To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. It is thought, by some interpreters, that Gittith signifies the wine-press. They must have been a very godly people who sang such songs as this in the time of the treading out of the grapes. Oh, that the day were come when the common places of our ordinary industries should be sanctified by psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs! Alas, at the wine-press, men too often sing loose and lascivious songs; but these ancient people of God did not so. This Psalm is a song to the chief musician, and it is mainly concerning the house of God and the pilgrimage to it. Every sacred song should be sung at its best, we should call out the chief musician in every hymn that is dedicated to the service of the Lord.
“To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.” I have often reminded you that these sons of Korah owed their continued existence to an act of special sovereign grace. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all their company, were swallowed up alive, they went down to the pit because of their rebellion; but in the Book of Numbers we read, “Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.” Why they were spared, we cannot tell; but, ever after, they were made to be the singers of the sanctuary. They who are saved by sovereign grace are the most fit to praise the name of the Lord. The sons of Korah also became door-keepers to the house of the Lord; and hence, probably, is the allusion to a doorkeeper which we find in this Psalm.
Psalms 84:1. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!
“How amiable “ — how lovely “are thy tabernacles!” The temple was not then built; the Lord’s house was as yet only a tent, so that it is not the glory of architecture that makes the house to be lovely, the glory of it is the indwelling God. “How amiable are thy tabernacles!” That is to say, every part of it is lovely. The outer court, the inner court, the Holy of Holies, all the different parts in that ancient sacred shrine were lovely to the psalmist’s eye. He does not tell us how lovely they were; he leaves off with a note of exclamation, as if he could not measure with his golden rod this city of the great King. “’How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Jehovah of hosts,’ —lovely because they are thine! They are our tabernacles if we gather in them; but they are thine because thou art there, and therefore are they most lovely to our eyes.”
Psalms 84:2. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
His soul longed until, as it were, it grew pale, — for so the Hebrew may be rendered, — it grew white with faintness in the intensity of his desire to get up to the courts where God was to be found. God is a King, his ancient tabernacle was one of his royal palaces, so David longed to be a courtier there, that he might dwell in the courts of Jehovah. When he says that his flesh cried out for the living God, he does not mean flesh in the sense in which Paul uses the term, for in that flesh there dwelleth no good thing; but the psalmist means to express here the whole of his nature, “My soul, my heart, and my flesh.” The combination of his entire male-hood, spirit, soul, and body, was moved with such intense agony of desire that it must express itself, and it could only express itself in a cry: “My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” If it be so with you, my brethren, at this time, you shall have a feast of fat things. He who cometh to God’s table with a good appetite shall never go away unsatisfied. It is want of desire which often hinders us from spiritual delight; but when the desire is set upon God, it shall be satisfied. I fear that we often come to the wells of salvation, and yet get nothing, because merely coming to the wells is nothing. We read in Isaiah, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” It is not the wells, but the water out of them, which will refresh the weary one. Do not be content with being here, in your pew, in the midst of this great congregation; but long after the living God himself, for he alone can refresh and revive your soul and spirit. Say, with David, “My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”
Psalms 84:3. Yea. the sparrow hath found an 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.
These little birds, so insignificant in themselves, were full of holy courage, and with sweet familiarity they came even into the sacred place. They hung upon the caves of God’s house, they even dared to make their nests there.
“O make me like the sparrows blest,
To dwell but where I love!”
O my Lord, give me the privilege of the swallow; not only to dwell with thee, but to see my young ones, too, all round thine altars, that I may find with thee, my God, a nest where I may lay my young! Is not this your desire, my brother, my sister, to have God for yourself, and God for your boys, and God for your girls, — to be yourself God’s servant, and to have all your children his children, too? If so, God grant you the desire of your heart! How sweetly does David address the Lord: “O Jehovah of hosts, my King, and my God!” The people of God are very fond of my’s, they love possessive pronouns: “my King, and my God.” God is good, but what is another man’s God to me if he be not mine? I must have him for my King, and my God, or else I shall not really long for him, or cry out after him, or delight in him.
Psalms 84:4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee.
The nearer to God you are in your life, the sweeter and more constant will be your song to him. They who dwell with God dwell where there must be singing.
“Where God doth dwell, sure heaven is there,
And singing there must be:
Since, Lord, thy presence makes my heaven,
Whom should I sing but thee?”
Blessed are they who always dwell where thou dwellest, O my God! “They will be still praising thee.”
