By Mark Kreitzer
Faculty, College of Theology
In Psalm 27:4-5, the King of Israel makes the most fundamental request any human being is able to make when he says, “I ask to live in your presence every day of my life.” Some might ask why this is so foundational to our lives as Christ followers.
It is precisely because Yahweh, the Ever Living One, is our life and in his presence alone is everlasting joy and pleasure, as David says in an earlier Messianic Psalm predicting the resurrection of his greater Son. He declares, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).
The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus, our King in the royal dynasty of this same David, “is our life.” When he returns, “we will come with him in glory” just as he is glorified now. Consequently, when we are now in his presence by the Spirit, we can “gaze” upon him until we see him face-to-face – not literally, of course.
“In Christ” we can figuratively gaze upon his “pleasantness” or “graciousness,” as two translations respectively render verse 4 (JPS 1917, YLT). However, his true “beauty” as most English versions translate the verse, is not visibly seen in the case of the Father, who dwells in unapproachable light and who no one can ever see.
John reminds us of this in John 1:18. We “see” the Father only in the God-man Jesus. Again, it is not the physical handsomeness of Jesus that we see, but in Christ Jesus we see our Father’s delightful and pleasant graciousness, joy and peaceful endurance with his people. He is the one throughout the history of Israel and into the present millennium who always stretches his hands out to his people, inviting us into his presence. But, so often we will not come (see Is 65:2; Mt 23:37-38).
David also declares in Psalm 27 that the Lord, who is one with the Father, is both our life and our only security. In an evil day of trouble and calamity, those who trust him can find safety by hiding in his holy presence, symbolized by the term “sacred tent.” In that tent, he sets us “high upon a cliff” as the Hebrew could be rendered literally. He alone is our “refuge and our fortress, our God in whom we trust” – not “horses,” tanks, “princes,” presidents, armies, stock portfolios, personal wisdom or relationships. Our Father, in whom eternally dwells his Word and Spirit, is the only strong and faithful One who is able to save and fulfill all of his promises.
In light of these truths, it is important to ask ourselves who and what we seek to find life. Do we look for it, along with protection or security, in anything or anyone other than the Father, who created all these other things? Or do we seek above all else to dwell in his house all the days of our lives? This remains the most fundamental question anyone can ever ask. When answered in the light of Scripture, it reveals the idols of one’s heart and graciously points us to the only One who is Life and gives life.
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.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock (Ps 27:4-5).
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