Psalm 27:4

Sermon preached on July 23, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

One of the most famous pictures from the space program was taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts. Apollo 8 was the first spacecraft to go to the moon. At Christmas 1968 it was sent to the moon to orbit it for a few days. The way that I heard it was that the opportunity for the famous picture came as a complete surprise. When they arrived in the moon's vicinity they went behind it and on the far side they fired their engine to slow them down and put them into an orbit around the mood. It was when they first came out from behind the moon that they were greeted by the famous scene. It was the first earthrise ever seen. The earth rose above the surface of the moon and it was spectacular. There was the beautiful earth appearing just above the surface of the moon. One of the astronauts quickly grabbed his camera and snapped a picture. That picture is one of the best you will ever see. In it you have the blackness of space and the barrenness of the moon contrasted with the beautiful earth. Jim Lovell, one of the Apollo 8 astronauts, described the moon this way,

"The Moon is essentially grey, no color; looks like plaster of Paris or sort of a grayish beach sand."

The moon looked very uninviting. It was rocky, littered with huge craters. But then, there, in the distance, standing out in complete contrast to the blackness of space and the barrenness of the moon, stood the beautiful, beautiful earth. You can see the blue of the oceans, the swirl of the white clouds and the outlines of some of the continents. It was absolutely gorgeous.

On Christmas Eve the crew of Apollo 8 took turns reading from the first 10 verses of Genesis and Frank Borman, closed with these words,

"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with, Good night, Good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

He described it as the 'good earth'. I think they realized, as they never did before—how beautiful the earth was.

One of the great tragedies of this life is that none of us appreciates the beauty of God as we should. The Bible tells us that God is exceedingly beautiful. 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 tells us His preeminent desire—the one thing that He prized above all others—to be in God's presence and to enjoy His beauty.

The main lesson for you is that

your greatest desire should be a greater presence of God.

The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is: What is man's chief end? The answer is: Man chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. We must not miss the last part of that—to enjoy Him forever. God is eminently enjoyable. To be in God's presence, (for His people, this does not apply to non-Christians) is pleasurable. It is the height of happiness and joy.

You'll remember
Peter's reaction when he saw Jesus' glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. In Matthew 17:2 we read that Jesus,

"was transfigured before them.
His face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became as white as the light.
Just then there appeared before them
Moses and Elijah,
talking with Jesus."

In response Peter said, (Matthew 17:4)

"Lord, it is good for us to be here."

He felt the blessedness, the joy, the happiness that came from close contact with the glory of Jesus.

It was the same way with
Moses when he had close contact with God. You'll remember that Exodus 33 tells us about how Moses met with God face to face when he went into the Tent of Meeting. Whenever Moses went into the tent the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance while the Lord spoke to Moses. Do you remember Moses request as a result of those encounters? He said, (Exodus 33:18)

"Now show me your glory."

Moses' contact with God, seeing him, as it were, face to face, was not enough for Moses. He desired more. He saw something of the beauty and glory of God and He wanted more.

One of the great teachings of Scripture is that it is wonderful for God's people to be in His presence. This is what we see in our text. William
Plumer paraphrases David's words this way:

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

David want to be with God, in His presence because there was beauty and joy there. Derek Kidner writes, (Psalms 1-72, p. 120)

"this is not an ambition to be a priest or Levite but to enjoy the constant presence of God which is typified by their calling."

David want to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. The Hebrew word translated 'beauty' means, (KAB)

"to be lovely… to be pleasant, delightful"

To be with God and see Him is delightful.

David also tells us that he wanted to
seek God in His temple. The Hebrew word translated, 'seek' has connotations of examining carefully, of scrutinizing, of looking and reflecting on what you see. (KAB) He wanted to look upon God and because He knew that He would be enthralled by what He saw.

God's beauty is glorious and infinite. You'll remember that Moses could only see God's back. God hid him in the cleft of a rock and covered him with His hand and His glory passed by—it's was only then that God removed His hand.

