Written by Paul J. Bucknell on June, 29, 2019
Psalm 84:1-12 — Enter the True Worship of God
Worship and Psalm 84
The Psalmist guides us into the worship of God by describing his spontaneous response to admire Him and His unique ways of working in his life. In each of the three sections of Psalm 84, we discover God’s special ways of revealing Himself to us so to heighten the delight of our praise to Him with our words, life, and song. Psalm 84 lays before us a reminder of our life journey of knowing and pursuing God which serve as our base for our impromptu times of worship. Verses 5-8 take us on a special path showing how the Lord is intimately involved in our lives—even during difficult times.
Worship reveals itself with obedience. To develop a greater sense of worship we need to first know what genuinely pleases the Lord and then do those things. Jesus greatly expands our concept of worship with this Old Testament quote: the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind” (Mat 22:37), calling us to sift out all contrary impulses and deepen our devotion to the Lord. Psalm 84 helps us better understand how to devotedly love our God. Only in this way, will we enter the proper spirit of worship of the one and only true God. Psalm 84 importantly reminds us that genuine worship springs forth from our simple delight and service.
Emphases of Psalm 84
The Psalmist of Psalm 84 repeatedly states several words and phrases that hint how he worships and provides an overall framework for our entry into the worship of the one True God.
• Three sentences, one in each of the three sections, contain the word “blessed.” True worship launches from an intimate relationship with the Lord wherein God’s blessings are readily seen.
“How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You.” (4)
“How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!” (5)
“O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (12 )
• The “Lord of Hosts” is used four times (Psalm 84:1,8, 12), each time in direct address, again one time in each section (273 times, all in the Old Testament). The Lord of Hosts is a commonly used term to describe God’s awesome power, being in control of everything including angels, people, and the stars. In order to reach the refined and subtle nuances of God’s greatness, we must focus our attention and fascination, as the Psalmist does, on the “the Lord of Hosts.” The Psalmist also uses Jehovah-Yahweh seven times, depicting his intimate relationship with God.
The Structure of Psalm 84 and the Word “Selah”
• “Selah,” is used only two times, but its significant placement helps us assertively outline the structure of Psalm 84. Partially because of these Selahs, or pauses, Psalm 84 can best be divided into three sections (having the conclusion serve as a full pause rather than having a Selah at the end), each meditation leading to the following one. This flow of thought, then, is not only observable by the topics discussed but also by the structure.
Verses 84:1-4 are set off as the first section by the first “Selah” (84:4), forming a beautiful closure to the first extraordinary declaration of God’s majesty. The first section ends with an exclamatory “how blessed” (4).
The second section picks up this thread and begins with the phrase “Blessed is the man” (5) leading up to the second “Selah” (8), concluding this second section with a brief prayer.
Psalm 84 does not seem written because of one big incident, as many psalms are, but as one special time of worship buttressed by many past awesome and intimate times with the Lord.
Our Devoted Worship (Psalm 84:1-12)
A greater apprehension of the Great and Mighty One only comes as we become more exclusive with our affection and cut out all forms of idolatry (1 John 5:21; Mat 5:8). Our worship is the sum expression of our adoration of God rather than outward acts, including worship postures, which might exclude one’s heart, mind, and soul from one’s worship. The many forms of worship, however, are empty without the inner dedication and delight of our Lord.
How real is God in our lives? Our faith doesn’t make Him real but is the means by which we perceive His glory.
What should we expect of our experience with God? The skilled temple worship team, known as the “sons of Korah,” give us a refreshing look at what it means to be reconciled with God through the blood of Christ. Yes, in the Old Testament, they only knew about the promise of the Messiah to come, but we live in the abounding reality and promises of God’s blessings in Jesus Christ.
Introduction to Psalm 84
The Psalms are vehicles for meditation through which images, words, sweeping thoughts and experiences of others move us closer to our Great Creator. No one person can experience or relate all of God, but through the word pictures of Psalm 84 and other places, we can catch glimpses of the Psalmist’s interaction with the Living God, stirring our own spirit to daily engage in worship of our gracious God.
A. Fully Desire God’s Fellowship (84:1-4)
(With all my heart)
“How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!” (4)
For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
1 How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! 2 My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. 3 The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. 4 How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You. Selah. (NASB)
True worship must be God-oriented, dismissing all fascination with oneself and completely preoccupied with the amazing ways of the Almighty God who calls us into His fellowship. Worship is not merely breaking through to God but dwelling in His presence because our hearts are, through Christ’s grace, in the right place before Him. Let’s note some important aspects of the heart of the true worshipper of God.
