Psalm 84:10


I. THOSE HERE NAMED.

1. That a day spent in God's courts is better than a thousand anywhere else. But such preference makes it certain that not any day in God's courts can be meant; for too many days are spent there which might just as well be spent elsewhere. They bring no good to any one, but rather harm. For the worship on such days is but formal, hypocritical, has no heart in it. But the day the psalm tells of must be one in which the soul really communes with God, in which God is worshipped in spirit and in truth.

2. That the humblest service in the house of God is better than the most rich and luxurious life in the tents of wickedness. But here again the service meant must be the reverse of formal, perfunctory, grudging; for if the service were of such sort, one might almost as well be in the tents of wickedness. And that dwelling in those tents cannot mean an unwilling, a forced dwelling, like that told of in Psalm 120:5. Many servants of God have had and still have so to dwell amongst wickedness; they are not happy in it, would not be where they are could they help it, but they cannot. Hence if they be "lights shining in the darkness," then they are rendering high service to God, and great shall be their reward. But the dwelling told of is one which is chosen and loved. But, the psalmist says, the meanest place in God's house is better than that. "I had rather be a doorkeeper," etc.

II. SUCH PREFERENCES ARE VERY STRANGE. For few sympathize with them; even good people might be slow to make such affirmation about a single day in God's house being better than a thousand anywhere else. Most people think that those who make such choice are either madmen or fools. They are despised as enthusiasts, or hypocrites, or fanatics.

III. NEVERTHELESS, SUCH PREFERENCES ARE REAL FACTS. He who wrote this psalm was but one of myriads more. He who does not put God first may have much good about him, as had the young ruler told of in the Gospels, but he cannot have eternal life.

IV. AND THEY CAN BE ABUNDANTLY JUSTIFIED.

1. The first-named can - the one day over the thousand. For what gives value to time? Not its duration, but its employment, what you do with it. Which do we deem most worth - the comparatively short-lived empire of Greece, or the thousands of years of Chinese life - if life it can be called? There may be one day in your life which you remember more than whole years beside, for it more influenced and blessed you than all the myriad other days which have gone by and are forgotten. It is the day filled with energies of the mind, heart, spirit; with memories of inspiring deeds; with influences which tell upon you and others. Cf. King Henry V.'s address to his soldiers at Agincourt -

"He that outlives this day and comes safe home, Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named," etc. But the day of real worship and communion with God is a day more filled with energies, memories, influences, than can any others be. How many of these others only drag down the soul! but a day with God!

2. And so the humblest service/or God is to be preferred. For such service is shared in by the noblest, unites us to God, breaks the chain of sin, prepares for heaven, robs care of its sting, etc. Therefore the psalmist's choice is right; let it be ours! - S.C.







For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.
Homilist.
I. There is no time like it for the DEVELOPMENT OF THE HIGHEST THOUGHTS. Mind quickens mind. The greater the mind with which we are in conscious contact, the more power it has to rouse the intellect and set the wheels of thought a-going. Conscious contact with God's mind is the strongest impulse to thought, and to thought of the highest kind. Thought upon Him, His attributes, operations, laws, claims, etc. Hence no engagement like that of genuine worship can evoke and develop the wonderful powers of human thought. It is by thought alone that a man rises.

II. There is no time like it for THE EXCITATION OF THE SUBLIMEST EMOTIONS. As our physical life is in the flowing blood, so our happiness is in the current of our emotions.

1. Gratitude is an element of happiness. The mind full of thankfulness is the mind full of joy. In true worship gratitude rises to the highest point.

2. Adoration is an element of happiness. When the mind is wrapped even in the admiration of physical or artistic beauty, it is happy; but when raised to an adoration of the highest moral beauty, its happiness is ecstatic. In true worship this is the case, the whole soul, so to speak, seems to float on the calm and sunny sea of infinite love.

III. There is no time like it for the PROMOTION OF SOUL GROWTH. Our well-being consists in the healthy growth of all the wonderful germs of thought and feeling and faculty which are embedded in our spiritual natures. As there were in the earth when first it came from the hands of Almighty God the germs of all the vegetable and sentient life that have appeared during the untold ages that have gone, so in the human soul all the germs of power, greatness, and blessedness that a man will ever become are slumbering as embryonic germs in his soul. His paradise consists in their development. Now, genuine worship is the means, the only means, that can bring these powers out. It is only as the earth turns its face to the sun that its seeds of life are quickened, and it is only as the soul turns itself into conscious contact with God that its unbounded potentialities are quickened into vitality and brought into growth.

