Tour of the winepress psalms, part 2 - Psalm 8, 81, 84 – Psalm 84, a sweet song

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Tour of the winepress psalms, part 2 - Psalm 8, 81, 84 – Psalm 84, a sweet song for the journey

We pressed through the rest of Psalm 83, the tour guide warned the group to prepare for some spectacular turbulence. The tour was anxious to go to the next winepress Psalm but that got their attention. We heard an announcement of a litany of two countries and five foreign rulers who insisted they would seize ‘the pastures of God' for their own possession. We walked knee deep through mounds of chaff. “Watch yourselves. Going will get a bit tough until we get out of Psalm 83!”, the tour guide said. Next thing we knew we were in a violent dust storm, blowing the chaff everywhere and as soon as whirlwind done a forest fire on one side, burning mountain on the other. The five rulers fell over and like tumbleweeds falling and knocked over, some rolling like tumbleweeds. We were not a little eager to reach the next Psalm soon. Tempest storm and the faces of the five rulers turn to fear. The English major in the group, a fairly empathetic young women looked mystified. Is this mercy? Is this good? She wondered at what possible good there was in this type of imprecation.

An epitaph for the rulers soberly read:
May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace.
Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD— that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Ms Sho, our communication major questioned why a good God would allow such violence. Francis, the philosophy major spoke up. The purpose is that they might ultimately know that God is Lord and Most High, over all the earth, that the very God who was over the ‘pastures of God’ they were so eager to seize was offended. Perhaps the question of whether it is good depends on what good is the highest good and what good is accomplished?" Leona, the Literature major appeared more satisfied with that answer than Sho.

We began to hear faint sounds of the next Psalm in the distance. There appears to be three parts, only making out a few phrases..."How lovely"... "Behold our shield"...and ..."No good thing"... The tour pressed on and crossing past Psalm 83, the winds subsided. “Prepare to enter what some consider the sweetest Psalm in the Psalter”, the tour guide said.

The group eager to go into the next winepress Psalm stepped over the title.

Psalm 84: For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm. The gittith an instument of the Philistines. Gath a city meaning winepress. Psalm being a praise.

The sweetness of the winepress appears evident.

A calm , a peaceful, sweet feeling came over the group as we heard A group of pilgrims, men women and children traveling through the first third of the land, the men slowing singing in unison. "How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;"

In the far distance we could make out an echo "no good thing does the Lord withhold from those who dwell uprightly", as if to assure them that their longings would be fulfilled.

The English Literature major said the longing expressed in how the Sons of Korah began this Psalm here in book 3 reminder her of how the Sons of Korah began their group of Psalms in Book two, with the 'as the deer pants for water so my soul longs after you.' She mused on why they placed their songs of longing first.

Body and soul they sang their song of longing, though tired and faint hoping to reach the place God dwells. And strangely though God dwells there, there was talk of swallows and sparrows, the lowliest of birds also dwelling there. The men sang on to thedelight and interest of the children: " Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God.", they sang in strong voices.

“Little birds and of little use” , the zoologist science of the group, thought to himself this odd, “For that region, barnswallow, no doubt.... Not a dove? Not a songbird? Not a peacock? Why is there a sparrow here? Why a swallow? Dwelling? In God’s courts? How ordinary and insignificant."

“The most ordinary of birds to be sure,” said the guide and it lands first on the altar of sacrifice. It doesn't merely rest for a moment at the altar. It makes a nest. A home.

One of the travelers explained to his child as they walked, "The lowly birds might fly into the open court even to the bronze alter, the alter of sacrifice and the priests would not shoo it away. God, most high would dwell and the lowliest humblest sparrow or swallow would find a home. “As the birds delight to nest at thine altars, so do I love to dwell in thine house." With the thought of arriving at the sanctuary, and the idea of it being their home, the travelers broke into a song of rejoicing over blessings: "Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you." A blessing on even the lowly dwelling in the home of the highest?

With that we and the travelers forded a Selah, pondering what they saw. The travelers, went from unison to harmony, singing a bit faster now, women and children now joining the songs with the men. Exhausted but pressing on through a valley of dryness and tears, unbearable at times, called Baka. Tired but rejoicing. Some carrying children and pressing on, still all singing in harmony. Exhausted, fainting, yet joyful. Through the adversity, singing another song of blessing "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools." Tears and trials turned to blessings.

