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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 84

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Verses 1-4


This psalm is of the sons of Korah (Psalms 84:1). Prophetically this psalm is about the faithful remnant. Father Korah is a type of the unbelieving part of Israel under the antichrist and his followers. His sons, on the other hand, are a type of the believing remnant (Numbers 26:10; Numbers 26:11).

After the false leaders of Israel (Psalm 82) and the king of the north and his allies (Psalm 83) are eliminated, we find in Psalm 84 prophetically the spiritual exercises of the ten tribes realm still in dispersion. We read in this psalm of their desire to return to the land of Israel, the aliyah – means ‘going up’, that is returning to the promised land, in this case the return of the ten tribes –, and in particular their desire to meet God’s anointed, the Messiah, Christ Jesus (Psalms 84:9).

This psalm is a pilgrim’s psalm. The believer is on his way to Jerusalem and specifically to the temple. The wish of every Jew outside Israel is: see you next year in Jerusalem. It is the same with this believing Israelite. We also see this after the redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Then the people go on a journey to the land and the house of God (Exodus 15:13-Esther :; Deuteronomy 12:1-Judges :). While in the land, they march three times a year to Jerusalem and the temple (Deuteronomy 16:16). Also on the way to the land, in the wilderness, they have a sanctuary: the tabernacle.

As an application to us, we can remember that we are on a journey to the place where the Lord Jesus is in the midst (Matthew 18:20). Each time we may gather as a church around Him. That is what our life is all about. For us, the temple is not a building, but the assembled believers. It is a spiritual temple that consists of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). When believers come together, they bring spiritual sacrifices, which are the songs of praise that ascend to God (1 Peter 2:5).

We can also remember that we are on a journey to heaven, the Father’s house. There we are allowed to dwell forever. Even now, on our journey to that place, we may boldly enter into God’s presence and continually offer Him sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 13:15).

In Psalm 81 we have the Feast of the blowing of the Trumpets, which is the call to humility. Now that prophetically, according to Psalm 83, the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, has appeared, we see in Psalm 84 the Feast of Booths, (see at Psalms 84:6) which speaks symbolically of the realm of peace.

Longing For the Sanctuary

For “for the choir director” see at Psalm 4:1.

“On the Gittith“ also occurs in the heading of Psalm 8 and Psalm 81 (Psalms 8:1; Psalms 81:1). This links these three psalms together. Psalm 8 speaks of the reign of the Lord Jesus in the realm of peace. Psalm 81 speaks of the Feast of the blowing of the Trumpets, which is the feast of the restoration of Israel to its relationship with the Messiah in the realm of peace. Psalm 84 connects to this with the desire to be in the presence of the LORD. See further at Psalm 8:1.

This is the first “psalm, of the sons of Korah” of the four that appear in the third book of Psalms (Psalms 84-85; 87-88). They form an appendix to the eight psalms that are of them at the beginning of the second book of Psalms (Psalms 42-49). Psalm 84 has similarities with Psalm 42. Both psalms are about longing for the sanctuary of God, from which they are now far away. See further at Psalm 42:1.

There is this difference that in Psalm 42 it is the desire of the remnant of the Jews, the two tribes, and in Psalm 84 it is the desire of the remaining ten tribes of Israel. That the two and ten tribes realms will again come into unity is seen, for example, in Ezekiel 37 (Ezekiel 37:21-Song of Solomon :). The following psalms of the sons of Korah also elaborate on the restoration of these ten tribes. These believers are the elect of the ten tribes, whom the angels will gather together “from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:31).

The passionate love of the remnant for God’s dwellings contrasts sharply with the destruction by the enemies of those dwelling places (Psalms 84:1; Psalms 83:12). To the remnant, “Your dwelling places” are “lovely”. That is because He, Who is so dear to them, dwells there. He is the Anointed (Psalms 84:9), Who is also their King and their God (Psalms 84:3). There is nothing else on earth that their hearts desire so much.

In the face of the enemies gathered to take possession of God’s dwellings, the remnant speaks to the “LORD of hosts”. All powers, including the God-hating ones, are under His supreme authority. He controls, rules, governs and orders everything. This title occurs three more times in this short psalm: in Psalms 84:3; Psalms 84:8Psalms 84:12.

The “soul” of the sons of Korah, and of every one who knows God, like the remnant, has a great longing “for the courts of the LORD” (Psalms 84:2). The soul is the inner being, the thinking, all that is in him. “My soul” is the same as ‘I’, but with emphasis and poeticism, and then continues with “my heart” and “my flesh”.

