Psalm 84 is similar to other “psalms of ascent” (Psalm 120-134) that were sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, as they looked forward to joining in the festival that was being celebrated there. The psalmist longs for God’s presence, for God’s temple (v. 2). But he’s not there yet…. he’s still on the way.
In verse 3 he talks about the birds – the sparrows and the swallows – finding a home in the temple, near the altar. Even the birds find safety and joy in God’s presence! Oh what a blessing it must be to dwell in the house of the Lord 24/7 every day… and be able to sing God’s praises – like those birds! (v.4)
In verses 5-7 the psalmist talks about their pilgrimage…. This journey they’re on.
The pilgrimage to Jerusalem takes them through the valley of Baca – where is this valley? Scholars seem to think the language refers to a “valley of tears”… or an alternate interpretation is “a dry and arid place”. Either way, it is a difficult leg of their journey. Even as they travel towards God, the way is often difficult. Yet, their presence causes the desert to become a place of springs…. The autumn rains come to create pools of water. Perhaps this refers to life’s struggles and difficulties in between the high points… as they proceed toward the presence of God.
And then in verse 10 – the words we sang earlier. “Better is One Day in your Courts, than 1,000 in the tents of the wicked. “ I would rather be a doorkeeper in God’s house than spend time in the presence of greed, wealth, social status, etc.
In verse 11 – God is a Sun and a Shield. This could be many sermons right here! God is our provision and warmth as well as our safety and protection.
And finally, the psalmist finishes with the statement that the one who trusts in God is truly BLESSED.
What does this psalm mean for us today?
- On one level, it could be a picture / image of our last 15 months. We long for the fellowship of our gatherings here at JCC. We remember our weekly lunches, our times together. For months we’ve worshiped over zoom.
- While I thank God for technology, we miss the physical fellowship and conversations.
- We’re not fully back yet. But we long for that. We’re not really sure what our future holds yet… but we pray and long for clarity.
- A second level or image of this psalm can refer to each of our spiritual pilgrimages. We are, throughout our lives, on a spiritual journey. We long for, and seek for God’s presence in our lives.
- Since old testament times the temple, as a center of worship, has disappeared. We know that God was never limited to the temple, nor is He limited to our church building.
- In the incarnation of Jesus, we are told in John’s gospel that Jesus (The Word that was from the beginning) came and has dwelled among us. Now the focal point of our worship is not a place, but a person. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
- During the pandemic we’ve been reminded of that. Even without our building, we are able to worship because of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
When I was in preaching class in seminary our professor always encouraged us to summarize our sermon in a single sentence. The idea was that if you couldn’t do that…easily state your sermon in a single sentence – that perhaps you were trying to say too much… or, more likely, that your thoughts were not completely clear yet! Although I try – and usually fail – to write a sermon sentence, this morning I offer you a series of short sentences that describe my heart longings this morning:
JCC is on a pilgrimage.
I am on a pilgrimage.
I desire to know more of God.
I desire to be in God’s presence.
Sometimes I don’t have this desire.
God, please grow this desire in me.
(The above is a summary of the message shared during our worship on August 22, 2021)