Psalm 27:4

What are the most important things in your life? If I asked you to make a list of the 5 most important things in your life—what would be on your list? I'm sure that all of our lists would contain things like family—your wife, your children, your grandchildren. I'd include my job, my home, my health. That's four. What would the fifth be?

David's list is interesting and instructive. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he puts something as number 1 on his list that might not appear in our top five—indeed, it might not appear even in our top 10. David wrote, (Psalm 27:4)

"One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
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 seek him in his temple."

David told us that this was his greatest desire. W.S. Plummer says of David's words, (Psalms, p. 354)

"I have desired one thing preeminently, I have desired it so much that in comparison I have desired nothing else."

This means that

one of your greatest desires should be to meet with other Christians in worship and experience the beauty of the Lord.

This psalm was written when David had to flee from King Saul. John Calvin writes,

"although David was banished from his country, despoiled of his wife, bereft of his kinsfolk; and, in fine, dispossessed of his substance, yet he was not so desirous for the recovery of these, as he was grieved and afflicted for his banishment from God's sanctuary, and the loss of his sacred privileges. Under the word one, there is an implied antithesis, in which David, disregarding all other interests, displays his intense affection for the service of God; so that it was bitterer to him to be an exile from the sanctuary, than to be denied access to his own house."

This is incredible. If I was deprived of my wife by having to flee for my life—I would be devastated. Your spouse is a great support, help and comfort to you. They are such a strength to you—spiritually, emotionally, psychologically. To be deprived of your wider family—your parents, your children, brothers and sisters—that too, would be a great loss. To be deprived of your home, your possessions, your livelihood—again, those things would be devastating losses.

But what did David regard as his greatest loss? It was not being able to gather with God's people around the tabernacle. Calvin says that David, (Sermon on Psalm 27:4, Faith Unfeigned, p. 53)

"expressly states that his greatest pleasure is to join the congregation of God's people, so that, as he declares his faith, he may be built up by the word of salvation which is there proclaimed, and by the sacraments."

We see the same thing in Psalm 42:1-4. David wrote,

"As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been
my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
'Where is your God?'
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession
to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng."

David mourned when he was removed from the temple service, from being about to gather with God's people in their worship. David loved the public worship of God. In Psalm 26:8 he wrote,

"I love the house where you live,
O Lord,
the place where your glory dwells."

And in Psalm 84:1–4 the sons of Korah wrote,

"How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
O Lord Almighty,
my King and my God.
Blessed are those
who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you."

The great lesson for us is

how much you should value the public worship gatherings of God's people.

Through David, the Holy Spirit is showing us how much we should highly esteem the worship of God with our fellow Christians. We ought to appreciate the times when we can worship together with God's people. Some Christians have had this removed from them. Persecution arises and suddenly they are not able to meet with other Christians. It's only then that they realize how valuable it was.

So many professing Christians today treat the gathering together of God's people for worship as if it were a take it or leave it thing. You all know of professing Christians who don't make it a habit of attending church. It's unbelievable.

I know of one congregation that has a policy that if you don't attend church for a year, and you don't have a good excuse—the elders will meet with you and if you don't start attending church they'll remove your name from the roll. There's one guy in that church that knows about that rule. Do you know how often he goes to church? Once a year. How little he values the fellowship of the saints. He greatly impoverishes himself. We do the same if we neglect the public worship of God or if we are inattentive when we are gathered together for worship.

The second thing we see from our text is the reason why David wanted to attend the house of the Lord—

he wanted to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek Him in His temple.

What does it mean to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord? We need to be clear on this because in our worship we should seek to experience the beauty of the Lord. From the book of Psalms and other parts of Scripture it's clear that to behold the beauty of the Lord means

to contemplate His character, His works, His will and to rejoice in them.

This is important. Many churches today don't believe what the Bible teaches about God's character, His works or His will and yet they claim to be worshiping Him. People are indulging in open sin and yet they vigorously maintain that that they are truly worshiping God. They care nothing for His Word, but they say that God is pleased with their worship. But that cannot be. In Psalm 66:18 the psalmist declared,

"If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;"

We saw a few weeks ago that worship must be sincere. In Matthew 15:7–9 Jesus said to the religious teachers,

"You hypocrites! Isaiah was right
when he prophesied about you:
'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are
but rules taught by men.' "

But many of the psalms, which show us so much about worship—celebrate the character, the works and the will of God. They show us what gazing on the beauty of the Lord consists of.

