Where Do You Choose to Be?
DEVOTED servants of Jehovah God very much appreciate being able to enjoy fellowship with persons of like precious faith. Among the Israelites, this appreciation manifested itself in a sincere desire to go to the sanctuary. Do you likewise find great delight in sharing with others in worship?
The writer of Psalm 84, a Levite who descended from Korah, set a fine example in wanting to be among God’s faithful servants. He said: “How lovely your grand tabernacle is, O Jehovah of armies! My soul has yearned and also pined away for the courtyards of Jehovah. My own heart and my very flesh cry out joyfully to the living God. Even the bird itself has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she has put her young ones—your grand altar, O Jehovah of armies, my King and my God!”—Ps. 84:1-3.
To the psalmist, the sanctuary was “lovely,” beautiful, yes, most attractive because of its being Jehovah’s place of worship. The intensity with which this Levite expressed himself about longing to be in the courtyards of Jehovah’s tabernacle reminds us that the tens of thousands of Levites during the time of the kingdom lived in the 48 cities that were assigned to the Levites throughout the land of Israel. Only once every half year one of the courses or divisions of the nonpriestly Levites served an entire week at the temple. Consequently, the major portion of the year they would spend at their personal homes with their families in the Levite cities. On the other hand, small birds may have found a more permanent place to live at the temple.
The Korahite Levite cannot help but think about the happy lot of those who regularly go to the sanctuary at stated seasons. He continues: “Happy are those dwelling in your house! They still keep on praising you. . . . Happy are the men whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways. Passing along through the low plain of the baca bushes, they turn it into a spring itself; even with blessings the instructor enwraps himself. They will walk on from vital energy to vital energy; each one appears to God in Zion.”—Ps. 84:4-7.
By reason of their duties, the priests and Levites regularly took up their temporary dwelling at Jehovah’s house and were able to praise the Most High there directly. What a happy lot was theirs on such occasions! Happy, too, were other Israelites who drew their strength from God when they needed comfort and help. Such Israelites had their hearts on the “highways,” that is, on the roads leading to the sanctuary. Because of their interest in true worship, even the dry area of the baca bushes, through which they traveled to Jerusalem, took on the attractive appearance of a well-watered region where a spring flows. It was Jehovah whom faithful Israelites regarded as their “Instructor.” (Isa. 30:20) Since they would bless or praise him, it might be said that the ‘instructor enwrapped himself’ with such blessings as with a garment. While the journey may have been long, devoted worshipers did not wear themselves out. The prospect of reaching the sanctuary gave them renewed energy.
Next, the psalmist appeals to Jehovah, saying: “O Jehovah God of armies, do hear my prayer; do give ear, O God of Jacob. . . . O shield of ours, see, O God, and look upon the face of your anointed one.” (Ps. 84:8, 9) Thus, not only does the Levite seek Jehovah’s favorable attention for himself but also for the anointed one, likely the Judean king. This Levite appreciates that the Most High is a protective shield to Israel and, therefore, prays to him for aid.
In view of the psalmist’s great desire to be at the sanctuary, he says: “For a day in your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere. I have chosen to stand at the threshold in the house of my God rather than to move around in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps. 84:10) What outstanding appreciation! To the psalmist, just one day in the courtyards of Jehovah’s sanctuary was more valuable, better, than a thousand days spent at some other place. He preferred standing in service at the threshold, yes, at the entrance of Jehovah’s house rather than to be in the tents of wicked men, no matter how luxurious their dwellings might be.
Why did he have this high evaluation of the house of God? Note his words: “For Jehovah God is a sun and a shield; favor and glory are what he gives. Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness. O Jehovah of armies, happy is the man that is trusting in you.” (Ps. 84:11, 12) Yes, the psalmist appreciated the kind of God that Jehovah is. The Most High is a sun to his people, providing enlightenment. He also provides protection like a shield. Expressions of favor and blessing emanate from him, and he bestows glory and honor on those whom he approves. Never will Jehovah withhold good from those seeking to walk in an upright way. He will bless them richly, and those who put their confidence in the Almighty will not be disappointed but will continue to enjoy real happiness.
Does your recognizing Jehovah as a Protector and the Source of all good gifts prompt you to be regular in assembling with his people? Is a fine standing with God the source of your greatest joy? Surely we should want to harmonize our actions with the thoughts expressed by the psalmist and thus continue to experience the happiness that comes from having Jehovah as our God.