At various times and in different places in our life we identify as sacred. Such designations are a way of saying these times and places are different in an important and meaningful way.
Psalm 84 invites readers to one of those special places and times in the life of faith where God’s presence is found to be particularly intense.
When we read Psalm 84, we get a look into the heart of one who travelled to Jerusalem to worship. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was in ancient times, and is to this day, one of the most religiously hallowed places in the world. The sense of excitement and awe must have been almost overwhelming as the city on a hill with its exalted temple first came into view.
Look at these wonderful words:
‘How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God’ – Psalm 84:1-2
But what makes God’s dwelling place so “special” or so “different” from anything else a person might do?
The first thing is the inner beauty God creates by his presence. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O God.” The place where God lives, the heart where God dwells, becomes a lovely place, a beautiful spot. The Psalmist is excited about being in the presence of God.
This is the dwelling place of the “Lord Almighty.” The dwelling place of God they meant the Temple, the building in Jerusalem where God’s Shekinah glory was manifest. In the holy of holies within the Temple was a strange and mysterious light which marked the presence of God. Into that holy place, no Israelite was permitted to enter that holy place except the high priest, and he only once a year, and only then under the most rigorous of rituals.
Referring to God in this way is reminiscent of stories surrounding the ark of the covenant in which God is invisibly enthroned upon the cherubim but nonetheless present in a real way among the people. When the Israelites came into the Temple, though they could not physically enter the holy of holies to be in the presence of God there, there is no question but that, in their hearts and minds, as they appreciated and understood the truth pictured by their sacrifices and other things, they entered in spirit into the holy of holies. This is what the psalmist is now singing about: “O the joy of having God living in me!”
So the excitement found in the psalm is not so much about going to the particular place, but more so about who and what may be found there – the very presence of God.
The psalmist thinks of the temple. But for us, Paul says in First Corinthians 6 that our bodies are the “temples” of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Therefore, we can read the words of this psalm and take them as an expression of the excitement that comes because of the presence of God in our bodies.
The second thing is, God creates a compelling hunger. ” My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord.” Have you ever felt this way? Have you known a deep-seated longing to have more of the glory of God, more of the sense of his presence in your life? Have you fed upon his Word and been satisfied, and yet as you went away, felt a hunger for more? This psalm forces us to look at our own desires. I think about how the pilgrims heart longed to be in the presence of God. Regularly I ask myself, “Do I long to be in His presence? Is my heart desperate and hungry for God presence?”
Then the third thing is the joyful vitality that the presence of God gives. “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” This is an exciting experience and is exactly what God has meant life to be. Our spiritual vitality is drawn from His indwelling presence. My heart’s cry should be: ‘Lord God, I cannot live without Your presence. I need you every moment and want to be in Your presence always.”
It’s an amazing thing to be in the presence of the Lord. So many sense the Lord in many places, but for me I claim these words.
Right here in Your presence
Is where I belong
This old broken heart
Has finally found a home
And I’ll never be alone
For me, this is is where I belong. It is the kind of prayer I want to pray every day.