Has it been a long two months for you? I don’t know about you, but it has seemed like forever for me. I’m a people person. I love being around people and talking to people. I thrive when I’m interacting with others and for the last two months we’ve not been able to worship or have Bible study with one another in the same room and it has driven me crazy. Back about a week or two ago I found myself feeling like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
Do you remember the movie? Tom’s plane went down while he was on his way to Malaysia for business and he found himself all alone on an island in the Pacific. Some of the packages from the FedEx plane that crashed washed up on shore and so Tom set up camp and eventually adjusted to his new way of living. He solved the problem of food, shelter, and water, but he was alone…all alone. The loneliness and isolation began to seriously mess with his mind. He found a volleyball that washed up on shore, put his bloody hand print on it for a face, and he named his new friend Wilson. He talked to Wilson like they were an old married couple. Tom Hanks was interviewed after the movie and he said, “The biggest lesson of Cast Away is how vital human interaction and relationships are to survival.” The Bible is right, it is not good for us to be alone.
Today is our first day to come back together for worship. No, things are not like they were two months ago when we were all together, but it sure feels good to be back in the Lord’s house and to gather with one another even though we are socially distanced, many of you have your masks on, and we’ve had to change things like how we share in Communion. I have been longing for this day and I know many of you have as well. I want us to take a look at Psalm 84 this morning because in the Psalm we learn about another person who was longing to be in God’s house. Let’s read it together.
1 For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm. How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young– a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. 8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob. 9 Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one. 10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. 12 LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. (Psalm 84:1-12 NIV)
We don’t know who wrote the Psalm. Some say it was David and others say it was one of the sons of Korah. The Psalm tells us, “of the sons of Korah,” but that can mean it was written “by” or it was written “for” the sons of Korah since they were the leaders of the band and choir at the tabernacle and the temple. We don’t know exactly who wrote this powerful Psalm, but we do know that for whatever reason the author was away from Jerusalem and away from the temple. While he was away, his mind and his heart were fixated on God’s House, he longed to be in God’s house once again. Look at verse 2 with me once again.
2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psalm 84:2 NIV)
Every single person who has ever lived knows what it is like to yearn for something. We yearn to see someone we love that we haven’t seen in a long time. There are many sports fans that are yearning to see their team play. I have been amazed at the number of old games that are being replayed on TV to try and soothe the yearning of the sports fans. Other people yearn for companionship or for meaning in life. Drug addicts yearn for their next fix and alcoholics yearn for their next drink. There are all kinds of things that people yearn for, long for in life, but the Psalmist is longing to be back in the Lord’s house once again.
I’ve been thinking about this during the past week. I wonder what answers we would get if we were to ask people, “What are the top three things you’ve been longing for while everything has been shut down?” Do you think being back in church, being back in God’s house with other followers of Jesus would make the list for most people? Probably not. And yet, this longing that we read about in Psalm 84 is not at all unusual for those we read about in God’s Word. Look at Psalm 27:4 with me so I can show you what I mean.
4 One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4 NIV)
For David, if he could only ask one thing from the Lord, it would be that he might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
Now, you and I both know that we can enjoy God’s presence in the sanctuary, sitting in our living room, or any other place for that matter. Stephen told the crowd in Acts 7:48, “God does not live in houses made by human hands…” In Acts 17, Paul was speaking to a group of people at the Areopagus in Athens, when he said,
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.’ (Acts 17:24 NIV)
The Church is not a building, but the church is the people of God, the Body of Christ. We have folks this morning who are not here in this sanctuary, they’ve traveled to one another’s homes to be in a smaller group, and they are the church as well.
The Temple in Jerusalem was a place where the people of God came together to worship God corporately. It was the place where those who yearned for God, those who longed for God came together to fix their attention on Him and to seek Him with all of their hearts. They could lift their voices and sing with the sons of Korah,
…As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2 NIV)
Even though this building, Britton Christian Church, is nothing more than bricks and mortar, I’ve got to tell you, this is a special place for me when the people of God are gathered here. I know it is for many of you as well. I asked Connie this past week, “What is it about going to ‘church’ that is so special for you?” She shared several answers with me, but one really grabbed me. Connie said, “It’s my place apart from the world.” I asked her what she meant and she said, “Out in the world there is so much animosity, so much that wears on you, but when I go to church it is a quiet place where God gives me peace, comfort, and perspective…that allows me to escape the pull of the world.” When I heard Connie mention “perspective” I thought about Psalm 73. I think it is a great illustration of what Connie was talking about.
