Can We Experience "Better is One Day in Your Courts" Today or Only in Heaven?
- G. Connor Salter SEO Editor
- 2020 22 Dec
Our lives tend to get busier, not easier, and sometimes making time for God is the thing we neglect first. We’ve all had days where we skipped going to church to rest or realized we haven’t been reading the Bible lately. We need to remember that when it comes to our connection with God, “better is one day in your courts” than many days spent in other places. But what exactly are God’s courts? Are the courts the church building we attend or something broader? Are we spending time in God’s courts any time we sing worship songs or can other things be an act of worship too? Let’s consider Psalm 84:10 to see what the writer was talking about, and how the psalm’s message applies to us today.
What Is the Meaning of 'Better Is One Day in Your Courts'?
Psalm 84 is written by the “descendants of Korah,” also known as the Korahites. The Korahites were a family within the larger Levite family, who were in charge of taking care of the tabernacle and later the temple.
Earlier books of the Bible mention that after King David brought the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem, he appointed Heman, a musician descended from Korah, to be one of the musicians in his temple (1 Chronicle 6:31-37). There are also references to the Korahites giving praise to God with their fellow Levites in 2 Chronicles 20:19, but some of them had a different job: they were the doorkeepers of the temple, responsible for “ministering in the temple of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 26:12). So, God’s courts are the holy temple in Jerusalem, which the Korahites were trusted to care for.
However, the temple in Jerusalem represented something larger: God’s kingdom. It was the center of the kingdom of Israel that God ruled. Later in the New Testament, Jesus talks about the kingdom expanding to something larger which includes Jews and Gentiles. Jesus also uses the image of a large house with many rooms (John 14:2) to describe heaven, where God’s kingdom will finally be realized. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, Paul says that if the Christian’s body is destroyed, they have “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
So, even though the tabernacle and King David’s temple are both gone, they point us to something else: our final destination in the new Jerusalem, which has no temple because all of it is God’s house (Revelation 21:22-27).
Context of 'Better Is One Day in Your Courts' in Psalm 84:10
In the second part of the verse, the Psalmist writes “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Some translations use “stand outside the gates” instead, but many (including the NIV, the King James, and the English Standard version) use “doorkeeper” or “gatekeeper,” meaning someone whose profession is to tend the temple gates. This fits with what the Bible says about some Korahites being temple doorkeepers.
Doorkeeping is essentially a servant’s job, and not a particularly exciting one. The Message even paraphrases this section as, “I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God” to give a sense of how lowly this kind of job was, a job at the same level as being the temple janitor. Still, the Psalmist would rather serve the Lord in a lowly job than have comfort in a sinful context. The Bible talks many times about being a servant and not taking the most dignified position or job. Jesus told his disciples it is better to sit at the foot of a table than presumptuously take the honored guest seat at a banquet (Luke 14:8-10). He washed his disciple’s feet, a job which only the lowest servants did, and then told them to do the same for each other (John 13:1-17).
There are several reasons it is better to serve God in a lowly, uncomfortable job than to take the easy way. First, when we are serving God we are in his presence, making time for him and walking with him. By spending time in God’s presence we get re-centered, which helps us to live the rest of our lives in ways that honor God.
Second, serving God brings blessings. The Psalmist observes in the next verse that God is his followers’ sun and shield who gives grace and glory and that “The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right”(Psalm 84:11). We know that God does not necessarily bless us with comfort or materials. After all, Jesus told his disciples that they would be persecuted and killed for following him (Matthew 24:9) and that anyone who followed him would have to give up their lives for his sake (Luke 9:24). In James 1:2-3 (a book which church tradition says was written by one of Jesus’ brothers), Christians are told to be joyful when they experience trouble and that God blesses those who endure temptation. Our blessings are often something else, which we may not fully understand this side of heaven.
This brings us to a third reason: our service leads to rewards in heaven. Jesus talks multiple times in the Gospels about doing good works to store up treasures in heaven. We do not know whether our lives will be overall comfortable or difficult or how people will treat us for our beliefs. We do know that God watches over us and that we will experience blessings in heaven for the good things we do for him.
