Reflection on Psalm 84

Today, I'm thinking about Psalm 84 (NIV):
How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord Almighty!
2My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3Even 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.
4Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
5Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
8Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
10Better 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.
11For 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.

Verse 10 catches my attention today: "I'd rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."

It's helpful for me to play around with the language to imaginatively place myself in this ancient context. The temple is not equivalent to churches or church buildings. Judaism is not equivalent to Christianity. But the emotion, the desire, the pursuit of God and his shalom - that has universal appeal. The allure of the world's ephemeral pleasures and promises over the long-term perspective of choosing another kind of life available in Christ, that I can relate to. 

I'd rather be a floor sweeper at God's house party than throw back cocktails with the rich and famous.

I'd rather pull carrots in God's garden than feast on filet mignon with powerful elites.

I'd rather take out the trash at God's community center than take it easy at the country club.

I'd rather kick it with the poor and uneducated than yuck it up with the intelligentsia. 

I'd rather bus tables in God's café than dine with oppressors.

I'm sensitive to the fact that for many, their lives have been quite painfully marked as the underpaid doorkeeper, or the oppressed slave, or the unjustly treated worker. It is a good thing to long for freedom, for just pay, for equity. That, though, hasn't been my own story. 

I'm aware of the appeal of 'escape' that can pull me away from the world, from those who don't know Jesus. Jesus says I am a sheep among the wolves, to live in the world but not of it. How do I dwell faithfully in the midst of the world's thorns and thistles while keeping my heart, body, mind, and soul attached to the Vine? Where am I susceptible to hide in the courts of God's people rather than courageously take the light of Jesus into the darkness of the world? 

And, yet, I also know the appeal of ease, affluence, and pleasure. How often do I actually say, contra Psalm 84:

"I'd rather binge Netflix by myself than pray with friends."

"I'd rather take another vacation than find ways to bless the poor."

"I'd rather get a nice paycheck and benefits than work hard to budget my finances so that I can do something adventurous together with Jesus."

"I'd rather scroll through Instagram than call a friend who's hurting."

How does this psalm hit you today? What consolations and desolations does it surface for you? How is the spirit of God whispering to you?

I'll end with Eugene Peterson's version of this psalm from The Message:

1-2What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
I’ve always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
where I could sing for joy to God-alive!
3-4Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God!
How blessed they are to live and sing there!
5-7And how blessed all those in whom you live,
whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!
8-9 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, listen:
O God of Jacob, open your ears—I’m praying!
Look at our shields, glistening in the sun,
our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.
10-12One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,
beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God
than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.
All sunshine and sovereign is God,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
It’s smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.


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