PSALM 84 OVERVIEW
Title and Subject. To the Chief Musician upon Gittith. A Psalm for the sons of Korah. This Psalm well deserved to be committed to the noblest of the sons of song. No music could be too sweet for its theme, or too exquisite in sound to match the beauty of its language. Sweeter than the joy of the wine press, (for that is said to be the meaning of the word rendered upon Gittith), is the joy of the holy assemblies of the Lord's house; not even the favoured children of grace, who are like the sons of Korah, can have a richer subject for song than Zion's sacred festivals. It matters little when this Psalm was written, or by whom; for our part it exhales to us a Davidic perfume, it smells of the mountain heather and the lone places of the wilderness, where King David must have often lodged during his many wars. This sacred ode is one of the choicest of the collection; it has a mild radiance about it, entitling it to be called The Pearl of Psalms. If the twenty-third be the most popular, the one-hundred- and-third the most joyful, the one-hundred-and-nineteenth the most deeply experimental, the fifty-first the most plaintive, this is one of the most sweet of the Psalms of peace. Pilgrimages to the tabernacle were a grand feature of Jewish life. In our country, pilgrimages to the shrine of Thomas of Canterbury, and our Lady of Walsingham, were so general as to affect the entire population, cause the formation of roads, the erection and maintenance of hostelries, and the creation of a special literature; this may help us to understand the influence of pilgrimage upon the ancient Israelites. Families journeyed together, making bands which grew at each halting place; they camped in sunny glades, sang in unison along the roads, toiled together over the hill and through the slough, and as they went along, stored up happy memories which would never be forgotten. One who was debarred the holy company of the pilgrims, and the devout worship of the congregation, would find in this Psalm fit expression for his mournful spirit. Division. We will make our pauses where the poet or the musician placed them, namely, of the Selahs.
Verse 1. How amiable, or, How lovely! He does not tell us how lovely they were, because he could not. His expressions show us that his feelings were inexpressible. Lovely to the memory, to the mind, to the heart, to the eye, to the whole soul, are the assemblies of the saints. Earth contains no sight so refreshing to us as the gathering of believers for worship. Those are sorry saints who see nothing amiable in the services of the Lord's house.
Are thy tabernacles. The tabernacle had been pitched in several places, and, moreover, was divided into several courts and portions; hence, probably, the plural number is here used. It was all and altogether lovely to David. Outer court, or inner court, he loved every portion of it. Every cord and curtain was dear to him. Even when at a distance, he rejoiced to remember the sacred tent where Jehovah revealed himself, and he cried out with exultation while he pictured in fond imagination its sacred services, and solemn rites, as he had seen them in bygone times. Because they are thy tabernacles,
O Lord of hosts, therefore are they so dear to thy people. Thy pavilion is the centre of the camp, around which all thy creatures gather, and towards which their eyes are turned, as armies look to the tent of the king. Thou rulest all the companies of creatures with such goodness, that all their hosts rejoice in thy dwelling place, and the bands of thy saints especially hail thee with joyful loyalty as Jehovah of hosts.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. Here note, that the sons, that is, the posterity of wicked and rebellious Korah, have an honourable place in God's sacred and solemn service: for to them sundry of David's psalms are commended...
Here see the verifying of God's word, for the comfort of all godly children, that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, Ezekiel 18:14 Ezekiel 18:17 Ezekiel 18:20 , if he see his father's sins and turn from them. Thomas Pierson (1570-1633), in "David's Heart's Desire."
O Lord of hosts, how lovely in mine eyes
The tents where thou dost dwell!
For thine abode my spirit faints and sighs;
The courts I love so well.
My longing soul is weary
Within thy house to be;
This world is waste and dreary,
A desert land to me.
The sparrow, Lord, hath found a sheltered home,
The swallow hath her nest;
She layeth there her young, and though she roam,
Returneth there to rest.
I, to thine altar flying,
Would there for ever be;
My heart and flesh are crying,
O living God, for thee!
How blest are they who in thy house abide!
Thee evermore they praise.
How strong the man whom thou alone dost guide,
Whose heart doth keep thy ways.
A pilgrim and a stranger,
He leaneth on thine arm;
And thou, in time of danger,
Dost shield him from alarm.
From strength to strength through Baca's vale of woe,
They pass along in prayer,
And gushing streams of living water flow,
Dug by their faithful care;
Thy rain is sent from heaven
To fertilise the land,
And wayside grace is given
Till they in Zion stand.
Lord God of hosts, attend unto my prayer!
O Jacob's God, give ear!
Behold, O God, our shield, we through thy care,
Within thy courts appear!
Look thou upon the glory
Of thine Anointed's face;
In him we stand before thee,
To witness of thy grace!
One day with thee excelleth over and over
A thousand days apart;
In thine abode, within thy temple door,
Would stand my watchful heart.
Men tell me of the treasure
Hid in their tents of sin;
I look not there for pleasure,
Nor choose to enter in.
Own then the Lord to be thy Sun, thy Shield --
No good will he withhold;
He giveth grace, and soon shall be revealed
His glory, yet untold.
His mighty name confessing,
Walk thou at peace and free;
O Lord, how rich the blessing
Of him who trusts in thee!
German Choral Music.
Verse 1. How amiable are thy tabernacles. What was there in them that appeared so amiable? Perchance, the edifice was famed for the skill and cost bestowed on it? But the temple of extraordinary beauty was not yet constructed. The tabernacle was lowly, more suited to pilgrims than to a great people, and little becoming the king himself. Therefore to the pious there is no need of vast or sumptuous temples to the end that they should love the house of God. Musculus.
