The psalmist longs for communion with God in the sanctuary, 1-3. The blessedness of those who enjoy God's ordinances, 4-7. With confidence in God, he prays for restoration to his house and worship, 8-12.
NOTES ON PSALM LXXXIV
The title here is the same as that of Psalms 81:1, only that was for Asaph, this for the sons of Korah. This person was one of the chief rebels against Moses and Aaron; there were three, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who made an insurrection; and the earth opened, and swallowed them and their partisans up, Numbers 16:31,32. The children of Dathan and Abiram perished with their fathers; but by a particular dispensation of Providence, the children of Korah were spared. See Numbers 26:11, and the note there. The family of Korah was continued in Israel; and it appears from 1 Chronicles 26:1-19that they were still employed about the temple, and were porters or keepers of the doors. They were also singers in the temple; see 2 Chronicles 20:19. This Psalm might have been sent to them to be sung, or one of themselves might have been its author.
How amiable are thy tabernacles
In this plural noun he appears to include all the places in or near the temple where acts of Divine worship were performed. The holy of holies, the holy place, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt-offering, all called here God's tabernacles or dwelling-places; for wherever God was worshipped, there he was supposed to dwell.
My soul longeth
It is a Levite that speaks, who ardently longs to regain his place in the temple, and his part in the sacred services.
My heart and my flesh
All the desires of my soul and body; every appetite and wish, both animal and spiritual, long for thy service.
Yea, the sparrow hath found a house
It is very unlikely that sparrows and swallows, or birds of any kind, should be permitted to build their nests, and hatch their young, in or about altars which were kept in a state of the greatest purity; and where perpetual fires were kept up for the purpose of sacrifice, burning incense, clause be read in a parenthesis, the absurdity will be avoided, and the sense be good. "My heart crieth out for the living God, (even the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow deror, the ring-dove, a nest for herself, where she may lay; her young,) for thine altars. O Lord of hosts! " Or, read the parenthesis last: "My heart crieth out for the living God; for thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Even the sparrow hath found out a house, and the swallow (ring-dove) a nest for herself, where she may lay her young;" but I have no place, either of rest or worship, understood. The Chaldee translates thus: "Even the pigeon hath found a house, and the turtle-dove hath a nest because their young may be offered lawfully upon thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God." Or, as a comparison seems to be here intended, the following may best express the meaning; "Even as the sparrow finds out (seeks) a house, and the swallow her nest in which she may hatch her young; so I, thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God."
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house
They who have such a constant habitation in thy temple as the sparrow or the swallow has in the house wherein it has built its nest.
They will be still praising thee.
They will find it good to draw nigh unto God, as he always pours out his Spirit on his sincere worshippers.
The man whose strength is in thee
"Who life and strength from thee derives; And by thee moves and in thee lives."
In whose heart are the ways of them
This is no sense. The original, however, is obscure: mesilloth bilebabam, "the high ways are in their hearts;" that is, the roads winding to thy temple. Perhaps there is a reference here to the high roads leading to the cities of refuge. We wish to escape from the hands and dominion of these murderers, and the roads that lead to Jerusalem and the temple we think on with delight; our hearts are with them, we long to be travelling on them.
Passing through the valley of Baca make it a well
Instead of bacha, a mulberry-tree, seven MSS. have becheh, mourning. I believe Baca to be the same here as Bochim, Judges 2:1-6, called The Valley of Weeping. Though they pass through this barren and desert place, they would not fear evil, knowing that thou wouldst supply all their wants; and even in the sandy desert cause them to find pools of water, in consequence of which they shall advance with renewed strength, and shall meet with the God of Israel in Zion.
The rain also filleth the pools.
The Hebrew may be translated differently, and has been differently understood by all the Versions. gam berachoth yaateh moreh; "Yea, the instructor is covered or clothed with blessings." While the followers of God are passing through the wilderness of this world, God opens for them fountains in the wilderness, and springs in the dry places. They drink of the well-spring of salvation; they are not destitute of their pastors. God takes care to give his followers teachers after his own heart, that shall feed them with knowledge; and while they are watering the people they are watered themselves; for God loads them with his benefits, and the people cover them with their blessings.
They go from strength to strength
They proceed from one degree of grace to another, gaining Divine virtue through all the steps of their probation.
Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
This is a paraphrase, and a bad one, but no translation. They shall proceed from strength to strength, yeraeh el Elohim betsiyon, "The God of gods shall be seen in Zion." God shall appear in their behalf, as often as they shall seek him; in consequence of which they shall increase in spiritual strength.
Some think there is a reference here to companies of people going up to Jerusalem from different parts of the land, blending together as they go on, so that the crowd is continually increasing. This meaning our translators have put in the margin.
Hear my prayer
Let us be restored to thy sanctuary, and to thy worship.
Behold, O God, our shield
We have no Protector but thee. Thou seest the deadly blows that are aimed at us; cover our souls; protect our lives!
Look upon the face of thine anointed.
Consider the supplications sent up by him whom thou hast appointed to be Mediator between thee and man-thy Christ. But some apply this to David, to Zerubbabel, to the people of Israel; and each has his reasons.
