Psalm 84, 1-7. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found a 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. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee: in whose heart are the ways of them: who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well: the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
The “courts of the Lord” were, during the time of the old covenant, the tabernacle, and afterward the temple; but the true courts of the Lord are the Christian church. Without God I am in the world like a sparrow or a swallow which has no nest. In the house of God, however, the holy church, I have shelter and protection, peace and joy. And the more I know of the glory of this house, the more do I long for it, until I come out of the courts into the wedding hall itself, out of the church militant on earth into the church triumphant in heaven. “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord”; while at the same time “my heart and my flesh crieth out to the living God.” In the words of John Arndt:
My poor soul, this frightened little bird, has found its right house and its right nest, even thine altars; but had I not found this beautiful and glorious house of God, I must needs have gone astray, and been homeless forever. I had been as a sparrow alone upon the housetop, and like a turtle dove which has lost its mate.
This is a beautiful and striking figure: ‘‘The sparrow hath found a 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.” I and mine and all the friends of God have been received into the house of the Lord of hosts as our King and our God; and there we dwell while our exile lasts. Must not, then, the valley of tears be made a well, and the rain also fill the pools? Even though we must for a long time sow the seed with tears, the harvest of joy shall be all the more glorious. To be sure, the song of tears and dark valleys is always heard among the saints on earth; and it were well for us to learn this! Nevertheless we say: “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee. Selah.” — All is well, if but God be our strength; that is, if our heart do but trust in him only, and confidently lean on him without fainting; and if he but be our King who reigns in our heart, our God whom we fear, and trust above all things! Lord, grant us this mercy.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob. 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. 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. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
Pleasant are thy courts above,
In the land of light and love;
Pleasant are thy courts below,
In this land of sin and woe.
O, my spirit longs and faints
For the converse of thy saints,
For the brightness of thy face,
For thy fulness, God of grace!
Happy souls! their praises flow
Even in this vale of woe;
Waters in the desert rise.
Manna feeds them from the skies;
On they go from strength to strength,
Till they reach thy throne at length,
At thy feet adoring fall,
Who hast led them safe through all.