Psalm 84 is one of the best-known and best-loved of all the psalms. It begins “How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!”, and expresses the deep desires of our heart to be in the place of worship, in “the courts of the Lord”. As a bird lover, it also blesses me to think that birds, like the swallow and the sparrow mentioned in verse 3, are close to God.
The middle verses (five to seven) stress the importance of putting our trust in the Lord, even if we are going through a season of sadness or weeping (the Valley of Baka). And it ends with the often-sung refrain: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
The psalm employs several metaphors or images for God, including house-owner, shield, and sun, the bestower of favour and honour. But this time of reading, I noticed something else, which was the number of different ways God is directly referred to. The psalmist speaks to God directly in his prayer and praise, and uses no fewer than TEN different titles as he does so:
- LORD Almighty
- The LORD
- The living God
- My King
- My God
- LORD God Almighty
- God of Jacob
- O God
- The LORD God
The psalmist’s variety in addressing God speaks of creativity, and is perhaps the opposite of the person who when praying uses the word Lord or God at the end of every phrase or sentence, until it can sound almost like a form of punctuation. By contrast the writer of this wonderful psalm is giving careful consideration to the appropriate form of words to use every time he addresses or refers to God.
Of course this list, although extensive, is far from exhaustive; let’s be inspired by the psalmist and give similarly careful consideration to how we address the Lord, both in private and when leading worship or praying. Varied and rich language is appropriate in fully honouring and exalting the Lord God Almighty.