A day in thy courts is better than a thousand.
Not only better than one thousand in captivity, as the Chaldee states, but any where else. For in God's courts we meet with God the King, and are sure to have what petitions we offer unto him through his Christ.
I had rather be a doorkeeper
O what a strong desire does this express for the ordinances of God! Who now prefers the worship of God to genteel, gay, honourable, and noble company, to mirthful feasts, public entertainments, the stage, the oratorio, or the ball! Reader, wouldst thou rather be in thy closet, wrestling in prayer, or reading the Scriptures on thy knees, than be at any of the above places? How often hast thou sacrificed thy amusement, and carnal delight, and pleasures, for the benefit of a pious heart-searching sermon? Let conscience speak, and it will tell thee.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield
To illuminate, invigorate, and warm; to protect and defend all such as prefer him and his worship to every thing the earth can produce.
It is remarkable that not one of the Versions understand the shemesh, as signifying sun, as we do. They generally concur in the following translation: "For the Lord loveth mercy and truth, and he will give grace and glory." The Chaldee says, "The Lord is as a high wall and a strong shield; grace and glory will the Lord give, and will not deprive those of blessedness who walk in perfection." Critics in general take the word as signifying a defence or a guard. Instead of shemesh, sun, Houbigant reads shemer, a keeper or guardian, and says that to represent God as the sun is without example in the sacred writings. But is not Malachi 4:2, a parallel passage to this place? "Unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." No MS. countenances the alteration of Houbigant.
The Lord will give grace
To pardon, purify, and save the soul from sin: and then he will give glory to the sanctified in his eternal kingdom; and even here he withholds no good thing from them that walk uprightly. Well, therefore, might the psalmist say, Psalms 84:12, "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee."
ANALYSIS OF THE EIGHTY-FOURTH PSALM
This Psalm may be divided into the following parts:-
I. The psalmist, absent from the public worship of God, shows his love to the house of God, and his desire to be present in it, Psalms 84:1-3.
II. The happiness of those who continue in that assembly, Psalms 84:4-7.
III. He prays for restoration to it, and sets down the causes, Psalms 84:8-11.
IV. The blessedness of the man who trusts in God, Psalms 84:12.
I. 1. He begins with the pathetical exclamation, "How amiable are thy tabernacles!" A mode of expression which intimates there is none equal to them.
2. He expresses his ardent affection to the house of God:-1. "My soul longeth,"
3. He laments his absence from God's house. The sparrows and swallows have their respective houses, where they may be present, build, hatch their young, access to God's house. And this he expresses in an affecting appeal to God to move his pity:-1. "O Lord of hosts!" I acknowledge thee as my Leader. 2. "My King." I acknowledge myself as thy subject. 3. "My God." Whom I serve, and have taken for my portion.
II. The happiness of those who have liberty to worship God in his temple.
1. "Blessed are they." They enjoy thy ordinances, and have blessings in all.
2. "Who dwell:" Who continue in union with God, ever prizing his ordinances.
3. "They will be still praising thee:" As being continually happy in thy presence.
"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee:" Who knows his own weakness, and depends upon thee for his continual support.
This is the happiness of those who are near God's house: but there is a happiness for those also whose hearts are there, though their bodies are detained at a distance from it.
1. Blessed are they in whose hearts are the ways of them, Psalms 84:5.
2. Even when they are passing through desert and inhospitable countries, Psalms 84:6.
3. "They go from strength to strength:" 1. They get from one place of protection to another. 2. They increase in the Divine light and life. 3. They get many companions on the way.
III. His prayer. 1. He begs to be heard. 2. He remembers God, who succoured Jacob in weakness and distress. 3. He considers himself as the anointed of God, and under his especial care, Psalms 84:8. He wishes to be employed, even in the meanest offices, in the house of God, which he illustrates by an opposition of time, place, and persons.
1. Time. One day in thy courts is better than a thousand out of it.
2. Place. God's house, to the tents of wickedness.
3. Persons. A doorkeeper, a Korahite at the temple, rather than an emperor in his palace.
For this he gives five reasons:-
1. "The Lord is a sun:" He dispels darkness, comforts warms, gives life.
2. He is a shield: The Defender and Protector of his followers.
3. He gives grace, to prepare for heaven.
4. Glory, to crown that grace.
5. He is all-sufficient. "He will withhold no good thing."
But sinners and hypocrites need not expect these blessings; they are for them that walk uprightly.
1. They must walk-go on, be constant, abide in the way.
2. They must be upright-truly sincere and obedient.
IV. The blessedness of the man who trusts in God. "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee!" This acclamation may be intended to answer an objection: "If those be blessed who dwell in thy temple, then those must be wretched who are exiled from it." No, says the psalmist; though there be many advantages enjoyed by those who can attend the ordinances of God, and some may attend them without profit; yet he who trusts in God can never be confounded. Faith in God will always be crowned; and, when absent through necessity, every place is a temple.
"Though fate command me to the farthest verge Of the green earth---------------------- Yet God is ever present, ever felt, In the wide waste as in the city full; And where he vital breathes, there must be joy.