How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. Selah
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
Psalm 84:1-7 NRSV
Psalm 84 used to be sung by pilgrims on their way to visit the temple in Jerusalem, possibly at the time of the autumnal Festival of Tabernacles (or Booths). Reading the psalm, it’s hard to miss the sense of expectation and joyful homecoming. It reminds me of John’s Revelation: like the author is gasping for words to describe these feelings, these sights, these sounds; picking up words, symbols, metaphors and discarding them again, finding them inadequate to describe the presence of the Lord.
The presence of the Lord – what a thing to behold! The pilgrims beheld God in his holy temple, among their own people. They celebrated him with old traditions and rituals, with family, friends, food, sacrifice. Our reverence is different today. We behold God in his Son, Jesus. We see His light everywhere – even in places that appear dark. We still celebrate Him with rituals, but the centre has shifted – it is no longer to Jerusalem that we are drawn, but to the centre of our daily lives; that is where God lives now. That is where we make our pilgrimage.
But sometimes the needle on our compasses drift. We lose sight of the centre; we lose sight of the eaves of God’s sanctuary, we become lost in the valley of Baca. The last notes of our pilgrimage song drop into silence. We listen, but we hear nothing; there isn’t even a bird call in the still dark night. We awake to find ourselves suddenly very far from home. Perhaps so far that we doubt it still exists or that if it does, we will ever find it again.
If in this silence we ask after God and hear nothing, if in this silence it feels like our voice, our prayers, our very identities in Christ are swallowed by an incomprehensible quiet, I challenge you to hum this song – this psalm of knowing and being known – to yourself. Perhaps God is quiet only because He is listening. Use the very last of your breath if you must, my dear – but hum this song of knowing. Of homecoming. Of joy. Where you hum it, will become a place of springs, of pools. Where you hum this song will reverberate with the very presence of God.
How happy I am to see the eaves of your house, Lord, on the horizon of daily life’s desert! My soul is exhausted for it, yearns for it, because I’m famished and thirsty for something only You can provide, Lord! Look, even the birds find solace and rest here! Your path, wherever it leads, overflows with You – pure, refreshing You! Oh, let me come home to You – listen, Lord, let me see You – see me! I’d rather be Yours than anyone else’s, even my own! You never withhold Yourself, Lord – I can trust in You. Oh yes, I can trust in You.
Psalm 84, freely paraphrased from the New Revised Standard Version text
 HarperCollins Study Bible
 Lisel Joubert, God van die Woestyn