Psalm 84 holds a special place in the heart of many. Christians have come to worship and commented with the words of Psalm 84:10: “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (KJV).
Charles Spurgeon introduced his thoughts on the psalm in this way: “If the twenty-third be the most popular, the one-hundred- and-third the most joyful, the one-hundred-and-nineteenth the most deeply experimental, the fifty-first the most plaintive, this is one of the most sweet of the Psalms of peace” (from The Treasury of David).
What about this psalm is so sweet and gives such peace?
On the one hand, it is an encouraging pilgrimage psalm—a psalm to be recited and even sung while traveling “the highways to Zion” (Ps 84:5), that is, making a pilgrimage from one’s home to the temple in Jerusalem, God’s “dwelling place,” “the courts of the LORD,” and “the house of my God” (Ps 84:1, 2, 10). And yet, though God’s presence is manifest in His temple, the psalmist’s true joy is ultimately found in “the living God” (Ps 84:2). The temple, its courts, and dwelling therein were not joyful ends in themselves. They were a central place to Israel’s worship, and God was the center of their worship.
On the other hand, it is also a psalm of trust. Knowing that those at the temple were “blessed” to be where God’s formal worship regularly took place (Ps 84:4), and knowing that even those on the journey to the temple were “blessed” by God’s strength to go there (Ps 84:5), the psalmist, whether at the temple in heart or person, was “blessed” because he was “one who trusts in” God, receiving every good things from Him (Ps 84:11–12).
While we may feel far removed from Israel and having a mandated central location for worship, there are some similarities between them and us today. Psalm 84 is just as alive to us as it was for them so long ago.
Consider the church’s weekly gathering on the day of the Lord. A local church meets together at a regular time and place each week. If our affection is properly for the Lord, we will long and even faint with desire to join His people in worshiping Him. We find strength day by day to sustain us between these gatherings to worship Him. At the end of the day, it is not the place or time of gathering that somehow gives us nostalgic joy. Our joy is found in worshiping the living God, something we can do in spirit anywhere and anytime.
Beyond this, we, too, are pilgrims but seeking a greater temple. We travel this spiritually arid world, making what springs we can, seeking the New Jerusalem, complete with its own special presence of God—it houses the throne of the Father and the Lamb. Like the psalmist who was strengthened by having the highways of Zion in his heart, so also we know the way to the New Jerusalem—through Jesus Christ who prepares this place for us. May we abide in Him, and may He abide in us, every step we take until we reach this heavenly glory.