Longing for the Lord
Longing for the Lord (Psalm 84)
Do you ever remember feeling homesick? To be away from home in a strange place can create yearnings for the familiar and the friendly. The psalmist had been away from the place where he usually met with God. He expresses the longing in his heart to come back to that place where he and God could meet. He acknowledges that such a return is a process, a pilgrimage. There are obstacles to overcome in the return to the place where we can meet with God. But if you desire to do so you can return to Him. You can confess that time with Him is better than any other time. When you desire to return to the place where you meet God, faith overcomes every obstacle until you arrive.
Longing Begins with a Desire for the Place to Meet God
Do you have an ardent desire to find the place where you meet God? Longing for God begins with a yearning to recover the place where you last experienced Him. For some reason the psalmist has been away from the place where He usually met God, the temple. Although we no longer meet God at a temple, we can spiritually identify with his desire to return to the place of conversation with the living God. The words are almost those of a love poem: "How lovely is your dwelling place" (v. 1).
Longing for God creates an intensity of spirit. The very words express the passion of this person seeking God. He yearns in the sense that he literally grows pale with expectancy. He faints and is consumed with a desire to find God. Indeed, his inward longing becomes a loud cry for God. The totality of his person is involved: soul, heart, and flesh. You have right now just as much of God as you intensely want. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (Jas. 4:8, NASB).
Longing for God reflects an integrity of intention. The psalmist wants nothing less than the living God. Although he wants to go to the temple, it is only a means to the end of meeting God. He is not longing for the house of God as much as for the God whose house it is. We do not come or give to the church as the end in itself. All of its organization is worse than nothing if it does not lead us to the living God. Travis is a travesty if the means becomes the end. We should be here not to run a vast institution but to meet the living God.
Longing for God reveals an intimacy of desire. Lovers envy anything that is near the one loved. The psalmist envies the sparrows that build their nests in the temple complex. Such inconsequential creatures find a place near God. He longs to be as close to God as such mere birds nesting in the temple. We should desire a closeness and intimacy with God that matches this beautiful desire.
Longing Continues with the Discovery of the Process to Meet God
To walk with God is a journey, a pilgrimage. Those who really set their hearts on God must be ready for the journey. The psalm has a beatitude for those who have set their hearts on such a pilgrimage. On the journey to God you overcome obstacles in the way.
Longing for God transforms barren places. Every moment on the way is not a moment of light and joy. There are dry, arid places. In the literal journey to the temple the pilgrims passed through the "Valley of Baca." This refers to a waterless, barren valley on the road to Jerusalem. Yet in this terrible wilderness they dug down to find water in the desert. If you walk with God you will have the faith that dares to dig blessings out of hardships. But along with this personal initiative you will find the sudden blessings which God alone can provide: "the autumn rains also cover it with pools" (v. 6). After dry times in life suddenly the showers of blessing fall with living water. In your journey with God there will be obstacles interrupted by blessings.
Longing for God experiences renewed resources: "they go down from strength to strength" (v. 7). Instead of fainting in the journey, you can gain fresh strength the closer you are to the presence of God. In life's process we slow down mentally and physically. But in the spiritual dimension the closer to the goal the stronger you can be. We are changed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18).
Longing Results in the Direct Presence of God Himself
Your yearning for the divine will not be disappointed. No basic hunger in human life is unmet by God. One who has the ambition to know God (vv. 1-4) and takes the journey to approach God (vv. 5-8) will experience arrival with God (vv. 9-12).
The direct presence of God may be expressed by a contrast. Time in God's presence is better than any other time: "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere." Can you honestly confess that time with God is qualitatively better than any other time? The place of God's presence is better than any other place: "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked" (v. 10). In his own world the psalmist would rather humbly lie down at the threshold of the temple than live a sumptuous life with the scoffing wicked. The lowest place with God is better than the highest place with wicked humans. How would you rather spend your time and at what place?
The direct presence of God may be expressed by a confession. You can confess that God is your Provider and Protector. God is indeed Provider. Here alone in the Old Testament is God called "a sun" (v. 11). The sun communicates itself in life, heat, and energy. It is new every morning and yet the same. God provides with the same qualities as the sun. God also protects. He is our shield. He stands for all that protects and renders foes inaccessible.
Your longing for God can lead to the confession that God is everything you need. Begin the journey, overcome the obstacles, and encounter the Presence!