This longing is so great that his soul “even yearned”. Everything in him yearns for God. He is consumed by it. There is a fierce thirst for God (cf. Psalms 42:1-Exodus :; Psalms 63:1). If only he will be in “the courts of the LORD”, then his longing will be satisfied. Then he will be in the direct presence of the living God.

The New Testament believer is also permitted to know this longing, a longing that is stilled when he consciously enters God’s sanctuary. The way to this has been opened for him by the Lord Jesus. He has free access to God, Who is Father to him (Hebrews 10:19-Song of Solomon :; Romans 5:1-Exodus :; Ephesians 2:18). When the Lord Jesus has taken the church to Himself in the Father’s house, there will be an undisturbed, full, eternal fulfilment of this longing.

The remnant longs with their whole being, “my heart and my flesh”, to be in the presence of God. They “sing for joy to the living God” that He will satisfy their longing (cf. Psalms 42:3; Hosea 1:10). He is the living God in contrast to the dead idols of the enemies, who could not prevent their destruction (cf. Isaiah 46:1-Exodus :; Isaiah 46:5-Judges :). It is useless to cry out to dead idols. The living God listens when people call to Him (cf. 1 Kgs 18:25-29,36-39).

They know that God cares for the insignificant “bird”, or “sparrow” (Luke 12:6) by providing this little animal with “a home” (Psalms 84:3). He also gives the restless “swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young”. These two little birds, who are a picture of man, who does not mean anything and goes his way restlessly (cf. Proverbs 26:2), have found a place of rest, not only for themselves, but also for their young.

These little birds have their nests in the buildings of the temple. It is the privileged place close to the altar. Thus – in picture – the insignificant, but to God valuable remnant finds a resting place in the presence of God. That is what the psalmist wishes for himself. How happy, how blessed (Psalms 84:4) is one who dwells in the presence of God. When this wish of the psalmist is fulfilled, he will have a home, fellowship and company with God.

The place of rest is at “Your altars”. There are two altars in God’s house: the bronze burnt offering altar and the golden altar of incense. The burnt offering altar stands in the court and speaks of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. Here man finds rest for his conscience. The altar of incense speaks of worship. It stands in the sanctuary, in the presence of God, where the believer enjoys fellowship with Him.

The remnant here speaks directly to God. They again call Him “LORD of hosts”. He is above all the heavenly and earthly hosts. They now add their personal relationship with Him. Each member of the remnant also has his own personal relationship with Him. Therefore, each one says it to God himself: “My King and my God.”

The sons of Korah – as the mouth of the remnant, the ten tribes in exile – who are far from the sanctuary, praise them “blessed … who dwell in Your house!” (Psalms 84:4). ‘Blessed means ‘happy’ or ‘full of happiness’. In Psalm 1, “blessed” is for those who delight in the law of the LORD (Psalms 1:1-Leviticus :). The Word of God brings us into the presence of God. Psalm 1 also suggests the two paths to choose. Here, in Psalm 84, the remnant makes the right choice. That is why the word ‘blessed’ is added here. That ‘blessed’ sounds here for those who dwell in the house of God.

“Christ also died for sins once for all, [the] just for [the] unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). His suffering was for the purpose of bringing us into the presence of God. When you are there, you cannot be silent. Therefore, being “blessed” here is connected to “ever praising” the LORD. To dwell in God’s house means to be at home there, to have rest there in the fellowship with God (cf. Psalms 23:6). Those who dwell there are full of God’s glory and are “ever praising” Him (Hebrews 13:15). In God’s house what will also take place without interruption in eternity is taking place: giving thanks to God. There is every reason to do so. After all, He has redeemed His own and brought them into His presence (Colossians 1:12-Ezra :).

Verses 5-8

From Strength to Strength

In this new section, which is separated from the previous by a “selah”, it appears that the blessing of dwelling in God’s house comes by having fellowship with God. This is experienced by the man whose strength is in God, and in whose heart are the highways (Psalms 84:5). It begins with the restatement in this psalm of a ‘blessed’. In Psalms 84:12, a ‘blessed’ sounds for the third and last time in this psalm. There it indicates by what the blessing of ‘blessedness’ is obtained, namely ‘the trust in the LORD of hosts’!

Psalms 84:1-Numbers : are about dwelling in God’s house. Psalms 84:5-Ruth : are about the pilgrim’s way there. Those who dwell in God’s house are “blessed” (Psalms 84:4), but the pilgrim is also “blessed” (Psalms 84:5), even though he is not yet in God’s house. He is “blessed” because his heart is in God’s house and he is on his way there. Those who are in God’s house are blessed. Those who are on their way there are also blessed, as the following verses show.