- Adoring: “How lovely are your dwelling places” (Ps 84:1). To adore the Lord one must pause before Him, meditate in the multi-faceted nature of God, satiate oneself in His glorious person and ways, then restate them in one’s thoughts, song, and testimony to others. If someone says all gods are the same, just describe our covenant-making, compassionate and all-powerful God who sent Jesus, His only Son, to die for mankind! There is only one Yahweh, the God who saves!
- Longing for: “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord” (Ps 84:2a). We typically long for special people, situations, and experiences that somehow moved, pleased, and otherwise helped us in the past. Memories are powerful. The Psalmist longs to be close to the One that has been so gracious to him.
- Personally expressive: “My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Ps 84:2b). These two “my”s along with the “my soul” from earlier in the verse attempt to include every part of the Psalmist’s devotion. At the heart of worship is a deep attraction from every fiber of our being pulled towards our King and God.
Perhaps this expression of singing is most commonly heard in our churches during worship time, but true worship does not consist in the offering of a song apart from bypassing our heart and experiences. The Psalmist necessarily points to God’s kind work in his life. Worshipful songs must focus on pleasing God not people, and so God is truly worshipped through the truths that arise from the memories of God’s work in our lives.
A strong sense of possession lies at the heart of true worship.
Not everyone reaches this degree of worship to love the Lord God with all of our heart, though its calling pulls on each of our lives. What are the things that must take place in our lives to consistently adore the Lord? It is impossible for those who depend on their works to gain God’s favor to genuinely worship Him. Worship, for them, is a means of performance to appease God. Our goal is to worship God with our heart, having our heart long for the manifestation of God because of the way He has so wonderfully worked in our lives.
- Soul-delighting: “The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars” (Ps 84:3). The heart of worship calls us ever closer to God, creating a deeper and more passionate longing to be with God. And so, the Psalmist likens himself to this bird who no doubt made a little nest in the structure of the temple itself. The bird could go and build a home (eg., a nest) where people could not—closer to God. Of course, today we do not put much attention on the church building as they did on the temple in the Old Testament. Before Jesus’ coming, God dwelt in the temple, while now, He resides in the believer. And so the believer never is absent from God but can fully live in God’s presence filled with worship: “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph 5:19 ESV). Our intimate times with God are often short and disappearing, but we long to be with Him, to see Him, and never again face any separation due to one’s straying heart or doubtful mind when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:1-2).
- Testifying to one’s delight in God: “How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You” (Ps 84:4). The Psalmist completes the cycle of worship: first attracted, then delighted, satisfied, and affirming. In the immediate sense, the Psalmist speaks of those whose duty it is to sing or serve the Lord. They are so blessed to have that opportunity. “Oh, I wish I was a priest and could live right there in the temple.” David, for example, had his magnificent house, but he longed to be closer to the temple. Some have suggested that this Psalm refers to a time earlier in David’s life when he could not even live in Jerusalem due to the threat on his life, but his mention of the bird seems to indicate the temple was within viewing distance. David might not have written this Psalm or the final edition but left one of his meditation for the sons of Korah to improvise.
The phrase “all my heart” well-describes a person becoming aware of one’s response to God’s expectation and glory. The Psalmist, as if to make sure every single part of his body and emotions is caught up in a raptured love for all of God, speaks of “my soul,” “my heart,” and “my flesh.”
Any time only a portion of our heart worships a part of God, know for sure that these insidious doubts lead to sin. This attempt to include every sector of his being and existence depends on good remembrances and experiences of God’s redemptive love and faithful dealing in one’s life. The Psalmist possessed an exclusive devotion for God. Most of our sins are based on a faulty trust in God and worship or preference of self over God. We consider our true blessing comes not from being with God but by being with that girl, that computer game, that trip, getting that degree, etc. Those things, as all of life, have a place, but it is the irregular placement of importance and delight that trap us by the noose of idolatry. The Psalmist, however, expressed an unquestioned delight in God’s ways. He knew the wonderful life that issues from living in God’s presence, and so ends, “How blessed are those who dwell in your house! They are ever praising you!” So why do you go to church? We are called to examine what we are doing while there.
