Theme: Blessings from God’s House
In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to long after God, who delights in his people as they trust in him.
Scripture: Psalm 84:1-12
There are a number of ways of outlining Psalm 84, or parts of it. It can be done by the selahs, which divide the psalm into three parts, or by the stanzas of the New International Version, which would give us six parts, or in other ways. I have avoided expounding the psalm by means of its outline, considering that a far better way to get into it is by dealing with its authorship and images, as I have done.
However, at this point there is a three-part outline that can move us forward. It is the three blessings or beatitudes found in verses 4, 5 and 12. They make a progression. The first is for those who live and work in the temple. The second is for those who are on their way to it, for pilgrims. The third, which we will look at in tomorrow’s study, is for those who cannot get to the temple but who place their faith in God.
1. Those who dwell in God’s house (v. 4). We should be prepared for this blessing now, since it is what the psalm has been about almost entirely up to this point. The psalmists were aware that “the Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples built by hands,” as the Apostle Paul would later tell the Athenians (Acts 17:24). But there had been a special manifestation of God at the temple, when God descended in the form of the Shekinah glory to dwell within the Most Holy Place. And even though that visible glory at some point had departed or would depart, the ancient worshipers nevertheless felt the presence of God in the temple and even in Jerusalem, as nowhere else. It is why David wrote in Psalm 27: “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: 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 seek him in his temple” (v. 4). It is why the sons of Korah speak of yearning and even fainting for the courts of the Lord in Psalm 84.
Because God dwelled in Zion, the most favored of all human beings were those who lived there too, especially those who, like the priests, actually worked in the temple, whether making the sacrifices, conducting the music or attending to the inevitable custodial work. “Blessed are those who dwell in your house,” says the psalmist. “They are ever praising you.”
2. Those who are making their way to God’s house (v. 5). Not everyone was able to live in Jerusalem, of course. The majority of the people were scattered throughout the country in small villages or family farms. What about those people? The psalmist does not forget them and, in fact, has a blessing for them too (see v. 5). The remainder of this stanza (vv. 6, 7) describes the special blessings of the pilgrims who would be making their way up to Jerusalem for the feasts.
It is because of this stanza that so many of the commentators consider this a pilgrim psalm. It is not, as I have indicated. Nevertheless, there are blessings for these pilgrims. They are: 1) that they bless every area they pass through, even the Valley of Baca (“valley of weeping”), turning it into “a place of springs”; and 2) that they “go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.”
What a wonderful picture of the Christian life! Those who have come to know God in Jesus Christ are not seeking an earthly temple. We are seeking a heavenly temple and a city that has heavenly foundations (Heb. 12:22-24). As we press forward to that goal we pass through many Valleys of Baca and many autumns with falling brown leaves and cold slashing rains. But we are not disheartened by these things. On the contrary, we rise above them and go on from strength to strength, strengthening one another along the way, and blessing all we meet. Do you know Christians like that? I know many. I have been encouraged and helped and blessed by scores of people like this. You and I need to be exactly that for other people.
What is the progression of this psalm?
What was special about the temple? About those who live there?
What are the blessings for the pilgrims?
Application: Who has been an encouragement to you in your Christian life? How can you express your appreciation for them? Whom do you know who needs your help, and what will you do for their spiritual growth?