Psalm 84 or 84:1-8 - Trying on the new Christmas duds of righteousness

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1 How dear to me is your dwelling, Yahweh of hosts! *

[2] My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of Yahweh;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living el.

2 [3] The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *

by the side of your altars, Yahweh of hosts,

my King and welohay.

3 [4] Happy are they who dwell in your house! *

they will always be praising you. Selah

4 [5] Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.

5 [6] Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, *

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 [7] They will climb from height to height, *

and el-elohim will reveal himself in Zion.

7 [8] Yahweh elohim of hosts, hear my prayer; *

hearken, elohim of Jacob. Selah

8 [9] Behold our defender, elohim; *

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

[9 [10] For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *

and to stand at the threshold of the house of elohay

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 [11] For Yahweh elohim is both sun and shield; *

he will give grace and glory;

11 [11] No good thing will Yahweh withhold *

from those who walk with integrity.

12 Yahweh of hosts, *

happy are they who put their trust in you!]


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This is the Psalm that will be read aloud in unison or sung by a cantor on the second Sunday after Christmas, Year C, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will follow the Old Testament reading selected from Jeremiah, which says, “those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back.” A reading from Ephesians will follow this pair, where Paul wrote, “[Yahweh-God] destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” All will accompany one of three Gospel choices, two from Matthew and one from Luke. Those include the following quotes:

  • [Yahweh-God] appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

  • When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

  • In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

I wrote about this Psalm and posted my commentary in July 2021, when it was the Track 1 Psalm on the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16, Year B). I entitled that observation “Being a house of God” and it can be read by clicking on the link. In my prior commentary, I presented all the changes that I had made to the text presented by the Episcopal Church. Those same changes are duplicated in the above translation. Due to my having written about this before, I will not repeat that already said. Instead, I will now address this reading from the perspective of the two-Sunday Christmas ‘season,’ when all true Christians should have a history of having died of self-will and been reborn as Jesus, led by the Spirit of Yahweh into ministry. Christmas is the time when there is newness and excitement about having one’s soul be first promised eternal life, free of reincarnations (or worse).


Four times in these twelve verses the word translating as “of hosts” [“ṣə·ḇā·’ō·wṯ,” from “tsaba”] is found written four times [verses 1, 3, 8, and 12]. Each time that word is preceded by the specific name “Yahweh” [not “the Lord”]. It is important to realize how the Christmas theme relates a “host” as being “heavenly” and “angels.” The proof of this comes from Luke 2:13-14, where the saint wrote: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” This is then followed by Luke writing, “When the angels had left [the shepherds] and gone into heaven.” Thus, reading now “Yahweh of hosts” must be understood to be an “army of angels who serve Yahweh.”


The plurality present in “of hosts” must then be read into the repetition of the word “elohim” [written four times], “elohe” [once], “elohay” [once], and “welohay” [once], as all are forms of “elohim,” which is the plural number to the singular “el” [written one time in this Psalm 84], all meaning “gods” [including the variants: “of gods” / “gods of” and “my gods” / “gods mine”]. Only the one word written – “el” – can be translated as “god,” but not in a capitalized for. This is because Hebrew has no capitalized words; and, Yahweh is named specifically as such a capitalized recognition of “God.” Thus, the seven references to “elohim” [multiple “gods”] must be seen as statements relative to “of hosts,” where the “elohim” are “angels of Yahweh.”


Because the specific combination of “Yahweh elohim” is found written twice here (verses 8 and 11), this must be seen as duplications of the combination stated eleven times in Genesis 2, when Yahweh was making Adam. Yahweh was assisted by the “elohim” He created to do the works of the Creation, as “elohim” is stated thirty-two times in Genesis 1 and three more times in Genesis 2:1-3. This says “Yahweh elohim” is a special creation by the hand of Yahweh-God, where His divine Son would not only be given a soul allotted to human beings, but also one of the spirits that was an “el,” from the “elohim.” Thus, whenever one reads “Yahweh elohim,” this is a human form of “angels” – “angels in the flesh” – which are equally part of the “hosts of Yahweh.”


When verse one is translated by the NRSV to say, “How dear to me is your dwelling, Yahweh of hosts!”, the Hebrew word translated as “dwelling” is “miš·kə·nō·w·ṯe·ḵā,” from “mishkan,” meaning "dwelling place, tabernacle.” In fact (according to the NASB Translations list), this word is translated 109 times as “tabernacle,” with less than thirty times something indicating “dwelling.” This means verse one is not happy about some new church down the block, where God has moved in, but directly a statement that says, “to me is your tabernacle Yahweh of hosts!” Still, the actual Hebrew written says, “how beautiful [my] tabernacle [now] yours Yahweh of hosts!”


Simply by the plurality of “hosts,” there can be no one “tabernacle” that Yahweh can “dwell” in. Because everything is Yahweh’s Creation, everything is His. Because Yahweh does not hear praises coming to Him from mountains, oceans, earth or skies, a “tabernacle” can only be where a soul exists in bodies of flesh. This means David’s first verse is the exclamation of joy he personally knew on the equivalent of Christmas morning, when he realized his soul had become the tabernacle of Yahweh; and, it was that presence that was pure beauty. David became one of the many whose souls had been promised eternal life, because David had welcomed Yahweh into his soul.


