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God's Dwelling Place

Church Celebrations

May 17, 2020


by: Jack Lash Series: Church Celebrations | Category: The Church | Scripture: Psalm 84:1–84:12

I. Introduction
A. 40th anniversary: to open our eyes to what we have by God’s grace and to cherish all God has given
B. There are different kinds of psalms.
1. Many are prayers in the context of a certain situation.
2. Some are statements of God’s truth over against the ideas of the world
3. Some point to the coming messiah
4. But some psalms are just savoring, cherishing, appreciating something especially precious.
a. It can be God’s creation, like in Psalm 104 and the first half of 19.
b. It can be God’s word, like in the second half of Psalm 19 and in Psalm 119.
c. It can be the goodness of God, like in Psalm 103 and Psalm 145.
5. Psalm 84 is also a psalm of savoring. What does it savor? It savors not a word or a person or an attribute or a thing. It savors a place. And what is that place? The dwelling place of God. The place where God lives.
C. Many think that the psalm is written by someone who had been separated from God’s temple for some unknown reason, someone who is longing to return to God’s dwelling place, which makes this passage all the more relevant to our present circumstance of being of being prevented from gathering on account of the Coronavirus. Whether or not that is true, it does seem to have been sung by pilgrims each year as they traveled to Jerusalem anticipating the celebration of God’s festival.
D. Psalm 84:1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and 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 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! 5 Blessed 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; each one appears before God in Zion. 8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! 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 dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
E. This psalm is about the dwelling place of God. What is the dwelling place of God?
1. Birchwood, built by my grandfather, filled with paintings by my grandparents, even the walls
a. My mom couldn’t bear to lose it so she moved there when her parents died.
b. My siblings, my children, my nephews and nieces, all feel connected to it, and to its inhabitant.
2. Many of you have had a similar experience: a place to come home to, perhaps after a deployment, or after a business trip: to the people you love, to the place you are known, to the place you know so well, to the people who have been waiting for you and longing for your return.
3. Not everyone has that experience of having a place of love and security, having a place which is really home to them. But hopefully we can at least imagine a place like that.
4. Now multiply it by 1000 and you begin to get the idea the psalmist is expressing here.
II. The location (address) of the dwelling place of God
A. At the time this psalm was written, God’s dwelling place was Solomon’s Temple on Mt. Zion.
1. But there are some things we know which the psalmist didn’t know, things which enrich our appreciation of this psalm.
B. You see, Babylon later destroyed the temple, and ruined the city.
1. The people rebuilt the temple when they returned from exile, but unlike Solomon’s temple, God’s presence in the glory cloud never came and inhabited it. The people worshiped there and offered sacrifices, but at its core, the temple was empty.
2. And then right before the prophets went silent for 400 years in between the OT and the coming of Christ, the last prophet, Malachi, prophesied about the Lord returning to the temple: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. – Malachi 3:1–2 (You might recognize those words from Handel’s Messiah.)
3. In Matt.11:10 Jesus tells us that the first part of this – the part about the messenger who would prepare the way – was referring to John the Baptist.
4. That means that the second part is about Jesus: “the Lord will suddenly come to his temple.”
C. So, when did Jesus fulfill this coming into his temple? The NT never tells us specifically.
1. He came into the temple when He was 40 days old, when Simeon took Him into his arms.
2. Then Mary and Joseph found Him again in the temple when He was 12 years old. “You should have known I would be in My Father’s house.” (Luke 2:49)
3. And He came often into the temple during the three years of His public ministry. He even cleansed the temple and drove out the money changers, saying, “My Father’s house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Matt.21:13)
4. But of particular importance is the final time Jesus was in the temple. We read about it in Matthew 23:37–24:2. Jesus is walking out of the temple with the disciples and He addresses the city of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house (the temple) is left to you desolate (empty). 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” 1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
a. When Jesus left the temple, the temple was left desolate. He was God in His temple, and now the temple had no God. And 40 years later, the Romans destroyed the temple completely.
D. Jesus was the dwelling place of God, and, during those years, being near Jesus was the fulfillment of the message of this psalm. (John 2:19, 21; Mark 14:58)
E. So, Jesus is still the new temple. He is where God dwells. So, if you want God, come to Him in Jesus. “As you come to him...you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.” — 1Peter 2:4–5
1. So, now as people are joined to Christ, they are being formed into a living temple, made of living stones — His church: His broken, messy, sinful, weak, frail, sometimes pathetic church.
2. “Do you not know that you (pl) are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1Corinthians 3:16 (Cf. 1Corinthians 6:19, where the you is singular)
III. And so, let’s now walk through Psalm 84, knowing that this isn’t just for OT Israelites worshiping at Jerusalem’s temple. It’s for believers all over the world coming to Christ and His church today.
