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Here is the place of promise, the place of pleas and the part of devotion. Blessing breaks forth from this Psalm as water from the ground, as the sun from the cloudy shroud at sunset, full of glory though there be a distancing and a trial for the night is coming, in which no man can work.
"LOVELY" - this is the word for the things of God, the symbolic manifestation of God's presence with man, the habitual and long accustomed signs of His will, the patterns of holiness and the place of sacrifice. These were set in the evocative Jewish temple. Here the intense yearning of the spirit (v.2) becomes like a wanderer met with welcoming hospitality; here the single worshipper is joined in the spiritual trek to God, here the abundance of provision sings on the earth, and the arid ways of the atheist, the agnostic, the renegade, the mocker, the critic are left. We are speaking of the church of God, what Stephen called the church in the wilderness, the congregation of the Almighty, the people of promise, those in whose hearts is the way.
Not here are we concerned with the hypocrite, the pretender, the hoper who does not KNOW the Lord. The longing soul here has eyes only for the HOUSE, the living house, the authorised place, the genuine reality of which all mimics, internalised mockers and seducers are mere dust on the ground. Here the eyes are lifted to the source, the original, the originator, and if there be those who are false, then to the false be their lot. GOD has authorised this, and to this the seeker goes. As the place of sanctuary was enabled and enacted by God, so the Christian of today has no dealing where these sound forms of words, these authorised instructions, these deliverances from the author of life are left. A better city and a straighter place than this is where you will find him. Typified in the Psalm, there is that which GOD has done, and THERE HIS people meet!
There are the sparrows (v.3), little birds of small distinction, and to these have been given wisdom enough to lodge about the house of God, as if drawn irresistibly to its sanctuary, just as man who knows God is drawn even more irresistibly to God who made the sanctuary, and there attests His consuming zeal for His beloved people. Here, just as the birds use nests for nestlings, so the children of the people of God can grow, surrounded by the spiritual realities of the movement of God in the midst of His people, who convene not according to existential thrusts but the provided word of God, in the midst of the buildings of blessedness, dedicated to Him.
Such people would come from far, in the days of Israel, to this ONE place of worship which the Lord had so often required, predicted, authorised and then established. From earliest times, He had specified ONE place of worship, for He is ONE God who has ONE set of patterns which required an understanding of that ONE reality which is His. No friend among the bevy of gods and goddesses is He who calls the gods of the pagans, idols (Psalm 96)... No Freemason in heart is here; for He detests this ludicrous mockery of His mind, His name and His works, as Elijah showed well enough with the fire from heaven and his subsequent mission to the correction of Israel, given, yes even when the still small voice spoke to him!
Not the creation of man is worshipped here, but the Creator of man's creativity - a faculty which is so often so misused, so significantly amiss. It is HE, the Lord, who has given what is here received: the authorised word; for the mind of man can as well divine and divide among the multitudes of professions about God and gods as a cat could become an artistic critic.
When GOD speaks His mind, spoken it is, and foolish indeed is the person who adds the trivial superficialities and presumptuous arrogances of marching amidst the offerings like a prince, and setting up that god or those gods or that system of gods or that approach to God, which is desired. It is GOD has set up the approach to God, and only REPROACH is the lot of those who presume to REJECT what He says by adding and subtracting as if they too were God. This blasphemy is the opposite end of the scale to the dedicated, realistic devotion of this worshipper in Psalm 84.
He realises for his part that there is an indescribable loveliness about the GOD WHO IS. He is KING and GOD, the speaker, the ruler, the Almighty who has shown to man what His desire is. He rules in the midst of mankind not as One elected, but as the One who elected to create man and to speak to him just what He would. The puny mind of man as the philosopher who sets up and breaks down gods, or makes the criteria of acceptable goddishness, this is a folly so estranged from worship, that the Psalmist tells us of a very opposite wonder: "Blessed are those who dwell in Thy house! Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee!" (vv.4-5).
God has STATED and STIPULATED what are the symbols and what is the way and where He is to be found. How blessed are those who know this! Even as they pass through the valley of Baca (v.6) ... seemingly a long, narrow and rather arid valley with mulberry trees which can give tiny drainings of coloured fluid, a place of difficulty and no visible delight: even when passing through this dark place: even in this valley, they find in it the spring that Moses found visibly, but to them it is spiritual. In the midst of tribulation, trial and a dim place, they stay upon their God, they wait upon Him spiritually and are not disappointed. Pools and praise, all sufficiencies for their journey are to be found as the Lord appoints, and never estranged from their needs are these as they seek Him. In the barren, they overflow, in the minimised, they are replete. GOD is their sufficiency, and He walks with them, as the "living God"!
