Let’s prepare for worship together today by reading Psalms 84-86.
Psalm 84 provides us with a great passage to help us prepare to worship together this morning. In this song, the Psalmist describes the joy he feels when he thinks about coming to the Lord’s Tabernacle to worship. Remember that in the Old Testament. the Tabernacle and then the Temple were the places where God’s presence was promised to be. God is spirit and everywhere present in the fullness of his being, but in order to unite Israel spiritually and keep her worship from being polluted by pagan gods and ideas, God designated a central altar and sanctuary to be the place of worship. He promised to make that tent (the Tabernacle) and later that house (the Temple) his “dwelling place” on earth.
As the Psalmist thought about approaching the Tabernacle to worship, he spoke of “how lovely” that place was (v. 1). Given what we have read about the design and construction of both the Tabernacle and the Temple, they were truly magnificent structures, the best humanity at that time could give to the one and only God. But the Psalmist was not drawn to that place because of its appearance; rather, according to verse 2, it was the opportunity to be with God that sparked his desire to go there: “...my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” The opportunity to give to God, to sing to him in worship, and to hear from his word made this songwriter sing with excitement.
One thing I’ve never noticed in this song before is the words of verse 3: “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” These words make me wonder; as the Psalmist walked toward the Tabernacle or even within it’s courts, maybe, he looked up in the trees and saw that some birds had made their nests there. “What lucky ducks!” he may have thought, “to make your home in the sanctified place of the Lord!” You would fall asleep at night and rise each morning in his presence. Your days would be filled with the smells of burnt offerings and incense offerings, with the sounds of singing and the public reading of scripture. What could be better than to live in such a place if you love God and desire to worship him. Accordingly verse 4 goes on to say, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” And, later in verse 10, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” For a believer, there is no better place to be than where the Lord is.
These days, we have the promise of God that he is with us always, that he hears our prayers and is exalted in our worship anywhere we offer them to him. Still, though, the Bible says that there is a special presence of the Lord within his church when she gathers. First Timothy 3:15 says, “...God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Note that the church is not the building where we meet, it is the people who have joined together to be the local expression of the body of Christ. The Lord’s presence is with us as we gather to worship, whether in Ypsilanti, Michigan or..., I don’t know... say, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Given this truth, don’t you want to be there when we gather for worship today?
I thank the Lord for the time we’ll have as we come and worship. Be there and join with us to experience the joy of God’s people and be blessed by him. God’s favor falls on us like the light of the son when we worship him and live obediently to his word (vv. 11-12), so come and receive it with the rest of your family in Christ.