“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Verse 4
There is a great danger with this Psalm! It has a number of really familiar phrases that often get dislocated from the broader context and used as evidence to support a certain view of church and church life. However, when these different parts are left hanging together, the picture is truly amazing!
David begins the Psalms with some probing questions, which essentially go like this? Will God be my light, my salvation and my stronghold and if so, is there anyone I should fear? Clearly this leads us to the simple answer – “No”! However, if your life is anything like mine, it is slightly more complex than just a simple declaration of truth. That truth needs to be lived in the gritty reality of daily life and that’s where David directs our attention to next.
David’s gritty reality of daily life was pretty shocking. He had the wicked advancing against him with the sole purpose of devouring him! If that was not bad enough, his enemies have gathered around in such a way that he is besieged on all sides, meaning there is no natural means of escape! He was scuppered!
David has not yet finished; in fact what he says next is the key to living with great confidence in the wonderful truths of verse 1. Whilst walking through the battlefields of verse 2-3, David says “one thing I ask of the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Here David gives us a life posture (or way of living) which has three aspects to it:
Dwell – not fleeting dashes into a religious building, hoping to curry favour with God for your latest crisis. No, it’s a life dwelling with God. Since moving to Great Yarmouth, I love talking to people who have ‘dwelt’ here their whole lives. Why? Because they are filled with ‘lived knowledge’ about the place. Tiny facts that a newcomer like me would miss, suddenly gets revealed. Why? Because they are people who have made their home here. David says, even in the midst of crisis and battles, I want to be someone who dwells with my God. What about you?
Gaze – To gaze upon something is to fix your attention on something to the point where other things ‘fade’ into the background. David is showing us that to live in the midst of the battle we need to learn how to cultivate a gazing heart upon our God. This type of gazing will be through reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, having a listening and attentive heart, and learning from others in the church family. Only when God becomes the central focus of our lives will other things fade into the background, enabling us to live victorious lives. Are you cultivating a gazing heart?
Seek – This is a deeply relational word, because David says he longs to be able to seek God. To be a God seeker, we not only need to engage our time (dwell) and attention (gaze), but our whole hearts. David is showing us that to live in the midst of the battles of life, we need to resist the pull of other things that are trying to win the battle for our heart. Worry, anxiety and stress are often signs that other things have gained the upper hand in our hearts. David is saying, that in the midst of all of this onslaught, he wants to give his heart to seeking after God. What about you?
Notice the result of living a dwelling, gazing and seeking life?
“Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me…” (v6a)