O LORD God of hosts hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 O God, behold our shield,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You! -Psalm 84:8-12
What a joy it has been this last week to open the doors of our church and welcome the worshipers back inside. Since mid-March our church has been closed, cold, empty. I have preached to an empty building so to produce recordings for our people to watch at home. Three or four singers joined me to voice the hymns for the people singing along at home. It has been a time of great sadness, but it has also been a time to appreciate what we have, or had. How exhilarating to see God’s people back in their seats, singing open-throated the liturgy and the hymns, listening with strained attention to the Scripture lessons and the sermon, receiving with quiet exuberance the body and blood of the Savior in His Supper.
I can understand what the Psalmist meant: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” “Tents of wickedness” means replacing the experience of the house of the Lord with the habits and practices of the world. What do the worldings do in the time that God’s people are gathered in his house? Just about anything you can imagine: sleep in, get involved in hobbies and pastimes, play sports, watch kids play sports, watch sports on television, eat, plan a tailgater, gather friends, party and drink, revel in the bounty God has poured upon our land.
None of these activities, innocent as they may be in themselves, deliver the message of the Gospel, teach God’s Word, admonish, encourage, or comfort the heart. Only the proceedings of the house of the Lord do that. The liturgy is quoted or paraphrased from God’s Word. The hymns likewise are paraphrases or quotes from Scripture. The Scripture lessons for the day are so appointed as to present to us the whole counsel of God’s Word through the year. The sermon takes a portion of the Word read and explains it so that everyone can understand. The prayers are drawn from God’s Word, the Lord’s Supper is the fulfillment of His command to eat and drink his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. Even the benediction is a quotation from Scripture. Our worship is a one-hour emersion in the word of God, side by side with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How can any thinking person compare that with what the “tents of wickedness” have to offer?
The temple in Jesus’ day was a huge complex with outdoor colonnades, places for prayer, places for teachers to gather their disciples. It was open every day for the daily sacrifices, the prescribed hours of prayer, the liturgies that accompanied everything. What a thrill it was for God’s faithful to gather there and take in all that was happening. Indeed, even being a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord was considered a great privilege as he could hear and join in his heart all that was happening throughout the day.
“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my Lord than to dwell in tents of wickedness.” How blessed we are that our church is open and we are free to gather again. May the Lord bless our gatherings in his house, keep all safe, and chase all danger away. May he bless our preaching and teaching of the Gospel to the edifying of his people and to the salvation of many who do not yet believe. May the Lord bless our fellowship together in his house.
At the same time, let us remember those who are unable to gather with us at this time. There are those considered especially vulnerable and so they are advised not to attend public gatherings. They too long to be in the Lord’s house, but they are prevented through no fault of their own. May our recordings of the worship services continue to be a blessing to them, though a poor alternative to gathering in the Lord’s house. May they still be strengthened and encouraged by the Gospel. May we soon see the day when everyone can safely gather together with us. “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand.”