Verse 1. How amiable are thy tabernacles. What made the tabernacle of Moses lovely was not the outside, which was very mean, as the Church of God outwardly is, through persecution, affliction, and poverty; but what was within, having many golden vessels in it, and those typical of things much more precious; moreover, here the priests were to be seen in their robes, doing their duty and service, and, at certain times, the high priest in his rich apparel; here were seen the sacrifices slain and offered, by which the people were taught the nature of sin, the strictness of justice, and the necessity and efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ: here the Levites were heard singing their songs, and blowing their trumpets: but much more amiable are the Church of God and its ordinances in Gospel times, where Christ, the Great High Priest, is seen in the glories of his person, and the fulness of his grace; where Zion's priests, or the ministers of the gospel, stand clothed, being full fraught with salvation, and the tidings of it; where Christ is evidently set forth, as crucified and slain, in the ministry of the word, and the administration of ordinances; here the gospel trumpet is blown, and its joyful sound echoed forth, and songs of love and grace are sung by all believers; besides, what makes these tabernacles still more lovely are, the presence of God here, so that they are no other than the house of God, the gate of heaven; the provisions that are here made, and the company that is here enjoyed. John Gill.
Verse 1. Amiable. The adjective is rendered by the English versions amiable, in the sense of the French amiable, lovely. But the usage of the Hebrew word requires it to be understood as meaning dear, beloved, which is exactly the idea here required by the context. The plural, dwellings, has reference to the subdivisions and appurtenances of the sanctuary, and is applied to the tabernacle in Ps 48:3. Compare Psalms 68:35 . The divine titles are as usual significant. While one suggests the covenant relation between God and the petitioner, the other makes his sovereignty the ground for a prayer for his protection.. Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 1. Tabernacles. By the name of tabernacles we are put in mind of the church's peregrination and wandering from one place unto another, until she come unto her own true country. For as tabernacle and tents of war be removed hither and thither, so the Church of God in this life hath no sure and quiet abode, but often is compelled to change her seat. This pilgrimage, whereby indeed every man, as Augustine doth say, is a pilgrim in this world, doth admonish us of sin, which is the cause of this peregrination. For, because of sin, we are cast with our first parents out of Paradise into the land wherein we sojourn. So that we are removed from Jerusalem, that is, from the sight and fruition of peace, into Babylon, that is, into confusion and exile, wherein we wander far and wide. Nicholas Heminge (Hemminguis) (1513-1600), in "The Faith of the Church Militant."
Verse 1-2. When we cannot express the greatness of a thing in direct terms, we are fain to fly to wonder, and so doth David here, because he cannot express sufficiently how amiable the Tabernacles of the Lord are, he therefore falls to wondering, and helps himself with a question; How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts? But is not David's wondering itself wonderful, that the tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts should be so wonderfully amiable? Is it not a wonder they should be amiable at all? For are not his tabernacles tents of war? and is there anything in war that can be amiable? If he had said: How terrible are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts; his wonder had been with some congruity; for the Lord of Hosts is terrible in all his works; but to say, How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts, seems to imply a contradiction; for though they may be amiable, as they are tabernacles, yet they must needs be terrible, as they are Tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts; and when this terribleness hath made an abatement in their amiableness, what place will be left for wonder, to give cause to say, How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts? But if he had said, How terrible are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts; though it might have been wonderful in the degree, yet it could not be wonderful in the kind: for what wonder is it, if the Tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts be terrible? But when he saith, How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts; this is not only wonderful in the degree, but in the kind much more. For what can be more wonderful, than that being Tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts, they should be amiable, and so amiable as to be wondered at? But is it not, that God is in himself so amiable, that all things of His, even his terrors themselves, are amiable; his tabernacles and his tents, his sword and his spear, his darts and his arrows, all amiable; terrible no doubt to his enemies, but amiable, wonderfully amiable to all that love and fear him, and great reason they should be so, seeing they are all in their defence, and for their safeguard; though they be Tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts to the wicked, yet they are Courts of the Prince of Peace to the godly, and this makes my soul to long for the courts of the Lord. For I desire indeed to be a courtier, yet not as I am now: God knows I am very unfit for it, but because God's Courts are such, they make any one fit, that but comes into them; they receive not men fit, but make them fit, and he that was before but a shrub in Baca, as soon as he comes into the Courts of the Lord is presently made a cedar in Lebanon. Sir Richard Baker.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1-3. The Titles for God in these three verses are worth dwelling upon. Jehovah of Hosts; the living God; my King and my God. G. R.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE EIGHTY-FOURTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
The Faith of the Church Militant, made moste effectualie described in this exposition of the 84. Psalme, by that reverend Pastor, and publike Professor of God's word, in the famous universitie of Haffine in Denmarke, NICHOLAS HEMMINGIVS. A treatise written as to the instruction of the ignorant in the groundes of religion, so to the confutation of the Jews, the Turkes, Atheists, Papists, Heretiks, and all other adversaries of the trueth whatsoever. Translated out of Latin into English, &c. by THOMAS ROGERS. At London, printed by H. Middleton for Andrew Maunsel. Anno. 1581.
David's Heart's Desire; or An Exposition of Psalm 84.; in Excellent Encouragments against Afflictions... by Thomas Pierson, M.A. (Reprinted in Nichol's Series of Puritan Commentaries.)
An Exposition upon some select Psalms of David... By ROBERT ROLLOCK. 1600. 16mo.
Meditations and Disquisitions upon seven Consolatorie Psalmes of David... By Sir RICHARD BAKER, Knight. 1640. (pg 119-142.)
Meditations on the Eighty-fourth Psalm, in "Things New and Old. A Monthly Magazine." Vol. IX. 1866.