When we were engaged, my wife and I had a long-distance relationship. We lived about four hours apart by car and every weekend one of us would make the pilgrimage to see the other. All year, we would wait impatiently for the end of each week so we could be in each other’s presence.
Today’s reading describes the longing of the Psalmist to be in God’s presence in the Temple: “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (v. 2). The Psalmist looks with envy upon the birds who nest in the Temple who get to be in God’s presence continually (v. 3)! The blessed life would be in the temple, ever praising the Lord (v. 4).
The next best thing would be to make the pilgrimage to worship the Lord during the festivals (v. 5). Here, the physical pilgrimage takes on spiritual dimensions as the worshiper passes through the “valley of Baka” (v. 6). “Baka” literally means “weeping.” The worshiper travels through the valley of weeping to appear in joy and strength before God in Zion (vv. 6–7).
The Psalmist feels most at home with God. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (v. 10). He would rather be a doorkeeper in the Temple than in a position of power with the wicked (v. 10). He recognizes that his relationship to God is the most vital part of life. God is his protector and provider (v. 11). The one who is truly blessed is one who puts their trust in the Lord alone (v. 12).
>> Although we can worship God on our own, there is a corporate dimension to worship in both the Old and New Testaments (see Heb. 10:25). Paul reminds us that on this side of the cross the church corporately is the “dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:19–22). Are you longing to join in worship this week?