Have you ever felt that combination of frustration and longing when you desperately wanted to be somewhere, surrounded by friends and family, but instead found yourself elsewhere by forces outside of your control, practically alone, and daydreaming about all that you were missing? It might have been a family reunion, a concert, or just a group of friends from school getting together to talk about old times. Whatever the occasion, missing it creates a loneliness that gnaws at you deep within. But what if you are missing out on a spiritual reunion, a gathering to worship, and an opportunity of fellowship? If these things truly matter to you, missing them will hurt deeply, because you find yourself separated from the community and the joy that means the most. Faithful Christians who are shut-in and unable to gather with the saints to worship, study, and work—except perhaps occasionally—can appreciate this feeling, knowing how much the simple visit of one brother or sister means in soothing the soul. However, the sons of Korah who penned Psalm 84 understood this as well, and these inspired words capture the essence of longing and the hope of renewal that can provide spiritual solace for those in a similar situation today.
While the exact date of the psalm eludes us, the internal clues provided by the content suggest the words of those swept away in Babylonian captivity, but likely before the destruction of the temple. Thus, one who had ministered in the temple and anticipated journeying to Jerusalem for the annual feasts found himself unable to return but only able to remember and imagine. O how he loved coming before the LORD where He dwelled (Psa. 84:1), and now this had been taken from him; the loss compelled him to cry out (Psa. 84:2). Even birds could take shelter on the temple grounds, while he was left only with his memories (Psa. 84:3). He envisions the journey through the barrenness of the Valley of Baca, but he sees it as an opportunity rather than a burden (Psa. 84:6). Therefore, unable to make the journey, he longs for God to accept his prayer offered in isolation (Psa. 84:8), a prayer asking for protection in difficult circumstances, including for the deposed king led away in shame (Psa. 84:9).
While the background of the psalm has a tinge of sadness, the message centers on spiritual joy. For despite his own situation, he sees what so many forget. (1) Worshiping God, bowing before His presence, and praising His name is a privilege we should not take for granted (Psa. 84:4). (2) When you find your strength in God, the more time you spend with Him and serving Him, the stronger you become (Psa. 84:5, 7). (3) The stronger our faith in God, the more happiness and joy we can allow into our lives, because we will see all that God makes possible (Psa. 84:11-12). He so wanted to experience this once more that he concludes standing on the threshold looking in from the outside to glimpse for just a moment the blessings that come from God are vastly superior to living in comfort in a wicked land: “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psa. 84:10). We are not in captivity—not yet. But let us learn from the psalmist and appreciate our blessings today and not wait until they are taken from us.