Most Christians are familiar with Psalms 84:10: “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” We recognize the reference and have heard it many times in sermons. However, we might not be too sure of the reason this verse was written.
Many of the psalms came out of the period of captivity experienced by Judah when the people were carried away to Babylon. The Jews have always been a people identified with their land, and we see the desire for their land in Israel today. There is a fight for land and has been in modern times since the formation of Israel as a state in 1948. Today Jerusalem is zigzagged with barriers to separate Jews from others with each claiming the land belongs to them. The temple mount is a good case in point as it is claimed by Jews but occupied by Muslims.
Israel has always longed for the land God promised them, and this small patch of land has been a battleground since the time Joshua crossed over the Jordan to Jericho. Scripture often speaks of the restoration of the land to its rightful owners, which of course is Israel. The era of the millennium is the time of this regeneration (Matt. 19:28) when Israel will own all of the land, and will push its borders outward in a sort of payback for centuries of occupation.
The author of this psalm remembered Jerusalem and compared it to his present living conditions in Babylon. Babylon was a great, wealthy kingdom with many desirable things, but there is nothing like being at home. In his mind, being the lowest attendant at the house of God was better than the best place he could find in Babylon where the people did not know the one true God.
I believe there are many lessons to be learned from this psalm, but two stand out particularly in my mind. The first is that as a church we should cherish what we have. God is to be praised for giving us a place to learn His Word. We should be thankful this church has not gone the way of the world to become a place of entertainment and a social venue for games and ball teams. The Bible is still taught here with a desire that we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We desire this because we believe our one purpose is the glory of God.
Ask some that have left for whatever reasons about their success in finding another church like ours. Most are terribly disappointed, and some have given up looking. I am sad to say some have been away so long without a good church that their Christian lives are wasted and no longer amount to much. Consider what you have before thinking you can easily replace it.
The second lesson is about service. The most insignificant job you can have in church is better than the best employment of the world. God’s service does not actually have any insignificant works or workers—all are needed to make the body function. However, if you seem lower on the scale than others, just ask yourself what you would do if you did not have the service you have now. Is it better to sit on the sidelines or is it better to have a meaningful part helping the church do its work? I suppose the best way to look at it is that every work must be done and every work needs a worker to do it. If we are too good for our work, which Christians should we choose that are beneath us to do it?
Be thankful for the place God can use you. If you esteem others better than you (Phil. 2:3), no one is beneath you. A doorkeeper in God’s house looks really good—better than a city with no house and no doors to keep.
Pastor V. Mark Smith