"One thing have I desired 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 behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)
All true religion is a personal matter and is between the soul and God. No one goes to heaven to know Who and what God is for the first time--what He is as God, as a Friend, as Father, as a Helper. You will never go to heaven unless first of all you know the Lord here. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent." Whatever your profession, it is a vain profession unless it rests on his knowledge of God. Therefore it is a terrible thing to be ignorant of God, to be without a desire for God. For this is the beginning of experimental religion, and the desire is implanted in the soul by God Himself. The sinner who is exercised as to his standing for eternity looks within, and sees only sin, only distance from God, and says in effect 'I fear that where God is I never shall come.'
This felt distance increases, and this desire increases, until it becomes a predominant desire. It becomes the one thing above all others necessary for peace and happiness. There is a looking forward to the time when God will say to some "Depart from Me, I never knew you," and to others "Come in...inherit the kingdom prepared for you." Real religion often begins in desire--desire to be found among God's people as one of them through life and through a never-ending eternity, and finds expression in the lines:
"How can I bear the piercing thought,
What if my name should be left out,
When Thou for them shalt call."
Where these exercises are found the possessor of them will never be satisfied with an empty profession of religion. To have God in the heart and conscience. His blessed presence in the soul, is the one thing sought after; for which earthly things, however sweet, cannot be a satisfying substitute. Bless God if He has set your feet this way and has put this desire in your soul, for it is the desire of the righteous which is only good, and which He will in due season fulfill.
The word desire suggests a distance, a want for something not yet possessed or reached. It is a great blessing to know where we are in experience; not left to imagine we have something which actually we do not possess. What is this one thing the Psalmist desired and was graciously determined to seek after? "That I may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." There was a time when he could confidently say in Psalm 23 "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever," but it is now his desire.
This house of the Lord is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man. (Hebrews 8:2) He is called a "habitation" in the Scriptures. "Because thou hast made the Lord, which is My refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation. (Ps. 91) A habitation is more than a lodging where we live only for a time and then move. We dwell there; it is a home. When we are away from home we look forward to getting back. The thought of home at the end of our journey keeps us going, especially when the way is hard and rough. No friend's house has quite the same atmosphere of home. There is nothing intimate about it. And so the Psalmist says 'I want to dwell here in God, in Jesus Christ, in the House of the Lord. Lord, do bring me here, here is my rest. I want no more to be a stranger or a guest, but a happy pardoned child at home.' To dwell, not to lodge, is to have a fixed and permanent habitation. In Psalm 65 the Psalmist desires to be satisfied with the goodness of God's house. I do not think we are really right in calling churches and chapels, bricks and mortar the house of God, except as the place is made so by His divine presence and glory. Jacob had only a stone for his pillow when God appeared to him in a dream, but the place was sacred to him. God blessed him there and he called it "none other than the house of God." To be satisfied with the goodness of His house is to be satisfied with the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In Him there is the atonement to save and cleanse, a righteousness to meet the demands of justice, divine power and love that meets all a needy soul can want. Says a poor person, feeling their own foolishness.
"Engage this roving, treacherous heart,
To fix on Christ, my better part."
Now, if you are seeking this house in which to dwell, God has given you light and eyes to see, and he that seeketh shall find. You may say 'I have not that abiding, pressing concern that some people speak of; I do not feel the judgments of God in my conscience as others have done.' Well, if you lack strong convictions you lack a good thing, but if you have a desire and a concern wrought in you that increases and grows if you feel a longing and desire after this house, this Jesus Christ, a desire that nothing else will satisfy, and sometimes have encouragement from the Scriptures, and perhaps also from the ministry; I would say 'follow on and after these things.' The promise is on your side if you are saying 'this is the one thing I have desired of the Lord.'
But also the house of the Lord sets forth the Church of God. Paul says in Hebrews concerning Christ"...as a Son over His own house, Whose house are we..." And the one thing desired by an exercised soul is to be found amongst the people of God, amongs those whose names are in the book of life.
"Give me, O Lord, a place
Within Thy blest abode,
Among the children of Thy grace,
The servants of my God."
Like Ruth they often feel they are not like one of His. God has said of Zion "This is My rest for ever, here will I dwell. I will abundantly bless her provision, I will satisfy her poor with bread." (Ps. 132) And this soul pants after Him, for the provisions of His house in a gospel ministry, church fellowship and the children's privileges and blessings. This is their home, the gathering of the family, and in this family they desire to dwell through life here on earth and in heaven through eternity.
The Psalmist speaks of two reasons for desiring to dwell in the house of the Lord. The first is "to behold the beauty of the Lord." This beauty is Christ. He Who was to the Church "the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely." Beautiful is His love--love that found its expression when He poured out His soul unto death. The beauty of afflictions sanctified by His sympathy. The beauty of His pardoning grace and forgiving love. The beauty of His power put forth on behalf of His tempted and tried people. The beauty of His faithfulness and His promises. In one's early experience we do not perhaps regard this beauty so much, but with increasing years and its infirmities and increasing knowledge, there is a beauty in the promises which enables us to come before Him and say "Thou didst say." "Do as Thou hast said." The beauty of heaven in that word "Where I am, there shall also My servant be." The beauty of the Scriptures, and particularly the 17th chapter of John. If we have been with Jesus and learned of Him there is nothing to be compared with this beauty of the Lord. It is a foretaste of heaven to see this. Do you remember poor Yeddie, the Scottish idiot boy, as he returned from his first communion, his face lighted with joy yet marked with solemnity. When other lads spoke to him he said "Ah, lads, dinna bid Yeddie talk to day...I have seen yon lovely Man. Dinna ye speak, but just leave poor Yeddie to his company.
The second reason is "That I may enquire in His temple." A living soul has many enquiries. Lord, if I have life why am I thus? Why is it I have so little faith and bring forth so little fruit? Indwelling sin, a foolish mind and wandering heart give much cause for enquiry. Enquiry at times as to what the Lord would have us do in a path of trouble; enquiry as to what the Lord will be the issue of it. "Wait of the Lord, be of good courage." Friends cannot help us, and one fears to seek earthly advice and fleshly help. "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God." Unbelief says you will never get an answer, but faith looks beyond and enables one to hold on and still enquire of the Lord. One says,
"That were a grief I could not bear,
Didst Thou not hear and answer prayer.
But a prayer-hearing, answering God,
Supports me under every load."
Is there anything you cannot manage? Well, He has all things under His control. He is wisdom, love, faithfulness. All blessings are treasured up in Jesus Christ, this temple of God. He ever lives to intercede, He is the advocate for His people. He is our High Priest. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted as we are, though without sin. You may sometimes enquire in vain of the creature, but you will never enquire in vain in His temple.
"Christ has blessings to impart,
Grace to save thee from thy fears;
O the love that fills His heart,
Sinner, wipe away thy tears."
May the Lord keep us all in this blessed way of desire, for He will fulfill the desire of all them that fear Him. He will satisfy the longing soul, and fill the hungry soul with goodness. (Ps. 107:9) Amen.