Eld Chew Chong Kiat
This COVID-19 pestilence has led to unprecedented measures of social distancing and ubiquitous precautions to reduce its spread. Children of God are forbidden to assemble and to serve God in the house of God. They cannot meet to mutually exhort one another unto love and good works. Our last gathering for worship was on 22 March 2020. Time has flown by so quickly. We have missed a good number of Lord’s days in the house of our God. Has absence from church caused our hearts to grow fonder and to yearn to return soonest possible?
David the psalmist expressed his desire in Psalm 84 when he was prevented to go to the house of God. Indeed, all who desire to be in the eternal home in heaven should also long to be in the house of God on earth. Can anyone really enter heaven if he does not have this desire? This desire is the birthmark of all who are born into the Kingdom of God. This is what is taught in Psalm 84. If one does not delight to be in His house on earth, how could he be blessed and happy in the heavenly house of God? Let’s learn a few lessons from David as we meditate on this wonderful Psalm which is also a favourite of our Founding Pastor Dr Tow. He had written a hymn based on this Psalm, entitled “Longing for Home”. This hymn is in “More Songs in the Night.”
Ps 84:1 How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!
The psalmist could not find words to describe the loveliness of the house of God so that he could only exclaim “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!” (v1).
It is so lovely because it is the dwelling place of the LORD of hosts, the one who protects and fights for His people. What condescension it is that so great a Being should make His dwelling place among mankind in a tent; a place where He was pleased to cause His presence to be felt and where His people could go to praise, pray and offer their sacrifices of thanksgiving and to have their sins forgiven! The psalmist wrote “tabernacles” even though there was only one tabernacle because the tabernacle consisted of two parts – the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 9:2-3 “For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all.”
If the tabernacles of God are amiable, would not the churches today that bear the name of Christ be far more amiable? For the shadows of the things typified in the tabernacles are already come in the person of Christ and we can now draw near with a pure conscience unto God through Him; not with the blood of animals but by the shed blood of Christ our Redeemer, “the perfect Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world”! The church of Christ is where we praise God together, where we unite with one voice to sing, where we bow with one heart to pray, confess, praise and make our requests known, where we hear His voice through His written Word that is read, memorised and expounded to us, where we bring our love gifts and tithes to present to Him from whom all blessings flow, where we are baptised in the name of the Triune God and where we partake of the elements of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Christ who died for us. How oft were our wounded souls healed and our broken spirits mended again with new chords of praise, and our thankful hearts found expression in the songs of praise and the amen! Is not the house of God lovely? If you have so tasted it, I am sure your hearts cry out unto God that you might return soon!
Whom do we worship? He is called the “LORD of hosts” (v1), the “living God” (v2), “my King and my God” (v3). Notice how David’s addresses of God accentuate the dearness and nearness to his heart: from the One in heaven to one who is personal to Him. The double use of ‘my’ is very emphatic. He is not a God afar off, or just the aloof God of the universe who is all powerful and sovereign; but He is also mine, says David! Our God is our Father in heaven!
David felt the great loss when he was hindered from going to the house of His King and God. Therefore, David cried out as a child who longed for his Father and desired to be near unto Him. “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” (v2)
To long is to pine and to have such an insatiable desire, as a deer that pants after the water brooks when heated in a chase, and to feel faint because of the long delay to be satisfied, and it cannot hold out. What will heaven be like to one who has such a longing? Do we pant after God because the world we dwell in is hostile to our faith so that we put on our armour and resist steadfastly in order to remain faithful to God? On the Lord’s day, do we long to go to the house of the living God and draw near to God and be with fellow soldiers of the cross to encourage one another in the mission that our Lord has given to the church? Isn’t face to face a 1000 times better than Zoom?
Notice how the psalmist’s heart turned inward from “thy tabernacles” (v1) to “the courts of the Lord” (v2) and finally to “thine altars” (v3), indicating his heart’s desire to go nearer to the presence of God. How his whole being (my heart and my flesh) longed for God. It is with the heart, soul and mind that we are to love Him. God forbid that we should draw near unto God with our lips and our bodies but our hearts are far from Him (Matthew 7:6). Do we feel as David felt during this trying time? Cry aloud unto God that He might grant us the desire of our hearts.
David envied the sparrows and the swallow that lived in the house of God. “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.” (v3)
The sparrows and swallows found homes for themselves and their young. David longed to be present in the house of God with his children. Have we taken for granted the opportunities to appear before God as a family of God with our families?
How “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house” (v4a). Did we always recognize the blessedness or do we do so only when it is taken away from us? Have we already gotten used to a new norm of worshipping in the comfort and convenience of our homes? God forbid! There are far greater blessings when we are physically present in the house of God!
Why is it a blessed thing to dwell in God’s house? “They will be still praising thee.” (v4b) The soul that is happily near to God in communion with Him “will be still praising” Him. It is not enough to praise God intermittently, but to still praise Him in joy and in woe, for such is the soul that has learnt to rejoice in God always and to be still before Him.
As the Jews travelled for days to go to Jerusalem to assemble before God, they would sing the Psalms of Ascent (Ps 120-134) to echo the delight in their hearts. So, it is for all God’s children who are ready to praise Him. We will enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise because we are thankful and because the LORD is good and His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures (Psalm 100:4-5).
“Selah.” We should pause and meditate upon these blessed truths. May God grant that our desire to be in the house of God will be granted soon! Amen.