THE LOVELINESS OF GOD’S DWELLING PLACES
Psalm 84 is exceedingly rich. Verses 1 and 2 say, "How lovely are thy dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God" (Heb.). Verse 1 speaks not only of one dwelling place, but of many dwelling places. No doubt these dwelling places signify the local churches. The local churches can be so lovely to us that we are even homesick for them. According to verse 2, the psalmist longs even for the courts of the Lord. In his estimation, not only the inside of God’s dwelling is lovely; the courts also are lovely. The reason God’s dwelling places are lovely is that the living God is there. God’s presence in the local churches makes the churches lovely and lovable.
Verse 3 says, "Yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God." No doubt, we are the sparrows and the swallows, little creatures who are small and frail. Yet the sparrows have found a house, and the swallows have found a nest where they may lay their young. How sweet is the feeling of the psalmist concerning the house of God! It is a place for little sparrows to abide, a place for the swallow to build a nest for herself, where she may lay her young. In the house of God, we, the sparrows and the swallows, find a home at the Lord’s altars. At the Lord’s altars we find a nest, a place of nourishing and cherishing and a place of rest.
In ancient times, both in the tabernacle and in the temple, there were two altars: one in the outer court and the other in the holy place. The altar in the outer court, the altar of brass, was the place for the offerings which dealt with the negative things, cleansed the Lord’s people, and delivered them from all problems. The altar in the holy place, the golden altar, was the altar of incense, which signifies the resurrected Christ as our acceptance to God. Hence, these altars signify Christ in crucifixion and in resurrection. It is here that we find our home and our rest in the house of God.
All the little ones, the sparrows and swallows, in the local churches must realize and apprehend the significance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, with all that He has accomplished and attained for us. They need to apprehend how Christ is the crucified One at the offering altar and the resurrected One at the incense altar. Through such an apprehension, they will enjoy the goodness of the crucified and resurrected Christ. At these altars we find a true resting place, a nest where we are nourished and cherished and where we may be at rest. How marvelous is this enjoyment in God’s dwelling place, the local churches!
In verse 4 the psalmist goes on to say, "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be praising thee all the day long" (Heb.). We should not simply visit the house of God; we should dwell there all the day long. According to this verse, those who dwell in the Lord’s house are blessed. They even praise the Lord all day long. Whenever we meet together, we should spend much time in praising. Praising should occupy more time in the meetings than teaching. May we all learn to praise the Lord.
In verse 5 the psalmist continues, "Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them." In the church we have our strength in God and our heart is filled with the ways of God. If we would experience this, we must be in the house of God.
Verse 6 says, "Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools." Baca means weeping. In the church life we may pass through the valley of weeping, but we can cause this valley to become a well, even a place of springs. Furthermore, instead of tears, rain comes to fill the pools. Such an experience is to be found only in the house of God.
Furthermore, in the church life we go from strength to strength and appear before God (v. 7). In the church we realize that "a day in thy courts is better than a thousand." Those who enjoy the church life can say, "I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (v. 10).
Verse 11 indicates that the church life is the place of fullest blessing: "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Here in the house of God we enjoy God as the sun and a shield. The sun is for supply, and the shield is for protection. Here in the church life the Lord is our supply and safeguard. Furthermore, here we enjoy His grace and His glory. Grace is the inner enjoyment, whereas glory is the outward expression. In the church life we have the inner enjoyment of grace and the outward expression of glory. Oh how blessed is the church life!
Psalm 84 concludes with the words, "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee" (v. 12). We may trust in God outside the local church, but it is rather difficult. We can testify, however, that it is very easy to trust in God in the church. The house of God is the proper place for us to exercise our trust in the Lord.
(The Genuine Ground of Oneness, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)