How blind is the imagination that the living God is LESS vital than a friend, less powerful than a government! The living God is the maker of all, and the infinite superior to any. To have Him available is better than any bank balance, army or nuclear deterrent, and foolish, and soon to be exposed, as exposed in parallel times in the past, are those who put their trust in the merely accidental, circumstantial and peripheral, the things of this passing world.
Just as those who dwell in His house will "still be praising" Him (v.4), so those who seek His face and find Him according to His specifications and His word, these find springs in the desert and richness in poverty, pools in the valleys: the whole is transfigured and the difficult is transcended, the weak amended, the limp an occasion for glorying in one's infirmities, for they remind of the strength of Him in whom and in whom alone one is to trust.
Yet this is not all. Not only comes the inward and spiritual equivalent of the time of Moses when the nobles uncovered water, crying, Spring up O Well!, but GOD intervenes in this intense spiritual zeal according to His word, and for His provided inheritance. He gives POOLS, standing water, overflow of abundance. Secret from the world are His provisions; for as the children of God know and find as they live, in the midst of trouble and hardship there are the provisions of the Almighty, at times spectacular and dynamic, as it were outrageously liberal and astonishingly unlooked for, yet there all the time. He acts to deliver those who wait for Him, as Isaiah says, He acts for those who wait for Him! (Isaiah 64:5).
"They go from strength to strength", we read (v.7). Not fainting in a defeat by circumstances, but rising above the terrain and the trouble, they are rewarded in their intense personal seeking and dwelling with God in heart, by new resources which come like morning showers, like Summer sun, like a radiance of sunlight upon the waters; for "God is a sun and a shield", and "no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly".
Look, says the Psalmist, upon the face of your Messiah (verse 9). Now this may refer merely in this case to David, and the Psalm may be set among those who went with David when Absolam invaded; but we do not know. What we know is this, that the Psalms project constantly and consistently the Messiah (Psalm 2, 72, 45, 110, 23, 40, 22, 16, 41, 55, 69 with II Samuel 7, Isaiah 4,7,9,11,32,42,49,52-55 etc. - see SMR Ch.9), and in the end, it is not David but Christ, the Messiah, who is the crux and criterion, in whom the setting will be made perfect and the symbols will find their ultimate satisfaction.
"Look upon the face of Thine anointed!" (v.9).LOOK upon the face of Christ, this is the ultimate marvel and imprecation here! As God is asked to look upon the face of this Resplendent Humility, this Suffering Victor, this Magnificent Servant, this Pure Redeemer on whom Psalm 72 like Psalm 2 and 45 so wonderfully dwells, so we look too toward that face, for in Him is there plentiful redemption, and abundant pardon, sufficient power for all good things and a lively thrust that does not delay to answer the prayer of faith. Because of Him, we who are His may all come to His presence: "each one ... appears before God" (v.7).
For in Christ sent is met the ultimate need to redeem the poor and provide for the afflicted, to replace (Ezekiel 34) those faithless shepherds of His sheep which abound in the fallen relics of the world's church structure; in Him and in Him alone is this deliverance, protection and consummation of bliss, this acme of blessing to be found! To David it was not even given to construct the house, the symbolic temple of the Lord which for all that was a thing of incredible earthly value: he being a man of war, as Samuel was instructed. David prefigured Christ both in multitudinous prophecy and in his person, as a type, in that through Him came the unification of the Lord's people, not by some structural slickness, or organisational myth, but in terms of the patterns which the Lord so painstakingly laid down, and which were architecturally, specifically expressed in the Temple. To these he led, and in such assurances and directions, David abided, playing his part faithfully in the preliminary preparations.
These patterns, so stressed by Moses, are the outward implications of the inward realities of the unchanging God. Hence in Leviticus do we find those sacrifices, offerings, oblations and provisions, those telling procedures as to washing and holiness which prepare the heart for the reality of the fact that GOD SAYS, and we follow; GOD SPEAKS and we learn; GOD INVITES, and we come.
