Out of the four psalms I read this morning, Psalm 84 is undoubtedly my favorite. The psalmist expresses a longing for the Temple as the place where he will meet God….
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy
To the living God.
There are, perhaps, some Christians today who can relate to the psalmist in a very particular way. I imagine there are some Christians who long for a particular cathedral, or even parish church, as their special place of meeting with God. However, even if we cannot relate to the psalmist in longing for a particular place of worship, most Christians, who have spent any amount of time in worshipping God, can relate to this longing for the Lord himself, to be in his presence.
Being in God’s presence is such a joy that the psalmist says, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”
This verse, in Coverdale’s version, led C. S. Lewis, in his Reflections on the Psalms, to go on and express a related thought….
Sometimes with no prompting from tradition a second meaning will impose itself upon a reader irresistibly. When the poet of Psalm 84 said (10) “For one day in thy courts is better than a thousand”, he doubtless meant that one day there was better than a thousand elsewhere. I find it impossible to exclude while I read this the thought which, so far as I know, the Old Testament never quite reaches. It is there in the New, beautifully introduced not by laying a new weight on old words but more simply by adding to them. In Psalm 90 (4) it had been said that a thousand years were to God like a single yesterday; in 2 Peter 3, 8—not the first place in the world where one would have looked for so metaphysical a theology—we read not only that a thousand years are as one day but also that “one day is as a thousand years”. The Psalmist only meant, I think, that God was everlasting, that His life was infinite in time. But the epistle takes us out of the time-series altogether. As nothing outlasts God, so nothing slips away from Him into a past. The later conception (later in Christian thought—Plato had reached it) of the timeless as an eternal present has been achieved. Ever afterwards, for some of us, the “one day” in God’s courts which is better than a thousand, must carry a double meaning. The Eternal may meet us in what is, by our present measurements, a day, or (more likely) a minute or a second; but we have touched what is not in any way commensurable with lengths of time, whether long or short. Hence our hope finally to emerge, if not altogether from time (that might not suit our humanity) at any rate from the tyranny, the unilinear poverty, of time, to ride it not to be ridden by it, and so to cure that always aching wound (“the wound man was born for”) which mere succession and mutability inflict on us, almost equally when we are happy and when we are unhappy. For we are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. “How he’s grown!” we exclaim, “How time flies!” as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal. (Reflections on the Psalms, 136-138)
If the leaves of the New Testament rustle with the whisper of truth, then we “fish” are indeed destined one day to become “land animals”, we mortals are meant for immortality, to dwell in the presence of the Lord forever.