Is Heaven Real?
The Bible tells us what we need to know, but not necessarily everything we would like to know. This is an important point to understand when it comes to heaven because the Bible doesn’t tell us lots of things about heaven. For example, there’s no Bible verse that tells us outright whether animals go to heaven.
However, the Bible does indicate that heaven exists. 1 John 2:17 tells us that whoever does what please Gods will not die but live forever, and Hebrews 11:16 lists people in the Old Testament who followed God by faith because they were expecting to reach a heavenly country. Paul in Philippians 1:21-24 says that if he dies he gains because even though he will be separated from the Christians he cares about, he will be with Jesus. So while the Bible routinely affirms that heaven is a real place.
What Does the Bible Say Heaven Will Be Like?
The Bible does give us a few details about what heaven is like. In heaven, people wait for Jesus, who will transform their bodies into glorious ones like his own (Philippians 3:20-21). It also talks about a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13). This new heaven and new earth will come into existence after a final resurrection (Daniel 12:2) followed by a final judgment where those who trusted in Jesus will be rewarded for their efforts and those who rejected Jesus will be punished (Matthew 25:31-46). So, it looks like our souls go to heaven after we die, and after the final judgment, the existing heaven and earth will either be replaced or refined (the word “new” could be mean resurrected in the original language).
When we arrive at the new heaven and new earth, it will be better than anything we can imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). We are often tempted to think of heaven as a place in the clouds where we don’t do much of anything. The Bible tells us that in the final resting place we will have renewed bodies and work to do which will be joyous. We will have finally become what we were designed to be at first.
3 Reasons 'Better Is One Day in Your Courts' Gives Christians Hope
It Keeps Us from Comparing Ourselves to Others
Sooner or later, all of us will compare ourselves to other people and wish we had more. Other people may make more money, have nicer cars or better reputations, or just seem to “have it all together” in a way that we don’t. Remembering that a day in God’s court is better than anything else brings us back to remembering we will find peace in doing what God designed us to do. Popularity and prosperity contests will get us nowhere but serving God and keeping him first will lead to something great.
It Shows Us Our Work Has Meaning
Some of the Korahites were doorkeepers, others were part of the temple’s praise music team. We tend to think of the first job as “servant work” and the second job as “important work for God.” However, Psalm 84 shows that both jobs have values. Theologians have argued that when we look at how the Bible describes good work; we realize that God gave us talents and work for a reason: to use them well. So, any time we are using our God-given talents well, we are serving God. So, although we shouldn’t neglect worship services in church, doing “church things” like leading worship is just one way to serve and honor God. This frees us up a lot. We don’t have to worry that we aren’t doing enough for God because we aren’t going on mission trips or pastoring churches or leading worship every Sunday. We can serve and worship God with our everyday service.
It Keeps Us Grounded
Even when we aren’t comparing ourselves to other people, there will be days when things just don’t go well. It’s easy to get distracted by those rough moments. Remembering that serving in a lowly position may actually be better than a cushy life in a mansion shows us that our perspectives are not always right. God’s ways are not our ways, and what we see is not always accurate. Learning to get past our own perceptions and look for God’s view of life will bring us much more hope and joy in the long run.
It will always be easy in this life to neglect worshipping God or to misunderstand what it means to worship God in the first place. Christians find their peace in spending time with God and doing things for him. Even doing lowly tasks for God is better than doing something comfortable yet sinful. Because we honor God when we do good work for his glory, we can serve him in many areas that aren’t “church-related.” While we don’t always get rewards for our good actions in this life, we know that doing them contributes to God’s kingdom and that we will see the rewards for our effort eventually.
Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/drserg
G. Connor Salter is a writer and editor, with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University. In 2020, he won First Prize for Best Feature Story in a regional contest by the Colorado Press Association Network. He has contributed over 1,000 articles to various publications, including interviews for Christian Communicator and book reviews for The Evangelical Church Library Association. Find out more about his work here.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
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