Thursday, 29 October 2020
Title: The pull of home
By Dorothy Teoh
Psalm 84 is one of my favourite psalms. In it, the psalmist talks about a journey, a pilgrimage to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem which was a very important feature of Jewish life.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries on Psalm 84 says: “Longing is written all over this psalm” and describes the psalmist, one of the Korahite temple singers, as an “eager and homesick man”.
While he looks forward to being in the temple, his longing is for God Himself. He even envies the sparrow which has found a home for itself, probably among the temple eaves, for its nearness to God.
The pandemic has disrupted or curtailed many people’s travel plans. With the number of cases rising again not just in Malaysia but elsewhere around the world, most of us are uncertain when we will be travelling again because of closed borders, mandatory quarantines or the fear of contracting the virus.
But there is one journey that all believers can embark on without even boarding an airplane, and that is the journey of drawing closer to God and dwelling in Him, just like the “blessed” ones the psalmist refers to in verse 4. As we get to know God better, we will have reason to always praise Him.
In a way, Covid-19 has facilitated this “journey” as the lockdown and work from home allow us to spend more time praying and studying God’s Word without worrying about getting to the office on time or beating rush hour traffic. The advice to stay home and closure of entertainment outlets also mean less distractions!
Our journey is not a literal pilgrimage but a journey of the heart. However, even when we resolve on making this journey (v5), we may face obstacles and challenges, just like on physical journeys. In verse 6, the pilgrims pass through the Valley of Baka. Baka (or baca) and translated as “balsam trees”, is thought to refer to a tree or shrub that grows in arid places. Yet, the pilgrims turn this dry land into “a place of springs”.
I like the way Tyndale describes this phrase, as “a classic statement of the faith which dares to dig blessings out of hardships”. And God does not leave us high and dry. As He sends the autumn rains that cover the valley with pools, so He sends blessings to end our spiritual dryness and relieve our trials.
I borrowed the title “The pull of home” from the Tyndale commentary on the psalm because, as believers, our true home is in heaven and getting there is a journey of faith. As I get older, this sense of being on a journey that’s taking me closer to eternity becomes more real. As Tyndale puts it, “The nearer the goal, the stronger its pull…”
May we all have that same longing as the psalmist did for God and “set our hearts on pilgrimage” the way the pilgrims did.
Abba Father, we may not be able to travel during this pandemic but help us to embark on this journey of faith in our hearts. Put in us this longing like the psalmist had for you. And whatever our age or stage of journey, help us not to flag but to gain in strength and press on more eagerly until we come into your presence. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
3 万军之耶和华─我的王，我的神啊，在你祭坛那里，麻雀为自己找着房屋，燕 子为自己找着抱雏之窝。
丁道尔《旧约注释》对诗篇84评述：“这诗篇洋溢着渴慕之情” ；并描述那诗人，一位可拉后裔的圣殿唱工，是一位 “殷切想家的人”。
但是，有一个旅程是所有信徒无需乘搭飞机都可以成行的，那就是亲近上帝且要住在祂里面的旅程，就像诗人在第4节中提到的 “有福的人” 一样。因为当我们更认识上帝，我们就有理由时时刻刻赞美祂。
我们的旅程并非字面上的朝圣，而是一个心灵之旅。即使我们决定踏上此旅程（v5），我们也可能会面临障碍和挑战，就像实体的旅程中一样。在第6节中，朝圣者穿过流泪谷（Valley of Baka）。Baka（或baca），被翻译为 “胶杉树”，是指在干旱地区生长的树木或灌木。然而，朝圣者叫这片干旱土地变为 “泉源之地”。
我喜欢丁道尔如此描述这句短语，即 “关于信心的一种经典的说法，就是敢于从逆境中挖掘祝福。” 上帝并没有让我们孤立无助。正如祂赐下秋雨之福盖满了全谷，他也会赐下祝福以结束我们灵性的干渴，并缓解我们的试炼。
我从丁道尔对这诗篇的注释借用了 “家的吸引力” 这个标题，因为身为信徒，我们真正的家园是天堂，而要到达那里是一段信心之旅。随着年龄的增长，这种让我更接近永恒的旅程的感觉变得更加真实。正如丁道尔所说：“目标越近，它的吸引力就越强……”