Psalms 84

PSALM LXXXIV

The psalmist longs for communion with God in the sanctuary,

1-3.

The blessedness of those who enjoy God's ordinances, 4-7.

With confidence in God, he prays for restoration to his house

and worship, 8-12.

NOTES ON PSALM LXXXIV

The title here is the same as that of Ps 81:1, only that was

for Asaph, this for the sons of Korah. This person was one of the

chief rebels against Moses and Aaron; there were three, Korah,

Dathan, and Abiram, who made an insurrection; and the earth

opened, and swallowed them and their partisans up, Nu 16:31, 32.

The children of Dathan and Abiram perished with their fathers; but

by a particular dispensation of Providence, the children of Korah

were spared. See Nu 26:11, and the

note there. The family of Korah was continued in Israel; and it

appears from 1Ch 26:1-19 that they were still employed about the

temple, and were porters or keepers of the doors. They were also

singers in the temple; see 2Ch 20:19. This Psalm might have

been sent to them to be sung, or one of themselves might have been

its author.

Verse 1. How amiable are thy tabernacles] In this plural noun

he appears to include all the places in or near the temple where

acts of Divine worship were performed. The holy of holies, the

holy place, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt-offering,

&c., &c.; all called here God's tabernacles or dwelling-places;

for wherever God was worshipped, there he was supposed to dwell.

Verse 2. My soul longeth] It is a Levite that speaks, who

ardently longs to regain his place in the temple, and his part in

the sacred services.

My heart and my flesh] All the desires of my soul and body;

every appetite and wish, both animal and spiritual, long for

thy service.

Verse 3. Yea, the sparrow hath found a house] It is very

unlikely that sparrows and swallows, or birds of any kind, should

be permitted to build their nests, and hatch their young, in or

about altars which were kept in a state of the greatest purity;

and where perpetual fires were kept up for the purpose of

sacrifice, burning incense, &c. Without altering the text, if the

clause be read in a parenthesis, the absurdity will be avoided,

and the sense be good. "My heart crieth out for the living God,

(even the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow deror,

the ring-dove, a nest for herself, where she may lay; her young,)

for thine altars. O Lord of hosts! " Or, read the parenthesis

last: "My heart crieth out for the living God; for thine altars, O

Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Even the sparrow hath found out

a house, and the swallow (ring-dove) a nest for herself, where she

may lay her young;" but I have no place, either of rest or

worship, understood. The Chaldee translates thus: "Even the pigeon

hath found a house, and the turtle-dove hath a nest because their

young may be offered lawfully upon thine altars, O Lord of hosts,

my King and my God." Or, as a comparison seems to be here

intended, the following may best express the meaning; "Even as the

sparrow finds out (seeks) a house, and the swallow her nest in

which she may hatch her young; so I, thine altars, O Lord of

hosts, my King and my God."

Verse 4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house] They who have

such a constant habitation in thy temple as the sparrow or the

swallow has in the house wherein it has built its nest.

They will be still praising thee.] They will find it good to

draw nigh unto God, as he always pours out his Spirit on his

sincere worshippers.

Verse 5. The man whose strength is in thee]

"Who life and strength from thee derives;

And by thee moves and in thee lives."

In whose heart are the ways of them] This is no sense. The

original, however, is obscure: mesilloth bilebabam,

"the high ways are in their hearts;" that is, the roads winding to

thy temple. Perhaps there is a reference here to the high roads

leading to the cities of refuge. We wish to escape from the hands

and dominion of these murderers, and the roads that lead to

Jerusalem and the temple we think on with delight; our hearts are

with them, we long to be travelling on them.

Verse 6. Passing through the valley of Baca make it a well]

Instead of bacha, a mulberry-tree, seven MSS. have

becheh, mourning. I believe Baca to be the same here as Bochim,

Jud 2:1-6, called

The Valley of Weeping. Though they pass through this barren and

desert place, they would not fear evil, knowing that thou wouldst

supply all their wants; and even in the sandy desert cause them to

find pools of water, in consequence of which they shall advance

with renewed strength, and shall meet with the God of Israel in

Zion.

The rain also filleth the pools.] The Hebrew may be translated

differently, and has been differently understood by all the

Versions. gam berachoth yaateh moreh; "Yea,

the instructor is covered or clothed with blessings." While the

followers of God are passing through the wilderness of this world,

God opens for them fountains in the wilderness, and springs in the

dry places. They drink of the well-spring of salvation; they are

not destitute of their pastors. God takes care to give his

followers teachers after his own heart, that shall feed them with

knowledge; and while they are watering the people they are watered

themselves; for God loads them with his benefits, and the people

cover them with their blessings.

Verse 7. They go from strength to strength] They proceed from

one degree of grace to another, gaining Divine virtue through all

the steps of their probation.

Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.] This is a

paraphrase, and a bad one, but no translation. They shall proceed

from strength to strength, yeraeh el Elohim

betsiyon, "The God of gods shall be seen in Zion." God shall

appear in their behalf, as often as they shall seek him; in

consequence of which they shall increase in spiritual strength.

Some think there is a reference here to companies of people

going up to Jerusalem from different parts of the land, blending

together as they go on, so that the crowd is continually

increasing. This meaning our translators have put in the margin.

Verse 8. Hear my prayer] Let us be restored to thy sanctuary,

and to thy worship.

Verse 9. Behold, O God, our shield] We have no Protector but

thee. Thou seest the deadly blows that are aimed at us; cover our

souls; protect our lives!

