If you could visit any place, where would you go? That is a common question we have all likely asked or have been asked ourselves. Beach lovers might pick the coasts of California or Florida. European history buffs would perhaps choose Versailles or Berlin. Those who are really adventurous might opt for an out-of-this-world experience such as a trip to Mars or other far-off reaches of space.
Were we to ask the author of Psalm 84, his answer to this question would be “the house of the Lord.” We see this in today’s passage, where he remarks that one day in the temple courts is far better than a thousand days spent elsewhere (v. 10a). Here we are granted a glimpse into the thoughts of one who is totally devoted to his God. There is no place that he would rather be than with the Lord in the place where His people can enjoy His special presence. He well understands that only the Creator is sufficient to satisfy the hearts of human beings.
The psalmist’s complete devotion to God and His presence above all else is further revealed in his remark that he would rather be a doorkeeper in the Lord’s house than “dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Our author is making a comparison here between the lowest place of service in God’s temple and the highest levels of adulation in the world. Given the choice between being served himself or keeping watch over the doors of the temple and letting people in and out, the author would rather be the doorkeeper. John Calvin comments regarding the psalmist: “He would rather be cast into a common and unhonored place, provided he were among the people of God, than exalted to the highest rank of honor among unbelievers.” It is more important for him to be counted among the company of the redeemed, even in a role of no special import, than it is to enjoy a high place of privilege in the world. In this he is the antithesis of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17–22) as well as King Agrippa, who was almost persuaded to become a Christian (Acts 26:28).
Although the world may not understand why someone would rather occupy a lowly position among God’s people than enjoy prestige in society, it would be irrational to choose otherwise. If the Creator who holds everything in the palms of His hands bestows favor and honor on His people (Ps. 84:11), there is no better or safer place to be than in His presence. Indeed, to dwell with Him is to enjoy a blessing that can never be lost (v. 12).