Today’s Scripture: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: 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 inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
In 1991 a movie came out that is widely considered to be one of the funniest in movie history—“City Slickers.” The movie is about three men who find themselves in the throes of a midlife crisis who take a trip out west to participate in a two-week long cattle drive. Though the movie was a comedy, it also sprinkled in unexpected tidbits of wisdom and insight. In one particular scene, Curly, the old cowboy played by Jack Palance, and city slicker Mitch, played by Billy Crystal, leave the rest of the group to search for stray cattle. Although they clashed for most of the movie, riding along they finally connect over a conversation about life. Suddenly, Curly brings his horse to a halt and turns in the saddle to face Mitch. Their conversation goes something like this:
Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?”
Mitch: “No. What?”
Curly: “This.” [He holds up one finger.]
Mitch: “Your finger?”
Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that everything else don’t mean anything.”
Mitch: “That’s great, but what’s the ‘one thing?’”
Curly: “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
Whether the writers of the script knew it or whether they did it unintentionally, what they wrote was true. Many things may be important in life, but there can only be ONE THING that is most important. And this is what the Bible says. All of life can be boiled down to just one all-important thing. Above everything else, ONE THING matters in life, and this ONE THING is to be the sole focus and direction of our life—to love God. Jesus said:
Matthew 22:37-38—“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.”
There is only one way to be satisfied in life. Only ONE THING matters and that ONE THING is this—glorifying God by loving Him supremely.
David was a worshiper. He is the only person in Scripture of whom it is said was “a man after God’s own heart.” That means that he loved what God loved. He was passionate about God and diligently sought the heart of God. From this verse, I want us to look at what David specifically said was his ONE THING that he desired above everything else.
1. The passionate DESIRE of a worshiper (27:4a)
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek…”
By way of context, most Bible scholars seem to think that this psalm was writer by David during those early years when he was a fugitive on the run from Saul. Saul had put David at the top of his hit list, thus subjecting David to unjust persecution and slander. David opens up in Psalm 27 by expressing his faith and confidence in the Lord. Though man persecuted him, he had no reason to fear. Though the wicked had come up against him and though his enemies set up camp against him, David expressed his confidence in the Lord God. In verse 4, he opens up further and shares what his deepest longing is. He tells us what he desired most in life. Amazingly, though he had been mistreated and harassed, his greatest desire was not to be spared from his enemies. And though he had been forced to make his home in the wilderness, his greatest desire was not a plush feather bed in the palace. David’s greatest desire was intimate, personal, and close fellowship with God. He wanted to be in God’s presence above all else.
All of us have desire within our heart. By and large, our desires determine our direction in life. In other words, what a person desires most in life is what he or she lives for. What you want most determines how you think, how you spend your time, and how you use your resources. Desire is something that has been placed within us by the Creator. Desire is not a bad thing by itself, but sin has taken its toll on our entire humanity, therefore affecting our desires.
Augustine—“Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in Him.”
Desire was planted in the heart of man so that he would desire God. But sin has so tainted and corrupted desire that we desire everything else BUT what we were made to desire.
C.S. Lewis—“Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
What we desire the most reveals what we truly love the most. And ultimately what a person does with his or her life will be driven by what he or she wants the most. What you desire most will drive what you think about and how you spend your time, and ultimately your life’s direction. David says, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek.” We always set out to SEEK what we DESIRE.
2. The permanent DWELLING of a worshiper (27:4b)
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…”
The word “dwell” literally means to remain, abide, or continue. The difficulties that David had been facing paled in comparison to the deep desire that he had to experience the presence of God more fully in his life. By longing for the tabernacle or the house of the Lord, it only reveals the intensity with which he is seeking God Himself. He longs to be where God is! It speaks of the depth of loving in his heart to know God and walk with God. Notice that he wanted to dwell in the house of the Lord “all the days of my life.” He wasn’t content to worship God simply on the Sabbath. He didn’t attend worship at the tabernacle merely out of a sense of duty and tradition. No, he wanted to worship God each passing day because that was where he found his treasure. Jesus said:
Matthew 6:21—“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Our treasure reveals our pleasure. What we value the most reveals what we love the most. And what we love the most is really what we worship. David found his dwelling in the house of the Lord, meaning that he derived his joy in life from the presence of the Lord. And this was true all the days of his life. David found his strength in life from spiritual joy, not natural supplies.