There's really nothing that we can compare God's beauty to. You Christians are going to be in heaven for eternity, gazing on the beauty of the Lord. You will never be able to comprehend all the beauty of God, because He is infinite.

Albert Einstein, who told us that time was relative, once said,

"Spending a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour, while spending an hour with a beautiful girl seems like a minute."

This past week I read a sign that said in part,

If you want to be happy for a hour—take a nap. If you want to be happy for a day—go fishing. If you want to be happy for a month—get married."

Happy for a month? The beauty of a beautiful woman may enthrall a man for a month, or perhaps longer. But the beauty of the Lord enthralls forever.

How wonderful it is to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, to examine carefully, to reflect on Him—and be filled with happiness, satisfaction and delight. David's great desire was to be in God's presence, to gaze upon His beauty, to carefully look upon God in His temple.

We see this repeatedly in Scripture. In
Psalm 84:10-11 we read,

"Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper
in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
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."

In Psalm 73:25 Asaph says to God,

"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you."

John Calvin says that the psalmist there,

"declares that he desires nothing, either in heaven or in earth, except God alone, and that without God, all other objects which usually draw the hearts of men towards them were unattractive to him."

We see much the same thing in Psalm 45, a great Messianic psalm, about the glories of Christ. He wrote,

"My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword upon your side,
O mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in behalf of truth,
humility and righteousness;
let your right hand display awesome deeds."

Calvin says of Psalm 45,

"under this figure the majesty, wealth, and extent of Christ's kingdom are described and illustrated by appropriate terms, to teach the faithful that there is no felicity greater or more desirable than to live under the reign of this king, and to be subject to his government."

God is beautiful. He as absolutely glorious. Think of Isaiah's vision that is described in Isaiah 6. We wrote,

"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."

Recall the scenes of God's throne that are described for us in Revelation. In Revelation 4:2f we read,

"At once I was in the Spirit,
and there before me was a throne in heaven
with someone sitting on it.
And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.
A rainbow, resembling an emerald,
encircled the throne.
Surrounding the throne
were twenty-four other thrones,
and seated on them were twenty-four elders.
They were dressed in white
and had crowns of gold on their heads.
From the throne came flashes of lightning,
rumblings and peals of thunder.
Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing.
These are the seven spirits of God.
Also before the throne there was
what looked like a sea of glass,
clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne,
were four living creatures,
and they were covered with eyes,
in front and in back.
The first living creature was like a lion,
the second was like an ox,
the third had a face like a man,
the fourth was like a flying eagle.
Each of the four living creatures had six wings
and was covered with eyes all around,
even under his wings.
Day and night they never stop saying:
'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.'
Whenever the living creatures give glory,
honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne
and who lives for ever and ever,
the twenty-four elders fall down
before him who sits on the throne,
and worship him who lives for ever and ever.
They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
'You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.'"

Shortly after follows what in my mind is the most sublime verse in all of Scripture. Revelation 5:6,

"Then I saw a Lamb,
looking as if it had been slain,
standing in the center of the throne,
encircled by the four living creatures and the elders."

Jesus is the portal though which redeemed sinners can see and experience beauty and glory of God. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:6,

"For God, who said,
'Let light shine out of darkness,'
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

A few weeks ago we looked at the criminal on the cross and his request for Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus replied, (Luke 23:43)

"I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise."

What sublime beauty. What love. Jesus, the creator of all things, dying for a wretched, miserable sinner.

Now what does this mean for us?

First, for everyone here—your greatest desire, your greatest good—is in drawing close to God, enjoying His presence.

David wrote,

"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."

It's our greatest joy, our greatest delight, our greatest good. There's nothing like gazing on the beauty of the Lord. Draw close to God through Jesus.

Remember how Moses' face shone when he came down from the mountain after talking with God? He was made glorious. If you draw near to God you will experience what we read about in
2 Corinthians 3:18. Paul wrote,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

Christians, draw close to God and become transformed by Him.

