Imagine the most perfect, rare orchid thriving in a fragile, flawed container. That’s something like the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The apostle Paul said believers’ bodies are earthen vessels containing treasure: the very presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 4:7). God once condescended to dwell in a temple built by a king and today dwells in us. It’s a reason for both overwhelming happiness and a deep sense of humility.
Illustration by Adam Cruft
When Korah led a revolt against Moses and Aaron’s authority, the rebels were struck down by God, losing their honored place of sanctuary service and their lives. But Korah’s sons were spared (Num. 16:1-50; Num. 26:11). Psalm 84 is attributed to their descendants, who later served as warriors, doorkeepers, and singers.
What are you really longing for right now? Pause for a moment to consider before continuing.
Psalm 84 begins with “How lovely ... !” (v. 1). What might make a speaker choose this exclamation—surprise? Delight? Awe? Have you had experiences of God that elicited a similar reaction?
The speaker describes the Lord’s “dwelling places” (v. 1). In Old Testament times, God met with His people in a precise location—initially, a tent in the wilderness; later, during David’s reign, He met them in Jerusalem and eventually in Solomon’s temple on that same spot. The tented sanctuary was elaborately decorated with finely woven curtains, gold, and silver (Ex. 26:1-37), while Solomon’s temple was a marvel of rich craftsmanship (1 Kings 6:1-38). Yet the psalm’s speaker is drawn to something else. What is the true object of longing here?
Birds, like humans, seek safe places to live and raise their offspring. What does Psalm 84:3 communicate about the power of God’s presence for those who walk with Him? How does this translate to your own life?
Once they were settled throughout Israel, the Jews traveled to Jerusalem so they could attend holy festivals and worship. This trip, referred to in verse 5 as “the roads to Zion,” is also a metaphor for a godly life, whether describing that of an Old Testament saint or a Christian believer. What does Psalm 84 tell you about both the inevitability of trials (“Valley”) and how those trials are experienced by someone who trusts in God (vv. 5-6)?
CONTINUING THE STORY
Hebrew tribes had various assigned roles. Korah’s descendants served as doorkeepers of God’s house (1 Chron. 9:19).
Korah, the psalmists’ ancestor, hadn’t been satisfied with ministering within God’s sanctuary—arrogance and pride were his downfall. But in Psalm 84, his descendants express preference for even the courtyards of God’s house over anywhere else (v. 10). How does their joy indicate great humility?
The psalmists, speaking prophetically through the Holy Spirit, ask for God to “see our shield … and look at the face of Your anointed” (v. 9). How are these words a glorious picture of the coming Christ? Do you think it’s significant that this verse is followed by one that expresses gratitude about serving? Why?
Humility is essential to service—and happiness.
Pride and rebellion (whether our own or someone else’s) have devastating consequences. But by God’s grace, those consequences can be redeemed. And with the Spirit’s wisdom, they can drive us to humility. Then they become stepping stones to deep peace in His presence, joyful obedience, and satisfying service for His kingdom.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
In the Old Testament, God met His people in a tented sanctuary or in a temple made of wood. That changed when Christ won forgiveness and new life for us. Now believers could become His dwelling place: “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Cor. 6:19). Though it’s no longer necessary to make a journey to be in the Lord’s presence, the experience described in Psalm 84 still has parallels to our own.
Verse 2 of the psalm says, “My soul longed and even yearned for the courtyards of the Lord.” God’s Holy Spirit never leaves believers (John 14:16), but we feel His presence less at times. Does a busy schedule ever make you impatient for prayer time? Do you spend all week longing for the sweet fellowship of church? Has something—such as worldly obsessions or rejection of God’s role for you—interrupted your closeness with Him? Or do you feel an absence of longing? Share with God whatever is appropriate: confession, a need for greater hunger, happy anticipation, or love for Him.
Our longing for God won’t be fully satisfied until we reach heaven. Reread Psalm 84:5-7. How is the Lord helping you endure in the meantime?
Psalm 84 expresses delight at the blessings found in God’s sanctuary. When we comprehend the stunning truth that, as our souls are united to Christ, we become this sanctuary, our earthen vessels are filled with praise. There’s no place as glorious as where He is.