|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
84:1-7 The ordinances of God are the believer's solace in this evil world; in them he enjoys the presence of the living God: this causes him to regret his absence from them. They are to his soul as the nest to the bird. Yet they are only an earnest of the happiness of heaven; but how can men desire to enter that holy habitation, who complain of Divine ordinances as wearisome? Those are truly happy, who go forth, and go on in the exercise of religion, in the strength of the grace of Jesus Christ, from whom all our sufficiency is. The pilgrims to the heavenly city may have to pass through many a valley of weeping, and many a thirsty desert; but wells of salvation shall be opened for them, and consolations sent for their support. Those that press forward in their Christian course, shall find God add grace to their graces. And those who grow in grace, shall be perfect in glory.
Verse 1. - How amiable are thy tabernacles! or, "how lovely are thy dwellings!!" The plural is used, as in Psalm 43:3; Psalm 46:4 (also Korahite); and Psalms 132:7, either because the temple was made up of several compartments, or as a "plural of dignity." O Lord of hosts (comp. vers. 3, 8, 12).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! Which were erected in the wilderness by Moses at the command of God, and brought into the land of Canaan, where the Lord took up his dwelling: here he was worshipped, and sacrifices offered to him; here he granted his presence, and commanded his blessing; here it was in David's time; for as yet the temple was not built: it is called "tabernacles", in the plural number, because of its several parts: hence we read of a first and second tabernacle, Hebrews 9:2, there was the holy place, and the holy of holies, besides the court of the people; unless it can be thought to refer to the tabernacle David had built for the ark in Zion, and to the old tabernacle which was at Gibeon, 2 Samuel 6:17 the whole was a representation of the church of God, and the ordinances of it; which is the dwelling place of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, where he is worshipped, his presence enjoyed, his word is preached, ordinances administered, and the sacrifices of prayer and praise offered up; on account of all which it is very "amiable": what made the tabernacle of Moses lovely was not the outside, which was very mean, as the church of God outwardly is, through persecution, affliction, and poverty; but what was within, having many golden vessels in it, and those typical of things much more precious: moreover, here the priests were to be seen in their robes, doing their duty and service, and, at certain times, the high priest in his rich apparel; here were seen the sacrifices slain and offered, by which the people were taught the nature of sin, the strictness of justice, and the necessity and efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ; here the Levites were heard singing their songs, and blowing their trumpets: but much more amiable are the church of God and its ordinances in Gospel times, where Christ, the great High Priest, is seen in the glories of his person, and the fulness of his grace; where Zion's priests, or the ministers of the Gospel, stand clothed, being full fraught with salvation, and the tidings of it; where Christ is openly set forth, as crucified and slain, in the ministry of the word, and the administration of ordinances; here the Gospel trumpet is blown, and its joyful sound echoed forth, and songs of love and grace are sung by all believers: besides, what makes these tabernacles still more lovely are, the presence of God here, so that they are no other than the house of God, and gate of heaven; the provisions that are here made, and the company that are here enjoyed; to which may be added, the properties of those dwellings; they are lightsome, like the habitations of Israel in Goshen; they are healthful, no plague comes nigh them; the inhabitants of them are not sick; their sins are forgiven them; they are safe, sure, and quiet dwelling places; see Isaiah 32:18 and they are lovely to such, and to such only, who have seen the unamiableness of sin, and are sick of its tents, and of enjoying its fading pleasures, and to whom Christ is precious, and altogether lovely: these have an intense affection for him, and for his house, word, worship, and ordinances, and with admiration say, "how amiable", &c.
The Treasury of David
1 How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
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.
4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.
"How amiable," or, How lovely! He does not tell us how lovely they were, because he could not. His expressions show us that his feelings were inexpressible. Lovely to the memory, to the mind, to the heart, to the eye, to the whole soul, are the assemblies of the saints. Earth contains no sight so refreshing to us as the gathering of believers for worship. Those are sorry saints who see nothing amiable in the services of the Lord's house. "Are thy tabernacles." The tabernacle had been pitched in several places, and, moreover, was divided into several courts and portions; hence, probably, the plural number is here used. It was all and altogether lovely to David. Outer court, or inner court, he loved every portion of it. Every cord and curtain was dear to him. Even when at a distance, he rejoiced to remember the sacred tent where Jehovah revealed himself, and he cried out with exultation while he pictured in fond imagination its sacred services, and solemn rites, as he had seen them in bygone times. Because they are thy tabernacles, "O Lord of hosts," therefore are they so dear to thy people. Thy pavilion is the centre of the camp, around which all thy creatures gather, and towards which their eyes are turned, as armies look to the tent of the king. Thou rulest all the companies of creatures with such goodness, that all their hosts rejoice in thy dwelling-place, and the bands of thy saints especially hail thee with Joyful loyalty as Jehovah of hosts.