Look upon the face of thine anointed.] Consider the

supplications sent up by him whom thou hast appointed to be

Mediator between thee and man-thy Christ. But some apply this to

David, to Zerubbabel, to the people of Israel; and each has his

reasons.

Verse 10. A day in thy courts is better than a thousand.] Not

only better than one thousand in captivity, as the Chaldee states,

but any where else. For in God's courts we meet with God the King,

and are sure to have what petitions we offer unto him through his

Christ.

I had rather be a doorkeeper] O what a strong desire does this

express for the ordinances of God! Who now prefers the worship of

God to genteel, gay, honourable, and noble company, to mirthful

feasts, public entertainments, the stage, the oratorio, or the

ball! Reader, wouldst thou rather be in thy closet, wrestling in

prayer, or reading the Scriptures on thy knees, than be at any of

the above places? How often hast thou sacrificed thy amusement,

and carnal delight, and pleasures, for the benefit of a pious

heart-searching sermon? Let conscience speak, and it will tell

thee.

Verse 11. For the Lord God is a sun and shield] To illuminate,

invigorate, and warm; to protect and defend all such as

prefer him and his worship to every thing the earth can produce.

It is remarkable that not one of the Versions understand the

shemesh, as signifying sun, as we do. They generally concur in the

following translation: "For the Lord loveth mercy and truth, and

he will give grace and glory." The Chaldee says, "The Lord is as a

high wall and a strong shield; grace and glory will the Lord give,

and will not deprive those of blessedness who walk in perfection."

Critics in general take the word as signifying a defence or a

guard. Instead of shemesh, sun, Houbigant reads

shemer, a keeper or guardian, and says that to represent God as

the sun is without example in the sacred writings. But is not

Mal 4:2, a parallel passage to this place? "Unto you that fear

my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his

wings." No MS. countenances the alteration of Houbigant.

The Lord will give grace] To pardon, purify, and save the soul

from sin: and then he will give glory to the sanctified in his

eternal kingdom; and even here he withholds no good thing from

them that walk uprightly. Well, therefore, might the psalmist say,

Ps 84:12, "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in

thee."

ANALYSIS OF THE EIGHTY-FOURTH PSALM

This Psalm may be divided into the following parts:-

I. The psalmist, absent from the public worship of God, shows

his love to the house of God, and his desire to be present in it,

Ps 84:1-3.

II. The happiness of those who continue in that assembly,

Ps 84:4-7.

III. He prays for restoration to it, and sets down the causes,

Ps 84:8-11.

IV. The blessedness of the man who trusts in God, Ps 84:12.

I. 1. He begins with the pathetical exclamation, "How amiable

are thy tabernacles!" A mode of expression which intimates there

is none equal to them.

2. He expresses his ardent affection to the house of God:-1. "My

soul longeth," &c. 2. "My heart and flesh cry out," &c.

3. He laments his absence from God's house. The sparrows and

swallows have their respective houses, where they may be

present, build, hatch their young, &c., but he could have no

access to God's house. And this he expresses in an affecting

appeal to God to move his pity:-1. "O Lord of hosts!" I

acknowledge thee as my Leader. 2. "My King." I acknowledge myself

as thy subject. 3. "My God." Whom I serve, and have taken for my

portion.

II. The happiness of those who have liberty to worship God in

his temple.

1. "Blessed are they." They enjoy thy ordinances, and have

blessings in all.

2. "Who dwell:" Who continue in union with God, ever prizing his

ordinances.

3. "They will be still praising thee:" As being continually

happy in thy presence.

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee:" Who knows his

own weakness, and depends upon thee for his continual support.

This is the happiness of those who are near God's house: but

there is a happiness for those also whose hearts are there, though

their bodies are detained at a distance from it.

1. Blessed are they in whose hearts are the ways of them,

Ps 84:5.

2. Even when they are passing through desert and inhospitable

countries, Ps 84:6.

3. "They go from strength to strength:" 1. They get from one

place of protection to another. 2. They increase in the Divine

light and life. 3. They get many companions on the way.

III. His prayer. 1. He begs to be heard. 2. He remembers God,

who succoured Jacob in weakness and distress. 3. He considers

himself as the anointed of God, and under his especial care,

Ps 84:8. He wishes to be employed, even in the meanest offices,

in the house of God, which he illustrates by an opposition of

time, place, and persons.

1. Time. One day in thy courts is better than a thousand out of

it.

2. Place. God's house, to the tents of wickedness.

3. Persons. A doorkeeper, a Korahite at the temple, rather than

an emperor in his palace.

For this he gives five reasons:-

1. "The Lord is a sun:" He dispels darkness, comforts warms,

gives life.

2. He is a shield: The Defender and Protector of his followers.

3. He gives grace, to prepare for heaven.

4. Glory, to crown that grace.

5. He is all-sufficient. "He will withhold no good thing."

But sinners and hypocrites need not expect these blessings; they

are for them that walk uprightly.

1. They must walk-go on, be constant, abide in the way.

2. They must be upright-truly sincere and obedient.

IV. The blessedness of the man who trusts in God. "O Lord of

hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee!" This acclamation

may be intended to answer an objection: "If those be blessed who

dwell in thy temple, then those must be wretched who are exiled

from it." No, says the psalmist; though there be many advantages

enjoyed by those who can attend the ordinances of God, and some

may attend them without profit; yet he who trusts in God can never

be confounded. Faith in God will always be crowned; and, when

absent through necessity, every place is a temple.

"Though fate command me to the farthest verge

Of the green earth----------------------

Yet God is ever present, ever felt,

In the wide waste as in the city full;

And where he vital breathes, there must be joy.

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