We do not worship the construction of our own hearts; and this taunt of the atheist, who is in fact doing just that, is indeed worthy for those who depart from the living God, by creating their own sanctuary in the heady whirl and world of philosophy, whatever they may anoint it to be in their imaginations! Similarly, the atheist, like the agnostic is busy secreting the whole life he lives in the interstices of his own thought, which neither in brain nor in mind has he provided for, like some erratic child who imagines that his wilful little petty tempers are the power of the universe because he receives, in the modern way, no smack for his tantrums and selfish piques, as if all surrounded by his own thought, and the Maker of thought needed no care... (cf. SMR pp. 329ff.).
"Every one of them appears before God!" comes the word of the Psalmist. Those who seek Him with the entire heart shall surely find Him, those who therefore come where He is to be found, and while He may be found (cf. Isaiah 55, Jeremiah 29:13-15). For God is not the butt of our belligerence, the dog of our whistle, the appointee of our religious curiosities and penchants. We are because He is, and what we are is provided for in the place He has appointed; and this is the place where He looks upon the face of His anointed, His called, His provided, His lamb of sacrifice, His whipped word, His sanctified sacrifice, His beloved Son, of whom David says this: The Lord said to my lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool!"
Blessings abound for those who faithfully follow the Lord in His word, His witness and His ways, for His Spirit is in their hearts, yes in the heart of every one of them as Paul affirms in Romans 8; and He attests to each they these are "the children of God". Such a living Father knows how to speak, to converse, to commune, to communicate with His children in word and Spirit, in ways past comprehension but not past experience, in ways coherent with the witness of His word and the wealth which He provides. For as to those who walk uprightly before Him: "No good thing will He withhold", and it is delightful that literally, it is "no good will He withhold"! The cries of the personality for more sanctity, more godliness, more virtue, more usefulness to God, more growth in the love of the Lord and in the expressions of His fellowship, who is love: these are not denied.
To the saints, and Biblically ALL Christians are saints, as you see in Paul's frequent addresses to the churches - to the saints, there is to given to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Blessed is the man who trusts in You!", says the a Psalmist, crying out in his delight, "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!" "The Lord will give grace and glory!"
Thus "a day in Your courts is better than a thousand!" (v.10). He would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell, recline, enjoy the luxuries of the tents of wickedness, in the gambling dens, the casinos, the luxuries and indulgent self-gratifications of what Australia has come to call "pokies" for mini-gambling provisions, than in brothels and in the houses of destruction whose only commercial desire is gain, gain, gain, and service is a forgotten item, where people talk as if profit were God, and principles were of course subordinate.
Such confusion is there among the ways of wickedness that some even imagine that profit can be the ideal, or ultimate determinant when a Christian is in business. But it is not so! Profit is a useful guide to efficiency in meeting needs, but it is as a fuel indicator, and not a direction setter; and the man, the company who forgets or ignores this, who says such things as this shibboleth of profit-adoration: such is merely to that extent a manipulee of mammon, a formalised, organisationally-oriented person or group. Then it is one who places means as ends, and ends within means as their followers. Such is the soulless, wire-brained success-meter which masquerades as mankind and can be as obnoxious, obtrusive and useless in spirit, if not blasphemous, as those poor impoverished idolaters who as communists, or in principle as Socialists often enough, allow the State to be their profit, and the People to be their god.
Neither means nor protoplasm, neither cents nor community, that derisible term for the mixed multitude of divers sinners, that modern verbal myth which replaces fact, that disease ridden oral twiddle which hinders the recognition of the sins of man, divided from himself, his world and his God: none of these are to the level of man's destiny.
A DAY in the courts of the Lord surpasses a thousand of those trivial substitutes for spirituality, those capitulations to the world and its empty works! those barren myths for the multitude and placebos for the unwary! (verse 10). "A day in Thy 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" (v.10).GOD is there, strengthening in His felicity and gladdening in His inspiration of praise! What does humiliation matter, when the humblers are but bumblers, tumblers in their own lives, self-appointed arbiters, mockeries of God in their flesh while they walk. If a larrikin speaks, he speaks as a larrikin, so what do the words amount to? Audible sounds, pollen blown by the wind. Of what it bears, of the seed within it - be it weed or orchid, time will show. The mere vocables, they tell nothing but the desire to express.
