God’s Word for You
Psalm 84:5-9 our Shield
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, May 6, 2019
5 Those whose strength is in you are blessed,
those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs,
The autumn rains also cover it with blessings.*
* 84:6 blessings. A pun on the word “pools.”
The author, who is from the Kohathite family of Levites through Korah, misses his life in the tabernacle. He dreams of being on a pilgrimage there, of the joy of the journey. When it came time for the priests and Levites to go to take their turn, they would travel from wherever they lived most of the year and find their way to the Courts of the Lord. It might have been a difficult journey, but they were going to fulfill their duty; their life’s work.
He describes a place called the Valley of Baca. This word means “balsam” or “aspen” trees, but it is also the word for “weeping,” so the author might be using it they way we would say “Weeping Willows.” The tears of the “Weeping Baca” would be transformed by God into a place of springs, an oasis in the desert. And more than that, the rains bring out new growth, “blessings.” The word “blessings” is spelled with the same consonants in Hebrew as the word “pools,” and this is probably a pun that plays on both words.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
“From strength to strength” is probably an expression that describes what happens when one is tired, yet motivated, and one gets a second wind (especially in the service of the Lord). That this is a reference to the service of God in the text is shown by the words, “till each appears before God in Zion.” I have found this to be the case myself. In my church, we have three Sunday morning services, and the preacher can become a little worn out by the third time he preaches in a day. Yet when it comes time to distribute the Lord’s Supper that third time, there is a renewal of energy, and I find myself energized with a new strength and joy. Perhaps the Old Testament priests felt renewed even on a hot and laborious day of sacrifices when another family would come forward with an animal to present to the Lord. The priest would pick himself up, stride forward out of joy for his work, and accept the gift and do the other things necessary, going “from strength to strength” in his work.
8 Hear my prayer, O LORD God of Armies,
listen to me, O God of Jacob. Selah
9 Look upon our Shield, O God,
look with favor on your Anointed One.
His prayer turns from himself to his anticipation of the Savior, of Christ. He calls upon the name of the Lord and asks to look upon the great Shield of God, the Anointed One. This might partly be a reference to the King of Israel, David, but it’s also a look ahead to the Redeemer. The Psalm writer uses the word Messiah, “Christ,” and it is Jesus Christ he longs for as much as any of the other concrete things he thinks about when he thinks about his work in the Temple. The object of his worship is not the altar, nor the holy place, nor even the mysterious holy of holies, but rather the promised Savior, the one who would remove the need for any more sacrifices ever again.
“Shield” is a title for God given to him several times in the Psalms: “You are a shield around me, O Lord” (Psalm 3:3); “My shield is God Most High” (Psalm 7:10); God “is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30); “You are my refuge and shield” (Psalm 119:114), and many others. God is our protection from sin, death and the devil, and through our shield we are defended by many unseen powers and even from our own sins. Bless his holy name forever.
Pastor Timothy Smith