The One Thing
A meditation on Psalm 27:4
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
The psalmist David expresses his great confidence in the Lord in Psalm 27. Whether he is assailed by his foes or surrounded by his enemies David does not fail to recognize his only protection and deliverance in the Lord. No wonder his only desire, his one burning passion in verse 4 is to dwell in the house of the Lord: that he may be enthralled by the beauty and majesty of his God and Redeemer. He knows that in the mighty presence of God, under His protective care, no enemy is able to harm him. No evil can terrorize him. Nothing can cripple his living faith in the Lord.
In the midst of our busyness and challenges in daily life, it is always refreshing to go to the house of the Lord on His Day worshiping Him with His people, listening to the preaching of His Word and responding in joyful praise.
As a pastor one thing that gives me fresh air of God's presence is the Wednesday night Bible study at a member's house. We enjoy studying the Word of God meditating upon His glorious works in the gospel and savoring the beauty of His majesty. For two years, we were studying the amazing and life-transforming book of Revelation (that was on Saturday night). Just this month we started studying the book of Romans, the epistle about which John Calvin said, “When any one gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.”
Every opportunity to know God in Jesus Christ through His Word by His Spirit brings pleasure and delight into our souls that it makes us confident in God and His providence even in dark and difficult times. I praise the Lord that He gives us this great privilege to know Him more as we study His Word in church, in a small group setting, and in our own personal and family devotion at home. Regardless of our circumstance we ought to be continually captivated by the glory of God as He is revealed in the pages of the Holy Scripture.
Do you think it's being unrealistic to meditate upon the glorious attributes of God when life and ministry is becoming hard? Finding time to meditate on God’s majesty, much less making it the “one thing” to which all else is subordinated seems almost unimaginable when one’s life is falling apart. But it’s precisely when life is at its worst that focusing our hearts on Him is the most reasonable thing to do.
If you think David can say what he does in verse 4 because, as king over Israel, he is out of touch with the pains and problems of everyday life look closely at verses 1-3. What we discover there, in conjunction with what we know elsewhere concerning David’s experience, indicates that he didn’t lead an easy life. The shattering consequences of David's adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his murderous scheme with Uriah brought on him and the nation of Israel as a whole can hardly be imagined. That is why his resolution in verse 4 is so stunning.
In view of David's circumstances, one might have excused him had he opted for a little peace and quiet or perhaps a safe home away from his enemies and away from troubles. With all the struggles he faced and the heartache he endured most of us would be willing to grant David a sabbatical leave.
But look at verses 1-3 again and get a sense of what David faced, maybe even on a daily basis. “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Ps. 27:1-3).
He speaks of “evildoers” who “assail” him (v. 2). Their ravenous desire is to “eat up” his flesh (v. 2), a vivid description of their murderous intent. He speaks of “adversaries and foes” (v. 2) who sought every opportunity to destroy his reputation. He envisions an “army” (v. 3) of enemies encamped around him and “war” (v. 3) rising up to undermine his achievements. This reference to an “army” and “war” conveys the truth that no matter how great or threatening the danger may be, his confidence in the Lord never wavered.
In spite of these factors, he declares: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” If distress and trouble are as darkness, the Lord is his light! If trial and tribulation are as an army, the Lord is a mighty fortress! He is confident that God is able to protect him and save him from his foes.
Greater still is his undying aspiration to see and savor the beauty of God! “One thing have I asked of the LORD,” said David; “that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (v. 4).
When troubles come you and I are tempted to look for help and refuge in something or someone else somewhere. That thing maybe is our financial resources, which always isn’t much, or our skills and talents, which are not always reliable. Or in most cases we would be tempted to look to our family and relatives or our employers and masters for help.
David, however, fixed the focus of his faith on God: His uncreated beauty, His undeserving favor, His unfailing love, and His awesome power and majesty. He thought of one thing: to find a way to break free of routine entanglements that he might dwell in the presence of God; to avoid trivial activities that might divert his eyes from beholding God; to clear his mind of unnecessary details that he might meditate upon the beauty and splendor of God; to set aside less important tasks that he might bask in the light and glory of everything that makes God an object of our affection, delight and adoration.
I admit that aside from reading the Bible this year, I also enjoy (as I always do) reading J. I. Packer's “Knowing God.” I've read the book several times but every time I read it, I'm always fascinated by God, how He reveals Himself through Jesus Christ in the pages of the Holy Scripture. And it gives me that longing to know Him more.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord,” says King David, “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord...to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” In Psalm 145:5, David also makes the same point declaring: “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.”
I long for this unitary, single-minded resolve. Note in verse 4 how the future tense ("I shall seek") is combined with the past tense ("I have asked") to express an ardent longing which extends out of the past and into the future and therefore runs through his whole life.
Thus one writer says, “How utterly, absolutely, and incomparably practical this is! Nothing brings greater peace to the troubled soul than meditating on the majesty of God! Nothing puts life and its competing pleasures in greater spiritual perspective than a knowledge of the surpassing greatness of God as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ! Nothing empowers the will to make hard choices, often painful choices, to forego the passing pleasures of sin than does a view of the superior reward of knowing and enjoying the fellowship of our triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!”
It is my prayer that God will enable us to gaze upon His beauty as we seek to know Him in our daily walk with and service of Him. And may the knowledge of God embolden us to face every trial that comes ahead of us.
PRAYER: Oh, Father of glory, make us a people of one thing! Give us one heart, one mind, one all-consuming passion for your name! Daily may we find you to be our life-giving light in the midst of today’s darkness. May we, like your servant David, find comfort in You as our light, salvation and stronghold. You grant sanity and peace in the midst of trouble and chaos. Bring us to Your presence by Your Spirit where our faith is strengthened and our fears are stilled. Bless our souls with Your life-giving Word, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray. Amen.