They sang "They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion." And with that they called on God, " O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!

We crossed another, Selah, wondering why God might be addressed as 'God of Jacob' and the group thought perhaps it was a general title inclusive of all the tribes, since all descended form Jacob. We wondered how this tired group might find have the power to reach their sanctuary and then their prayer appeared to be answered by sanctuary itself.

The son's of Korah threw open the gates and as the sojourners walked in the men fell on their knees in the courtyard saying
"Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!" The anointed would be both the means and end of the journey, provision, protection and destination. "Behold!" , they said to draw our attention to the import of this. They would be protected by the power of the anointed, shielded safely through the journey.

The songs broke into the various groups singing different themes, reflecting on things so far. The children singing about the sparrows and swallows making their nests, looking around the sanctuary in wonder, pointing. The women, with a child in one hand in tow and throwing a kiss to the sky with the other singing 'no good thing will you withhold from those who dwell uprightly' The men singing '"Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!" God helped the travelers looking on them, seeing them as it were represented in the face of the anointed, their shield.

The Sons of Korah, the singing doorkeepers, stood by the doors of the courtyards to the sojourners, assuring them their lowly jobs of gatekeepers were well worth it. "Better is one day on the job there than a thousand at another gig." Their forefather, Korah may have challenged Moses and God's holiness but not them. Rather, they would protect God's holiness as gatekeepers and lift emotions of worshipers with their songs. Korah was swallowed up by the earth, but there was a plan of spectacular mercy for some of his sons.

The children excitedly pointed at the sky as a bird flew down to the bronze altar, finding a hungry family of baby birds tucked in the rocks of the altar hungrily waiting the mother. The priests who was offering sacrifice smiled at the bird and continued

The media major of the tour, Ms Sho, was perplexed, "The is the 'lovely' bronze altar? It's an alter of sacrifice. Animals die here? It's primitive and obscene. It looks like a pile of rocks. ."

One little girl, not seeming to listen to Sho, jumped up excitedly and said "my name is Derora - Derora means the same as the little swallow bird but my name also means freedom!", clapping her hands and still jumping.

A Son of Korah stepped forward, smiling at the little girl and gently explained to Sho that the bronze altar was not aesthetic by its looks, not visually appealing , but it was that man found peace with God through the sacrifice offered which represents the sacrifice of the anointed. A second bird flew down on a more gleaming altar. The Son of Korah continued, "Sin is indeed primitive and obscene. The golden altar would be more attractive. Perhaps, the other altar, the altar of the resurrection of the anointed, the golden altar would be more attractive but that is not seen first. Without death there would be no resurrection. All are invited to the altar of sacrifice of the anointed though no form or majesty that we should look at and no beauty that we should desire it."

We were like the swallow and sparrow, through the bronze altar of sacrifice and the golden altar of resurrection we, though lowly could dwell in the home of the highest. The Messiah would be our sanctuary, even being both the means and end the journey to sanctuary, our son and shield, our grace and glory. No good thing would he withhold, not even Himself.

The pilgrims had now sat down to enjoy a feast, the women having prepared it in the women's court, still laughing and enjoying the sanctuary, but it was time for us to leave. The men lifted their cups in the air and in unison all, the men, women and children with the Sons of Korah stood and sang together "Blessed are all who put their trust in Him!", then sat down to feast.

One of our more curious members of our tour group saw that the blessedness was described more in the the next Psalm, Psalm 85 and strained to look but we needed to move on, the last winepress Psalm to examine would be Psalm 8 and the tour guide insisted we head for the time being in the other direction. We could see God's favor and restoration. We saw Steadfast love and faithfulness meeting, righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness coming up from the ground, righteousness looking down from the sky. It would not be the place we would go, not today anyway.

It was time for us to head in the other direction, not into Psalm 85, but to travel to Psalm 8, the last winepress Psalm The tour guide pointed the way and in the distance we could see five mountains where we needed to go on a journey of our own. These are five mountain peaks of the new covenant which we see in the distance, the tour guide explained. Psalm 8 lies before them, in their shadows.
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