Psalm 84’s title marks it as “A Psalm of the sons of Korah.” Whenever I read it to my family, the tears come. It is a special psalm, full of God’s mercy.
Korah lived at the time of the great Exodus from Egypt. He was the one who, along with Dathan and Abiram, instigated an uprising against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of wrongly hoarding the priesthood for themselves (see Numbers 16). Though Korah was a Levite and already had the privilege of helping the priests minister before the Lord in the tabernacle, he was not satisfied with the mediation the Lord had provided. He wanted to be a priest.
Remember what came of his rebellion:
…the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. – Numbers 16:31-33 NASB
So how could there be any sons of Korah?
The sons of Korah, however, did not die
We get the explanation in Numbers 26, where the second census of Israel is taken after the forty years of wandering in the desert.
The sons of Eliab: Nemuel and Dathan and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram who were called by the congregation, who contended against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the LORD, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up along with Korah, when that company died, when the fire devoured 250 men, so that they became a warning. The sons of Korah, however, did not die.
– Numbers 26:9-11 NASB
The sons of Korah did not die. The Lord spared the sons of Korah. So the family line of Korah did not die out, and we have psalms “of the sons of Korah”.
Look with what delight the sons of Korah sing of the house of the LORD to begin this psalm:
How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You.
But toward the end is the sweetest part:
Behold our shield, O God, And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Their father said, It is not enough to minister in the courts of the LORD — I must have the priesthood too!
Now his sons say, “I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God” — the farthest away you can get and still be in the tabernacle — “Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Humbled, submissive, full of joy, praising the Lord by whose grace they live and minister.
Isn’t it beautiful?