The Man of God’s House, Psalm 84
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
"Blessed (Happy) are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee",v. 4. This exclamation of the Psalmist comes from a deep sense of longing for the presence of God. He meditates on the beauty of the tabernacles of the Lord. It would seem that the place where he was filled him with a sense of barrenness. He could deeply yearn, even pine, for a place in the Lord's presence. The birds were fortunate to be near God's altars while he was exiled from them. His very heart and flesh cried out unto the Living God. With such exercise of soul he exclaims upon the happiness of those who are privileged to dwell in the divine presence. It has been said that nothing short of a real living person can slake the immortal thirst of the soul, made after God's own likeness.
It is good to consider the desire of the Psalmist for the dwelling places of God, his God. It opens up a field of enquiry as we ask ourselves, "Can true happiness be found in the house of God?". For the Psalmist, as a Jew, there was always in his thinking the place where Jehovah had chosen to put His Name; see Deut. 12. 1-12. This was a sacred centre, hallowed by all the ideas of divine glory associated with the divine presence. Many of the Psalms describe these ideas in one way or another, e.g. Psalms 42 and 43.
It is interesting to study the life of the Lord Jesus to notice the importance He attached to God's house, His Father's house. When Mary and Joseph found Him in discussion with the doctors, He exclaimed with seeming wonder at their concern, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?", or "in my Father's house" R.v., Luke 2.49. Again when He cast out the money-changers, John 2.16-17, the disciples remembered that it was written, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up". We notice that on the very eve of His final arrest and crucifixion He was occupied in the temple, teaching in the day time the many who came to Him, Luke 21.37-38. For Him, although in His day there was much to desecrate and defile the house of God, yet He delighted to be found there. Something of the Psalmist's longings must have filled His heart.
What ingredients of joy can we find today in the dwelling place of God? We may still be certain that God does dwell among His people. The great concern for us is to find out where we can best enjoy His presence. There should always be a desire to be there. As with the Psalmist, so it should be with us, that the place is only sacred because of the personal presence of the Lord. Is the assembly the place where we desire to be because we know that we shall meet Him there? Desire for the dwelling place of God is bound to dwindle if there is no sense of the presence of our living Lord. "Unto him shall the gathering of the people be", Gen. 49.10; Matt. 18.20. Let us beware that lesser motives do not spoil for us the character of the assembly of God's people.
To the Psalmist also, the dwelling place of God was the place of praise, "they will be still praising thee", Ps. 84.4. There are many situations in the Psalms which thwarted praise. Deep cries of sadness, prayers born out of distress, even bitter imprecations against enemies form some of the material of the writings we have. Yet amidst it all the Psalmist thinks of Zion as the place of praise; cf. Psalm 65.1; 48.1-3. To dwell in God's house was to dwell in an atmosphere of praise. For the Christian the assembly can be today a place of praise. It is Christ who is the leader of His people's praises, Heb. 2.12. How good to praise and worship the Lord in His assembly unitedly with one mind and with one mouth, Rom. 15.6. Sad it is when our praise is broken because of alien influences as we meet together.
Again, to the Psalmist, the house of God was the place of power. Those who moved towards and into the divine presence, in whose hearts the directions were, went from "strength to strength". In Zion the strength of God was seen. It was a city built upon strong foundations; cf. Psalm 48.12-14. For the Psalmist it was above everything else the place where God was known as god. So for Christians today, the assembly should be characterized by power. Early church days show us how much the power of the Holy Spirit was realized among believers. The book of the Acts gives abundant witness to this. Those unbelievers who come in among us should be able to confess that "God is among you of a truth", 1 Cor. 14.25. To dwell in God's presence should be a happy occupation because of the experience of His power.
The Psalmist also found in the presence of God the place of prayer. "O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer", Psalm 84.8. Many burdens he had brought into the presence of his God, and taken away a sense of relief and calm as he felt the good of divine compassion and sympathy. The words of condemnation from the Lord Jesus as He cast the money changers out of the temple were, "My house is the house of prayer", Luke 19.45-46. Is the assembly for us a place of prayer? The prayer meeting is often the smallest, the least attended of all. The early Christians knew the value of collective prayer, Acts 4.23-31. Surely it should not be a burden, but a blessing, to be found in the gatherings of Christians, the place where there is fervent and effectual prayer.
Lastly, for the Psalmist there were priorities associated with the blessedness of dwelling in God's house. "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness", Psalm 84.10. The Psalmist knew the contrast between "elsewhere" and "thy courts". Brief time with the Lord was more desirable than long time away from Him. Assembly fellowship in practice must be built, not on options, but upon obligations. And this sense of obligation will only be fulfilled if our priorities are right. The brief hour and the humble place among God's people, enjoying His presence, are desirable occupations and far more satisfying to the soul than companionship with the world outside.
Thus the writer exclaims, "Happy the man that dwells in thy house". Here is a happiness that we do well to covet, and a desire that we should seek to emulate.