It seems to be a quaint and antiquated thought or expression of feeling that anyone “longs for the house of God”. The expressions found in Psalm 84 are familiar to so many of us because they form the foundation and the beginning of “the Service of Prayer and Preaching” in Lutheran Service Book. The opening verse might be looked upon as a bit of over statement. I know folks who long for the good old days of coffee and gossip down at the grain elevator, the times of rolling dice to see who would pay for coffee at the café. I know folks who long for the old stadium where they watched football or baseball, or the old dance halls where they would gather on Friday and Saturday night and dance to polka bands and schottische the night away. Those old halls hauntingly dot the countryside in North Dakota and Minnesota and they are redolent of the “good old days”. I have heard people who miss the old days of “mission fests” at the church and if asked why it is because it was the social event of the season. People came from all over to hear preachers from far away and eat huge meals and listen to church bands (yes, churches had bands with trombones and trumpets and clarinets and the whole shebang), and the most important thing was the ice cream social. I have heard people refer to longing for the days and the nights of church life when the darkened church was illuminated by candles and “silent night” was outside closing one in where there was warmth and peace and “Silent Night” was sung. The evening Lenten Services were affecting and remembered as somber and sometimes sad.
All those thoughts and feelings are fine but the Psalm is setting an interesting standard.
How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Their souls, the sons of Korah, and David’s we must assume, longed for the house of God for a specific reason – this is where they met the living God.
There was no superstition in this love. He loved the house of God because he loved the God of the house. His heart and flesh cried out, not for the altar and the candlestick, but for his God.” (Spurgeon)
Spurgeon’s remark is a good one. Focusing on the overwhelming importance of meeting the living God means encountering the Word of God and for us that means receiving the gifts of forgiveness life and salvation.
Imagine the lines – My heart and my flesh cry out for the fellowship and coffee and donuts. My heart and my flesh cry out social connections that help my business. My heart and my flesh cry out for the 12 step programs and the therapeutic psychoanalysis. My heart and my flesh cry out for the life coaching. My heart and my flesh cry out for the excellence of the choir and the music. My heart and my flesh cry out for the praise band.
We long for the house of God because that is where we meet the living God in Jesus Christ and that God is gracious and gives us gifts of His mercy. Every preacher should make it a priority that in his preaching above all else the hearer should meet the living God. People that come should insist that they come not to be coddled, or mollified, or psychoanalyzed, or coached up, or commandeered into a commercial enterprise, or entertained, or distracted for a time; but that they would see Jesus and His mercy and grace, and hear the faith preached that was handed down once and for all handed down to the Saints.