(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)
This Psalm was written by David during the time he abandoned Jerusalem because of the rebellion of his son Absolom. Absolom had raised an army and advanced on the city. David, instead of seeing war happen in the Holy city, packed up and left to preserve the peace of the city. Psalm 84 details his lament and longing to be back in Jerusalem, ultimately because he longs to be in the presence of God there. He longs for the daily happenings that occur there because God is in the middle of it.
The sparrow is mentioned in verse 3 because, as some believe, birds were used in the temple as a form of worship. The bird would take part in the harmony of the various sounds that would take place in worship there during David’s reign as king. This is significant because it shows that David wants to be a part of the worship in the temple, at least in the lowly place of an onlooking bird. We have to remember that in Old Testament times the temple was quite literally the dwelling place of God. Worship, sacrifice, teaching, and a whole slew of other theological, social, and political things found its center in the temple in Jerusalem. It represented the focal point of God’s people at this time that was meant to be a manifestation of God and His ways. Take this into consideration when David says in the first two verses, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
Verses 5-7 hold deep significance for this psalm. The valley of Baca was a dry and harsh environment that had as a means of travel to Jerusalem a road that travelers take to get to Jerusalem to worship. The rain and water that is referred to here would come only briefly throughout the year. This was then a place that received very little rain in the middle of the desert. What David is referring to is his own situation. He is in a desert (literally and metaphorically) receiving little sustenance. The picture that is being painted is that of perseverance. David is in a hard place and desires to be close to the Lord, receiving all of the wonders of being rained on by His presence. It is a hard and barren situation that he is passing through on his way to the more fruitful situation that awaits him. This is the very familiar situation of valleys and mountains that Christians face.
Many times in our lives we find ourselves in this same position. We have times where we are very close to the Lord, benefiting from His blessings and, most importantly, His presence. When we first get saved we tend to feel very close to the Lord, but as time passes we feel that we are not in that same place. This can be very hard for many people, especially if we are not discipled through it by others into the maturity that God wants. But the truth is that God desires us to face dry times. His purpose is manifest in us when we persevere through the hard phases of our walk with Him. He raises us up to be greater disciples through these trying times. These are the times that make disciples into disciplers; fearful into brave; student into teacher. Our natural inclination is to bask in the easy things in life, to avoid hardships and embrace comfort, but this is contrary to what God intends for us. We are meant to suffer and endure for His name, thereby bringing the kingdom of God to the earth. We are meant to be pruned because we bear fruit, so that we will bear even more fruit. Ever increasing, ever growing, we should seek God’s purpose for our lives through these times, because they have great purpose in what God has made us for.
The most important thing a person can remember when facing hard and dry times is that our lives are not about the mountaintops, where things are great and we feel close to God; it is about who God is regardless of how good or bad things are. The character of God is learned through facing these dry and testing times. Ironically these times are what bring us closer to Him, and they are what shape us into the mature and strong men and women that He wants to take on the world for His kingdom. Persevere and you will see God, just like the hard journey through the valley of Baca results in worship in the presence of God in Jerusalem. But we must first face the valleys in order to know true maturity and growth in Him. This is what the Lord wants.