A. The Lord’s dwelling place is precious, valuable, desirable to God’s people (1-2)
1. 1 “How lovely (precious) is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!”
2. The people of God are distinguished by what they cherish, what they value.
3. They have a different way of thinking and a different set of values than the world around them.
4. What makes people Christians is first and foremost what is inside them. It’s what they love and what they desire. And what do they desire?
a. 2 Their soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD. Their heart and flesh cry out to the living God. (Not “sing for joy” – see NIV84)
b. Psalm 26:8 I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells.
c. Jesus, Love of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly! (Charles Wesley)
d. In the morning when I rise (3x) give me Jesus (3x) You can have all this world just give me Jesus
e. You can go any place on earth. Just let me go into the house of the Lord.
B. God’s house is where they live. It is their safe place. It is their security and their identity (3-4).
1. Like the sparrow who nests in the temple (v.3), they find their home in His dwelling place.
2. 4 “They dwell in His house, ever singing His praise.”
C. Their strength is in the Lord (5a).
1. They know that they have no strength in themselves. But they know that through God who strengthens them they can do all things. So, they are not afraid. They are bold and confident.
D. The highways to Zion are in their hearts (5b).
1. They love going into the presence of the Lord so much that they love the trip to get there.
2. Even when they’re not in the company of God’s people, they are looking forward to being there.
3. Isn’t that beautiful! They can’t wait to be there. They love the destiny so much that they love the road that gets them there.
4. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way!
5. Psalm 122:1 I rejoiced when I heard them say, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
E. This person who lives in the household of God is imbued with power (6-7a).
1. 6 “As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.” – They turn obviously dry places into a place of springs covered with pools.
2. 7a “They go from strength to strength; they appear before God in Zion.”
3. One of the things which was unique about Jesus is that instead of the things around Him causing Him death, He caused them life. Instead of the leper making Him unclean, He made the leper clean. And Christ-filled believers are similar. The world doesn’t make them gloomy people, they make the world a place of joy.
F. And “they appear before God in Zion” (7b-8)
1. They don’t just love the presence of the Lord, they actually get there. The Lord’s presence is not just in their hearts, it’s on their calendar and on their GPS.
2. It’s their destiny, their trajectory, their goal in life, their passion, their dream, their life pursuit.
3. Why do they ultimately make it? Because, as it says in v.8, the Lord hears their prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!
G. Verse 9 is difficult.
1. It could be referring to the messiah, God’s anointed One. “Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!” It could be a call to God to look at the Messiah, for God’s pleasure in His Son is the basis for His pleasure in us. We are beloved because of Him. That’s why we pray in Jesus’ name.
2. Or it could be, “Behold, O God our shield; look on the face of your anointed!” in which case the psalmist is an anointed person, perhaps a priest, calling out to God to hear his cry.
3. I wish I could be more definitive.
H. But then comes v.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 dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
1. They think being in God’s presence is far better than anything else.
2. Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
3. They wouldn’t trade the right and privilege of coming into God’s presence for the whole world!
4. Psalm 26:8 O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.
5. They truly believe that God’s lovingkindness is better than life itself! (Psalm 63:3)
6. “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
a. I don’t care what my position is. I just want to be there.
b. Widows “who have washed the feet of the saints” (1Tim.5:10). Why would you do that?
I. 11 They are the recipients of the Lord’s unlimited gifts (11).
1. “the LORD God is a sun” He brings light into our lives. As CS Lewis said, it’s not just that we see God’s light, it’s that because of God’s light we see everything else.
2. “the LORD God is a shield” He protect us. He shelters us from harm.
3. “the LORD bestows favor and honor.” Unmerited favor & undeserved honor – He bestows on us.
4. “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
a. NO GOOD THING!! NO GOOD THING!! does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
b. We may want certain things. We may feel like we need certain things. We may feel like we can’t live without certain things. But God gives us every single thing which is good for us to have.
c. If there is something good for us, it will be ours the second it is good for us to have it.
d. Everything is ours! We are by far the richest people on the face of the earth. Even the poorest believer has so much more than all the billionaires! Do we realize what we have?
J. They trust in the Lord and are blessed (12).
1. 12 “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
2. But this thriving, this flourishing is not by accident, and not by self-effort. It is given/bestowed.
3. God says: “You trust, I bless. You worry about trusting; I’ll worry about blessing. Don’t go around trying to bless yourself. It’s My job to bless you. You just work on trusting Me.”
