What do you long for? What motivates you more than anything else? What drives you and makes you tick?
With those questions of self-examination in mind, let’s take a look at what consumed the writer of Psalm 84, which Charles Spurgeon described as “one of the most sweet of the Psalms of peace.”
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
The psalmist has a pervasive desire for God. He wants to be with God. He longs to experience the presence of God. And he wants to fulfill that desire by going to the temple in Jerusalem. Note the repeated references to the building that God chose to inhabit in a special way: “your dwelling place” (v. 1), “the courts of the Lord” (v. 2), “your altar” (v. 3), “your house” (v. 4), “your courts” (v. 10), “the house of my God” (v. 10).
The Jews would travel to Jerusalem at least three times a year to observe special festivals – Passover and Pentecost in the spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall. And the psalmist is thinking about these journeys to the physical dwelling place of God with great anticipation – “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have their set their hearts on pilgrimage” (v. 5).
A true Jew longed to go to the temple because here he was given the opportunity to experience God’s presence in a unique way. He could sing praises to God with thousands of other like-minded Jews, for “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you” (v. 4).
He could cry out to God in prayer, offering thanksgiving for both physical and spiritual blessings that came from the hand of his Almighty provider. “Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob” (v. 8).
And he could present an animal sacrifice to be forgiven of his sins. Verse 3 mentions the altar, where this all-important ceremony took place.
Yes, the temple was a special place. God revealed Himself here like nowhere else. There was no other place on earth like it.
Soon after Jesus came, the temple was destroyed by the Romans, just as He predicted. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).
But the One who foresaw the temple’s decimation is also the One who, in effect, replaced the temple, “for one greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6).
Everything that God did for Old Testament saints at the temple, He now does for New Testament believers in Jesus. The Christian can read Psalm 84 and think of Christ.
“How lovely is your Christ, O Lord Almighty!” (verse 1). Jesus is the dwelling place of God, for He is God. And oh how beautiful is The Christ to my soul!
“My soul yearns, even faints for Jesus! My flesh and my heart cry out for the living Christ!” (verse 2). Is this not the prayer of the genuine Christ follower?
“Blessed are those who dwell in Jesus; they are ever praising you” (verse 4). All our spiritual blessings are found in Christ. Looking for a good passage to be reminded of these blessings? Ephesians 1:3-14 is a one of my favorites. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). I urge you to read this passage regularly, taking note of the repeated mention of Jesus and the phrases “in Christ” and “in him.”
“Better is one day with Jesus than a thousand elsewhere” (verse 10). We are not required to travel anywhere to experience the presence of Christ, for He is as close to us as we want Him to be.
Of course, all this is possible because of the death of Jesus. We no longer go to a temple to slaughter an animal to atone for our sins. Instead, Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice for sin on the altar of the cross. And because of his death, God’s forgiveness is ours and we, like the sparrow, have found a home in Jesus, a nest for ourselves, where we may live in the presence of God. “Even the Christ follower has found a home, and the believer a nest for herself, where she may have her young, a place near your Christ, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God” (verse 3).