How Amiable Are Thy Tabernacles
John Heading, Aberystwyth
It is good to thirst after nearness to the living God. The same exercise is found in Psalms 42, 63 and 84. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God”, 42. 2, said the psalmist, desiring to appear before Him; this represented unsatisfied desire in the house of God, since there he had gone with the multitude, v. 4. “My soul thirsteth for thee”, 63. 1, cried David, recalling the time when he had seen the power and glory of God in the sanctuary; this was David’s desire in the wilderness as the title tells us. Finally,“My soul longeth . . for he courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God”, 84. 2. It has been suggested that this was said by a Levite, far from the house of God outside the walls of Jerusalem, kept in exile, by the besieging armies of Sennacherib, 2 Kings 18. 17. Even a sparrow could fly over the armies to find repose in the temple but in the mercy of God the Levite was “much better than they” , Matt. 6. 26. Paul was in prison deprived of assembly fellowship, but some of his choicest assembly epistles originated there. John was in exile on Patmos, but his thoughts were directed by the Lord to the blessings and needs of the seven churches.
Those that dwell in the house of the Lord in constant service find supreme blessing, Ps. 84. 4. This had been David’s desire, to dwell all the days of his life, and to behold the beauty of the Lord, 23. 6; 27. 4. Anna departed not from the temple, Luke 2. 37, but remained in service night and day; she was blessed with the sight of the Lord coming in amongst a faithful remnant. Saints, as living stones, 1 Pet. 2. 5, are permanently built into the house, firstly to offer up spiritual sacrifices of praise.
The title of the Psalm shows that it was written “for the sons of Korah”; similarly for Psalm 42. Here is found the grace of separation, Jude warns us of certain men who crept in unawares, ungodly men, denying the Lord Jesus Christ, who perished in the gainsaying, of Core, Jude 4, 11. This refers to Numbers 16, where Korah and other men sought to usurp the authority of Moses and Aaron, saying that they were also sanctified to such service. Verse 27 shows that they stood in the door of their tents, with their wives, sons and little children, but for their rebellion they died by the earth swallowing them up. But grace reigned, and Numbers 26. 11 tells us that “the children of Korah died not”, and so we find them later taken up with the holy service of God. They were chosen to be “keepers of the gates of the tabernacle”, 1 Chron. 9. 19, as porters; and later Jehoiada “set the porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in any thing should enter in”, 2 Chron. 23. 19. In other words, the most unlikely were raised to the highest privilege of temple service. Today, the grace of God changes the most unlikely to the most exercised about assembly service. Aaron rose from idolatry Exod. 32. 1-6, to the high priestly office; Paul rose from being the chiefest of sinners, 1 Tim. 1. 15, to the apostle most exercised about assembly function.
How verse 10 of Psalm 84 now fits into place, “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”. What a contrast in the exile’s mind! The tents of wickedness would refer back to the tents of his father’s rebellious group, as they “stood in the door of their tents”, Num. 16. 27, waiting for judgment. The tents would also apply to the tents of the invading armies of Sennacherib. But as a porter, the Levite would desire to keep all this out from the holy precincts of the house of the living God, dwelling in His house and not in these tents of wickedness. For such faithful servants, the Lord would be a sun and shield giving grace and glory, Ps. 84. 11, contrasting to the glory of the Lord that appeared in judgment to all the congregation, Num. 16. 19.
Hence the spiritual aspirations of Psalm 84 do not meddle with the unspiritual opposites from whence the Levite had been delivered.