Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Psalm 84 meditation

I have a friend who’s made a really costly decision. Tanya would love to be married. Her heart, her whole self aches for Somebody. She wants to love and be loved. Set up a home. Eventually have a baby. And along he comes. This guy. Interesting and funny and comfortable. She loves being with him. His company. She wants him. He’s told her that he wants her. Their mutual friends watch on. To them, it’s perfect. 

But I’m nervous. She’s a Christian. He’s not.

I wonder what she’ll do. 

Tanya says no. 

To most of her friends it makes no sense at all. She’s upset. Saying no is clearly a wrench for her. So why is she doing it?

Tanya says no because she knows that to be with this guy would put her relationship with Jesus in jeopardy. Her friends don’t get it, but I find it inspiring. I know how much she wanted this guy and the life she could have had with him, but now I know, I have evidence, that she wants Jesus more.

She weighed it up and Jesus won. She wants Jesus more than she wants a husband. 

When I read Psalm 84, I’m reminded of people like Tanya. Psalm 84 is a psalm of passionate love for God - the kind of love for God that drives people to make costly sacrifices. The psalmist beautifully expresses his longing to be with God. His longing is so intense, so passionate, that a love song’s the only form it can take. The psalmist is on his way up to the temple in Jerusalem. To God’s house. The place he can meet with God. 

Listen to what he says:

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts

The word ‘lovely’ here doesn’t mean nice or pretty or pleasant. It’s much stronger than that. The ‘lovely’ here has connotations of a romantic love or even lovemaking. The pull he feels towards God’s temple is as strong as sexual love. 

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

This is an almost physical longing he feels. His whole self - his heart and flesh and soul - they’re pulled to God. He sings, he faints - it’s joy and pain together. Maybe you’ve experienced that kind of attraction for someone. You’ll know what the Psalmist feels. He so longs to go to the temple and meet with his Lord. He must get there. A chord in his heart is connecting him to God. In verse 3 he envies the birds, because they get to build their nests in the temple. Lay their eggs there. Be there all the time.

3 Even the sparrow finds a home, 
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!

The birds are happy. They live in the temple always singing God’s praise! Oh that the psalmist could do the same thing! He goes on:

4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! 

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

His heart is like a highway to Zion. His every thought is headed there. He’s like a lover always thinking of his beloved. And he says that it’s right that he feels this pull. God’s temple is where blessing lies. 

6 As they go through the Valley of Baca (the desert valley)
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.

7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.

The psalmist has no doubt that those who are drawn to Zion will arrive. Those who long for God will find him. They will stand before him. And it will be everything they hope for.

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.

12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.

All of the psalmist’s longing will be rewarded. There will be no disappointment. Just one day at the destination would have made the whole journey worthwhile. To get to be there as street sweeper would be better than being king anywhere else. 

12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Blessed is the one whose heart is pulled towards Zion. Who longs for God!

That’s psalm 84. Unlike the Psalmist, we have no earthly temple to travel to. It’s not the city of Jerusalem in the Middle East that we’re drawn to. Our longing is for God himself. For Jesus. For the new Jerusalem he’s making for us, where we will be with him, know him, stand in his courts.

Do you feel the pull? Is your heart longing, thirsting to be with God?

My friend Tanya would say that hers isn’t. She would say that she doesn’t feel the psalmist’s passion for God. She would describe her love as weak and wavering. But I think her actions tell the real story. Her love for God is stronger than her desire for marriage. Stronger than her desire to be a wife and mother, to have earthly company and physical love. Her actions show that her heart is drawn to Jesus. Tied to him. Eventually her feelings will catch up. (I think reading a Psalm like this is a good way to help your feelings catch up!)

The sacrifices that Tanya makes in this life for God will be repaid in eternity over and over again. She’ll miss out on no good thing. Even if Tanya ends up never marrying and the pain she’s feeling now turns into the chronic ache of long term singleness and childlessness... even then, when she gets to heaven, she’ll laugh. She’ll say that it was all so worth it. She’ll say that she’d do it a hundred times over. One day with God is worth a thousand anywhere else. Sacrifice? What sacrifice!

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