Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!Psalms 84
Foxe, in his Book of Martyrs, under the year 1554, in the reign of Queen Mary, gives an account of the youthful martyr. It is taken from his brother's narration. 'He suffered with great constancy, and recited the 84th Psalm as he was a-dying. Then there was a gentleman who said, "I pray God have mercy upon his soul". The people said, "Amen, Amen". Immediately fire was made. Then William cast his Psalter right into his brother's hand, who said, "William, think on the holy passion of Christ, and be not afraid of death!" And William answered, "I am not afraid". Then, lifting up his hands to heaven, he said, "Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit"; and, casting down his head again into the smothering smoke, he yielded up his life for the truth, sealing it with his blood to the praise of God.'—John Ker.
Delight in God's House
The utterance of a Hebrew exile who is cut off from the privileges of worship and sacrifice on Mount Zion. The Psalmist prays that he, though distant, may share the blessing of those who can enter the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. And thus the close of the Psalm suggests that grace and glory are not altogether confined to the temple courts.
I. Even in the Old Testament no local sanctuary has a monopoly of the Divine Presence. And in the New Testament we realize that the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands. It has seemed easy and natural for Christians to chant this Psalm, referring it to the services of the Christian Church. Nevertheless we must distinguish and discriminate in our application of its phrases, and interpret them in the clear light of the argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews: 'Ye are come unto Mount Zion, unto the heavenly Jerusalem'.
II. It may even be questioned whether Christians should call any earthly building 'the House of God'. God's house for each individual man is just the place where he finds himself at home with God: 'any place where God grants the vision, where God lets down the ladder'.
III. Yet this expresses only part of the total truth. Christianity is supremely a fellowship, and we realize the living God in the fellowship of His children. It is among the gathered company of believers that Christ manifests His real presence, and fulfils His promise to their corporate and collective faith.
—T. H. Darlow, The Upward Calling, p. 232.
The House of God
This is the language of love, and in this brief sentence is forcibly expressed the royal Psalmist's impassioned love for God, through the medium of His recognized abode.
I. The Object.—'Tabernacles' signifies places of temporary rather than of fixed or permanent abode; and in this is implied the evanescent, short-lived nature of the race, and all that belongs to sublunary existence.
II. The Special Significance of this Appellation.—The advantages such Divine favour affords:—
a. As a source of comfort and rejoicing.
b. As essential to faith, faithfulness, and success.
III. The House of God as a Blessed Reality.—The powers of darkness foiled, and victory on Israel's side.
This Psalm was written evidently under circumstances of some deep sorrow or anxiety which had caused absence, and that a constrained absence, from the tabernacles of the Lord. The Psalm further describes the going up of the pilgrims of Zion to the Temple of Jerusalem, and the increasing blessing that they felt in communion with one another, journeying all toward Jerusalem.
I. What is the position of affairs as appertaining to the interpretation of this Psalm? There was private worship then as now. Many of the Scriptures of the Old Testament enforced that duty; and there is public worship now as there was then, with all the Old Testament lessons carried forward, and all the New Testament lessons adding on their special edification and example.
II. In the New Testament the great rubric of public worship is this, 'Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in My name,' says Christ, 'there am I in their midst'. And we have this additional command in the words of the Apostle, 'Forsaking not the assembling yourselves together as the manner of some is'. We urge these things because of two classes of men: (a) First because of the careless and the thoughtless who think they can live, but know that they cannot die, without the means of grace, and who seldom if ever attend the house of God. (b) Another class consists of some amongst our own selves who are so spiritual in their own mind, or in their own understanding of themselves, that they have no sympathy for those that are without, despise anything like material or concrete methods for conducting the worship of God, and esteem buildings, systems, forms, and all externals as nothing worth at all. In enforcing upon the careless and the thoughtless the important duty of public worship, you include the importance of private worship; because those persons who neglect public worship are almost sure to neglect private worship too; whereas, those that attend private worship are those that most value and appreciate the public worship of God in the communion of His people.
III. In the dispensation of the Spirit in which we now live amid all the spiritual demands of the New Testament Church, God still has appointed and approved of the outward and the visible means of grace. Is it by dreams and visions that God makes known His mind to us? No, but by His holy word which is a book—a book, a tangible, real, genuine, veritable book, so far external as to be a book printed on paper, and printed with ink, just as other books are, and that is the way in which God communicates whatever of His mind we have ever attained.
References.—LXXXIV. 1.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Sermons in Country Churches (3rd Series), p. 293. LXXXIV. 1, 2.—C. Bradley, Faithful Teaching, p. 116. LXXXIV. 3.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes—Genesis to Proverbs, p. 154. LXXXIV. 6.—P. Brooks, The Mystery of Iniquity, p. 18. Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 257. LXXXIV. 7.—J. Keble, Village Sermons on the Baptismal Service, p. 301. H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons (2nd Series), p. 230.
The Glorious Lamp of Heaven
I. The progress of our life is not unlike the progress of astronomy. We all begin in one way or other by making this earth on which we dwell the centre. The strange thing is that while this remains the centre, for us as for the astronomers much is dark. A thousand problems baffle our inquiry, and a thousand questions are answered by a cry. But the day comes—and it comes to every man—when he has his choice of being a Copernicus. He has his choice of making the great refusal, or of making the grandest of all discoveries, for the greatest discovery a man can make is that God is the centre of the system.
II. How beneficent is the power of the sun, and yet from what a vast distance it is exercised. I am sure that most of us have been oppressed at times by the thought of a distant God. Like Job we have looked to the right hand and He was not there, and to the left and have seen nothing of His form, until under the weight of thoughts like these the distance of the Almighty Father chills us, and we cannot pray with realizing power nor can we walk with realizing faith. Tempted and tried thus let us recall our text: 'The Lord God is a shield—He is a sun'. Wherever His Throne be, in distances illimitable, shall He be outmatched in power by His creature?
III. Without the atmosphere the sun could never bless us. May I not use that mystery of nature to illuminate a kindred mystery of grace? It is one of the ways of God in all His workings to grant His blessings through an intermediary. Christ is the mediator of the better covenant. Through Him the sunshine of heaven's love can reach us and in the rays of that sunshine we are blessed.
—G. H. Morrison, The Unlighted Lustre, p. 65.
'No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.' When Thomas Carlyle was leaving, in doubt and despondency, his quiet mountain home at Craigenputtock for the untried tumult of London, he quoted part of this verse for comfort to his brother Alexander and himself, but mingled it with the words of another passage, Romans 8:28.
References.—LXXXIV. 11.—R. S. Candlish, Sonship and Brotherhood of Believers, pp. 66, 79. LXXXIV. 11, 12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1699. LXXXIV. 12.—H. P. Wright, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 80. LXXXIV.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 224. E. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv. p. 75.
My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
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.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.
They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.
Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
For 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.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.