It is difficult to read the news recently without being overwhelmed by the suffering all around us. Some of us are enduring great difficulties that perhaps no one knows about. It is quite obvious that we live in a fallen world, and times like these can leave us desperate for eternity in glory. While a desire for heaven is a good thing, we must be careful that ours is not a “get me out of here” desire, but rather a present joy for the future joy that awaits us. We need to be mindful of the temptation to allow the distress of present difficulties to drown out the joy that is ours in the hope of Christ, which is meant to sustain us as we wait for Him.
We find in Psalm 84, a soul longing for the courts of the LORD, delighting to be on the journey there. The psalm contains one scant reference to the difficulty of the way. This one reference is overwhelmed by line after line of joy and hope in the prospects of enjoying the Lord’s presence.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 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.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah
These first verses indicate a recognition of the splendor that awaits in the Lord’s dwelling place. The psalmist is not there, yet – My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD – he has not entered those courts, and yet he is not waiting to arrive before singing in worship to the living God. He is enjoying God and worshiping in the journey.
How easy it is to lumber along the road of this life, wearily longing for glory, and traveling as if the joy that awaits cannot be experienced along the way. We’ve talked many times about the “already/not yet.” Here is another manifestation of it. Though we are not yet in the fullness of God’s presence, the Spirit already dwells within us as a “down-payment” on glory (2 Cor 5:1-5). As the psalmist notes, longing for the courts of the Lord does not preclude rejoicing in God along the road.
As Paul wrote the book of Philippians, he was enduring hardship, and you can read in every section the longing in his heart to go home to Christ. And yet, there are five references to his own rejoicing, and six exhortations to the recipients to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say Rejoice (4:4). Even in present suffering, as we long for the Lord’s eternal presence, we have just cause for rejoicing in Him, and we should do so.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!
Verses 5-9 show four ways that even in the absence of heaven, the presence of God may be experienced. First, we can know the power of God. Blessed are those whose strength is in you (v5). Second, we can know the provision of God (v6). The Valley of Baca, mentioned in v6, is thought to be a dry, barren place – an apt metaphor for the narrow path we travel. It is hard and there is no adequate sustenance for our souls. But for those who are longing for glory (“in whose hearts are the highways to Zion”), even the wasteland of this life is a place of springs and early rains due to the provision of the Lord.
Third, we can know the promise of God (v7). For those whose strength is in the Lord, each one appears before God in Zion. We can know that if we are in Christ, our hope is not a worldly brand of wishful thinking, but a confident assurance that our future in heaven is not an if but a when. We will appear before God in Zion.
Fourth, we can know the protection of God (v8-9). God is our shield. When we call, He hears us. There is no danger of ultimate peril on the way. He will preserve us to the end.
10 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.
11 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.
12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
Like bookends the first verses and last verses of the psalm sing about the unparalleled wonder of the presence of the Lord. All the delights of the entire history of this temporal world cannot compare to a single day in the Lord’s house (v10). That is cause for rejoicing. It is the place where we will experience in full measure the power, provision, promise, and protection that we have only sampled on this earth (v11). He is worthy to be trusted for that ultimate reward and blessed are those who do so (v12).
May the hope of glory overwhelm the difficulties and darkness surrounding you today.