(Homilist.)

The true servants of God may esteem a day in His courts better than a thousand —

I. On account of the DISTINGUISHING HONOUR with which it is attended.

II. On account of the SUBLIME PLEASURE which is there experienced.

III. On account of the HIGH ADVANTAGE that results from it. The service of the sanctuary tends to —

1. Improve the heart.

2. Regulate the conduct.

3. Afford comfort in affliction.

4. Prepare us for heaven.

(D. Dickson.)

The great need of the world is a vision of the vast unities of truth. Little thoughts make little lives. Vast inner apprehensions of truth are necessary to create a greater outer life. Now, it is clear that the psalmist in our text desires to lead us no little way beneath the surface of things. We have here first a measurement of time made in the light of the kingdom of God. It is the measurement of the sanctuary of the courts of the Lord — what we should now call the kingdom of God. In as far as we realize within our lives the power of this kingdom, we enter into the experience which the psalmist expresses in our text. Now, following the psalmist's suggestion, a little consideration will show that time is anything or nothing according to the intensity of our life. On the one hand you can conceive of a man's life becoming more and more vacant of thought and feeling and deed until time is scarcely existent for him. Such life is a living death, and death knows no dominion of time. On the other hand, you can conceive of a life so intense that vaster and vaster extents of life are crowded into a single moment. until length measurements of months and days and years are almost annihilated by depth, and time is on the verge of appearing as eternity. The fact that between these two extremes there are greatly varying measurements of time affects our earthly life at every point. There are two or three simple facts concerning time related to our present subject which from their very simplicity may evade our attention. The first is, that our ordinary measurements of time are purely conventional, being taken from without us, and not from within our own lives. Another thing worth remembering is that time, whether inside or outside of us, is always measured by intensity, and can never be reduced to mere extension. Try as you will, you can only measure time by some expression of force, energy, power, movement. The next thing to be noted is, that the vast variations of intensities even in external things make any fixed measurement of time impossible. When we are told, for example, that certain rays of light are caused by some thousands of millions of vibrations in a second of time, thought has no possible way of reconciling the ordinary idea of a second with such an infinity of movement. The difficulty arises from the fact that the sunlight does not set its time by the revolutions of the earth, as we do, but by its own transcendent energies. Our thought is baffled because we try to measure the energies of one thing by the time of another. One day in the sunlight is better than a thousand. Yet all these external energies are as nothing compared with those that are possible for the human spirit. Here we stand in the very territories of the infinite. One great thought in a human heart has more intensity and mighty force of movement in it than all the forces of the external world put together. In human life, then, time has a completely new meaning, a meaning closely akin to eternity. But in human life also deep stretches beneath deep, and in man's grandest possibility, in the place where he feels the presence of God and consciously unites himself with the Infinite, time reaches its highest intensities. Here lifetimes are often lived in moments. One day in such a life and in such experiences is better than a thousand. What, then, shall we say to this? There are cases where men, seeking to live as long as possible, spare themselves the heat and the burden of the day, and reach their four score years and ten by contributing nothing of the blood of their heart to the healing of the world. There are others that burn with fiery zeal for God and His kingdom, with a great passion of love for men and of devotion to the cause of righteousness. To them length of days has been promised, yet the fires consume their life, and in the bloom of youth or the pride of manhood they are laid in the grave. This is, of course, not a universal rule, but appears often enough to demand our attention. It is just at this point that the psalmist intervenes, saying, "Be careful how you measure. This is not a question of the revolution of the earth, but of the history of a soul. Here the measurements of the days and years vary infinitely. You have written four score years upon the tomb of the man that spent his years like a living death. Tell the sculptor to chisel out the falsehood without delay. Time is movement and energy, and he has been an idler. Even this slow revolving earth has outstripped him. Write clearly above his grave so that all may read it, 'Time was within his reach for eighty circling courses of the earth around the sun. But he never grasped it, and he died an infant of days, an ephemeral creature without a life and without a history.'" And turning to the other tomb where lamentation is written for the brevity of a consecrated life, he would say, "Poor, blind calculators, to measure such a life by rising and setting suns, by changing moons, and by returns of summer and winter. In this life cycles of time gathered into single moments. For every day write down a thousand, and let the epitaph be, 'Died in fulness of days, according to the promise, "With long life will I satisfy him.' This measurement of time gives us also a new measurement of happiness. The Christian is sometimes scoffingly told by the sceptic that he, also, like everybody else, is simply seeking a maximum of pleasure, and working for a summum bonum of happiness. There is a plausibility in this accusation that makes it sometimes difficult to meet and refute. The first step towards meeting it is to make a great admission. Namely this, that the goal of the Christian life is unquestionably the point of highest and intensest happiness, and that such happiness is undoubtedly one of the glowing aims of the Christian life. It must further be allowed that, if anything called Virtue brought with it a maximum of misery and something called Vice entailed a maximum of happiness, the principles of Christianity would lead to the courting of vice and not of virtue. This apparent contradiction arises from the absurdity of the supposition that we have made concerning virtue and vice. To be flung into real and essential misery is an indication that the life is out of joint, that the unity of the spirit is shattered and lost, and its harmonies destroyed. To be really and essentially happy is an indication that the life has attained its highest powers and its noblest harmonies. By whatever game you may call these, the Christian life is a strenuous movement towards the latter, and must therefore have the maximum of happiness for its goal, and therefore in part for its aim. But when the scorner proceeds to say that all pleasure is essentially of the same nature, and that the difference is not one of morality but of taste, he puts himself at our mercy to be smitten hip and thigh. The human spirit must measure its happiness as it measures its time, not by length, but by depth. By this measurement the meaning of happiness, like that of its sources, varies to infinity. It may either be an ephemeral thing on the surface of the life, or it may sing its eternal song in the infinite depths of the human spirit. It may be simply the expression of a passing harmony of quivering nerves, or it may be the expression of the eternal harmonies of the Godlike moral forces that make man Divine.

