|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 5. - Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee. God is the "Strength" of all who trust in him. The psalmist seems to mean that mere dwelling in the house of God is not enough for blessedness. Trust in God - having God for one's Strength - is also requisite (comp. ver. 12). In whose heart are the ways of them; literally, in whose heart are highways. The "highways" intended are probably those of holiness (comp. Proverbs 16:17 and Isaiah 35:8).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, Or, "for thee", as some choose to render the words; who have bodily strength from the Lord, for his worship and service, to go up to his house, and serve him: this, with what follows in the two next verses, seem to refer to the males in Israel going up from different parts of the land to Jerusalem to worship, who had strength so to do; when the women and children, for want thereof, stayed at home, which was their infelicity, as it was the happiness of the males that they had ability for such a journey and service: the Targum is,
"whose strength is in thy Word;''
the essential Word, the Messiah, who have spiritual strength in and from him; see Isaiah 45:24, without this there is no heart to go up to the house of God; and this will carry through a great deal of bodily weakness; and by it saints overcome the temptations of Satan to the contrary, and perform the several duties of religion:
in whose heart are the ways of them; or "thy ways" (x); the ways of God, the ways of Zion, the ways to the house of God; who have these ways at heart, who ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherwards; who have not only ability, but inclination and readiness of mind, to walk in them; whose hearts are bent upon them, regarding no objection, difficulty, and discouragement; who stir up themselves and others to go up to the house of God, and are heartily desirous of being taught his ways, and walking in them, and take great pleasure and delight therein; they are ways of pleasantness and paths of peace to them; the word properly signifies "highways" (y), ways cast up. Some render it "ascensions in his heart" (z); the affections of whose heart go up to God, like pillars of smoke perfumed with frankincense, are after God, his ways and worship, and are set on things above.
(x) "Semitae tuae", Tigurine version; so Kimchi. (y) "viae stratae", Montanus, Cocceius. (z) "Ascensiones in corde suo", V. L. so Sept.
The Treasury of David
5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.
7 They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.
"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee." Having spoken of the blessedness of those who reside in the house of God, he now speaks of those who are favoured to visit it at appointed seasons, going upon pilgrimage with their devout brethren: he is not, however, indiscriminate in his eulogy, but speaks only of those who heartily attend to the sacred festivals. The blessedness of sacred worship belongs not to half-hearted, listless worshippers, but to those who throw all their energies into it. Neither prayer, nor praise, nor the hearing of the word will be pleasant or profitable to persons who have left their hearts behind them. A company of pilgrims who had left their hearts at home would be no better than a caravan of carcasses, quite unfit to blend with living saints in adoring the living God. "In whose heart are the ways of them," or far better, "in whose heart are thy ways." Those who love the ways of God are blessed. When we have God's ways in our hearts, and our heart in his ways, we are what and where we should be, and hence we shall enjoy the divine approval.
"Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well." Traversing joyfully the road to the great assembly, the happy pilgrims found refreshment even in the dreariest part of the road. As around a well men meet and converse cheerfully, being refreshed after their journey, so even in the vale of tears, or any other dreary glen, the pilgrims to the skies find sweet solace in brotherly communion and in anticipation of the general assembly above, with its joys unspeakable. Probably there is here a local allusion, which will never now be deciphered, but the general meaning is clear enough. There are joys of pilgrimage which make men forget the discomforts of the road. "The rain also filleth the pools." God gives to his people the supplies they need while traversing the roads which he points out for them. Where there were no natural supplies from below, the pilgrims found an abundant compensation in waters from above, and so also shall all the sacramental host of God's elect. Ways, which otherwise would have been deserted from want of accommodation, were made into highways abundantly furnished for the travellers' wants, because the great annual pilgrimages led in that direction; even so, Christian converse and the joy of united worship make many duties easy and delightful which else had been difficult and painful.
"They go from strength to strength." So far from being wearied they gather strength as they proceed. Each individual becomes happier, each company becomes more numerous, each holy song more sweet and full. We grow as we advance if heaven be our goal. If we spend our strength in God's ways we shall find it increase. "Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." This was the end of the pilgrims' march, the centre where all met, the delight of all hearts. Not merely to be in the assembly, but to appear before God was the object of each devout Israelite. Would to God it were the sincere desire of all who in these days mingle in our religious gatherings. Unless we realise the presence of God we have done nothing; the mere gathering together is nothing worth.
"O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer." Give me to go up to thy house, or if I may not do so, yet let my cry be heard. Thou listenest to the united supplications of thy saints, but do not shut out my solitary petition, unworthy though I be. "Give ear, O God of Jacob." Though Jehovah of hosts, thou art also the covenant God of solitary pleaders like Jacob; regard thou, then, my plaintive supplication. I wrestle here alone with thee, while the company of thy people have gone on before me to happier scenes, and I beseech thee bless me; for I am resolved to hold thee till thou speak the word of grace into my soul. The repetition of the request for an answer to his prayer denotes his eagerness for a blessing. What a mercy it is that if we cannot gather with the saints, we can still speak to their Master.
Selah. - A pause was needed after a cry so vehement, a prayer so earnest.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. (Compare Ps 68:28).
in whose heart … the ways—that is, who knows and loves the way to God's favor (Pr 16:17; Isa 40:3, 4).
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