1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. Selah
5 Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the LORD withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.
Of course the Psalms were meant to be sung. They were the hymnal for Israel. So we can imagine Psalm 84 as an opening hymn, inviting people into the temple to worship God: “how lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” Christian theology built this image of temple worship into a symbol for the eternal presence of God—just as the people of God long to worship God in the temple, so we yearn for the eternal presence of God. This interpretation became popular. And so when Johannes Brahms, the great German Romantic composer wrote his Requiem, he was sure to include Psalm 84. You can follow the link below to Brahms’s interpretation. In the middle of writing his Requiem, his mother died; and the subsequent expression of grief finds hope in longing for the eternal presence of God. It says more than I ever could.
Almighty God, all our longings are a shadow of our longing for you. We need more than good reports—we need the hope that you provide. We need more than social relationships—we need that love that unites us as your people. We need more than signs that you are with us—we need the fulness of your presence to open us to the world you are creating, even now. Give us a vision of what is to come, that our hope would keep us grounded in you, in Jesus Christ. Amen.