From Strength to Strength: Meditating on the Pearl of Psalms


Charles Spurgeon writes about Psalm 84, “This sacred ode is one of the choicest of the collection; it has a mild radiance about it, entitling it to be called The Pearl of Psalms.” This is a psalm for pilgrims who love the Lord, long for his presence, and live by faith in his precious promises. God’s word summons us to revere and rely on our glorious and generous God, who renews us “from strength to strength.”

The Pearl Psalm opens with a note of emphatic joy:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.

“How lovely” is not a question of comparative quality. It an exclamation of the Lord’s superlative loveliness. For those who feel spiritually sluggish or cold, this precious psalm stirs and warms our hearts with renewed delight in the one true and living God.

This psalm describes old covenant saints traveling to the temple courts to meet with God. Pilgrims need orientation to know where to go and strength to keep going, and we see each of these elements in verses 5–7. This journey leads through “the Valley of Baca,” which could also be rendered “the Valley of Weeping” (NLT). Yet for believers, this tearful terrain is transformed into a place of springs, a picture of abundance and blessing. How does this transformation happen? The Lord brings his people out of painful trials, but he also meets us in the valley. The psalmist highlights both elements. The pilgrims “make it a place of springs” by refocusing on the Lord. Moreover, “each one appears before God in Zion,” a hope-filled promise of joy in God’s presence that points us ultimately to our heavenly home where we will always be with the Lord. Those whose strength is in the Lord are truly blessed, meaning happy or favored by God. Rather than growing weary on the way, believers are renewed and recharged by the power of God: “they go from strength to strength.” Spurgeon writes, “We grow as we advance if heaven be our goal. If we spend our strength in God’s ways we shall find it increase.”

The Pearl’s final verses bask in the exceeding goodness of God’s presence—just one day in the courts of the Lord is better than a thousand days anywhere else (verse 10). Why is this so? Because of who God is and what he alone does:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.

The imagery of “a sun and shield” signifies illumination in the darkness and protection from enemies. Spurgeon comments, “A sun for happy days and a shield for dangerous ones. A sun above, a shield around. A light to show the way and a shield to ward off its perils. Blessed are they who journey with such a convoy; the sunny and shady side of life are alike happy to them.” God is all we need! He is not stingy but lavishly generous towards his people: “no good thing does he withhold…” This promise prepares us for the Lord Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:11: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

These truths encourage my heart afresh now as we come to the end of another school year at Bethlehem College and Seminary. We continue to seek our joy in our glorious God alone and bank on his sure promises. Our great God has sustained our faculty, staff, and students, renewing us “from strength to strength.” Our generous God has faithfully supplied our needs as a school time and again, and we trust that he will continue to do so.

We are committed to providing a remarkably affordable, radically God-centered education in serious joy. I am grateful to God for how he abundantly provides the scholarship funds we require through generous men and women who partner with us in this work. As the Pearl of Psalms reminds us, the living God hears our prayers and is himself the one whom we live and long for. “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”

Brian J. Tabb


Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise the Lord for his faithfulness to Bethlehem.
  2. Pray that the Lord would once again provide the funds needed to support this year’s Serious Joy Scholarships.
  3. Pray for the seminarians currently overseas on ministry and vision trips.
  4. Pray for the incoming seminarians as they begin to move to Minneapolis and some begin classes in two weeks.
  5. Pray for all the incoming students as they prepare for August.