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The prophet, longing for the communion of the sanctuary, sheweth how blessed they are that dwell therein: he prayeth to be restored unto it.
To the chief musician upon Gittith, A psalm for the sons of Korah.
Title. הגתית על למנצח lamnatseach al haggittith.] This psalm contains the ardent desires of a pious soul towards God; a pathetic expression of the benefits and joy of his public service; and an encouragement of the people to make the ways thither from all quarters fair and passable. Bishop Patrick thinks that it was composed by some pious Levite, when Sennacherib's army had blocked up the way to Jerusalem, and hindered him from waiting upon the service of God at the temple. But Dr. Delaney has suggested, that it was written by David when he was at peace from all his enemies, and, having settled the ark in its place, had set his heart upon building a temple to God. Let us suppose then, what is not at all unnatural, says this learned writer, that David, upon conceiving this great design of building the temple, had poured out his purpose in fervent prayer to God, imploring his aid and protection, and confiding in his support to the accomplishment of it: Could any words more aptly or emphatically express the fulness of his heart upon this head than those of this psalm? Let us suppose him to have communicated any psalm that he composed upon this occasion to Nathan, his prophet and friend: what other answer could the prophet make to him, on a supposition that this was the very psalm so communicated, than that which we find recorded of him, 2 Samuel 7:3. Go, do all that is in thine heart, for the Lord is with thee? Life of David, b. 3: Psalms 100:1.
Psalms 84:2-3. My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow, &c.— Or, My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God: Psalms 84:3. (Yea, as a sparrow, till she finds a house, and a swallow a nest for herself, where to lay her young) for thine altars, &c. See Nold. 873. Green observes, that from the longing to approach the courts of the Lord, expressed in the second verse, it is natural to think that such a comparison was intended as that of our Lord's; The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head. Thus perhaps the Psalmist: "The sparrow findeth herself a house, and the ring-dove a nest; but when shall I find access to, what I far prefer to a house of my own—the House of God?" He then breaks out, Happy are they who dwell in thy house. Thus, or in nearly the same manner, the passage is understood by various expositors. Dr. Delaney, however, observes upon it thus: "The author of this psalm speaks of the altars of God in a manner that shews them to be then comparatively desolated. There were at this time two altars erected in the kingdom of Judea to the true God, but neither of them in the place of his own appointment; that at Hebron not attended by any appointed number of priests, which we know of, as was that of Gibeon, although but slenderly, and by a few: so little crowded, that the birds of the air might build unmolested in them. We hear only of one altar after the building of the temple: therefore this psalm was written before that period. The author of this psalm speaks of the tabernacles of God; there were two tabernacles now extant; we hear of no tabernacle after the building of the temple, therefore this psalm was written before that period. The author of this psalm wishes eagerly for the courts of the Lord: The tabernacle had but one court; therefore his wishes must be for the courts of the temple, which were many; and as the temple was not yet extant, these wishes could only mean the author's eager desire to see that temple erected." The following appears a just and easy exposition of the passage: "Even as the sparrow, i.e. with the same joy and delight as the sparrow findeth her house, and the swallow (or wild pigeon דרור deror) her nest, where she שׁתה shathah, hath laid her young; so should I find thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God."
Psalms 84:5-7. Blessed is the man, &c.— These words may be rendered, Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; the highways are in the midst of them: Who, passing through the valley of Baca, turn it into a spring; even when the rain filleth the pools. They go from valley to valley: The God of gods shall appear in Sion. Mudge renders these verses in nearly the same manner; and so do the generality of interpreters, who all agree that the original is indeterminate, and attended with great difficulties. See particularly Houbigant's note. As they set out with an opinion that the verses contain a description of a person's going up to Jerusalem to worship; they appear on that account, in my humble judgment, greatly to have mistaken the original: to which if the learned reader will be pleased to refer, and will consult the ancient versions, he will be inclined to believe that the verses contain rather a description of pious persons trusting in God, as one might very well expect from the preceding part of the psalm: And of all the versions I have met with, the following of Mr. Fenwick's seems to me most agreeable to the original and the context.—"Ver. 5. He is also blest whose present hope thou art."—(Heb. In such hearts there are מסלות mesilloth, which the Vulgate renders ascensions; the LXX, αναβασεις, and which I would suppose here points at those elevations, aspirations, or breathings after the things above, which are wont to be in the hearts of truly good men.—Ver. 6. "Even now, while passing through the vale of tears, they find the living God their spring of joy:"—(Heb. ישׁיתוהו ieshithuhu; they make him, the living God, Psalms 84:2 a fountain, a perpetual spring of joy.—"And all around the rain its blessings spreads." Heb. The rain (the heavenly showers of divine grace) covers them with blessings. So the ancient versions render ברכות berakoth; by which enabled—ver. 7. "They go from strength to strength:"—in the improvements of holiness and virtue;—"And the God of gods is seen in Sion;"—As the power of his grace is appearing thus in their lives.
Psalms 84:11. The Lord God is a sun and shield— A guard and shield. Houbigant and Bishop Hare. Others read, a fortress and a shield.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. The Psalmist admiring the beauty of God's ordinances. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! Externally the tabernacle appeared without beauty, but within all was glorious; there dwelt the Shechinah; there the incense smoked upon the golden altar, and the ministers of God performed the sacred service. More amiable still the gospel church appears, where God incarnate dwells, where incense of prayer and praise is continually offered, and the glad tidings of salvation proclaimed.