B. Tearfully Experience God’s Intimacy (Psalm 84:5-8)
With All My soul
“How blessed is the man whose strength is in You!” (5)
5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! 6 Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; The early rain also covers it with blessings. 7 They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion. 8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Pilgrimage is costly in time, strength, and money (crops). The image of traveling suggests a reference to the three mandated trips to the tabernacle/temple each year. They had to travel several days, mostly by foot, to worship the Lord in Zion, that is, Jerusalem. The pilgrims would travel in groups, singing songs, and reiterating scripture.
No one knows if the Valley of Baca is a real place or just describes one of the many desert-like paths between some mountains. But we can also imagine Baca, which means “weeping,” to describe a trial and testing time. So either way, we can interpret this difficult strait to represent tough times that believers experience as they journey through their lives in devotion to God. But it’s during these ventures through these difficult valleys that God’s people discover His amazing grace.
This grace is found in a spring or early rain, bringing much-delighted grace to meet them in their bitter and dry times. If Baca refers to weeping, the spring describes the profuse amount of tears shed that becomes a spring of tears, but even still, comfort is found. Such memories become kindle for the fires of worship. I often find myself personally thinking of or sharing with my wife and children how God so wonderfully brought us through various hard times of life. There is no greater legacy than the stories of God’s grace found in our lives.
“Blessed is he whose strength is in the Lord.” (84:5)
The word “strength” is markedly used three times in these four verses (5,7,7). First, there is a clear association of worship and blessing made with finding strength in the Lord. “Strength” depicts how we learn to rely on God to bring us through various “weak” circumstances of our lives.
The phrase, “They go from strength to strength” depict the growth of our reliance in God as we journey through life. Perhaps, in the imagery of this section, he is thinking more particularly how tired he is walking to the temple but then gradually adapts to the long, arduous uphill road to Jerusalem. In either case, we should see a Christian’s life as one where they “go from strength to strength.”
Five Truths for Becoming Spiritually Strong
I recently explained to a brother how to depend on the Lord and find His strength. Here are five fundamental truths which must be properly understood and embraced to grow strong in the Lord.
Trials are not to be rejected as they serve the very place to learn and appreciate God’s majestic glory. Persevere and imbibe in richer worship!
- God trains us to be holy like Jesus. The training program continues on in our lives whether we know it or not. The Lord’s uniquely-devised situations develop our godliness including rebukes, people’s comments, insights from scriptures, difficult circumstances, and bitter people, etc. Be alert or you will miss the reason you face many of life’s problems!
- Despite being vessels of clay, formed from the dust and burdened with sin and guilt, God has destined us for His glorious work. I think of a barge on our river where fireworks are shot from. No one looks at the barge—noisy, dark, and smokey, but the spectacle of glory shining far above the river causing many gasps of awe and delight. So God likewise uses our brokenness to be the very place where He displays His might and provide revelations of His glorious faithfulness in our dust-bound lives.
- God designed human beings to function in dependence on the Lord so He is our strength and life; this is true for all people. Secularism depicts the opposite of dependence on God, living apart from the very presence of God—which is quite ludicrous. The strength of the Lord, however, occurs when the Lord becomes our vitality, hope, and vivaciousness. Everyone is dependent upon God, but not all benefit from His strength and purpose. We grow in strength, not when we are personally stronger, but when we seek the Lord’s help for our needy times and are buoyed up by His wise interworking in our lives.
- The Lord trains us to depend on Him by carefully initiating measured trials and difficulty in our lives. The Lord gains our attention, helps us recognize the inferiority of our ways, refocuses us on our genuine needs, and finally brings us to Him in desperation with an open and welcoming heart. As this happens again and again (100,1000 times?), then we, like the Psalmist, finally see how He is our daily strength and hope so that our boasting can be in Him. Otherwise, He must wait for us to complete another training program to finish the lesson—less we become confident in our ways.
- As we constantly abide in Him, we monitor how we go from strength to strength, increasingly relying on the Lord and through His Spirit’s filling of His strength, love, and wisdom, carry out His purposes. By observing His work in us, our faith and praise in Him increase.
C. Mindfully Explore God’s Excellency (84:9-12)
With all my mind
“O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (12)
9 Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed. 10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O Lord of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
As we study the Scriptures, we find that the Psalmist is very focused on the Lord. He reveals several things about his mind (though we are not saying we do not discern anything about his thoughts earlier on). The Psalmist is reminiscing, contrasting, and rejecting as he delightedly says these words. Let’s look at some key phrases.
