Psalm 84 is a psalm of longing – appropriate for me at this time, for I too am longing!
I long for this pandemic to be over. I long to gather with God’s people. It’s not the building I miss but joining with the Living Stones, to sing, to hug and to fellowship. I’m tired of Zoom! I’m not where I want to be but neither was the writer of Psalm 84.
The psalmist longed to be in the temple and in the presence of the living God. He even envied the birds nesting in the eaves of the roof (v1-4).
When we lived in Turkey in the early 80s we had to drive into Greece and back again to renew our visas. I always felt nervous as we approached the long line of officious customs officers in their booths. Would we be welcomed in? Yet, there along the eaves of the large shed were swallows’ nests. The birds confidently came and went and no one ever shooed them away.
Like a sparrow –
I feel like a sparrow at times – small, insignificant, defenceless. I know I’m not in control. Of course, this is not a bad thing. I need to learn more about God’s sovereignty, God’s plan, his will not mine. And I feel weak. That’s not a bad thing either, because it’s only when we are weak that God promises his strength.
How else could the psalmist talk of going from strength to strength if it wasn’t for God’s grace upon grace (v7)?
What about the swallow?
Never still, always flying. Travelling, travelling, even eating and sleeping on the wing. I have flown a lot over the years, but even when I haven’t been travelling my heart has often been restless, flitting this way and that.
Now the swallow has found a nest. She has stopped, she’s still – in order to birth new life. Is God calling us to something similar? Does he want us to stop, to settle – to nestle into him? Does he want to birth new life in us – new priorities or perhaps renew old priorities? To develop new rhythms of life and ways of serving him?
We may be unable to travel much in these days of lockdown, but it’s crucial that we continue to journey with God. The psalmist has set his heart on pilgrimage (v5). I want to know God deeper and stronger until that day when I’ll know him fully just as I am fully known. Even now, our valleys of weeping, the dry arid places can becomes springs of life – lush gardens with God. The Holy Spirit isn’t locked down. In him, through prayer, we can travel the world to dry places more needy than our own country and ask God to pour down his rain (v6).
Beware the sparrow hawk!
Sometimes like little birds I’m aware of a sparrow hawk out to get me. Like the serpent in the garden said to Eve, he wants to tell me God is not good, that he withholds good things.
Psalm 84 v11 says it’s a lie. We know it’s a lie. We know God is for us not against us. How do we know? Because he did not withhold his best gift, his only son Jesus Christ, but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also give us all things with him (Romans 8: 32)? He is our sun-giving life and shield-giving protection ( v11). He will bless us and deliver us from the taunts of the evil one. God is not an officious customs officer, but welcomes us into his presence with open arms.
I may not be where I want to be but this I know – One day with the Lord is better than 1,000 anywhere else, so I will continue to love and trust him (v10).