“One thing have I desired 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 behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.“
As with the Psalm 26, where David expressed his love for the habitation of God’s House, the Psalmist in this place makes the worship of God the ultimate desire of his life. As we travel out of lock down, after a time when public gatherings were closed to us, God is reminding us of the true value of meeting with God’s people in His house, with stirring and memorable words, from a Psalm, which I must confess is my favourite.
DAVID’S DESIRE FOR THE LORD’S HOUSE
1: PASSIONATE DESIRE
This was David’s ONE desire, the one object that filled his mind and permeated all of his ambitions – to dwell in the house of the Lord. This Psalm reveals that David had many problems and trials as he was writing. He compared his enemies to cannibals who seemed fierce enough to pick the flesh from his bones (v2). In the third verse he related the hosts which were arrayed ominously against him. Yet – his one desire was not for the defeat of his foes, for the vengeance of God, for the preservation of his own life even. Oh no – his first priority which trumped all other concerns was the ambition to know God through worship.
This is true passion for God. Any ambition which takes precedence over the natural instinct for survival is born out of true love.
In the midst of life with our many concerns, worries and fears may we be filled with such an all consuming passion – to know God.
2: PRAYERFUL DESIRE
This desire that David had was expressed through prayer. He desired of God that he would dwell in His house. This perhaps indicates that he was cut off from worship through the regular ordinances by virtue of the persecution he was experiencing. The Psalm may have been written when he was being hunted by Saul. It is also possible he penned these words when Absalom had driven him from his palace and seat of Government in a terrible act of rebellion. In both cases He was hunted and accused wrongfully as he was in this Psalm. David when surrounded with murderous foes, their sharp swords and forked tongues was cut off from the means of grace and it grieved his soul. Therefore he prayed for a return to the sanctuary.
We have felt a little of this pain, when we were unable to gather in this fashion, and we prayed then for a return to God’s House. But we continue to feel the pain for those who even yet cannot assemble publicly for the worship of God. Therefore we pray for circumstances which will make it possible for all of God’s people to assemble on the Lord’s Day. This situation which prevents us from gathering as one body, without singing, and without being able to distribute and receive the Sacrament is far from perfect. Therefore we must continue to pray for an end of this virus – so that God’s people can resume the normal and regular business of worship.
But in praying for a return to God’s House – David was desiring a preparation of heart and soul in order that he might meet with the Lord. Even when away from God’s House he was spending his time in communion with the Lord, in order that he might be prepared in spirit.
The desires are what we truly are. Desires, become thoughts and thoughts become actions whether they be good or bad. It was David who wrote in the Psalm 37 – “delight thyself in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart”. Therefore a life of living and dwelling in the presence of God, through our private devotions and personal testimony cultivates godly desires which will make the season of public worship all the more precious.
3: PERMANENT DESIRE
This desire that David had was permanent. He wished to dwell in the House of God all the days of his life. While it was physically impossible for him to dwell in the Tabernacle all of the time, nevertheless he wished for this spirit, this desire to never leave his soul. And most importantly he never wanted to be cut away from the means of grace ever again. There is a desire for consistency here that we ought to take to heart. Solid Christians are dependable and earnest, consistent and reliable – predictable in the best sense possible because their zeal and love for God is so constant…I know that God’s dear people who still are unable to worship God with the corporate assembly are feeding off this desire for God, which never leaves their souls despite the circumstances in which they find themselves.
4: PURPOSEFUL DESIRE
Now we come to the climax of the text. This one thing that David desired of the Lord all the days of his life was bent upon knowing more of God. The temple was not erected so he was certainly not motivated by the grandeur of the place. God continued to dwell beneath fabric, as he had done since the days of Moses. David was a man with true spiritual sensitivity who wanted to behold and see the beauty of the Lord. This was his desire.
As we worship among God’s people this is the purpose – not merely to be with others, not just to occupy our accustomed place, not to perform ceremonies or even to listen to sermons. We come to see the beauty of the Lord. Every praise, every prayer, every sermon, every time we taste the communion wine and feel the broken bread on our tongues, even every conversation as we leave God’s House should lead us to Christ.
I came across these words written by James M. Boice on Psalm 27:4, written in 1994 (hence the reference to audio tapes!) but even so they couldn’t be more relevant.
“There is something to be experienced of God in church that is not quite so easy to experience elsewhere. Otherwise , why have churches? If it is only instruction we need, we can get that as well by an audio tape or a book. If it is only fellowship, we can find that equally well, perhaps better, in a small home gathering. There is something to be said for the sheer physical singing of hymns, the sitting in the pews, the actual looking to the pulpit and gazing on the pulpit Bible as it is expounded, the tasting of the sacrament, and the very atmosphere of the place set apart for the worship of God that is spiritually beneficial. Isn’t that true? Haven’t you found a sense of God’s presence simply by being in God’s house? I do not mean to deny that God can (and should be) worshipped elsewhere. But I am suggesting that that the actual physical worship of God in the company of other believers can be almost sacramental”
Sitting at home watching an online broadcast is not the same as sitting among God’s people in His house. We have proved that to be be true. We are thankful for the ability to be able to reach our people with God’s Word, we are so glad that those who are unable still to worship can share our ministry and yet we all are aware that communing with the body of Christ is impossible without our public gatherings.
Richard Sibbes the Puritan preacher talked about God being everywhere, filling heaven and earth and yet being especially present when His people gather, in such a way that is not true anywhere else. For that reason the House of God becomes the very gate of heaven itself.
Oh how beautiful Jesus Christ is!!! He is the bridegroom, the all-together lovely one, He is the Good Shepherd, the Saviour, the bright and morning star, he is the alpha and omega, he is the King and Kings and Lord of Lords, he is the Lamb of God, he is the Son of God. He is my lover, the lover of my soul. He is my shield and my defender, He is my exceeding great reward. David had experienced something of the Lord’s glory, commencing the Psalm with the testimony
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, the Lord is the strength of my life”
This knowledge of God had such a profound impact upon him, he was a man at peace – I shall not fear he cried out despite my enemies because the Lord is with me. Though all be darkness He is my light, though I am weak yet I will be strong through Him. This only served to whet his appetite for more of the Lord, more of his glory, more of his beauty.
We too live in a dark world yet we will never be in darkness as long as we have the Lord, we have peace in our hearts knowing that He is our strength and our song, therefore on account of this we yearn for him, we long for him.
But there is something else besides. Do we not sense our spiritual barrenness today. Where there is drought the streams dry up, the river beds are exposed. The country is longing for water. We long for the presence of God because without His presence we are a barren people.
His purpose was not just for the Lord’s beauty but he wanted to enquire after Him. There was a seeking of the Lord, and this theme runs throughout the entire Psalm concluding with David’s great encouragement that we should with courage wait on the Lord. He didn’t speak of courage to face his foes but he did refer to courage when seeking God. This is because it takes great strength of character to lay every worry and fear down at the feet of Jesus Christ. If he is such a wonderful Saviour then He is present to listen to us, to carry our crosses, to sympathise with our woes, to mend our brokenness, to heal our backslidings, and grant every request that is conformed to His will. This is walking with God. This is faith.
In the Scriptures we read of people who yearned for God. Moses pleaded for the glory of the Lord, the woman of Shunem took to running to the prophet after the child of her old age died (testifying that all was well even though her heart was broken), the Syrophenician woman cried out after the Lord even though the disciples discouraged her, Mary and Martha came to Jesus in sorrow and with questions and the Apostle Paul simply, said, “that I might know him.”
Tonight in His house let us be encouraged to wait on Him.