But WHAT "grace and glory" the Lord gives! They continue to praise the Lord, "they go from strength to strength", they find the plan of salvation, they find the grace of pardon, the place of God's covenant, express, firm, steadfast, sure, the face of the Lord they seek; and His sunshine illuminates their souls, as His power enables their living.
They as spiritual beings walk with their spiritual Creator (cf. Romans 8:1), whose material world is merely like a fireplace, a site where the wood can crackle; whereas He Himself, the architect has also the plant of renown, the place of perfection. His are the walkways and the floral magnificences which are the limpid pool of His beauty, held in the positioning of His delight, the hills and the mountain peaks which summon the sky and talk with the empyrean above. From Him are His words expressing Him, whose works attest Him! From sanctity to sanctity, from grace to grace, from understanding to understanding the Christian can rise, falling perhaps in pride or folly for a moment, but the righteous man falls seven times, and the Lord delivers him; He will not forsake him! Grace and glory are in His ways, and His servants go from strength to strength amidst His profusion of wonder and His glorious deliverances.
"Each one in Zion appears before God"; appears in freshness in the morning, new clad with cleanness and fragrance from the personality and presence of the most High, who is fresher than Spring, more warming than Summer, more severe on sin than is Winter on deciduous trees, more fruitful than Autumn, more delightful than sunset, more refreshing in untouched innocence than any dawn!
Not in some multitude, not for some psychic placebos as from secular psychiatrists, but in the depths of the heart and in the rejoicing of the spirit is God, before whom one can always appear, without charge, without pill, without learned lecture from those professionally ignorant of the necessities for the spirit of man, whose philosophies change as the seasons! No, but before the all-wise, all-holy, unchanging God of love do they appear; before Him who detests iniquity and hates sin, who is just, splendid, magnificent, pure and reliable, and delights in the development of His children. It is before THIS, the TRUE GOD who is distinguished by His abilities, His omnipotence, His creation of all that is, His infinite understanding, His invariant love, His intense compassion and lively actions to provide for the salvation of sinners: it is before God, the Lord that one comes, that one appears! (v.11). No appointment book delays the coming, and no charge accompanies the reception!
"COME TO ME all you who labour and are heavy laden," He cries! Not come you who are wealthy, or who will sell your souls for a measure of contentment! (Matthew 11:28-30).
No, IF you are heavy laden, you qualify! But COME! If you labour and are in the toils of soul or spirit or body which oppress, you are satisfactory to this extent, so COME! If you have need, COME! If you will come, then come to the Messiah, to the Christ, to the One who sums up the patterns of holiness and gives them face, whose face gave the words which led to the patterns: come to the One who has revealed Himself in many ways through the fathers, but has now come in the very glory of His Father, always doing what pleases Him (Hebrews 1:1-3,John 8:29), who even intercedes for His children! COME, I say, come to Him! What does John say in Revelation (22:17), granted this promise by the Lord? This:
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come! And let him who hears say, Come! And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."
Come for salvation, come for sanctification, come for grace, come for thanksgiving, come for help in helping the helpless (and the blessings in that are as rich as is the compassion of the pitiful God Himself - see Isaiah 58:6ff. for that torrent of benediction!), come for fellowship, come for increase in understanding, come for overcoming sin, come for deliverance from self-pity, self-centredness as in the cult of self-fulfilment as the most sacred of all duties! Come to worship! How amiable O Lord is Your Tabernacle, that more excellent Minister, that better covenant-container, that Christ, in whom the Christians are built as living stones, a special people (Hebrews 8, I Peter 2); and how beautiful is the grace of Him who calls, of whom Psalm 110 says this:
"In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of your youth!" From God He came, the eternal word, from the form of God He arrived in human form. No sin tainted Him, nor did His age or Age exact conformity from Him to any folly, evil or fault; but devotion to duty in the delight of His Father has left the world with this human face which now is the Messianic station where we may come. To the living God we may come, to Him whose Son, though He was rich, became poor that we through His poverty might be rich!
Through the Son of the living God, His anointed, His Messiah, His Christ we come. On HIS FACE God has indeed looked, crying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" - Matthew 3:17, and again, "This is my beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Mark 9:6). No one knows Him except the Father, and none knows the Father except the Son and the one to whom HE wills to reveal Him! All things are delivered from the Father to the Son, and He is the gate of entry (Matthew 11:27). Come, then, come!
"O Lord of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!" (v.12).