In verse two, when David sang, “My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of Yahweh; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living el,” the one use of “el” has to be understood as David recognizing his “soul” [“nap̄·šî”] and his “inner self” [“lib·bî”] had a love of Yahweh, leading to a “longing and desire” [“niḵ·sə·p̄āh wə·ḡam-kā·lə·ṯāh”], which brought about the marriage of David’s soul to Yahweh’s Spirit [David’s divine “Anointment” by the outpouring of Yahweh’s Spirit]. From that deep spiritual love came a most holy union.


When the NRSV translates David’s third verse to sing, “The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young,” the concept of divine marriage is now shown metaphorically to be for the natural purpose of making offspring. The tree branches provide protection for a nest, in the same way that a woman’s womb provides a safe haven for a fetus to develop. The metaphor of birds – which have wings and fly – is then that of angels (as human minds see them in their imaginations). To “lay her young” [“šā·ṯāh ’ep̄·rō·ḥe·hā”] is then a statement that a soul in flesh is feminine in essence, thereby a wife and mother, with the “young” or “chicks” being all the souls who bring forth the resurrection of the soul of Jesus, born anew many times, into many new “tabernacles.”


When verse three follows the birth of Jesus anew [as “young”] with “Yahweh of hosts” and then statements that say, “my king , my gods” this says two things. First, the individual soul has submitted to Yahweh in marriage, but then also the soul becomes a subject to the soul reborn into it (Jesus), who is then the “king” of that soul-flesh entity. This is why Jesus is “the Lord” that rules over one body of flesh at a time, while many at the same time. The soul of Jesus could not exist in a body of flesh that has already been given a soul to govern itself, if not for the Will of Yahweh. Thus the possession is Yahweh’s, so “my king” says, I am the possession of the king – the “king of me” – which is both Yahweh (the King of the soul) and Jesus (the king of the flesh). Second, “my gods” (where “elohim” is written as “welohay”) must be seen in the same light of possession, where Yahweh has made one soul join into His “hosts” of “angels,” so one’s soul can claim Yahweh possesses me in the same way He possesses all “His angels in the flesh.”


When verse four is shown to sing, “Happy are they who dwell in your house!”, the better way to read this is as “Happy are those who dwell as you house!” That matches verse one’s “beauty as a tabernacle for Yahweh.” To read “your house” [“ḇê·ṯe·ḵā,” from “bayith”] means to think Yahweh-God has some “house” one can visit once a week, on the Sabbath, and be made “happy” [better said as “blessed” – from “esher”]. This leads the moneymakers of religion to build more and more “houses” that hired hands can be placed in to manage, with every new “house” demanding a mortgage (and, of course, mortgage payers). Thus, when verse four concludes by singing, “still they will be praising you,” this “continued praising” [from “od”] means Yahweh abides in one’s soul, which animates flesh; but the soul is the “house” where Yahweh lives.


From verse five onward, the birth (from verse three) has become settled within one’s being, so ministry becomes the focus. The “pilgrimage” is the making oneself available for seekers to find. The name “Baca” (or “Baka”) means “weeping,” so verse six is focus on the seekers being those who have suffered greatly as souls in flesh that do not have marriage to Yahweh. The purpose of ministry is to give “strength” to those who are weak. The metaphor of “strength” is Jesus resurrected within one’s soul, where his soul has been called “the mighty one” by David before.


It is the presence of Jesus reborn that brings a “shield” for the soul-flesh. Jesus reborn protects a soul from returning to sinful ways. When Jesus has been resurrected within one’s soul, one then wears the “face” of Yahweh and becomes His Christ [as an “Anointed one” – “mə·šî·ḥe·ḵā,” from “mashiach”].


When verse ten sings, “I would rather be the doorkeeper in the house that is one of the elohim of Yahweh,” this should cause one to recall John’s Gospel telling of Jesus saying he was the gate to the sheepfold, and no one enters except through him. This is what David was singing here. He was taking delight in having chosen to let the Son of Yahweh be the guard that stands at the “doorway” to David’s soul, keeping all evil influences away.


The final two verses then sing praise that David was not expected to fight evil alone. He knew evil can only be defeated by the divine presence of Yahweh within, which includes His sending His Son to be one’s “shield.” This presence within is what makes one truly “praise Yahweh,” completely upheld by “faith” that comes from personal experience. That experience comes from being the tabernacle in which Yahweh dwells. To have Yahweh with one’s soul, one’s soul must have fallen in love with him and married Him in Holy Matrimony. The only reason Yahweh merges His Spirit with a soul in flesh is to resurrect the soul of His Son in that soul, reborn into that flesh. That is worthy of praise.


As a reading chosen for the second Sunday after Christmas, this Psalm sings of the birth that is “doubly fruitful” (from “Ephraim”). There can be no individual rights or freedom, as far as eternal salvation is concerned. All souls have the right and freedom to reject a marriage proposal from Yahweh, because to accept His proposal means utter and complete subjection to His Will – a Will that is stated in the Covenant (the marriage vows). Understanding those vows comes when Yahweh enters one’s soul-heart and writes the Law upon the ‘walls’ of one’s being. The high priest that will interpret those laws is Jesus. That makes one’s soul be a lowly Levite-like priest, whose only duty is to maintain the “tabernacle” for that Holy presence. David sings here about how “blessed” that role is.

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