Moving From Distraction to Godward Action
He had recently been anointed to be the next king. Yet his circumstances looked bleak rather than bright. The news of his great defeat of his nation’s rival enemy was still rippling out through the kingdom, yet he was running for his life from an oppressed—and often possessed—king who was jealous to keep himself on the throne. On top of all of that, he was shut out from the House of the Lord, the subject of gossip and slander, and separated from his family and friends.
This is just a glimpse of the context behind Psalm 27, an ancient song co-authored by the Holy Spirit and King David. And while his very life and future were being threatened amidst a period of great difficulty and darkness, it was out of this dire situation that the cry for one thing emerges from the heart of David. We find this cry at the apex of the Psalm in verse 4, which powerfully and succinctly declares:
“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.” (Psalm 27:4, ESV)
Asking and Seeking
Of all the things David could ask the LORD for, he asks here for one thing. On one hand, his life is being threatened by enemies and he has been rejected by his own family. On the other hand, he holds the promise of future wealth, influence, power, and status as the next king of Israel. Yet the cry of his heart is not for comfort, the destruction of his enemies, or for his path to kingship to be quickened. All of David’s affections and desires are bound up in this one thing. Here we find desire and action working together towards a singular pursuit.
In his seminal commentary on the Psalms, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Divided aims tend to distraction, weakness, disappointment…the man of one pursuit is successful.” So how can we, like David, move from distraction towards Godward action? The remainder of verse 4 gives us one action described by three words that we can intentionally choose to commit to right now. Like a three-corded strand, these three words forge within us a strong and single-minded pursuit that will persist through distraction and set the course for ongoing intimacy and fruitfulness with the Lord.
Dwell, Gaze, and Inquire
David’s first desire is to “dwell” in the house of the Lord. This word means to remain; abide; settle; endure; inhabit; sit down; or be still. The reference to the “house of the Lord,” or temple, points our attention to the manifest presence of God. However, it should be noted that this desire of David speaks not just of an individual encounter with God, but of a return to a communal experience of worshiping God together with his people. Notice as well that his desire is not seasonal or circumstantial—it is lifelong.
Next, David declares his desire to “gaze” at the beauty of the Lord. The word gaze means to perceive; contemplate with pleasure; or to have a vision of something, or in this case, of Someone. Beloved, God is beautiful! But in order to know that, we need to get to know what He is like. Now what if we were just to read over Psalm 27 and ask ourselves the question, “Who is God?” What would we find? To name just a few things we would see that God is: light; salvation; strong; a refuge; beautiful; gracious; a helper; faithful; teacher; deliverer; leader; and good.
Lastly, David expressed his intention to “inquire” in God’s temple. Here the word inquire means to inspect; admire; search out; or consider closely. Other translations use the word “meditate” instead of inquire, but either way, the heart of the action is closely connected to Psalm 27’s closing admonishment to “wait on the Lord.” Distraction seems to come most intensely in a season of waiting. The word shows up twice in the repeated phrase, “Wait for the Lord”, the bookends of verse 14. This Hebrew word, qavah, has a root meaning of being bound together by twisting. Additionally, the connotation is given of collecting, expecting, and gathering together as one looks with patience, tarries, and waits upon the Lord. Waiting isn’t passive, but intentionally active. If David had to wait 15-20 years to become king, we will also have to wait. Yet waiting is one of God’s tools to cultivate intimacy with His people. Sometimes what God wants to do in a time of waiting is just as important, or even more so, than what you are waiting for. So be strong and take courage!
Sometimes what God wants to do in a time of waiting is just as important, or even more so, than what you are waiting for. So be strong and take courage!
Pursue His Presence
We could summarize the heart of Psalm 27:4 in this way: pursue the presence of the Lord. Yet here is the key to seeking or pursuing after God’s presence: God is the initiator, not us. Verse 8 reveals this awe-inspiring dynamic when it says, “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face Lord, do I seek.” A.W. Tozer had it right when he said that “before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man…We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.” The Scriptures say that David was “a man after God’s own heart,” yet that is only possible because God is a God who was after David’s heart. The same is true today for each of us! God is pursuing you! So ultimately our pursuit of God is first and foremost about recognizing, surrendering, and then responding to God’s pursuit of us!
Let’s take a moment here to expose a lie the enemy of our souls tells us. Being distracted does not mean God is disappointed with you. We often succumb to a mindset that we just aren’t good enough for God, and that we will never prove ourselves worthy of the Lord’s love. We don’t pray enough, read our Bible enough, give enough, serve enough, etc…But God’s loving pursuit of us is not based on our fluctuating and inconsistent behavior, but upon the solid rock of His unchanging character.
God’s loving pursuit of us is not based on our fluctuating and inconsistent behavior, but upon the solid rock of His unchanging character.
Contrary to what seems best on the surface, it’s most practical to pursue God’s presence, because it’s in those moments of holy and intimate communion with your Creator that your complexities are met with His clarity, your chaos is swallowed up with His calm, and your uncertainties are eclipsed by the certainty of His promises. It’s in His presence where you are delivered from the paralyzing need to achieve and produce, and can instead rest in His perfect peace to receive and abide. God’s pursuit of us can reframe our distractions as a pathway to return back to attentiveness to God’s presence.
God’s pursuit of us can reframe our distractions as a pathway to return back to attentiveness to God’s presence.
So ask yourself, what has your attention? What is occupying your mind? What is demanding your time? Psalm 27 invites us to dwell, gaze, inquire, and turn all these things over to the Lord in order to rest in the presence of the God who knows, and loves you. Beloved, God is not distracted. He has a resolute focus on actively pursuing you until He has all of you. For in that, He is glorified, and in our pursuit of Him, we are satisfied.
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