One Day in God’s Courts Might Be Better Than Thousands Elsewhere: What Does This Really Mean?
A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
Psalm 84 celebrates the temple of God in Jerusalem. It begins “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies” (Ps. 84:1). This is a reference, not to Heaven, but to the temple, as is made clear in the next verse: “I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD” (Ps. 84:2). Moreover, the psalm-writer adds, “What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises” (Ps. 84:4). Thus nothing compares to being in God’s temple: “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!” (Ps. 84:10).
As we read this psalm today, we can surely empathize with the psalmist’s love of the temple. But is there anything more here for us? In particular, where are God’s courts today? What, for us, is like the temple for the writer of Psalm 84?
First, the language of this psalm might remind us of the joy of being with God in our personal devotions. Because God has made himself known to us in Christ, and because the Spirit of God dwells in us, we can be in God’s “courts” no matter where we are, as we open our minds and hearts to the Lord.
Yet, Psalm 84 implies a shared experience of God in the context of corporate worship. So, for us, the church is a community in which we delight in the Lord with others. In fact, according to the New Testament, the local church is the new temple of God: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Thus, Psalm 84 encourages us to celebrate the presence of God as we gather with God’s people for worship, fellowship, and service.
Finally, Psalm 84 points to Jesus Christ, who became, in a real sense, the temple of God. He was the ultimate dwelling place of God on earth, the Word made flesh. Through Christ, we receive forgiveness of sins. His death was the once-for-all sacrifice that opened up for us the way to God. So, when Psalm 84 reminds us to celebrate God’s presence in the temple, it points us to Jesus Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you experience God’s presence in your life? When you read Psalm 84, what does this stir up in you?
PRAYER: O Lord, indeed, there is nothing better than being with you. Yes, this includes times when I am alone with you, when my heart is attentive to your Spirit. And it is also wonderful to gather with your people, to sing, to pray, and to be encouraged through human fellowship in which you are present. Thank you, dear Lord, for allowing me to dwell with you.
Most of all, I thank you for Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the ultimate “temple,” whose sacrifice has made it possible for me to know you. All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, my Savior, my temple. Amen.