It is clear that God's character is part of His beauty because in so much of the worship of the Psalms the writers take delight in God's character.

In Psalm 29:1-2 David encouraged people to worship the Lord because of His character. He wrote,

"Ascribe to the Lord,
O mighty ones,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord
the glory due his name;
worship the Lord
in the splendor of his holiness."

Worshiping the Lord is the splendor (or as the KJV puts it, the 'beauty') of His holiness is a consistent theme in Scripture. (See also 1 Chronicles 16:29, 2 Chronicles 20:21, Psalm 96:9) Holiness is part of the beauty of God. This is also clear from Isaiah 6, from Isaiah's vision of God. Isaiah wrote, (Isaiah 6:1–4)

"In the year that King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a throne,
high and exalted,
and the train of his robe
filled the temple.
Above him were seraphs,
each with six wings:
With two wings they covered their faces,
with two they covered their feet,
and with two they were flying.
And they were calling to one another:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.
At the sound of their voices
the doorposts and thresholds shook
and the temple was filled with smoke."

The seraphs were celebrating God. You could say that they were celebrating His beauty. One of the primary things they are focused on in His beauty.

We see the same thing in the heavenly scenes of worship in Revelation 4 and 5. The four living creatures never stop saying, (Revelation 4:8)

"Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come."

Other expressions of worship in that heavenly worship celebrate God's works, in creation and in salvation. These things are the beauty of the Lord. We see this in the worship in the psalms as well. Psalm 66:5 says,

"Come and see what God has done,
how awesome his works in man's behalf!"

In Psalm 138:5 the psalmist wrote,

"May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great."

Psalm 77:12,

"I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds."

Psalm 107:43 says,

"Whoever is wise,
let him heed these things and
consider the great love of the LORD."

God's will is also part of His beauty.

According to David himself, when he consider the beauty of the Lord he delighted in God's will, in God's way. In Psalm 119:55 David said to God,

"In the night I remember your name,
O Lord,
and I will keep your law."

The name of God is associated with His character. Consider David here in Psalm 27, what does He tell us? In verse 11 he says to God,

"Teach me your way, O Lord;"

Part of the beauty of God is His character, His will. In Psalm 119:10–11,

"I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you."

And in Psalm 119:72 David declared,

"The law from your mouth is
more precious to me than
thousands of pieces of silver and gold."

In all of these it is clear that part of seeking the beauty of God is seeking and delighting in His will.

That seeking God's beauty includes His will is clear from the fact that the psalmists tell us that God rewards those who keep His commands. Psalm 84:11 is typical.

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless."

And in Psalm 15:1–4 we read,

"Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless and
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,"

Let's draw three lessons from this.

First, when you come to worship, play close attention to what the Bible says about the character, the works and the will of God.

Dwell on these things and delight in them.

If we don't do that, we don't see the beauty of God. If we reject any of those things—we are not worshiping God but a figment of our imagination. It's so easy to do that. It's easy to slip into idolatry and worship a god that is partly based on what the Bible teaches, and partly on what we would like God to be like. But we must not do that. We are not to pick and choose what we believe about God. In worship we are confronted with the Holy One. There are things in Him that scare us. But we are to worship God for those very things—for the reason they scare us is not because these things aren't part of God's perfections—but because we are such sinners. What that means is that we need to change. God doesn't need to change—we do.


through the power of the Holy Spirit ask God that His beauty will transform you.

In 1 John 3:2–3 the apostle John wrote,

"Dear friends,
now we are children of God,
and what we will be
has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope in him
purifies himself, just as he is pure."

If you see God, if you see His beauty—it will change you.

Why are you here? You're here to be changed, to be transformed, to be made like God, to be renewed in His image, to learn what love, what holiness, what goodness really are. When you come to worship, expect God to change you. His beauty, that you read about, that you hear preached, that you see in other Christians—is meant to change you. John Calvin writes, (Sermon on Psalm 27:4, p. 67)

"We need to understand that we have benefited from the teaching only when we have been truly remade for God's service."

You come here to be changed—to be remade. Seek to do that.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian,

what you need, more than anything else, is to experience the beauty of the Lord.

Right now you're being enthralled by the glitter of things that aren't really beautiful—the things of this world that sin has marred and corrupted. It's fool's gold.

In God is fullness of life. In Him is true beauty, beauty that transforms through Jesus Christ. Go to Jesus today and you will find beauty, joy, contentment, and everlasting satisfaction. Accept Him today.