(John Thomas, M. A.)

Literally, "I would rather lie on the threshold," rather fill the lowest place and execute the meanest office in God's house, than be the greatest and happiest of those found elsewhere. We sometimes say, "I have only a little religion, but I would not part with it for all the world"; and that is substantially what David says here. The meanest living member of the Church of God is greater than the most honourable outside.

1. The least of saints is superior to the world's greatest men. The doorkeeper represents the least glorious and least powerful member of the spiritual congregation; but even he is more influential than the richest and greatest of the children of ungodliness. The ultimate power in the universe is the power of righteous mind, the power of righteous character; and he who possesses these in the most modest degree is mysteriously noble and efficient.

2. The least of saints is superior to the world's happiest men. The position of the doorkeeper on the threshold is the least desirable of all positions in the spiritual kingdom. He has the faintest glimpse of the temple glories, hears the least of its music, tastes little of its delicacies; yet the psalmist in effect says, "I would rather be the saddest of the saints than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." And we feel that his judgment was just. Communion with God, however faint, faith in the promises, however feeble, a sense of infinite truth and love, however dull, and a glimpse of heaven, however dim, give us a satisfaction beyond all gratifications of time and sense.

3. The briefest life of goodness is better than the longest life of worldliness: "One day in Thy courts is better than a thousand" elsewhere. A life of worldliness and sin properly speaking is not life at all. When Lizio, an Italian, was told of the death of his dissipated son, he replied, "It is no news to me; he never was alive." A life destitute of the spiritual element is not truly life. To live is to feel the spirit in contact with God, to be filled with His light, to be thrilled with His joy, to be warmed by His love, to be satisfied with His likeness. This is life, and the youngest believer in Christ knows more of the quality and fulness of existence than does the voluptuous patriarch.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

The good man loves the house of God —

1. Because it is a constant testimony for God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

2. Because it is a refuge to him from the inhospitable and uncongenial influences by which he is surrounded in the world.

3. Because it is a school in which he becomes more fully instructed in the truth as it is in Jesus.

4. Because it is the home where he enjoys the communion of saints.

5. Because there he enjoys fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

6. Because it identifies him more and more with the paradise of God above.

(W. Brock.)

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