Psalm 84 is one of my favorite Psalms. I’m inspired by verse 10: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” (See the entire Psalm below).
A thousand days in one of the greatest places I’ve ever been does not compare to the value of a simple day in the presence of God.
I love the deep feeling captured in this psalm prayer:
“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord.”
“Yearn” is already a strong desire word, but then the psalmist takes it up a notch to “fainting.” Do I yearn for God’s presence? Faint for Him?
A few years ago I rode my bicycle around a 35-mile loop in Orange County. Unfortunately, I failed to take sufficient water and food, and literally began to faint at about 25 miles. My wife, Gem, had to come get me. Not exactly my moment of heroic glory. I was out of gas. Empty. I couldn’t go any further. I had the physical sensation of fainting and yearning for water.
To faint for God’s presence is a felt recognition that I cannot live without Him. He is not an optional extra or a welcome enhancement to my life. He is my life. I am only alive, truly alive, because I am connected to Him. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. Apart from Him, I am a branch lying on the ground and disconnected from the tree. Apart from him, I am dying by definition.
Fainting for God is realizing that all my energy is in Him. In the pilgrimage metaphor of vs. 5, I come to realize that He is not just the goal of my journey, but the energy and guide of my journey. Everything I do is centered in Him. Everywhere I go, I am companioned by Him.
Psalm 84 is a temple psalm. The Jewish people sought God in the Jerusalem temple. As I re-read the psalm, I think about the reality that the temple now is the people of God. We are home to God’s presence. Even our bodies are a temple of God’s presence.
What are the implications of this for my relationship with God?
- Are we seeing the beauty of Christ at home in our communities of faith? Do we see that the beauty of our lives is not outward and physical, but inward and spiritual? (verse 1)
- Do we long, even faint to share Christ together with our brothers and sisters? (Verse 2, 10)
- Do we realize that our lives as a temple place is an altar place – a surrender place – to God? (verse 3)
- By His grace, are we coming to be more and more at home with and in God? Is Christ more and more at home in us? (verse 4, 10)
Zion is a special place of God presence. Are we protecting special times and places to meet with God day by day? (Remember: Prayer isn’t so much something I do as it is Someone I’m with) (verse 7)
Let’s look at a few statements of blessing from this Psalm.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house
First, “blessed are those who dwell in Your house (verse 4).” Abiding is blessed. Lingering in ongoing, continual relationship with God is staying in touch with the goodness and richness of His life with and in me. How is my abiding deepening? How am I coming to know myself more and more at home in Him? What temptations are drawing my eyes and my life away from Him? What false promises of life tease and tempt me to look elsewhere for what I most truly and deeply find only in Him?
Blessed are those whose strength is in you
Second, “blessed are those whose strength is in You (verse 5).” If I feel strong, what makes me feel strong? My intellect? Experience? Physical health? Résumé? Education or training? Resources or possessions? Or, can I see all of these ultimately as a gift from God Himself? All my strength—my strengths—are in Him. I don’t use strength apart from Him. I live strong and confident in Him. It’s subtle, but critical.
I’ve been learning that becoming more confident in Him often involves feeling weak at times. God’s training process often causes things or abilities we’ve relied on apart from Him to become sour or less reliable than in the past. He may allow the good things we’ve become attached to and relied on to be less attractive or helpful than in the past so that I start seeking and depending on Him again. If I become comfortable in self-reliant modes, He will, in His great grace, cause me to feel less “together” to drive me back more fully to Him.
Blessed are those who trust in you
Third, “blessed are those who trust in you (verse 12).” Trust is of priceless value. Not just to God, but to us as well. Few dynamics have been more rewarding to me as the trustful relationship I have had with my sons. Being trusted feels good. Being trustworthy feels even better. Trust is lived belief. Our faith is more than facts about God we agree to. It is a life of relying on God, of trusting Him and entrusting ourselves to Him. It is realizing that I can always count on Him at all times no matter my circumstances. Again, my faith is tested when, for a season, I am tempted to see in my circumstances evidence that God has failed, or that God can no longer be trusted. It is good when I see His reliability in the face of my felt distrust. Sometimes it can take a while before I make these connections.
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere
Finally, it’s not a “blessed” but – “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere (verse 10).” The psalmist says, “I would rather have one day in God’s presence than a thousand days anywhere else, no matter how fun, or pleasurable, or beautiful.”
Life with God is more joyful than the happiest day I can imagine. Life with God is more satisfying than anything I could eat or drink. Life with God is more beautiful and tantalizing than any beauty that captivates me God’s presence is better.
Who God is is better than what God gives. Always, always, always.
Psalm 84 - New International Version (NIV)
For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
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.
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.
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, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
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.