How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts.What makes a person happy? It is a question worth asking because people overwhelmingly identify happiness as the experience or state they value above all else. But there are few who attain such a state of happiness. For most it is a fleeting experience. But to be happy only for a time is a sure indicator that whatever brought happiness was not the true or genuine cause of joy.
My soul longs, yes faints for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Psalm 84: 1,2
This is one reason why so many marriages in our modern world fall apart. From the outset they are made to bear a weight that is beyond the institution itself. The idea that marrying another person will make or ensure one's happiness is a foolish notion. Of course, when it does not transpire as expected, the marriage is discarded. Clearly the marriage had not “worked out”. The marriage partner had not made one happy, after all.
Our text speaks of a joy and felicity in terms that are so exuberant that it is almost embarrassing in our culture which values understatement and reserve. The depth of passion and longing for the courts, the dwelling place of the Lord of hosts is striking. The Psalmist was either exaggerating, or was subject to religious dementia. Many would think that these are not sentiments of a balanced and reasonable person.
In fact they reflect a person who is remarkably sane and profoundly in balance. For the Psalmist has found the secret of life itself—the secret of happiness. It is a secret known to all Believers to one extent or another. Felicity is to be found not in myself, but in another. But the “other” is not my husband, wife, child or any other creature. Happiness is found, known, and experienced by being in the presence of the Lord of hosts. It is experienced truly when we are able to visit with Him, in the place where He dwells.
Where then does the Lord dwell, that we too may yearn, long, and seek to visit with Him, in His house? For when we enter His dwelling place, we see Him. Seeing Him, and being in His presence, fills His people with joy and happiness. It brings us into the very purpose and meaning of life itself. Therefore, where does He dwell, that we may enter and visit with Him? Let us go quickly, without delay.
In asking this question, we know that only God can answer it. For the dwelling place of God is at His appointment and determination, not ours. Our fathers talked about the evils of “will worship”--something not often spoken of in our days of ignorance. “Will worship” is that act of pride and pretense which asserts that we can summon and conjure the Lord at the time and place and media of our pleasure. The Psalmist, however, was in no doubt. If he was to visit with the Lord it was to be in the Lord's house—where He had chosen to put His Name, where His holy altar was established. Our joy, then, is to go to the Lord at the place of His choosing, not to vaingloriously summon Him to the place of our election and pleasure.
Under the Older Covenant this place was in space and time; it was localised upon the earth. That place was at the Ark of the Covenant and its surrounding Tabernacle and the great altar. In time this was fixed, by divine appointment and command, in Jerusalem at the temple. The Psalmist is, thus, speaking about the extremes of joy and happiness he found when he entered through the Beautiful Gate, came into the vast courts of the Gentiles, then passed through to the place of sacrifice and attended upon the holy place. There he joined with the Lord's people to sing psalms of praise, to enter into public and private prayers, offer up sacrifices, and hear God speak through the words of His appointed servants.
Under the New Covenant, in which we now live, the dwelling place of God which He has appointed, is once again localised upon the earth. It is at a particular space and time—at His appointment and choosing. He dwells there. He meets with His people in that place and at that time. He blesses His people there with His presence. They find that this place is lovely. It is the place where their heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Where is this place and time where the Lord has chosen to dwell? It is wherever God's people gather together in the Name of Jesus Christ His Son. He had chosen to be there and dwell there. Did our Lord not declare, “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them”? (Matthew 18:20)
Thus the question of where might the place of the Lord's dwelling be is easily answered. He has appointed His house and chosen dwelling place to be wherever His people gather in the Name of His Son to worship Him and attend upon Him. Gathering to this place makes us truly and profoundly happy; it sheds a divine light upon all else, so that our entire existence becomes one of happiness and felicity.
My soul longs, yes faints for these courts.