One Thing

Psalm 27:1 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?

2 When evildoers assail me

    to eat up my flesh,

my adversaries and foes,

    it is they who stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,

    my heart shall not fear;

though war arise against me,

    yet I will be confident.

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.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter

    in the day of trouble;

he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

    he will lift me high upon a rock.

6 And now my head shall be lifted up

    above my enemies all around me,

and I will offer in his tent

    sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;

    be gracious to me and answer me!

8 You have said, “Seek my face.”

My heart says to you,

    “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

9     Hide not your face from me.

Turn not your servant away in anger,

    O you who have been my help.

Cast me not off; forsake me not,

    O God of my salvation!

10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,

    but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD,

    and lead me on a level path

    because of my enemies.

12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;

    for false witnesses have risen against me,

    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD

    in the land of the living!

14 Wait for the LORD;

    be strong, and let your heart take courage;

    wait for the LORD!

Do you have something you really, really wish to see? Perhaps it’s a new movie release? My children beg me to see the latest movie from the Star Wars, Avengers or Frozen franchises and if we say yes we are the best parents in the world. Perhaps you have a bucket list of places or objects that you would like to see? Maybe it’s Cape Town, Jerusalem, New York City or London, perhaps it’s the art in the Louvre or the animals in the Kruger Park. Whatever it is it is remarkable how much of our lives are driven by a desire to satisfy our sense of sight. We want to see beautiful and meaningful things. People will spend days climbing a mountain to see the panoramic view from the top. Some will spend their life savings to see the incredible architecture in Europe or the splendour of the Serengeti. We will make great sacrifices to see loved ones. Those engaged to be married will see it as a small thing to travel many kilometres every day after work just to see their betrothed.

Did you notice what the primary theme for David is in Psalm 27? Sometimes it can be difficult to find what the main point or themes of a passage of Scripture are but every now and then the Holy Spirit makes it easy for us and the author tells us. It’s verse 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.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord.” Isn’t that remarkable? In our morning devotions I will ask the family if they have any special prayer requests and we normally end up with a list that includes school, wisdom for the President, a cure for the Coronavirus and that many people would be saved through this plague. All excellent, good and right requests but David has one primary, overarching thing, a one thing, that drives his life including his prayer life; “To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD.”

Most of you know that Augustine, the North African Bishop of Hippo, is one of my heroes. No doubt he had his errors, who doesn’t, but he understood something of David’s desire in this Psalm, more than anyone else I have read. Augustine loved beautiful things: beautiful philosophy, beautiful art, beautiful architecture, beautiful oratory and beautiful women but he realised that none of these things could satisfy him. He knew that he could only give up these things if there was something more beautiful to take their place. The only one more beautiful was the LORD. Augustine famously said that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in the Lord. Are you trying to find ultimate satisfaction in the beauty of this world? What is the one thing that you desire?

This desire of David to see the LORD runs through the whole Psalm. In verse 8 he says that he is seeking the LORD’s face and he ends the Psalm with confidence that he will see the LORD but he must be patient and courageous. If you have only read my words regarding Psalm 27 and not the Psalm itself, you may assume that this Psalm is some philosophical contemplation of the beatific vision (The vision of God that makes one happy) written in the ivory towers of academia. You couldn’t be more wrong! David is in a warzone, surrounded by enemies, even his parents have forsaken him. In the midst of this horror David desires to see the LORD, to see His face. Read any military biography or any great narrative such as The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, any story with a great and terrible mission and it will soon be obvious that the characters begin to long to see home, to see loved ones, it is what keeps them going. So it is with the Christian, we are in a battle, surrounded by enemies, seen and unseen, but we have a one thing that will satisfy for all eternity so be patient, strong and courageous.

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