For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah, to be accompanied by a stringed instrument.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
4 What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises. Interlude
5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
7 They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
8 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer.
Listen, O God of Jacob. Interlude
9 O God, look with favor upon the king, our shield!
Show favor to the one you have anointed.
10 A single day in your courts
is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
from those who do what is right.
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
what joy for those who trust in you.
The author of this psalm may not have been able to make the trip to Jerusalem for one of the usual celebrations each year. He “faints with longing to enter the courts of the Lord”. He’s rather jealous of the sparrows and swallows who can make their nests in the Temple. I think we all can actually say that we know exactly how he feels. Over this past year, we haven’t been able to attend church frequently. Or, when the churches are open, the number of people permitted is low, so many just stay home. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to “attend church” online. Some of us may even find it more relaxing to stay at home in front of the computer or TV.
But nothing can actually replace worshipping together. There’s a strength that comes from being with other Jesus followers. “What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem” (v. 4, 5) “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!” (v. 10) We need those times of fellowship and praise.
Even this psalmist knows that being apart from other Christ followers is difficult. He talks about going through the “Valley of Weeping” as they set their minds on going to Jerusalem and the temple. But during these hard times, “the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory.” (v. 11) It’s important in our lives now to keep our relationship with God strong personally. God, Himself, gives us the light (sun) we need to stay upbeat and positive. He alone is our protection (shield) in these challenging times.
We need that personal relationship, but we also need the stability and fortitude that comes from worshipping together. Let’s pray that this upcoming 4th wave of the pandemic isn’t bad enough to close our churches again.
Our song for today is One Day is Better by Matt Redman.