In the opening verses of Psalm 73, the author was struggling with what he saw happening out in the world. He noticed how the arrogant prospered, he saw those who mocked God doing quite well while he was suffering, and he said that when he tried to understand it all it troubled him to his core. He even thought to himself, “Maybe I’ve been serving the Lord in vain,” but then we come to verses 16-17. Read it with me.
16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. (Psalm 73:16-17 NIV)
Something powerful happens when we come together with others who love the Lord, those who are seeking to live their lives to honor Him and bless others. We read God’s Word together, we talk about what it means for our lives, we sing our hearts out, we come around the Lord’s Table to remember the sacrifice He made for our redemption, and in prayer, we praise His name and pour out our hearts. And as we do all of this we gain a new perspective on life, we are strengthened in our troubles and sorrow, and we are renewed. Left to ourselves, when we are isolated and alone, our minds can become our worst enemy.
There’s more that takes place when we gather with God’s people than merely gaining perspective. I want us to take a few minutes and focus on three beatitudes that are listed in this Psalm. Most often, when we hear the word, “beatitude,” we think of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, but in Psalm 84 we have three beatitudes. Let’s look at the first one found in verse 4.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. (Psalm 84:4 NIV)
In verse 3, the psalmist was envying the sparrow and the swallow who had found a home, they had built their nest, near the altar of God. In verse 4, he is thinking about the priests and Levites who minister before the Lord throughout the day and he says they are “blessed” because they are “ever praising” God. It was the priests and Levites job to praise God at the temple, but I’ve got good news for you this morning and it is this: Those who dwell in the presence of God, not just in a building on Sunday morning, but in God’s presence, they can praise God because they know the fullness of His joy. David wrote in Psalm 16,
11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11 NIV)
We’ve talked about this before, but I don’t think we can remind ourselves enough: Joy is altogether different than happiness. Happiness is based on our circumstances, but joy is altogether different. Joy comes from the Lord and joys run deep regardless of the circumstances we are facing in life. Paul wrote to the folks in Corinth, in 2 Corinthians 6:10, and he was describing himself and those who traveled with him when he wrote that they were…
10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:10 NIV)
Do you see the depth of joy? Look at the contrast. Would you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that someone who is “sorrowful, poor, and having nothing” could be “rejoicing and possessing everything?” There’s no room for happiness under those circumstances, but joy can abound in poverty, joy can flourish in sorrow, because of who God is and who we are as loved and cherished by Him.
The greatest example of the Christian’s joy is found in Jesus. The prophet Isaiah described the Messiah as a “man of sorrows” in Isaiah 53:3. Take a look at the verse with me.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3 ESV)
He was despised and rejected by the very people He came to save. He was more than familiar with grief, yet Jesus told His followers in John 15:11,
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11 NIV)
Joy in the midst of sorrow? You better believe it! Joy in the midst of being despised and rejected by people? You better believe it! How can that be? Well, the writer of Hebrews gives us a key in Hebrews 12:1-2.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. Jesus knew everything He endured in life was for a purpose and one day, one glorious day, He would take His seat at the right hand of the Father and many would receive His offer of grace and mercy.
This life is not all there is my friend. For many today who have no hope of anything beyond this moment and this life, joy is an impossibility. But you and I know that we must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Our hardships are not in vain, our sorrow is not in vain. God is with us, He is leading us home. I could say so much more, but we must go on to our second beatitude or we are going to run out of time. Take a look at Psalm 84:5 with me.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NIV)
Notice that those who are blessed are those whose strength is not found in themselves, but their strength is in God. I don’t know how strong you are, but I do know that you are not strong enough. There are situations in life that will absolutely knock you to your knees and wring you out. Have you faced those situations in life? You will face more. Paul faced one of those situations and he asked God to remove it from Him, but God said, “My strength is perfected in weakness. When you are weak, I am strong.” He is our strength and He will provide His strength for you and me.
