To the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
1 How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, 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 lay her young—
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
They will still be praising You. Selah
5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.
8 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!
sons of Korah (intro) — the descendants of those who were not “swallowed up” by the earth for rebelling against Moses (Numbers 26:10-11) and who, from the days of David onward, were among the Levitical singers in the Temple (see 1 Chronicles 6:22-31; 2 Chronicles 20:19) — Wechsler, page 122.
This is a companion to Psalm 42 (also a Korahite psalm), but whereas that was a lament because of exile from the house of his God, this is a song of joy in the dwelling-places of the Lord of hosts. — Guthrie, page 504.
This is a pilgrim psalm. It falls into three strophes divided by Selahs. The first describes the pilgrim’s hope (vs.1-4); the second, the pilgrim’s experience (vs.5-8); the third, the pilgrim’s prayer (vs.9-12).
The experience of the pilgrim is then described. Faith has an anchorage; it is found in God when the heart is set upon the consummation. Faith has an activity; it passes through dry valleys, and fills them with springs of refreshment. Faith has an assurance; it goes from strength to strength, confident of finally appearing before God. — Morgan, pages 156-157.
Just like a Russian troika, comprised of a sled or carriage pulled by three horses abreast, the three parts of this psalm comprise three aspects (not “steps”—hence the image of three horses abreast) of true (i.e., biblically-grounded) blessedness that “pull” the believer along the course of this present life to the destination of final glory in which that blessedness is perfected, both outwardly as well as inwardly. — Wechsler, page 206.
Verses 1-4 — The first aspect [of blessedness] is proximity to the Lord, whose presence on earth was centered in His “dwelling places”—the plural form being intended with reference to the Temple compound and all its distinct sections. A poignant indication of the psalmist’s focus on God’s presence at this site, rather than on the site itself is his use of the opening qualification, which, though often translated by the English adjective “lovely,” is not an adjective at all, but a noun signifying deep affection and love between persons. Simply put, the psalmist begins this psalm with an ecstatic exclamation: “O the belovedness (or “deep intimacy”) of your dwelling places, O LORD…”—by which he affirms the sense of profound closeness that overwhelms him when he visits the Temple compound. He ends this section in v.4 by looking forward to the time when the blessing of being in God’s presence will be expanded and perfected, and all those who love Him will dwell in His house. — Wechsler, page 207.
The sense of v.3 is: That as the sparrow and the swallow find love and rest in their nests to the believer finds love and rest in the Sanctuary. … The altars pointed to are the brazen and golden altars. These foreshadowed Christ in His atoning death for the sinner and in His risen life for the believer. The soul finds its home in a crucified and risen Savior. — Williams, page 365.
Verses 5-8 — Blessing also accrues to the person who finds their strength in God (v.5)—as opposed to other people or one’s circumstances. … Such people as this go from strength to strength (v.7a)—i.e., not matter where they go or what their circumstances may be, God’s strength is always available to them; and to “recharge” this strength they appear regularly before God in Zion (v.7b), referring to three “pilgrimage” festivals (i.e., Unleavened Bread, Weeks [Pentecost], and Tabernacles), when God commanded that all the men in Israel “appear before the Lord … in the pace which He chooses” (Deuteronomy 16:16). — Wechsler, pages 207-208.
the Valley of Baca (v.6) — Not a specific place, but a reference either to a place of weeping (Baca being from a root meaning “to weep”) or a valley of desolation (Baca being the singular of “balsam trees,” which grow in arid ground). The meaning is: the pilgrim turns his troubles into blessings. — Ryrie, page 889.
Verses 9-12 — The psalmist remarks, finally, the blessing that attends God’s grace—not once, or twice, or even thrice, but continually, as indicated by the grammar of the statement “the LORD gives grace,” in which the imperfect verb “gives” denotes an ongoing/unending action—as is indeed consistent with God’s “granting of grace” to His people throughout the Old Testament, both by protecting and providing for them, as well as by “granting” them “grace” (or “favor”) in the eyes of others (cf. Genesis 39:21; Exodus 3:21; Daniel 1:9). The description of God as a sun (v.11) reinforces the notion of God’s grace as the giver of life (just as the follow epithet “shield” indicates that He is the One who protects it), since the sun’s light in Scripture is symbolic of physical and spiritual life. — Wechsler, page 208.