Archive for the ‘Psalm 84’ Category

A Day in God’s Courts is Better than 1000 Elsewhere

September 14, 2009

A friend recently asked, in the comment box, for me to comment on the following verse:

Psalm 84:10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

For context, I provide the entirety of Psalm 84 below:

{To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.}

How amiable are thy tabernacles, 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. Yea, the sparrow hath found an 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. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.

Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.

Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. 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. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

It’s important to recall who the sons of Korah were:

1 Chronicles 9:19 And Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his brethren, of the house of his father, the Korahites, were over the work of the service, keepers of the gates of the tabernacle: and their fathers, being over the host of the LORD, were keepers of the entry.

These were the sons of Korah. They were men who had very administrative tasks within the tabernacle worship in the Old Testament. They were not priests. In fact, when these roles were announced, Korah became famous because he tried to rebel against this menial role, suggesting that his family was just as holy as Aaron’s. God judged him and his fellow rebels dramatically, the earth opening up and swallowing them.

The sons of Korah are designated in the headings of Psalms 42, 44-49, 84-85, and 87-88. Of those only Psalm 84 makes specific mention of the occupation of the sons of Korah, and yet one wonders whether this designation in the heading means that these Psalms were sung specifically by the door-keepers of the tabernacle and later temple.

In fact, what is interesting is that of all the titles, the only other personal designation is the heading of Psalm 72, namely “for Solomon,” with the designation of Psalm 92, “A Psalm or Son for the sabbath day,” being (it would seem) an occasional – not an anthropomorphic designation. This understanding seems to be confirmed by the designation “To the chief musician” which appears in the title of all of the Korahite psalms except 48 and 87, whereas the designation “To the chief musician” appears in just under a third of the psalms (forty six have that designation).

Some view this psalm as mournful, but it seems from what I can see that this psalm is jubilant. The psalm beings with rejoicing over how pleasant it is to be in God’s tabernacle, in the symbolic place of his presence. That theme is mentioned again in verse 3 (the altars were in the tabernacle), then in verse 4 (house = tabernacle), and again in verse 10 (our focus). The title “LORD of hosts” is one of high praise for the might and power of God.

Verse 2 conveys in strong terms the desire (kâsaph) which is described as one that brings about fainting (kâlâh) and that causes one to shout (rânan) for the living God.

Verse 3 emphasizes the safety of being near God. The swallow and sparrow are timid birds, and consequently if they build their nests on the altar of God, that must be a safe place.

Verse 4 reiterates the them of verse 1 about it being wonderful to be in God’s house.

Verse 5 takes the same idea and turns it a bit, pointing out that it is blessed to trust in God and to follow the paths of God.

Verse 6 points out that God provides for those following the path of God, and

Verse 7 completes that thought by teaching perseverance of the saints, namely that all those that follow God go to Zion, the picture of heaven.

Verse 8 seems to mark the end of the first prayer of the psalm with a request that God would hear the prayer.

Verse 9 begins the second prayer of the psalm, noting the protection that God provides and asking him to look on the face of “thine anointed.” The primary significance of this “annointed” may be David. While this Psalm does not state its human author, it is frequently David, in the Psalms, to which that expression refers. (See Psalm 18:50, Psalm 89:20, and Psalm 132:10) Possibly, alternatively, though they were not priests, the sons of Korah may have been anointed when they came to serve the tabernacle. Nevertheless, the spiritual significance would seem to be Christ (which is translated as “anointed”). When God looks upon the face of Christ, he shows mercy.

Verse 10, as worded in the KJV, is a bit confusing to an English-speaker. Surely the idea is not that one day in God’s courts are better than to be in God’s courts for a thousand days. Instead, the idea is that one day in God’s courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. We see this from the Hebrew parallelism in the second half of the verse, where the explanation is provided that the person would rather be a doorkeeper in God’s house than to dwell in “tents of wickedness.”

Verse 11 provides the explanation, which ties back to the beginning of the second prayer, namely that God is a shield as well as adding that God is a sun (in contrast to God being water in the valley of Baca). The verse continues by pointing out how God gives every good thing to those who “walk uprightly” which ties back to the earlier verses about following God’s ways.

Verse 12 concludes by noting that those who trust in God are blessed.

Praise be to the Lord!


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