Question: "How is a day in God's courts better than a thousand elsewhere (Psalm 84:10)?"
Answer: Psalm 84 celebrates the joy of fellowship with God and remarks that even a day in His courts are better than a thousand elsewhere (Psalm 84:10). The sons of Korah, who authored the psalm, begin by singing of how beautiful it is being where God is (Psalm 84:1). The singers speak of their desire to be where He is, because they sing for joy to Him (Psalm 84:2). Even the birds find themselves at home in His heavens (Psalm 84:3). This almighty Lord of armies is not so distant that He is not intimately involved with His creation—He even cares for birds. Because of His greatness and His goodness, anyone who lives in fellowship with Him is greatly blessed and right to constantly praise Him (Psalm 84:4). The one who finds his strength in the Lord and sets the Lord’s path in his heart is blessed (Psalm 84:5). He makes Himself available to those who seek Him like that, and they don’t get lost on the way (Psalm 84:6–7).
After this acknowledgment of the greatness of fellowship with God, the psalmists make a request and plead that God would be attentive to that request (Psalm 84:8). They ask that God “look on the face of your anointed”—that He would allow them to walk with Him in such proximity that He can look on their faces (Psalm 84:9, ESV). They long for this because “a day in Your courts is better than a thousand” anywhere else (Psalm 84:10, NKJV). Even a moment in the presence of God is far greater than a lifetime apart from Him. The psalmists say that they would rather even stand outside of God’s house—in His courts, serving Him—than dwell in luxury inside the tents of the wicked (Psalm 84:10). God is the Provider (“sun”) and Protector (“shield”), and He gives grace and glory—providing good for those who seek to walk with Him (Psalm 84:11). The one who trusts in Him is greatly blessed (Psalm 84:12).
The singers of this psalm provide for us a beautiful picture of the joy of walking with God and how much we should desire that fellowship with Him. For these psalmists, there is no place they would rather be than with Him.
Psalms like this provide occasion for us to ask ourselves what really matters—what we really value. Where do we want to be? With whom would we wish to spend our lives? That the great Creator of all loves us so deeply as to allow us to commune with Him is a magnificent reality. Why would we ever want to trade that for anything else? Not only does God love us enough to send His Son to die on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sin, but this God loves us enough to give us His Holy Spirit to live within us so that we might have fellowship and an intimate relationship with God—with the Creator of the universe!
When we think about how small we are and how great God is, we should respond similarly to the psalmists who wrote Psalm 84 and who said, “A day in Your courts is better than a thousand.” We can trust in Him for our eternal life, and we can walk with Him every day knowing that He is in us and that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). A moment with Him is better than an eternity without Him, and in His grace and mercy, we don’t have to choose. By believing in Him we can have an eternity with Him.