2. The fervent longings of his soul burst forth after God: perhaps now he was at a distance from the sanctuary, but his heart was there. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; so intensely were his desires after them: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God; importunate to be restored to the sanctuary, but most importunate to meet God there, and maintain delightful communion with him, in the ordinances of his service. Note; (1.) A soul which has no delight in God's house, can have no lot in his kingdom. (2.) The thing which makes all the acts of worship so desirable, is the communion therein maintained with the living God, the life and joy of our souls; and without this they are dry, barren, and formal.
3. He looks upon the little birds, and envies them as it were their happiness. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest, &c. even thine altars: not that we can suppose they literally built their nests in these altars, but near them; either in the houses adjoining to the sanctuary, or perhaps within the sacred inclosure; and this was a situation so desirable to the Psalmist, that with them he longed to dwell. Or, The birds have their nests, and lodge securely; but I, a wanderer, can find no resting-place absent from thine altars, my king, and my God: As such by faith the Psalmist regarded him, and intimates the hope he had, that as a faithful subject, and true worshipper, the Lord would hear his prayer, and bring him to his blest abode. Note; (1.) The meanest abode with God's presence, is better than a palace without him. (2.) They who know the value of the ordinances of God, will seek a settlement where they may be most profitably enjoyed. (3.) When faith can say, My King, and my God, we are sure that all our prayers will succeed.
4. He counts them most blessed, who are continually employed in the service and praise of God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; the ministers of the sanctuary, who were in constant attendance: they will be still praising thee; and surely, if there be ought like heaven upon earth, it is this blessed work. Note; (1.) However despicable in the eyes of men the service of the ministry may appear, it is of all employments the most blessed and honourable. (2.) They who draw nearest to God, and serve him most faithfully, see most abundant cause to praise him continually. (3.) All our strength cometh from the Lord; without him we cannot take one step heaven-ward. (4.) When the heart is engaged, we shall walk with pleasure in God's ways. (5.) Our way to heaven lies through many a difficult pass, and they who would be soldiers of Christ, must be ready to endure hardship. But when our tribulations abound, our consolations abound also; and perhaps the sweetest hours of our lives were those in which we struggled with the greatest obstacles. (6.) The farther a soul goes in the ways of God, the stronger it grows: Instaurabit iter vires. (7.) They can never faint, who make God the strength of their heart. (8.) It will be the unutterable felicity of the faithful soul in the heavenly Zion, to behold the King in his beauty, and to enjoy the uninterrupted vision of the blessed God.
2nd, Having testified his earnest desire after the courts of God's house, the Psalmist,
1. Intreats a gracious acceptance of his prayer. O Lord God of hosts, able to save to the uttermost, and supply the desires of every longing soul, hear my prayer, and give an answer of peace: give ear, O God of Jacob, our covenant God. Behold my present situation, and the ardent breath-ings of my heart, O God our shield, my protector, and the sure hope of every believer; and look upon the face of thine anointed; either himself, God's anointed king, or the Messiah, for whose sake he hoped God would be gracious to him; and in whose intercession he trusted, more than in his own supplications. Note; (1.) God's praying children may confidently expect their Father's blessing, and be assured that they shall not seek his face in vain. (2.) When God is our shield, then shall we be safe from fear of evil. (3.) Our confidence toward God stands solely on the foundation of the Redeemer's all-prevailing advocacy: when we look to him with an eye of faith, God will look on us with an eye of favour.
2. He professes the high regard that he had for God's courts. For a day in thy courts, spent in the blessed work of prayer and praise, meditation and communion with God, is better than a thousand spent in every delight which earth can give. I had rather be a door-keeper, employed in the meanest offices, as the lower Levites in the temple, or stand at the threshold, as the poor beggar, Acts 3:1-2 in the house of my God, which endeared relation afforded him the most enlivened satisfaction, and made the house of God so desirable, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. Note; (1.) They who never found delight in God's house and worship, prove themselves utter strangers to his grace and truth. (2.) One hour's communion with God is as much superior to all the joys of pleasurable sin, as heaven is higher than the earth.
3. He shews the ground of this preference. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; a sun to enlighten our spiritual darkness, and cheer us with his bright beams of love; a shield, to protect us from every danger. The Lord will give, freely and abundantly, grace, according to all our necessities; preventing, justifying, sanctifying, comforting, grace; and glory eternal in the heavens, the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, to every faithful soul. No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Indeed, what good can be conceived, which these two, grace and glory, do not include? Be it therefore our care to walk under the influence of such great and precious promises, and in simplicity and godly sincerity to approve our fidelity to God.
4. They who perseveringly trust God's promises are and shall be partakers of all this blessedness. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee. Though he may be unable to appear before God in his courts, he shall have all the blessings of the ordinances of which he is deprived. God is his portion, and what can he wish for more?*
* We have in these Reflections considered the Psalm according to its common interpretation; and have, indeed, in our Reflections observed this rule in the general.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 84". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13