David’s words in Psalm 27:4 are about a fixed investment for your life on earth. It’s an investment in a person—the one person mentioned by David in each of the three parts of this verse: the Lord. Our own endurance in life depends on whether we also give this kind of emphasis to him.
David said his one request was first of all to dwell in the house of the Lord. To dwell is to be at home—to find shelter, rest, and security. I’ve been traveling as much as fifty percent of my time in the last several years and I find that home is the most wonderful place of all. I don’t have anything of great value there, but it is home. After I carry my luggage up those stairs and get unpacked, I think, Oh thank you, Lord, forgiving me this home. I crawl into my own bed that night and I thank him for giving me a comfortable, warm place to sleep when there are many others in the world who have nothing.
When I start thinking about a vacation, I used to envision exotic places of the world. Now I think about that little flat in a very ordinary suburb of London called New Malden. If I could only keep the phone and the door bell from ringing, that’s where I’d like to have my vacation.
Yes, home is a wonderful place—but especially the home of the Lord. To dwell in his house means to experience that bond with him in which he is the master of the house, the one who takes it upon himself to provide for us, care for us, comfort us, and share his heart with us.
To be happily at home with the Lord means being eager to please him and do what he desires. This is what Jesus asks of us in John 14:23—”If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Have you ever traveled or lived with someone who insisted on his ideas all the time? If you did it once you wouldn’t want to do it twice. And we certainly can’t be that way ourselves in the house of the Lord. It isn’t even a matter of blending our wills together, but of saying, “Your will is mine, I will do what you want me to do, please show me your will.”
It’s always safe to entrust yourself to the Lord. Sometimes we think if we’re too agreeable someone will take advantage of us, but Jesus doesn’t. His dwelling is a place of acceptance. Why is it that we often reveal our true selves more at home than anywhere else? We’re more irritable there, more critical, and lazier. I’ve often been disappointed with myself when I go home because these traits come out. But I realized not long ago that I’m this way because my family accepts me so much. Whatever I do, I will still be loved and accepted. That’s no excuse for being critical or lazy, but when we feel accepted we can really be who we are. And this is the way the Lord accepts us. We can be our true selves with him.
Also in Psalm 27:4 we see David’s desire to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of his life. He wanted it to be a lifetime situation. Homes seem to break up very easily these days, but we need to continue dwelling with God all our lives.
What will we be like in five years? Ten years? Twenty years? Maybe it’s easy for you to be zealous and committed to the Lord now. Perhaps you’re in your twenties and you’re still idealistic. But it’s a little harder in the thirties, and it can be even harder later—to maintain the same commitment and dedication and vision and love. No one is immune to having his love grow cold.
It’s possible to get into a routine of Christian activity and yet miss out on a heart relationship with Christ. Many Christians start out well, fewer end well. Something goes wrong with their first love for Jesus, or with their faith in God’s word. Paul expressed his disappointment with the Galatians, saying, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7). Who is to blame? Well, only one person can hinder me from running the Christian life well, and that is me.
David said his desire also was to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Is the Lord beautiful to us? What do we see of him?
In my travels I encounter many Christians who find it difficult to have a balanced view of God. They either look upon him as a very loving, permissive, indulgent father—anything goes, he’ll understand—or a harsh judge waiting for us to make the least mistake so he can pounce on us. But God is a perfect balance of grace and truth, love and justice.
In recent years I’ve been concentrating on really seeing Jesus in the Gospels. And it’s wonderful to behold his character, his behavior, his words, his purpose. I used to hear old saints speak about the Lord and I thought, That sounds too pious to be true, that Jesus is such a wonderful person. I love the Lord, yes, but to be so enthralled with him—I can’t visualize that. But it’s happening to me, praise God. The more I see him, the more beautiful he becomes. I have seen how he had such a perfect balance in all areas of his life on earth, in his social life, his spiritual life, the way he could relate equally to all kinds of people in all situations.
Are we afraid of becoming too spiritual? Do we ever find ourselves a little hesitant to unreservedly commit an area of our life to the Lord for fear of what he might require? Then we haven’t seen him in his beauty yet. When the temptation comes to question, to doubt, to fear, we need to stop and think about him, and say, “Lord, yes, you are perfect, you are beautiful, you are trustworthy.”
At the end of Psalm 27:4, David said his desire was to seek God in his temple. What an attitude of learning David had! He wanted to discover all he could from God.
We see this attitude also in verse eight of this Psalm: “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.” And in Psalm 86:11—”Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth.”
C. H. Spurgeon said our visits to God’s house should be “inquirers’ meetings” in which we “inquire as to the will of God and how we may do it.” It seems that we often ask for his will, but we don’t ask how we should do it. More likely, we ask what his will is and then we ask people how we should do it.
I think we need to be careful not to box God in by following a lot of formulas on how to do everything. That will suppress our creativity and stifle God’s voice. It’s just a warning I give, because the American culture is noted for this how-to mentality.
Jesus said, “Come to me, learn from me, I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-29). Why are we doing what we do? Is Jesus the object of our activity? Are we developing a heart for a person—the Lord? Are we gaining understanding of a person—the Lord? Are we obeying a person—the Lord?
The kind of heart and prayer David expressed in Psalm 27:4 really pays off in time of need, as we see by his confidence in the next verse: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling.” We will know where our security lies.
When we get into trouble we cry out to God in a way we don’t do when things are going well. So I’ve been asking the Lord to help me rely on him each day as if I were in desperate trouble. I can’t say I have attained this, but it’s something I strive for.
I know the feeling of desperation. A few years ago a friend and I were vacationing at the ocean. I’m not a very good swimmer but I was out there trying, and my friend was walking along the beach by the hotel. The current began to wash me out to sea, and I yelled and struggled as much as I could. I could just feel I was going, and I was exhausted. I was absolutely petrified. I thought my life had been too short for me.
Finally after a few minutes, or an hour—I don’t know how long it was—I let my feet down and touched bottom. The current had washed me down near another area of the beach, and I was safe. But I tell you I had certainly prayed and cried for help, and only the Lord heard me. No one else did, but the Lord is enough.
David said, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek.” He concentrated his desires on the one thing that would really count. Jesus told Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:41-42). Her sister Mary recognized the one thing: sitting at Jesus’ feet, learning from him, enjoying his fellowship. If this one thing is not there—putting Christ first—the rest of life is badly affected.
Spurgeon said, “Service is an outflow of life, rather than life itself.” Our good works, our good service, may fall apart if we don’t have Christ in the center of our heart and desires. He is our life.
We might have expected David to seek after other things. He was often in dire circumstances. He might have asked for peace, for safety, for honor, or for comfort. But he set his heart on the Lord.
Let us be men and women characterized by clear priorities—men and women who are investing our lives first of all in knowing God. In the midst of activity and the many demands which all of us face, let us understand that our relationship with the eternal God determines who we really are.