This is one of the most beautiful psalms in my opinion and one of my favorites. And it’s one in which we are encouraged to set our sights, not on the things of this earth, but on eternity.
It was a song that was used to describe the joy of people making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship God, but I think it equally applies to our pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem.
The psalmist starts by singing,
How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (1-2)
I love the old chorus based on this psalm that puts it this way, “There’s a hunger deep inside my soul.”
I have to say that this is where I want to be in my walk with God. Hungering and thirsting after him. I have to admit that I’ve been feeling kind of dry, spiritually. And so I’m praying, “Lord, I yearn for you. I want more of you in my life. I long to be in your presence once again.”
I think that these are the sentiments the psalmist is expressing here.
I love the picture the psalmist gives next of the sparrow finding a home near God’s altar. And it makes me think of Jesus’ words of how much more valuable we are to God than the sparrows. If he welcomes them into his presence, how much more does he welcome us?
He then expresses the joy of worship, singing,
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. (4)
But after singing this, he turns his thoughts from rejoicing in the house of God to the journey to get there. And he sings,
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (5)
Two things strike me here. The pilgrims set their hearts on the place they were heading for, not on the place they were at. We are to do the same as Christians. This world is not our home. And we should be setting our hearts on where our true home is.
But as we set out on that journey, we do so not in our own strength, but in God’s. We don’t have the power to make it on our own. We need Him.
In verse 6, it says,
As they pass through the Valley of Baka (or the “valley of tears”), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
Through this life, we go through our valleys of tears. We experience hurt and loss. Yet God turns them into a place of springs. He covers them with the pools of his grace that act as a balm to our wounds.
As a result,
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. (7)
As Isaiah wrote,
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
So the psalmist cries out to God and prays,
Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob. Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one. (8-9)
While it refers to God’s favor upon the king, for us as Christians, it refers to God’s favor upon his Son, who is our shield in this life.
He then closes with the blessings and joy of those who worship, singing,
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. (10-12)
We are mere pilgrims in this life. The things of this world are mere shadows of the glory that lies ahead. So let us set our sights not on this world, but on God.
Where are you setting your sights?