Note: In this lesson, I refer to the author of Psalm 84 as David, the venerable psalmist and friend of God. Most Bibles, however, refer to the "Sons of Korah" in the corresponding subtitle to this text. After some research, it is inconclusive according to most scholarly sources who actually wrote the psalm. Even though the Sons of Korah are mentioned, it is still most likely that David wrote the psalm because the phrase "A song (or psalm) of the sons of Korah" may safely be interpreted as "A song (or psalm) for the son of Korah", referring to the fact that this group of people served as professional singers in the place of worship. They did not always write their own music, but left it up to others to provide music for them to sing. Because of the way the psalm is written, it is this author's opinion that the penman was most likely not the son of Korah, since they dwelt in the place of worship on a daily basis. The writer of Psalm 84 seems to be writing from the perspective of "an outsider looking in", or somebody longing to enter the worship. In any case, though, the identity of the writer is immaterial to the beautiful theme of the work. -Ryan Goodwin
“How lovely are Thy dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house! They are ever praising Thee… For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:1-4,10). Compared to David’s attitude toward worship, we sometimes seem trite in our treatment of God. Can we say the same thing about the service, in our day and age of accomplished revelatory perfection (Hebrews 8:6, 2 Peter 1:3), that David did under the imperfect old law? He never saw the fullness of the promises, as we have in these latter days, yet he longed to praise God so incredibly that his zeal is remembered to this day. His words in this psalm are a testament to the love that he had for God, and the joy he felt by worshipping the King of kings.
The problems that plague our worship services today go back to our attitudes. If we do not regard the worship the way we ought to, then we do not regard God appropriately, either. Here are some initial observations before we examine Psalm 84 more closely:
· Even though David’s worship was framed by the Old Testament commands and ordinances, there is no doubt that their worship had the potential to be just as sincere as ours today. “Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary” (Hebrews 9:1). Even though it was admittedly the temporary covenant, the Old Law was still designed and implemented by Divine decree. So if David could feel this way about worshipping God through the medium of animal sacrifices, incense, and limitations because of his tribal birth (for only priests could enter certain holy places in the temple), how much more vibrant should our worship be since we ourselves are priests (1 Peter 2:9), and our worship is enacted on better promises than the first (Hebrews 8:6)?
· When we read this psalm, do we really take to heart the obvious modern applications? Do you think David would be the kind of person today who would miss Sunday nights and Wednesdays? Would David dress sloppily to church today? Would David forget that he was scheduled to lead songs? Would David show up for worship five minutes late? So what makes us think that we can get away with such things when we have an example like David, who we are commanded to follow (Romans 15:4)?
· Even though David is speaking of an earthly dwelling place for God (the tabernacle), we need to keep in mind that at this point, the temple had not been built. So even in a humble place of worship, David longed for the company of God. He did not need a glorious gold-encrusted temple to feel like his worship was special and valuable to God. Even though God is not confined to dwell in a place made with human hands, He does dwell wherever there is righteousness and truth being practiced (Matthew 18:20), regardless of the setting.
Longing For Worship
David calls the dwelling places of God “lovely”, which is interesting because sometimes very ugly people are in the house of God. The priests and Levites of the Old Testament were not always great moral compasses. The sons of Eli, for example, were ceaselessly swindling and conniving, even described by God as worthless men (1 Samuel 2:12). Yet their presence did not remove the responsibility that others had when it came to serving God. Even in the midst of such terrible influences, young Samuel was able to serve and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. He did not need everyone else around him to be righteous in order for he himself to be so. The lessons for is that the dwelling place of the Lord is always lovely as long as there are at least some people fighting evil. Consider also the church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-7). Because of the presence of the few “who had not soiled their garments”, God knew that there was hope for the church. The practical application is this:
· Even when we do not like everybody at church over wrongs they have done to us or others, that does not mean we can quit coming, or give up.
· Conflicts will arise, but it is the faithful who will be given eternal life. Do not let the ugliness of human imperfection hide your eyes from the beauty and loveliness of worshipping God. David could say in all honesty that the dwelling place of God is always lovely – not because of other people, but because of the presence of the Holy One. Remember what John says of his beloved friend Gaius in 3 John 11, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.” And that was spoken with someone like Diotrophes in their midst!
· Keep your eyes focused on worshipping Him. You are not at church to please others, but to please God. You shining example will always be noticed by God, even you are the only person in a thousand who is genuine. Worshipping God is always lovely, dear friends!