Richard Baxter—“May the living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving Him, and delighting in Him, may be the work of our lives.”
When we assemble as the church, our praise and worship is motivated by the joy and happiness we find in Christ. If, then, our worship is dry and lifeless, what does that tell us?
We always PRAISE what we truly ENJOY. God is not worshiped where He is not loved, treasured, and enjoyed. To say to Him that something else satisfies you more than Him is the essence of idolatry. There is no worship in the life of a person where He is not the ONE THING. When we worship as a church, our gathering ought to be referred to as a worship celebration instead of a worship service. Even the way we refer to the gathering of the body shows subtle disdain. It speaks of how we view worship as our DUTY rather than our DELIGHT. When we truly enjoy the Lord and He is the desire of our heart, praise and worship will spill over in response to all that He is. Praising God is the overflow of enjoying God.
3. The pleasurable DEVOTION of a worshiper (27:4c)
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: 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 inquire in His temple.”
We derive pleasure from that which we see as being beautiful. The psalmist’s desire was to behold the beauty of the Lord. The word “behold” literally means to gaze upon or to contemplate, and it does not refer to merely a passing glance. It conveys the idea that David was held in wonder at the thought of beholding the beauty of the Lord. Such wonder is the basis of all worship.
In many ways within the church, we are no longer struck by the wonder and mystery of God and His revelation of grace. In the average church, worship is organized, worship is planned, and worship is rehearsed. But no longer is it WONDERFUL. Where there is no wonder and no passion in worship and loving God, there has been no vision of God’s beauty. We need to get back to a vision of the One we worship! David longed to gaze upon the Lord’s beauty. Another way of saying it would be to say, “I long to behold God’s glory.” David wanted to see the glory of God. He wanted to experience the MANIFEST PRESENCE of God. In Fact, the manifest presence of God should be the consuming passion of the believer’s heart and the driving passion behind every time the church gathers for worship. To behold the beauty of the Lord means that we stand in awe of Him. To be held in such wonder demands that we possess a child-like spirit. When the beauty of the Lord becomes our all-consuming passion, then we worship. But until then, what we call worship is nothing but meaningless activity.
This is what Jesus said to the Pharisees:
Matthew 15:8—“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
In fact, the word He used to describe them was “hypocrites.” The dictionary defines “hypocrisy” as going through outward motions that signify affections of the heart that are not really there. Worship is all about an affair of the heart. Deep within your heart and your soul, the true worshiper is caught up with the beauty and glory of God. Knowing Him and loving Him is the utmost desire in the life of the true worshiper.
When the beauty of the Lord came crashing upon his heart like waves on the seashore, the response would be serving the Lord. The word “inquire” in Hebrew means to plough. We often get this reversed in the Christian life. We try to do things FOR God while neglecting spending time WITH God. The end result will always be frustration and dissatisfaction. Therefore, worship must precede work! Submission comes before service! Enjoying God’s presence always precedes experiencing God’s power! When the ONE THING is all that matters in our life, then we know that we are right with God. And in order for Jesus Christ to be Savior of your life, He alone must be the ONE THING of your heart.
Dallan Forgail was an 8th century Irish poet. Dallan was not his first name, but was a nickname that meant ‘little blind one’ which was given to him after he lost his sight due to intense study. His passion was learning, but he soon found that blindness prevented him from what he loved most. But upon surrendering His life to Jesus Christ, he found a new passion and a new purpose. He expressed his newfound passion by writing these words:
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”