How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts, to me.Psalm 84:1
So begins the setting for Psalm 84 in the Scottish Psalter of 1650. This tome in turn drew on the Calvin’s Genevan psalter a century earlier — in French of course — but the song appears almost unchanged in Together in Song 44. The poem goes on to relish the quiet joys of going to a holy place, where:
3 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.
The Korahites who wrote this poem were akin to court musicians so, naturally enough, wrote about the temple and Zion, the holy city of peace. These days, that haven might be temple, cathedral or hall. And why not a quiet sunny corner in the house, or a garden bench sheltered by swaying trees and flowers?
Remember that when David wanted to build a temple, the answer was not to bother, as God was happy in a tent. To stretch the interpretation further, we hear in the gospels and letters that God came to dwell among us, that we are God’s hands, that the spirit of love dwells in us, women, men and children.
So there is a sense in which we should address this thankful psalm to the people around us. During these periods of isolation we are not walking in the busy streets: but we are in touch with people all the time in many ways and in thought.
Relish the awareness of God, the creative spirit of love, in others and in ourselves.
The pleasant images in the psalm attracted the attention of composers. Lovers of the classics will recognise the following beautiful song quoting this psalm, Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen from the German Requiem by Brahms. Many versions exist on ‘the tube’, but let’s at least go for one from Germany:
At Woden Valley this week, we turn to an earlier arrangement that, I find, just happens to be the same tune as was used last week.