The Presence of the Lord
Pastor and author, A.W. Tozer, wrote, "It is God's great pleasure for us to fully rest in His presence, moment by moment....Nothing in or of this world measures up to the simple pleasure of experiencing the presence of God."
Psalm 84 is a passionate prayer that captures the essence of Tozer's quote and communicates the great expectancy with which the people of Israel made their journey to worship at the temple, a place where God's presence was enjoyed:
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. (Ps. 84:1-2)
For the Psalmist, worship was not a casual, routinized practice. Rather, it was an experience that was highly anticipated and valued, encompassing every aspect of life (soul, heart, flesh). Knowing and experiencing the presence of the Lord was the psalmist's consuming passion in life: 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 (v. 10).
In the presence of the Lord there is tremendous blessing. Three times in Psalm 84 the word "blessed" is used, a repetition intended to reinforce the truth that God desires to shower his people with blessings:
Blessed are those who dwell in your house...(v. 4)
Blessed are those whose strength is in you...(v. 5)
Blessed is the one who trusts in you...(v. 12)
When we dwell in God's presence, God strengthens us, even if we are walking through incredibly difficult times in our lives. In the middle of Psalm 84, there is a reference to worshippers walking through the Valley of Baka on their way to the temple. Most likely, Baka means "tears;" in other words, it was a location of great sorrow due to the hot temperature and dry climate. It was a desert place. Yet, in the middle of this tearful valley of suffering, the psalmist writes that the people "go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion." When the worshippers were unsure whether they had the stamina to keep walking through the desolate valley, it was God who strengthened them.
The presence of the Lord sustained them and enabled them to take the next step...and then the next step...and then the next, until they arrived in Jerusalem.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity of experiencing God's presence each moment of each day through the indwelling presence of God's Spirit. Instead of traveling to a temple to experience God, we are able to experience God wherever we are.
In addition, we are able to experience the empowering strength and grace of God in our desert experiences and, with the Apostle Paul, we are able to hear the reassuring words of Christ as we walk through the Valley of Baka: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). Strength to strength, grace to grace...all possible through the presence of a risen Savior--our God who has promised to never withdraw His presence from our surrendered lives.