Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coming into God’s Presence

[To the chief Musician upon Git'tith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah]

1 How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!

2 My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

3 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.

4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.

5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.

6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

7 They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.

8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.

9 Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.

10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
—Psalm 84 KJV Bible

It is not certain who wrote this psalm. Some suggest that it was the same person who wrote Psalms 42 and 43. That person wrote of being exiled in the far north of Palestine and yearning to return to the temple in Jerusalem. In this song the psalmist speaks as a pilgrim traveling to the temple. The psalmist tells of his passion for God's house, his pilgrimage to God's house and his praise in God's house.

The description of the psalm says that it is "for the Git'tith," but it is uncertain just what that is. The Hebrew word is derived from "Gath," which was a common place name in Israel and the surrounding area. Examples include Gath of the Philistines, one of five Philistine city-states established in northwestern Philistia, Gath-Gittaim, Gath Carmel, and others. A person from Gath is called a Gittite, and a Git'tith may have been a tune or instrument associated with one of those places.

The psalm description also states it is for the "sons of Korah." Korah was a great-grandson of Levi and a younger contemporary of Moses. Korah took part in an attempted revolt against Moses' and Aaron's leadership of the Israelites, forgetting that Moses and Aaron had been appointed by God to lead. As proof of this, God caused the earth to open, swallowing all of the rebels and their tents. Following that an additional 14,700 died in a plague because of their grumbling against God (Numbers 16). The three sons of Korah—Assir, Elkanan and Abiasaph—stayed loyal to God, did not rebel, and so did not die (Exodus 6:24; Numbers 26:11). The descendants of these were also described as the "sons of Korah." Some later became singers in the Temple choir (2 Chronicles 20:19). Twelve of the psalms (42-49, 84-85, 87-88) are specifically dedicated to the "sons of Korah," possibly because of their musicality, or possibly as a reference to those who remain faithful to God even in the most difficult times.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verses 4 and 8 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 4, the psalmist tells of his great passion for the temple—God's house; the place of God's presence. Here the psalmist addresses God as "LORD of Hosts" (“Yahweh tsaba”—Hebrew, meaning "the God of Israel, Chief of the armies of heaven"), as the living God (“el-chay”—Hebrew, meaning "living God" or "the God who is alive"), as his king (“melek”—Hebrew, meaning "king"), and his God (“elohim”—Hebrew, meaning “God”).

In verses 5 through 8, the psalmist tells of his pilgrimage to God's house. On his journey to Jerusalem (“Zion”), the psalmist speaks of passing through the "valley of Baca," which is translated as the "valley of weeping." This could be a reference to an actual desolate valley in Palestine or it could be imagery for moving through a time or place of sorrow. In either case, the joy of the pilgrims turns the barren wasteland green with blessings. The pilgrims grow stronger as they approach Jerusalem (“Zion”) and all arrive at the temple, the house of God (“elohim”). As he prays the psalmist addresses God as the "God of Israel" (“Yahweh”), "God of the armies of heaven" (“elohim tsaba”) and "God of Jacob" (“elohim Yaaqob”).

In verses 9 through 12 the psalmist tells of his praise in God's house. The psalmist addresses God as his shield or protector (“magen”) and asks God to guide Israel’s king, the anointed one (“mashiach”—this ultimately refers to Jesus, the Messiah, God’s anointed one). The psalmist then praises God, saying that even one day in the house of God is better than a thousand days away from God's presence. The psalmist would rather stand just outside the house of God in the lowly position of a doorkeeper, than live among the wicked. The psalmist then describes God (“elohim”) as the rising sun (“shemesh”) and a shield or protector (“magen”). The psalmist expects the righteous to receive all blessings of “the God of Israel” (“Yahweh”). The one is greatly blessed who trusts in "the God of Israel, Chief of the armies of heaven" (“Yahweh tsaba”).

Father, would that we all were as passionate all the time to come into Your presence. I praise You for Your greatness and I thank You for loving even one such as me. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.


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