4. And that’s where the psalmist leaves it: “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
IV. And we’re still there. Even though Christ has come, we still have to trust.
A. We don’t yet see Him with our eyes, we have to walk by faith.
B. BUT, one day we will see Him. We will see Him face to face.
C. In Rev.21:3 the apostle John tells us that he heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
D. One day they’ll be no more highways; we’ll be there, we will have arrived at the Destination.
V. But for now, we’re left enjoying the Lord in the place where He meets us.
A. Compared to what is coming, it’s not much. But compared to what the world has, it’s wonderful!
B. Experientially, it doesn’t always work this way in the church, does it? It doesn’t always seem like the dwelling place of God.
C. Well, it is possible that God is not there. Just as there are folks who say they’re Christians but aren’t, so there are churches which say they’re Christian churches but aren’t.
1. Jesus Himself tells us that churches can get so far off track that the Holy Spirit has moved out, He doesn’t live there any more – Rev.2:5, 3:3.
D. Or maybe He’s there and the problem is with you and me.
1. Our sinful nature leads us to magnify other people’s failures and diminish our own.
2. You remember the story of the worship leader who was attending a worship service and spent the time critiquing the music and the sound system and the leadership style, and afterwards the man next to him turned to him with tears in his eyes and said, “What a magnificent time of worship!”
E. We should think of Christian churches like we think of Christians. Christians are a mixture.
1. They have sin and corruption in them, but they also have Christ in them. They are in transition.
2. And it’s not enough just to focus on a Christian’s corruptions. We must cherish and esteem the beauty of Christ in them — even though at times that means looking hard in order to find it.
F. It’s the same way with the church. Church experience includes disappointments, discouragements and rejections to be sure, but God wants us to first think about our own failures.
1. In my experience, all my tears and frustrations have been far overshadowed by the joy of worship, the encouragement of fellowship, the patience and concern of others, the prayers, the expressions of love, the friendships. Sometimes I have been accused and rejected when I didn’t deserve it, but much more often I have been accepted, tolerated and even appreciated when I didn’t deserve it.
2. Is that not true for you as well?
G. Think about all the struggles of the OT church. And yet Psalm 84 (and 42-43) was still true.
H. Think about all the blunders the disciples made. But only Judas was found to be Christless.
1. And think about all the struggles the early churches had: the Corinthian church with its immorality and defiance, the Galatian church with its beginning to stray from the gospel of grace, the Laodicean church with its lukewarmness and pride, and the church in Jerusalem with its Judaizer sympathies. And yet none of them was cut off from Christ.
2. Ever since the coming of Christ, the church has struggled with sin and persecution, with division and heresy. But none of that changes the fact that God lives in the context of His church, His people.
I. Listen to Paul’s final words to his elder friends from the Ephesian church. Notice that Paul knows that problems are to be expected. But notice also that it doesn’t mean that the church stops being the church of God because it has problems. It doesn’t mean that it stops being the dwelling place of the Lord of hosts. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert... 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” – Acts 20:28–32
J. If all you do is look at my sins and weaknesses, you miss the most important thing. And if all I do is look at your sins and weaknesses, I miss the most important thing.
VI. Conclusion
A. We live in a society which is blessed in earthly way perhaps more than any other society on earth or in history. And yet people raise a storm of protest if some blessing is taken away while raising hardly a whimper of thanksgiving for what they’ve been given.
1. Believers have to be different. Believers must not be complainers. Believers must be cherishers.
B. When I came to Christ as a youth, it was as if I had come home, though I had never been there before. It was as if I found my family, though I’d never met them before.
1. My life verses:
a. Romans 10:20 where God says, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
b. Psalm 27:10 "My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in."
c. The story of Jesus calling His disciples
2. I’m an immigrant to Christ’s church.
a. I didn’t have the blessing of spending my childhood learning the great stories of the Bible. I didn’t spend my childhood singing the songs of the Lord. I didn’t spend my childhood learning to pray.
b. And a number of you had similar experiences.
c. But we have one advantage over those who grew up in church and in Christian homes.
(1) We know what it’s like to live in the wilderness. We know what it’s like to be homeless.
(2) We know what it’s like to live in poverty. We know what’s it’s like to be alone in the world.
3. And what a beautiful thing it is when a person who grew up in the church grasps how blessed he was to enjoy that privilege.
4. I remember as a new believer being shocked by peers who had grown up in the church who were so unappreciative of the privileges they enjoyed. They took their blessings so lightly!
5. But it is not difficult for me to cherish the blessing it’s been to be a part of this family at GPC for the last (almost) 40 years. This has been my family. This has been my home.
C. Maybe some of you listening to my voice have never known true Love.
1. SWB used to sing a song which said, “Don’t go to church until you first go to Jesus.”
2. He knows that sometimes people meet Jesus at church. But his point was that Jesus is who you need, not church. We go to church because Jesus is there. But going to church just to go to church, going to church without finding Jesus, is useless.
3. The only thing which makes church worthwhile is that it is the dwelling place of the Lord.