The Expository Files


Dwelling in God’s House

Psalm 84

[ Our thanks to Steven for this excellent series throughout 2011. Look for more from Steven’s pen on other subjects in the future. – editors]

Under the Old Testament period, the temple was known also as the house of God because that was where God figuratively dwelt with man; it was where offerings
and sacrifices were made to reconcile men to God after their sins and to offer thanks for His numerous blessings and for His protection from their enemies.
The psalmist, in particular, was one who was eager to come to the house of God to offer his thanks and to praise God — to be with God. It is he who wrote, “I
would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise” (Psa. 42:4). In his time, the house of God was
literally the physical structure where God met with man — in the temple. For us today, the “house of God” is something different, but is still something we
who are God's people should desire to come to and a reason for rejoicing. The question for us is, do we love God's house as we should?

The Desire to be in the House of the Lord. (vv. 2, 3)
The psalmist plainly states his desire “for the courts of the Lord” — to be as near to the house of
the Lord as possible, to draw near. As one who was not a priest, he could not enter into the temple itself, but he could come to the outer court where he
would be able to present offerings for thanks and praise to the Lord he serve. In the most literal translation of these words, the psalmist is saying that
his desire and his "end-all" is to be in the courts of the Lord; he wants nothing more than to be where he can rightfully offer his sacrifices. What should
be implied from those words is then plainly stated: He wanted not to be in the courts of the Lord just to be there; he wanted to be with the Lord. Here, he
says, “my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”

A Better Place. (v. 10) The psalmist recognizes the greatness of being closer to the Lord, as opposed to being closer to the world and its ways. Note his
first statement: “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” A truly spiritually-minded man will not wonder where else he could be while
in the house of the Lord, but is thinking that he would rather be in the house of the Lord whenever he is somewhere else! In effect, he is saying
[figuratively] that being in the house of God is a thousand times better than anywhere else he could be! Think about the implied value he is placing on being
in the house of God! To restate his perception of the advantages of being in the house of the Lord, he then says, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the
house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” In other words, it would be better to be a servant in the house of the Lord than to be the one being
served while enjoying the comforts of one's own home, but in wickedness. The obvious contrast is between a place where righteousness dwells and a place where
wickedness abounds. He chooses righteousness over sin!

What Lesson Can We Learn From This? Let us consider the psalmist's words regarding his desire to be in the house of the Lord and the blessings of being one
who dwells therein, but let us make sure we understand, first, what the “house of the Lord” is today. It does not mean some building in Jerusalem — or even
in Glendale, Arizona, or wherever you might be. Simply put, it is the church (1st Tim. 3:14, 15), but let us understand that as the people, and not some
building at a particular location (cf. 1st Cor. 3:16; 2nd Cor. 6:16). As disciples — believers, saints, Christians — we are the “house of God” and the
spiritual temple and dwelling place of God — not the building where we meet, but the people. Knowing this, we now understand the temple to be the people who
comprise the church, and as priests we are continually before the Lord in His service, just like the priests of old and who are blessed to be in His house
always. We are His house!

As the house of God today, the church likewise is a place where those who are a part of it are truly blessed. We are told God “has blessed us in Christ with
every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3); forgiveness is for those who are a part of the house of God — the church; salvation is for those who are a part of the
house of God — the church of God. These are the blessings we enjoy today as ones in God’s house. A further blessing we have is that God is our God and we are
His people. One thing the psalmist pointed to throughout all the psalms was the blessing he considered it to simply be able to call God his God and to know
he was considered one of God's people. We, too, can have that assurance, for God has said, “I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I
will be their God, and they shall be My people…I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me” (2nd Cor. 6:16-
18). Can we see the great blessing of knowing God is our God?

So how do we see God’s house today? Is it something we are glad to see (Psa. 122:1), or as a weariness (Mal. 1:13)? Do we see it as a place better than any
other, as a people better than any other, a place far greater than anywhere else, and a place where we are truly blessed? Is it where we want to be for the
rest of our lives (Psa. 27:4), faithful and productive in His service and to Him and His people?

By Steven C. Harper
From Expository Files 18.12; December 2011