Have you ever noticed how hard it is for us to be in the presence of God? This world completely dominates our senses; that’s part of why we need specific places of worship.
The very sign of fallenness takes place when people allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the sensations of this world.
God no longer walks with us in the garden in the same way He did before the Fall. We don’t have that kind of immediate access to Him. Our prayers can be difficult, and it is often difficult for us to hear God’s voice.
Why Worship is so Vitally Important
We need to worship in times of blessing. Otherwise, we may easily be deluded into thinking that we don’t need the Lord when things are going well for us.
We also need to remember that the Lord uses our griefs and our times of spiritual dryness. He uses the troubles of this present evil age to remind us of our true home and of how much we need Him.
The Psalmist understood this:
How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In who heart are the highways to Zion! (Psalm 84:5)
In other words, how blessed are the people whose hearts have the highways of Zion impressed upon them; the people who continually long to return to the Lord’s presence.
The author of Psalm 84 goes on to describe a group of pilgrims on their way to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem:
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings. (Psalm 84:6)
They pass through a valley of dryness, of suffering. We don’t know whether Baca is a literal or a metaphorical place; either way, this is a place of dryness, yet God makes it a spring of life.
What Psalm 84 Teaches Us About Worship
As these pilgrims draw closer to the heavenly city, the blessings of God increase:
They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion. (Psalm 84:7)
God’s presence is real as we enter into the experience of worship. His transforming power is real, and we begin to change when we enter into worship. That’s when we go from strength to strength.
The Psalmist prays for rescue in the verses immediately following the image of the pilgrims in the valley. He knows that the king of Israel must be blessed and anointed by the Lord, so he prays for the king. If the king has been blessed, then the land has been blessed, and that means the Lord is acting powerfully on behalf of Israel:
Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed. (Psalm 84:9)
“Our shield” is a reference to the king. The king is the shield and defender of Israel. The next line parallels the first: “look upon the face of your anointed.” In other words, bless our protector, our king, so that the temple may be restored and established.
The kings of Egypt were sometimes referred to as the sun. Other pagan religions also referred to their gods and their kings as the sun. Keep that in mind as you read this next verse:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)
Psalm 84 is saying, in other words, “Lord, it’s difficult in this present evil age. We are exiles, and we long to go home. We long to return to Your presence. But Lord, we know You’ll hear our prayer. You’ll establish our king, and You’ll bring us home from exile. No good thing will You withhold from Your covenant people, from those who walk uprightly. You bless those who trust You.”
Here’s What Psalm 84 Has to Do With You
None of us lives in resurrection glory yet. None of us is in the full house of the Lord, the holy city. We’re marching toward that heavenly city, but we don’t yet have the full blessing. There is a longing still within the life of the Christian. We are exiles. And so, like the Psalmist, we trust and we pray.
Follow the Psalmist’s lead and trust that the God who has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ will, in the end, overcome every sin, every grief, every pain, and every illness.
He’s the God who gives new life. He’s the God who places us in the holy city where there are streets of gold, gates of pearl, and foundations of the most precious stones. He’s the God who is present even in the midst of the disappointments, pains, and griefs of this life.
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered at Kingsland Baptist Church on July 7, 2013. You can watch a video of his original remarks here.