Psalms 84:4. Selah.
Screw up the harp strings, set the music to a higher key; lift up the heart also, let the soul rise to something sweeter still in praise of Jehovah.
Psalms 84:5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways —
Or,” Thy ways.” It is not every man who is in God’s house who is blessed; the blessed man is the one who has brought his heart with him. It is not every man who is in God’s ways who is blessed; but the man whose strength is in those ways, who throws his whole heart and soul into the worship. Half-hearted worship is dreary work, it is like a blind horse going round in a mill; but when the heart is in the service, we feel then as if we could dance for joy in the presence of the Lord our God: “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are thy ways.”
Psalms 84:6-7. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
We do not know at this date what that valley of Baca was, for the land has been to so large an extent destroyed. This ancient song retains the name of the valley of Baca, but it does not explain to us where or what the place was. Peradventure, it was a dry and thirsty valley in which, in order to pass through it at all, the pilgrims digged wells that there might be refreshment for their journey. There are many such valleys on the road to heaven, —dark and lonesome, dry and barren, — but God’s people learn to dig wells there. Only mark that, though we dig the wells, the water to fill them does not rise up from the bottom, it falls down from above: “The rain also filleth the pools.” In the kingdom of heaven, there are some analogies with the kingdom of nature; but there are a great many heavenly things that have no earthly analogy at all, and you cannot with any accuracy argue from natural laws into the spiritual world. For instance, we have “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast,” and we throw that anchor up: “which entereth into that within the veil.” Whereas earthly mariners drop their anchors down into the sea, we fling ours up into heaven. That is odd, but it is true; so, we dig a well, but it does not get filled from the bottom: “The rain also filleth the pools.” This is a new kind of well, and it teaches us that we must use the means, but that everything depends upon God. We have not to depend upon the means, but upon the God of the means: “The rain also filleth the pools.” See, further, brethren, what the way to heaven is; it is a growing way, an increasing way: “They go from strength to strength.” Those who begin in their own strength go from weakness to weakness; but (hose who know their own weakness, and trust in the Almighty God, shall go from strength to strength. In the natural world, as we grow older, we get weaker; but in the moral and spiritual world, when it is as it should be, the older we grow, the stronger we become in God and in the power of his might. What a mercy it is to be on the road to heaven, which is a road ever upwards! From step to step, from hill to hill, from mount to mount, they climb who shall ultimately end their pilgrimage in the King’s palace above: “Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.”
Psalms 84:8-9. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
See what a rise there is in the music here, from “Hear my prayer,” to “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.” “When thou canst not look on me, look on thine Anointed.”
“Him, and then the sinner see,
Look through Jesus’ wounds on me.”
When God looks at us, he may well be angry; but when he looks upon Christ, he must be glad and full of love.
Psalms 84:10. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand.
That is, better than a thousand spent anywhere else. You see, we have not yet come to the country where we can keep at God’s public worship all the year together, we have to get it a day at a time. Have you not often wished that there were seven Sundays in the week? I am sure that you have when God has fed your souls, and made your spirits merry in the house of prayer.
Then have you sighed for the land —
“Where congregations ne’er break up,
And Sabbaths have no end.”
If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall come there by-and-by; but, at present, you must be satisfied with a day at a time in the courts of the Lord, yet the Lord can crowd mercies into one day with such a marvellous compression of grace that we shall seem to get three years’ food in a single day. The Lord make this day to be a sort of millennial day “A day in thy courts is better than a thousand” spent anywhere else.
Psalms 84:10. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
As I said before, the sons of Korah were door-keepers to the house of the Lord, and this Psalm is for them. You know that our poor door-keepers generally have many to find fault with them, somebody or other is sure to feel disobliged; door-keeping is no very remunerative work, no very easy and pleasing task; “yet,” says David, King David himself, — “I would take off my crown of gold, and turn pew-opener; I would wish to be even a door-keeper in the house of the Lord, so long as I might but be with my God; and that position would be far better than feasting and rioting in royal pavilions with the wicked.”
Psalms 84:11. For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Take notice of the whole of that last sentence; do not go and quote half of it, and say, “God has promised that he will withhold no good thing.” It is only promised to “them that walk uprightly”; and if you walk crookedly, the promise does not belong to you. It is upright walking that brings downright blessing. You shall lack no good thing from God, when your whole heart is made good towards God.
Psalms 84:12. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
May all of us know this blessedness! Amen.