final fulfilment. We are on a journey, through the valleys and troubles of life, to the dwelling place of God in glory. In these times of trouble, we need to have our eyes fixed on the final goal, and this psalm encourages us to do that.
Having expressed his longing for the Lord, the psalmist proceeds to express that longing through three “Blesseds”. Blessed is more than just happiness, it is well-being in all of life, it is the enjoyment of God’s favour and goodness, it is a godly happiness, being satisfied in the Lord:
- Blessed worshippers
- Blessed pilgrims
- Blessed believers
I) Blessed worshippers (v3-4)
V4: those who dwell in Your house (perhaps speaking of the Levites). However, in the new covenant, all believers can draw near to the Lord. The psalmist longs to join them in corporate worship.
Corporate worship is important. Even when we are discouraged as we come to Sunday worship, the joining with others who are praising Him stirs to our own desire for Him. When we are in lockdown, it is harder. And yet, we can remember those past times of blessed worship.
We can also anticipate. According to Revelation, the hosts of heaven worship. They are “in the house of the Lord.” Thinking on these things can stir us up now and increase our longing for His eternal presence.
To further encourage us, lest we think that we may not receive a welcome into His presence, the psalmist looks at birds. He is saying that even the birds can fly into the earthly temple and make a nest there. The weak sparrow can find a safe place to be and the restless swallow can find a place of rest.
So, if they draw near, why not you (see Matt 10:31)? If they are precious to God, why not you? If the restless can find rest, why not you?
This gives confidence to draw near to God now, and confidence that, in Christ, we will be welcomed into glory.
II) Blessed pilgrims (v5-7)
The pilgrims, who are making their journeys up to Jerusalem to worship at the temple, find their strength in the Lord. The Christian life is not an easy life, but it is one where we can draw our strength – spiritual strength as well as physical – from the Lord.
Their heart is set on a journey to glory. See Colossians 3:1.
The pilgrimage is a mixture of sorrow and joy, of dryness and refreshing: “the valley of Baca” (v6). Some translations have “weeping”. The reference to “springs” suggests that this is a dry place. It is a picture of a difficult journey, but a journey transformed. Sorrows and spiritual dryness are real, but the Lord is with His people.
It is a pilgrimage of growth (strength to strength – v7). As the pilgrims draw nearer to Jerusalem their encouragement grows. In the Christian life, while our physical strength declines with age, our desire for Him, our love for Him, can go from strength to strength.
This is why it is so important to pray for spiritual growth.
III) Blessed believers (v10-12)
True blessedness is found in trusting in the Lord (v12). We are saved through faith alone and we live by faith. To encourage trust, the psalmist explains the true worth of the Lord.
V10: One day in God’s presence is better than having a thousand (the word ‘elsewhere’ isn’t in the text). He is saying that He would rather have no other days if it meant he could have one day with the Lord. He loves the Lord more than life itself.
V10: It is even better to stand on the threshold of God’s temple than to “dwell” (have a permanent place to live) among the “wicked” – that is, to live in the security of the world. To be a Christian is a great security because we are in Christ and nothing will snatch us out of His hand. However, to be in Christ may mean physical insecurity, but the psalmist believes knowing Him is worth it.
The Lord Himself is the object of the desires of the psalmist (v11). He is
- Sun – the source of light and joy and energy.
- Shield – the source of all protection, giving deliverance.
- The giver of grace (unmerited favour, God’s smile) and glory (revelation of something of God’s own presence and goodness).
- The giver of all good things – Himself as the greatest of all things, plus all good things that we need on our pilgrimage.
“For those who walk uprightly.” For those who are His. As with other psalms, this is direction not perfection. The true believer has changed direction and can be confident in the goodness of the Lord.
IV) Blessedness secured by the king (v8-9)
V8-9 seems out of place, but it is not. It is a prayer for the King. For the OT believer, the King was the head of the covenant people and his well-being affected the well-being of the nation and the nation’s worship.
The OT king, who was imperfect, points us to the NT King, the true King, who is perfect, who is both King and Priest and the Head of His new covenant people. It is because of Him that we are blessed, that we can worship, that we can walk this pilgrimage to glory with confidence, that we can trust in the Lord and be assured of His goodness. It is because of Him that we will find our place prepared for us. This true King never fails, He never dies and He will never be defeated.
V9: “Look upon the face of Your anointed” (ESV, NKJV, NASB). As the Father looks upon the face of His Son, in all His perfection and glory and His finished work, so the Father receives all those who are in Him. We are half-hearted worshippers, sinful pilgrims, trusting imperfectly, yet the Father looks upon the face of our King, and He welcomes us.
Your worship is perfected through Him, He is with you and for you and not against you in your earthly pilgrimage, and He receives your imperfect faith and makes you righteous in His sight.
That means every prayer is heard, that means we taste and see His goodness on earth and that we will have fullness in glory.
Suggestions for prayer
1) Continuing to pray for growth
Let’s ask the Lord to increase our spiritual desire. This is not something just to pray once.
Let’s pray for spiritual growth. Let’s bring to the Lord those areas of our lives that are not where they should be. Let’s confess our sins to Him for He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
2) Going through the valley of sorrows and dryness
Perhaps lockdown has been a time of great discouragement for you. For many of us, it has increased our problems.
Let’s bring these things to the Lord and ask that He would give us strength in Himself, that He would give us joy in the sorrows and that He would refresh us in yourself.
Let’s pray the same for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
3) Being a blessing
Knowing the Lord makes us a blessing to others; through our witness and our lifestyle, we point people to Christ.
Our world is in great turmoil. Alongside Covid-19, which is affecting most countries in the world, we have seen large-scale protests about racism.
It is only through Christ that we can have confidence in the future and not live in fear of Covid-19. Our days are in His hands and He is able to heal or to take us to glory, which is far better. We alone know that all who are believers in Christ are one people, regardless of race.
Let’s pray for both of these issues and for our own witness. Pray that God would give us the opportunity to speak the truth in love.
Let’s also pray for wisdom for the authorities in the tackling of the virus.
- Pray that cases would continue to decline and that those who are currently sick would recover.
- Pray for wise policies that would limit the spread of the virus.
- Pray for all those who have been affected economically, who have lost jobs, had pay cuts and are uncertain about whether there will be any or enough work when things reopen fully.
- Pray for churches. There has been talk of churches being allowed to open for “private prayer.” But, since we can draw near to God anywhere, it is more urgent that churches be able to open to worship and hear the word of God. Pray that the number of infections would fall so rapidly that the government agrees to allow us to have services again.
- Pray for the Lansdowne church trustees, who are meeting on Monday to prepare a plan for reopening Sunday services when we are permitted to.
Pray for the Prince of Peace to work in communities broken by mistrust, racism and violence:
- Pray for the transformation of lives – for those intent on using legitimate protest for violence, and for police and officials who are racist and/or corrupt. Pray for the USA and for our own country.
- Pray for Christian police officers. Pray that they would be able to show the love of Christ and carry out their duties in a way that honours Him.
- Pray for pastors to speak the truth in love. To speak healing to those who have been hurt by racism and to challenge those who are still bound by it. Pray for pastors in areas where there have been violent protests, that they would be agents of peace and reconciliation.
- Pray for the preaching of the gospel.
- Pray for Christians among the protest movement, that they would show the love of Christ and be an example of peaceful protest.
Let’s ask the Lord to use both of these situations for His glory and that His kingdom would be extended as people come to Christ.