Not only was worship lovely to David, but it gave him so much spiritual food that he longed for – he even yearned for it. What we need to remember is that we only get out of something what we put into it. If you do not long for the worship, or you do not “feel” anything from it anymore, perhaps it is because you are not contributing to it very much. Rather than longing, many “believers” today loathe worship, or at least have a marked indifference toward it. Some long for church to be over so that they can get to lunch, arguing that the preacher goes too long all the time, or “we need to cut back on our time.” Why? Why does church need to be streamlined? Why does God’s worship need to be cut off in order to curb our worldly appetites? Even though our Lord was conceivably quite famished, he refused to eat in John 4:32-34, stating, “I have food to eat that you do not know about… My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”
If a person truly longs for the worship, then he or she would never need to be convinced to come on more than one Sunday per month. What kind of attitude exists in the heart when debates are held about the necessity of attendance? Who would argue that we need less worship? The problem is that we should not need to be commanded or coerced into attendance. We should want it! Unfortunately, we do hear the argument, “Well, I don’t need to come to church because I can worship God on my own, in my living room.” But that is not the attitude of David in Psalm 84. If there is really no need to come to church, then why would someone like David go out of his way to come to the dwelling place of the Lord. David had a palace which would have worked just fine, yet he left his abode and made a concerted effort to go to God. In fact, he saw so much value in “going” to the house of God for worship that he envied the birds that got to nest in the eaves of the building! David was the sort of man who would have been at church every day of the week, yet we seem hard pressed to drag people kicking and screaming to Sunday nights.
With Heart And Flesh
David makes note of the fact that it is both his flesh and his heart that sing praises to God. This is interesting because it seems to unconscientiously allude to what Christ states in John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” There needs to be a balance in our worship between motive and carnal manifestation. When David offered his worship, he used his voice (his flesh) to directly obey the commandments and offer tangible evidence of his praise. But the outside occurrence of worship was not enough for him or God – he validated the outward signs of worship with a pure and genuine heart. In the same way, our worship cannot be only “spirit” (proper motivation, zeal, spirituality, and emotions) or only “truth” (proper mode, physical obedience to precise commands in worship).It must be both, which is sometimes hard to do:
· “Spirit and truth” is difficult to accomplish if the preacher’s topic is just not that interesting to you. There are going to be subjects that just hardly apply to our situations, but we must work hard at conquering this barrier.
· It is also very difficult to feel anything if the singing is poor, or the song selection is illogical. You might be obedient to the command, but your spirit might be dead within yourself.
· Public prayers are difficult to do and listen to at times. If the one leading the prayer is using only “standard prayer phrases” or repetition, then many in the assembly will feel less than motivated by the petitions.
· On a very practical level, we need to be careful how we dress for church. Some people make the shaky argument that what we wear means nothing, as long as the heart is right. While it is true that motives are significant, we again need to mention David’s use of both his heart and flesh. Even in his flesh, in the way he carried himself, dressed himself, and groomed in preparation for the worship, he praised God. His appearance had as much to do with his “flesh” than anything else. Does your outfit today metaphorically “sing praises” to God?
· Casual attire at church is an effrontery to the godly examples left to us by men like David. While they regarded worship as the most important activity of their lives, we sometimes treat it like nothing more special than a casual occasion. What is on the outside is often a reflection of what is on the inside, friends. You may argue with me about how pure your heart is, but man judges based on appearance, and a shabby exterior is a symbol of a lack of respect and dignity.
· Not only that, but God is not pleased with worship that is less than our best. Consider Malachi 1:6-8, “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name…” If we would show respect at a funeral, at a state dinner, on an anniversary, or any other special occasion, should we not show even more respect and dignity to God?
· The key to a really powerful worship experience is proper motivation. Prepare yourself mentally for worship by dwelling on the Word, reading the scriptures on a daily basis. If we do this, it will excite us throughout the week and give us the hunger for worship by the time Sunday arrives.
· Also, if you have been having difficult with worship, consider preparing yourself the night before. In Jewish tradition, the Sabbath actually began the evening before Saturday, in order for no preparation to be made on the actual day of rest. This meant that they were in a Sabbath mindset many hours before it actually began. Pray intently on Saturday nights, read the text for the Bible class lesson, and have a family devotional.
· If singing is giving you trouble, consider practicing at home. If you go through the song book and intently read some of the lyrics, it may help you make the singing more meaningful. Often, we forget about what a song is actually trying to teach us because we focus too much on the music. Consider the possibility of private music classes, which are usually very cheap with a private singing instructor.
· Check your baggage at the door! When you come to worship, leave your cares behind. If there are sins that need to be repented of, or distractions that are keeping your mind occupied, you will find it difficult to worship effectively. Do as our Lord suggests and deal with your worldly issues before coming to worship (Matthew 5:23-24).
· Attend, attend, attend. Please come as often as is humanly possible. Do not let headaches, bad temperaments, or minor illnesses stop you from attending. David states that he would rather dwell in the weather outside of the temple, then live in the tent of sinners. If David would put up with wind, rain, cold, scorching heat, bugs, and loneliness in order to worship, you can take an aspirin and sit through church. Remember, you will either have a headache at home or at church. Either way you will have a headache, but at least if you come to church you will feel edified by the end.
· Finally, pray a lot. Nothing helps us appreciate God more than serious, deep, concentrated, passionate prayer. If your prayer life has been suffering, or you find yourself unable to come up with the right words, simply open up to the book of Psalm and start reading. These are God-breathed prayers that deal with almost every spiritual topic we would need.