It's a good day for this verse: "How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts off the LORD, my heart and flesh sing for joy in the living God." Ps. 84
That first phrase always makes me think of Mendelssohn.
Check out the next verse:
"Even the sparrow finds a home, and swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God."
Yeah, me too. The temple altar. The place where animals were killed and burnt to a crisp, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year long.
What in the world is David really saying here? It's impossible for a bird to build a nest on the temple altar, even for a day, much less long enough for eggs to hatch and young to mature.
But David knew that altar was a temporary thing. Someday the sacrificial altar would be defunct, unnecessary, replaced and made obsolete by a better one: the cross. Jesus is the final, permanent sacrifice, and what a relief that must be to the animals of the world! (Haha - see, even the PETA people should love Jesus :)
Seriously though, what an image! A cold altar, no fire having touched it for centuries, a place of absolute peace. No violence will be performed there because all the violence was unleashed on our Jesus. Is there a place more peaceful than a nursery? (Well, some moms might disagree!) Let's say, a nursery with sleeping children. Sleeping birdies. Little eggs. The mother bird can leave them there, after they hatch, to retrieve food.
In other words, the temple altar is the safest place in the nation, because of Jesus. And David saw all this, 1000 years ahead of time. He understood the promises, the weakness and impermanence of the OT sacrificial system. He knew the altar would be abandoned.
Isn't it amazing what the Scriptures can offer us, in one little verse?