"My soul longeth," - it pines, and faints to meet with the saints in the Lord's house. The desire was deep and insatiable - the very soul of the man was yearning for his God. "Yea, even fainteth;" as though it could not long hold out, but was exhausted with delay. He had a holy lovesickness upon him, and was wasted with an inward consumption because he was debarred the worship of the Lord in the appointed place. "For the courts of the Lord." To stand once again in those areas which were dedicated to holy adoration was the soul-longing of the Psalmist. True subjects love the courts of their king. "My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." It was God himself that he pined for, the only living and true God. His whole nature entered into his longing. Even the clay-cold flesh grew warm through the intense action of his fervent spirit. Seldom, indeed, does the flesh incline in the right direction, but in the matter of Sabbath services our weary body sometimes comes to the assistance of our longing heart, for it desires the physical rest as much as the soul desires the spiritual repose. The Psalmist declared that he could not remain silent in his desires, but began to cry out for God and his house; he wept, he sighed, he pleaded for the privilege. Some need to be whipped to church, while here is David crying for it. He needed no clatter of bells from the belfry to ring him in, he carried his bell in his own bosom: holy appetite is a better call to worship than a full chime.
"Yea, the sparrow hath found an house." He envied the sparrows which lived around the house of God, and picked up the stray crumbs in the courts thereof; he only wished that he, too, could frequent the solemn assemblies and bear away a little of the heavenly food. "And the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young." He envied also the swallows whose nests were built under the eaves of the priests' houses, who there found a place for their young, as well as for themselves. We rejoice not only in our personal religious opportunities, but in the great blessing of taking our children with us to the sanctuary. The church of God is a house for us and a nest for our little ones. "Even thine altars, O Lord of hosts." To the very altars these free birds drew near, none could restrain them nor would have wished to do so, and David wished to come and go as freely as they did. Mark how he repeats the blessed name of Jehovah of Hosts; he found in it a sweetness which helped him to bear his inward hunger. Probably David himself was with the host, and, therefore, he dwelt with emphasis upon the title which taught him that the Lord was in the tented field as well as within the holy curtains. "My King and my God." Here he utters his loyalty from afar. If he may not tread the courts, yet he loves the King. If an exile, he is not a rebel. When we cannot occupy a seat in God's house, he shall have a seat in our memories and a throne in our hearts. The double "my" is very precious; he lays hold upon his God with both his hands, as one resolved not to let him go till the favour requested be at length accorded.
"Blessed are they that dwell in thy house." Those he esteems to be highly favoured who are constantly engaged in divine worship - the canons residentiary, yea, the pew-openers, the menials who sweep and dust. To come and go is refreshing, but to abide in the place of prayer must be heaven below. To be the guests of God, enjoying the hospitalities of hearer, set apart for holy work, screened from a noisy world, and familiar with sacred things - why this is surely the choicest heritage a son of man can possess. "They will be still praising thee." So near to God, their very life must be adoration. Surely their hearts and tongues never cease from magnifying the Lord. We fear David here drew rather a picture of what should be than of what is; for those occupied daily with the offices needful for public worship are not always among the most devout; on the contrary, "the nearer the church the further from God." Yet in a spiritual sense this is most true, for those children of God who in spirit abide ever in his house, are also ever full of the praises of God. Communion is the mother of adoration. They fail to praise the Lord who wander far from him, but those who dwell in him are always magnifying him.
"Selah." In such an occupation as this we might be content to remain for ever. It is worth while to pause and meditate upon the prospect of dwelling with God and praising him throughout eternity.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 84:1-12. (See on Ps 8:1, title, and Ps 42:1, title). The writer describes the desirableness of God's worship and prays for a restoration to its privileges.
1. amiable—not lovely, but beloved.
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