The last phrase of this verse is very interesting. The psalmist writes, “whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Literally, in Hebrew, it reads, “The ways in their heart.” The psalmist had to have been thinking of those who made the trip three times a year to Jerusalem for the annual festivals. Those who loved the Lord looked forward to making preparations to go up to Jerusalem. They longed for the journey, the pilgrimage to the house of the Lord. They were no more finished with the celebration and getting ready to head home when they began thinking about the next time they would get to make the journey to the Lord’s house.
I know that feeling and I bet you do too! Is there someone in your life who lives far enough away that you don’t get to see them very often? Oh, when you have the opportunity to see them the visit can’t last long enough. As soon as you leave, you begin thinking about the next time you will get to see them don’t you?! Those who love the Lord long to be with the Lord. It may be a quiet time in the morning or it may be a gathering with other brothers and sisters in Christ, but the longing to be with the Lord and His people is always at the forefront of their minds. The last beatitude that we find in Psalm 84 is found in verse 12 where the psalmist writes,
12 LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. (Psalm 84:12 NIV)
The Hebrew word that is translated, “trust” is the word, “Batach.” It’s one of two words in the Hebrew Bible that expresses “trust” or “a reliance upon.” It is used to express a sense of security which comes from having something or someone who is reliable. Everyone trusts in someone or something, but the problem is that no person and no thing is ultimately reliable, and that includes ourselves. God is quick to urge His people not to put their trust in people or in anything else. We as Americans are grateful for those who serve in our military. Because they do their job we are able to live under the illusion of security. Yet, in Psalm 20:7, God told His people,
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7 ESV)
There are so many things that we get attached to, things that we pursue because we believe they will provide meaning and satisfaction for us in life. Some get all wrapped up in their jobs. Our work can be fulfilling, invigorating, and we can enjoy what we do, but we should never allow our work to define us. We can’t put our trust in our work. Others find making money, and lots of it, exhilarating. The more money they make the more money they want to make. Money provides them with opportunities to buy things that they assume will make them happy. Having financial resources is a blessing, but we should never put our trust in a pile of money. There are so many things we can allow to become idols for us and you can know that they have become an idol if you will take this simple test. What is it that provides you with your identity?
When I was young my identity was in my ability to play sports. Our identity can be our role as a parent, our status in society, or any number of things, but all of those “labels” will prove to be false idols in time. The Psalmist wrote,
3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. 9 O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. (Psalm 115:3-9 ESV)
Blessed are those whose security is found in nothing other than their trust in the Lord. You may have lost your job recently, but you can be secure knowing the Lord has got you, He will make a way for you, He’ll open a door for you, and He is with you. You may have lost a loved one recently, but you can rest secure as you trust in the Lord to lead you through this painful valley of tears. You may have more money than Fort Knox and not have security. You’re riddled with anxiety as you watch your stock portfolio and count your money. I want to urge you this very morning to trust in the Lord and then you will have the security of knowing that whether you grow your money or it all goes away, God will provide for you something that money can’t. We’ve got to stop our study for this morning, but before we do we must take a look at two more verses. Turn with me to Psalm 84:10-11 with me.
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:10-11 ESV)
The psalmist began by yearning to be back in God’s house and now he ends his Psalm with the bold declaration that one single day in God’s house is better than a thousand anywhere else in the world. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor who at the age of 23 was the Chief Clinical Assistant to Sir Thomas Horder, the King’s physician in London. He was in line to become the most respected doctor in all of England when he resigned his position at the age of 27 and became the pastor at a poor church by the shores in Wales. When word spread about what had happened, the reporters made their way to Dr. Jones. They asked him, “How could you give up everything to take a poor, out-of-the-way church like this?” Dr. Jones said, “I gave up nothing. I received everything. I count it the highest honour God can confer on any man to call him to be a herald of the gospel.”
There’s no place I’d rather be than to be in God’s presence, to gather with His people, to worship in His sanctuary, and to be in His service. Is that your heart’s desire? For each and every one of us there’s a deep, deep longing within us. We sense that there has to be something more to life than what we’ve been experiencing. And there is…our deepest longings will find their fulfillment in a relationship with Jesus. I want to invite you, urge you, to confess your need for Him this morning.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 17, 2020