A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: “ I love you, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)
- “Our shield, O God”: The Psalmist recognizes how God has protected his life and the lives of his people. Shielding is one aspect of being a Savior. And here, he seeks the Lord’s help to keep watch over his life. David testifies in several places how God delivered him from dangers (“delivered” used 22 times in the Psalms).
- “A day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.” There are different courts, some of which only the priests could go. Whatever, being closer to God’s presence became the Psalmist’s highest delight. The comparison leads him to make a deeper commitment (which is our next point). There is vigilant deliberation on how he wants to divide the attention of his heart and make himself solely for the Lord. In the end, he unreservedly “signs up” to be with God.
- “I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” The Psalmist breaks out of the comparison with a clearcut and public decision to stop considering the world’s way as a viable choice for him. He becomes committed, seeking God’s way, not sure of its implications but trusting the Lord’s way over his own judgment.
- “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” The Psalmist expands the description of how God is our sun wherein formerly he only spoke about God acting as a shield. Perhaps he alludes to the wilderness journey where the Lord became a shield, a cloud protecting them from the sun during the day. The Psalmist adds “the sun.” Again, he might be alluding to the wilderness journey and how the light at night drove wild animals away and gave them needed warmth. The shield protects them from unwanted enemies while the sun speaks of energizing us to do God’s good works.
- “The Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (11) God is the “Father of Lights” above and the “Giver of every good gift” (James 1:17). When we walk uprightly, we can have full confidence that He holds nothing good back from us. Do note that he does not say this is for those who through faith are upright but those that walk uprightly. He does not make this promise to the believer wallowing about in sin but the one seeking the Lord’s ways. What is good? It is not a Cadillac for every believer (despite some reckless preachers stating such things) but the spiritual benefits deriving from living in God’s presence.
“Many of the promises for blessing, fellowship, reward, joy, intimacy with God, answers to prayer, and many other good things in life are contingent upon walking uprightly; upon obedience to God and His Word.” —Jeremy Myers
What does it mean to trust the Lord with our mind? Each area of our lives overlaps with another. We cannot love the Lord with all our mind unless we love Him with all our soul and heart. They cannot be separated. The evil one attempts to penetrate our minds through our desires and wants. He tempted Eve that way and carefully tinkers with our minds until he tempts and seduces us. True worship will, therefore, include a careful guard of the mind anchored by many memories that remind us of the truth, forming deep commitments to serve and love the Lord. The thoughts we think reflects what we believe. Being off guard will make us susceptible to false conclusions, leading us to conclude things of the Lord wrongly.
“O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (12)
True worship comes from a heart of adoration and commitment. We do not possess the full intensity of this love. That’s okay as we confess our sin and unworthiness, but do go on walking along the path to Zion, going from strength to strength. Let each person obey the Lord and be caught up in adoration of our great God. The Lord becomes our shield through His blood and our sun by the strength He provides through the Holy Spirit.
One day I will leave this home and gladly move in with the Lord. Right now, He does live in me. There are times and places where my heart is distant, and my life does not purely reflect His glorious righteousness, but may I all the more revalue my circumstances so to see more of God’s grace that I would limit the devil’s access and live fully in God’s presence.
Worship is not only one of our activities, but the springboard of all that we do, think, and love.
Other BFF resources on True Worship
• Genesis 1:1-2:3: Creation and the Worship of God – The Bible ...Teaching Commentary “The Creation Account and the Worship of God’ shares three powerful reasons we ought to worship God in ….”
• Nehemiah 9:1-38. Experiencing True Worship: Rebuilding Our Faith ...Series #17 shows three steps we need to restore pure worship.
• Children in Public Worship: Training a family to worship together,.... Training in worship is much like other forms of godly training. Parents train by attitude and example. Modern educational theories have convinced many parents ….
• Nehemiah 10-12. Rebuilding Our Faith Series #18 : “Live Worship” for the Israelites meant commitment. They saw that if they put their heart to God’s business in a serious way, they could help mold, protect and ….
• Worship in a Cell Group (Care Group) is the second of a series of five training sessions for training cell group leaders. It describes the way worship helps a cell ….
• Matthew 6:21 Detecting Heart Divisions and Worship: Our first love is what we worship. When Jesus was asked to summarize the greatest command, He quoted the OT saying, that we needed to love God with all our ….