In principle, every believer is “blessed” because his transgressions are forgiven (Psalms 32:1). Here, however, it goes a step further. The sons of Korah say that this applies to the man “whose strength is in You”. Such people do not look to their own abilities. They see themselves as powerless to go the way to the sanctuary, but they know that God is powerful to bring them there. Therefore, they seek their strength in Him (cf. 2 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 6:10).

The consequence of this is that in their “heart are the highways [to Zion]”. In Jeremiah 31 we also find this expression: “Direct your mind to the highway” (Jeremiah 31:21; cf. Isaiah 33:8). This means that they are walking on the pilgrim way to Jerusalem with the confidence that the LORD will bring them there safely.

There is an undivided, a united, heart in them (Psalms 86:11). They do not hesitate between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21). Their hearts are completely set on God (2 Chronicles 16:9). The highway is the way that leads to God’s house, to God, to heaven. The highway is free from all obstacles (cf. Isaiah 40:3-Numbers :; Luke 3:2-1 Samuel :). He who has the highways in his heart is upright and departs from evil (Proverbs 16:17). He has judged sin and thus cleared the way for the power of God’s Spirit to work in him.

When the heart is undivided and completely focused on God, pilgrims can overcome the difficulties they encounter along the way (Psalms 84:6). Not only do they overcome them, but the difficulties become blessings. “The valley of Baca” can be translated as “the valley of the balsam trees” or “the valley of weeping”. Balsam trees grow in an arid landscape.

It is an arid valley, while in many cases the soil of a valley is moister, so that trees can grow in its depths. The myrtle, a symbol of the remnant, also grows in the depth, namely in the bottom of a valley (Zechariah 1:8). When a branch of balsam breaks off, a milky juice drips from it, as if tears were flowing.

The translation “valley of tears” comes from the LXX, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It reminds the pilgrim that the way through life is not a painless one. It is arid and dry, and therefore hard for a pilgrim who needs water (cf. Genesis 21:14-Psalms :). Then the transition to a place of springs and early rain is special. Often life is difficult and tears appear. The tears of the pilgrim who has his strength in God become pearls in the light of God. He can sing psalms in the night (Acts 16:25; Job 35:10).

Difficulties and sorrows drive out to God. Thereby the way through the valley of tears becomes a source of blessing. God’s presence is experienced in a way that is not possible in prosperity. The tears give way to “the early rain” that will “cover it with blessings”. Countless believers have testified that the need has driven them out to God and that they have found a comfort in Him that they would not want to miss for the world.

The rain here is “the early rain”. The early rain falls in September/October. This is pointing to the fact that this is prophetically about the Feast of Booths, because that is also celebrated in September/October.

Thus the pilgrims “go from strength to strength” (Psalms 84:7). Each new trial, each new suffering, is an occasion to experience the strength of God (cf. Isaiah 40:31; Proverbs 4:18). We strengthen ourselves in grace when we are aware that we need it. Grace is the strength by which “[every one of them] appears before God in Zion”. The pilgrims know this. The assurance of their safe arrival at God’s house gives strength to persevere. For us, Christians, the same applies, but with regard to the heavenly Zion to which we are on our way (Hebrews 12:22).

At the same time, there is once again the awareness that in our own strength we will not succeed in reaching the final goal. Certainty of arrival does not blind one to the circumstances or to one’s own weakness. Therefore the pilgrim prays to the “LORD God of hosts” (Psalms 84:8) and asks Him to listen to his prayer.

At the same time he also calls God the “God of Jacob”. The God who stands above all powers is the God of the weak Jacob. With an appeal to that Name the pilgrim asks Him to hear his prayer. They know the God of Jacob as the God Who has shown his grace to him countless times in his life. They recognize themselves in Jacob. Therefore, by appealing to God in this way they appeal to that grace.

Verses 9-12

A Sun and Shield

Those who know God as the God of Jacob because they know themselves, see in God their shield, their protection (Psalms 84:9). God being their shield (Psalms 84:9) is parallel to God beholding the face of His anointed (Psalms 84:9). It means that His protection (shield) is based on seeing His anointed. It is similar to the Passover, where God says, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13).

Their protection, which consists in being able to call the LORD their King and their God, is not based on their faithfulness or their merit. It is based on God beholding the face of His Anointed, His Messiah. Therefore, the LORD God has become a sun and shield for them (Psalms 84:11). The blessings and salvation in the psalms hereafter are based on the same fact.

