This psalm was originally part of the trip to Jerusalem for festivals in the temple.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! (Psalm 84:1-4)
Some people use this psalm to encourage people to come to church and to justify elaborate decorations in church buildings, but it is not about church, not about the wonder of the building.
The wonder of meeting in church is meeting with God, although God is not restricted by a building and will meet you wherever you go. Church is important and meeting together is important, but it’s just one place where we meet God.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. (Psalm 84:5-7)
During the Second World War there was a poster: Is your journey really necessary? We should ask ourselves the same question about our life journey. Where are we heading? Our purpose is not to pilgrimage to a holy site but to journey towards God.
What is your desire? Is God the focus of your life?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb 12:1-3)
We can be so easily distracted. A man was taking part in a triathlon when he heard his mother call his name and fell off his bike because he lost focus!
When was the last time you were lost in your spirit with God?
When a Welsh person leaves Wales they experience Hiraeth. It is one of those words that doesn’t translate easily, but it encompasses all the feelings of longing for home. Do you feel like that about drifting away from God?
This psalm encapsulates a time of excitement, joy and anticipation going to the temple.
Turning off the route to explore is OK when we’re on holiday, but we need to stick to the route on our spiritual journey. Our destination is to get as close to God as we can.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)
We are being transformed, stage by stage. We don’t get it all at once, but God has promised.
When walking we get weaker but journeying with God we get stronger the closer we get to God. Keep your eyes fixed on him.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:10-11)
Do you ever wonder if maybe there is something better, that you may miss what he has for you? There is nothing better than God. Don’t look for something more appealing. Don’t get distracted.
Walk with integrity.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
Maybe you need to take time to check your spiritual journey.
[based on a sermon by Pete Orphan at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk