My mother lives in Spain. Since we are separated by many miles, we often talk on the phone. But there’s something special about the times I can be physically present with her, when I can give her a hug or sit across the table for a long talk. There’s no substitute. While in this modern age we have countless ways to stay connected to others, we need and value physical presence.
In Psalm 84, the author expresses his longing to be in God’s presence: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!” (v. 1). His words show the intensity of his desire. His “soul yearns, even faints” (v. 2) to experience this closeness with God. When we think of God’s presence, we may think of going to church. But God’s presence is not limited to a building. In the Old Testament, God’s people experienced God in tangible ways. After their dramatic escape from Egypt, God revealed Himself to Moses on a mountain (Exodus 21). Moses led the construction of a Tabernacle, a place “filled with God’s glory” (Exodus 40). Solomon constructed the Temple, filled with “the glory of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:11).
But the New Testament records a dramatic change as Jesus came to earth, the “radiance of the glory of God” (John 1:14). Following His death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit made the presence of God available to all who believe (John 16). As Christ-followers, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19–20). How often we forget that we have open access to the presence of God. What an incredible privilege!
When we experience God’s presence, it feels like home, a place where we belong. Psalm 84:4 says those who remain in God’s presence are “blessed” and filled with praise. Being in God’s presence gives us strength (v. 5). With Him, we find springs of refreshing even in the Valley of Baka, or valley of tears (v. 6). Those who are in God’s presence “go from strength to strength” (v. 7). Even when we walk through the deepest darkest valley, God’s presence is there.
The best place we can ever be is in God’s presence. The Psalmist says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (v. 10). Nothing matches the manifest presence of God!