What has just been said is evident from the question, “look upon the face of Your anointed”. This means that they are asking God to look not at them, but at His Messiah. “Anointed” is the translation of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ and the Greek word ‘Christ’. The remnant knows that they are not in themselves pleasing to God and that God does not listen to them because of who they are. They are pleasing to God only because of their connection to the Messiah.

A beautiful illustration is found in Paul’s letter to Philemon, where he tells Philemon to accept Onesimus as if Onesimus were Paul (Philemon 1:17). Thus the remnant, and thus we too, are accepted by God because God sees them, and us, in Christ.

The same, and that on a higher, heavenly level applies to the New Testament believer. He is “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). God can only answer any prayer on the basis of Who His Son is to Him and on the basis of the work He accomplished on Calvary’s cross.

The believer, in whatever age he lives, knows to discern what “is better” (Psalms 84:10). It is better, he confesses, to experience one day of fellowship with God than countless days of enjoying all the goods the world has to offer. “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [outside]”.

The comparison of one day to a thousand days makes it clear that one day in the courts of God dwarfs everything else. There is nothing that outweighs being in the courts of God. With the Lord one day is as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). One day of fellowship with the Lord is far preferable to a thousand years in the dwelling (tent) or palace of the wicked (the antichrist and followers).

The sons of Korah add another comparison. They prefer a place “at the threshold of the house of my God” above dwelling “in the tents of wickedness”. They made the right choice from the two choices presented in Psalm 1. They have been obedient to Moses’ call to depart from the tents of the wicked men when their father rebelled. As a result, they did not perish with their father (Numbers 16:23-Daniel :; Numbers 16:31-Jonah :Numbers 26:9-1 Kings :). Their choice for the LORD is a choice against wickedness.

To “stand at the threshold of the house of my God” means to perform a service in the temple in the presence of God. This is in contrast to their ancestor Korah who was not satisfied with what he considered a minor service (Numbers 16:1-Leviticus :). In 1 Chronicles 26 we read that some of the sons of Korah worked as gatekeepers of the temple, guardians of the entrance (1 Chronicles 26:1-Psalms :; 1 Chronicles 9:19).

The sons of Korah explain why they choose the presence of the LORD. The consideration is not difficult, “for the LORD God is a sun and shield” (Psalms 84:11). The remnant here is in darkness and cold. God is “a sun” to them in those circumstances, giving light and warmth. The “sun” is the description of what God is to the believers in the realm of peace (Isaiah 60:19-Proverbs :; Revelation 21:23; Malachi 4:2). He is also their “shield”, that is, their protection.

Having said what God is, the sons of Korah say what He will give. He “gives grace and glory”. Grace is needed to make the journey to God’s house (John 1:16). Glory will be given to the pilgrims when they get there. God will honor them for their perseverance. Grace has its origin in Him. The same is true of glory. What He honors the pilgrim for is His work in the pilgrim. Honor or glory is the consequence when we behold the Lord Jesus in faith. We are then changed in His “image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Yet He imputes to the pilgrim the perseverance for which He has given the strength. The homage He pays is therefore an expression of His grace. No one will congratulate and praise himself for what he has done. Nor will anyone want to do that, for God has given all that has been necessary for the way that has been traveled.

God does withhold no good thing “from those who walk uprightly” (cf. Psalms 15:1-Exodus :). That God does not withhold good thing means that God gives what is needed (cf. Philippians 4:19). It is a stronger expression than saying that God gives. With giving, the act, the giving, is more prominent. With not withholding, the emphasis is on the person using the opportunity to give.

By this mode of expression, the Spirit meets our tendency to accuse God of withholding something from us when He does not give us something we ask for or think we need. The devil was successful with Eve because he was able to convince her that God had withheld something from her.

“Those who walk uprightly” are those who go their way with God. They are not sinless or faultless, but they are pure in heart, though they “stumble in many [ways]” (James 3:2). The upright person is honest and transparent in his motives. He is focused on God and wants to live before His face, that is, in His presence, in the awareness of His presence.

That God is the “LORD of hosts” (Psalms 84:12). The sons of Korah use this title for the fourth time in this psalm (Psalms 84:1; Psalms 84:3Psalms 84:8; Psalms 84:12). That shows how impressed they are by His exaltation above all heavenly and earthly hosts. The confidence that everything is in His hand, gives rest to continue the way to God’s house.

This almighty God, Who surpasses everything and everyone, is completely worthy of man’s trust. He who does so is truly “blessed”. This is the third time that this word, this ‘beatitude’, occurs. The first time it is in connection with dwelling in the house of God (Psalms 84:4). The second time it is in connection with the heart of those who seek their strength in God (Psalms 84:5). The third time, here, it is connected with trusting God.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 84". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-84.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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