The Sparrow Found a House ~ Psalm 84

male and female cardinals at a bird feeder


To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.

This lovely psalm was written during the reign of Hezekiah for the sons of Korah, a Levitical family who had the duty of doorkeeper in the temple. Gittith refers to a musical instrument, possibly one David found in Gath of Philistia. Three psalms are written for this instrument (Psalm 8 and 81 are the other two), and all of them are joyful. Scholars have no idea whether it is a stringed or wind instrument, only that it produces a joyful sound.

How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD:
my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
Yea, the sparrow hath found a house,
and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
even Thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.
Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house:
they will be still praising Thee. Selah.

“How lovely are Your dwellings!” This gives a sense of being at home with God. The psalm may have been written during a time of captivity when the Israelites were not able to worship God in the temple, but clearly the psalmist longed to be back at his post. The sparrow and the swallow had built their nests on the altar and were free to come and go as they pleased, even as this singer desired to do.

Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee,
in whose heart are the ways of them.
Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well;
the rain also filleth the pools.
They go from strength to strength,
every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer:
give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.

God does not bless only those who serve Him full-time in the house of God, but also those heart is there, the man who loves to go to the house of worship whenever the opportunity is afforded him, knowing that he will find strength there. In truth, all strength comes from God, and this strength is obtained by waiting on Him (Isa. 40:31).

The valley of Baca may have been an actual place, but its location is not now known. However, the application is that such a man (or woman) can take a difficult situation and turn it into an occasion for joy and comfort. They diffuse happiness everywhere they go. By the presence of the Savior and the influence of the Holy Spirit, trying times become seasons of purest joy. I can almost imagine a film maker taking hold of this, perhaps in an animated scene geared toward a girl between the ages of seven and nine. Her heroine, a slender young woman with long wavy locks of blonde hair and a peaceful smile upon her radiant face, wafts into a dismal, gray garden, and suddenly the trees and bushes spring to life with an array of leaves, dried fountains begin to flow again, flowers open up to display their colors, birds fill the air with singing, and squirrels and deer come out of hiding to gaze on her beauty. Does this sound romantic? unrealistic? utopian? It is definitely exaggerated, but the idea is quite believable and even attainable—through the power of God in the life of His child. A follower of Christ, whose joy radiates from deep within, can have the same effect on a room full of people that this fictitious girl has on a garden.

Behold, O God our shield,
and look upon the face of Thine anointed.
For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.
I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,
than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield:
the LORD will give grace and glory:
no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee.

“A day in Thy courts is better than a thousand…” A day in the house of God is better than a thousand days spent anywhere else. Such was the desire of the psalmist to be back in the temple.
“I had rather be a doorkeeper…” The most menial task in the service of the King of kings is better than living with the wicked.
“For the Lord God is a sun…” As the sun gives light, warmth, and beauty to creation, so God gives light, life, and joy to the soul.
“…and shield…” God is our protector, our advocate, our defense.
“The Lord will give grace…” God gives His children unmerited favor in this life,
“…and glory…” and honor in the life to come.
“No good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly.” Has God refused something you have desired? a good thing, perhaps? Either it is because there is something in your life He wishes to purge, or there is something better He wishes to give you in His good time. God is always good. We don’t know His master plan; that is why we have to learn to trust Him. Believe me, I’m writing this to myself.
“Blessed”—happy—“is the man”—or woman—“who trusts in God.”

Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.*

❧          ❧          ❧

What about you?

When sickness, travel, or some other reason beyond your control prevents you from being in God’s house, do you miss it? Do you long to be there, as the psalmist longed to be in the temple? If so, what is your motive for the longing? Do you miss the singing? the fellowship with your friends and fellow believers? Or is your longing for God’s house really a longing for the sense of His nearness? When you cannot be there, do you miss the ritual—or the Redeemer? the saints—or the Savior? It makes a difference.

No good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly.

❧          ❧          ❧

*chorus to “Trust and Obey,” written by John H. Sammis (1887), in the public domain.

Photo taken in Milton, Florida, 2018… and yes, I know they are cardinals, not sparrows. I haven’t seen any sparrows at the feeder yet. 🙂

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