I am catching the Psalmist’s heartbeat for the presence of God in Palm 84. Verse five looks at the concept of dwelling with God from the perspective of finding one’s strength in God.
Psalm 84:5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
In a good family, with a good mother and father, children find and develop their strength from their parents. When they are not able to do that they begin to deflate. Think of a bouncy castle that is continually fed by air pushed into fans. Its strength is in the fans and the flow of air into it. The structure, the form, the bounce, the joy, of the castle comes from those fans. The one who dwells in the presence of God’s, draws their strength from Him and finds a supernatural strength, joy and resilience.
What is it to put your strength in God? The second half of verse five says “in whose hearts are the highways to Zion“. The heart is the center of a persons being, the seat of their motives, emotions, and thoughts. Zion was the fortress, the stronghold, of the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was seen as the center of the social and religious life of the people of God; like a capital city in a country. It was also where God dwelt among his people. So Zion represents something of the people of God with God dwelling right in their midsts. The best I can understand the sense of this verse therefore is that there is a consistent strength to be found when your heart is always seeking the presence of God. It’s as if every desire that we have, every plan that we make, every goal that we set our sights on is characterised by the pursuits of his presence. As we face ourselves in God’s direction and seek his face, a powerful wind of his Spirit blows into our lives filling us with supernatural strength and resilience.
At the time this psalm was written people walked down literal highways to get to the temple. We now know Jesus is “The way”. You want to find strength in God’s presence then fill your heart with thoughts of Jesus.
Don’t think of what you have or have not done. Your prayers, your good works, your bible reading, your relationships, your charitable giving. These do need our attention from time to time but are not the source of our healing, energising, lasting, life giving delight.
Trust in Jesus’ righteousness, his son-ship, his death for you, his bearing of your sin, and his resurrection. He was the temple, the priest, and the sacrifice. He is the way to the Father. He is the fulfillment of all the highways to Zion.
I was going to finish there but there is a corporate aspect of this that needs drawing out. God isn’t all that interested in real estate, its people that he loves. The dwelling place of God is with his people which is the church. Not only does the Psalmist long to be with God but he wants to be among God’s people. The journey to Jerusalem for the passover celebration would not have been a lonely and isolated one . There would have been a stream of families and communities making the journey together, and once they got there the city would have been jam packed with people.
Not only can we enjoy God’s presence and draw strength from him on our own, but we can enjoy him together with others. Jesus talks about both. He encourages us to go into our room on our own and shut the door to be with God, but he also says wherever two or three are gather together in my name there I am in the mist of them. When we give up meeting together it may be that the ways of Zion are not in our heart at all and have in fact been displaced by the love of other things. It’s a warning sign to be aware of. When we are tired, or run down, depressed or discouraged we need to take the fastest rout to the presence of God and get among the people of God. What better way of doing that than gathering with brothers and sisters in the name of the Lord Jesus.
PS: I had a few others thoughts and notes that I thought I would share here.
A few verses that express the thought that although Zion was a physical citadel in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:7) it came to take on a deeper meaning of a home for the people of God. God is in Zion but so are his people:
Ps 87:5 And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
Ps 149:2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Ps. 87:2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob
A few more Zion verses I came across:
Ps. 51:18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
Galatians 4:26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (ESV)
Gal 6:16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (ESV)
Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (ESV)
Also, I feel there is a connection with the Isaiah 40:3 but can’t articulate it yet.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.Is 40:3
I also kept thinking of Isaiah 2:2 but I have to finish this blog at some stage.
It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow (NIV stream) to it Is 2:2
Don’t that just conjure up images of a flow of people from the nations to the church?