Secondly, for Christians,

how you should value and put a high priority on church gatherings.

We're not sure when David wrote this psalm. Some think it refers to his exile during Absalom's rebellion. Others refer it to when he fled because of King Saul was trying to kill him. We don't know. But it refers to some point where David was forced away from God's sanctuary. 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."

If that happened to you, would you miss the gatherings of God's people?

John Calvin writes,

"'Surely,' some may say, 'he could have called on God beyond the precincts of the temple. Wherever he wandered as an exile, he carried with him the precious promise of God, so that he needed not to put so great a value upon the sight of the external edifice. He appears, by some gross imagination or other, to suppose that God could be enclosed by wood and stones.' But if we examine the words more carefully, it will be easy to see, that his object was altogether different from a mere sight of the noble building and its ornaments, however costly. He speaks, indeed, of the beauty of the temple, but he places that beauty not so much in the goodliness that was to be seen by the eye, as in its being the celestial pattern which was shown to Moses, as it is written in Exodus 25:40, 'And look that thou make them after this pattern which was showed thee in the mount.'"

The earthly sanctuary was patterned after the heavenly one. Hebrews 9:23-24 reads,

"It was necessary, then,
for the copies of the heavenly things
to be purified with these sacrifices,
but the heavenly things themselves
with better sacrifices than these.
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary
that was only a copy of the true one;
he entered heaven itself,
now to appear for us in God's presence."

David appreciated the sanctuary because it was a copy of the heavenly.

Where is the presence of the Lord today? Of course the obvious answer to that is in you. In Corinthians Paul told Christians that their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God is with us and will never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

Nevertheless, we should not think that it's not important for us to gather with other Christians nor take advantage of the means of grace that are dispensed in the gatherings of God's people. God's presence is with His people when they gather in His name—it's there to bless, to enrich, to show Himself. Charles
Spurgeon wrote,

"To behold the beauty of the Lord. An exercise both for earthly and heavenly worshippers. We must not enter the assemblies of the saints in order to see and be seen, or merely to hear the minister; we must repair to the gatherings of the righteous, intent upon the gracious object of learning more of the loving Father, more of the glorified Jesus, more of the mysterious Spirit, in order that we may the more lovingly admire, and the more reverently adore our glorious God."

The third lesson we learn from this verse is that

One of the best ways to deal with the difficulties of this life is to focus on the beauty of the Lord.

Derek Kidner writes, p. 121,

"the best answer to distracting fears… (is) a preoccupation with God's Person and His will."

That's what we see in Psalm 27. The Lord is my light and salvation, who shall I fear. We see the same thing in Psalm 73:23f. We read,

"Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever."

For those of you who are not Christians you should realize that

there's a problem with sinful man seeing God.

The Bible tells us that no man can see God and live Ex 23:18, 20. Indeed, before this glorious beauty the angels cover their faces with their wings Isa 6:1-2. For sinful man to see God is profoundly threatening. Isaiah said, "Woe to me."

But we can see God through the cleansing work of Jesus. In Isaiah 6:6-7 we read that after Isaiah became terrified because he saw that he was not fit to be in God's presence,

"one of the seraphs flew to me
with a live coal in his hand,
which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
With it he touched my mouth and said,
'See, this has touched your lips;
your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.'"

Because of Jesus and His work for us—we can dwell with God. Go to Jesus today—experience the joy, the satisfaction, the contentment that comes from walking close to God.

Lastly, for Christians,

What a calling you have.

God is beautiful. There's nothing like knowing Him, experiencing His transforming power.

The world doesn't know anything about that. Sadly, we often do a poor job of showing them this. You Christians who know God, who are supposed to be transformed by Him—who are supposed to show others Christ living in you—do you do that? Do you do everything without complaining or arguing, (Philippians 2:15f)

"so that you may become blameless and pure,
children of God without fault
in a crooked and depraved generation,
in which you shine like stars in the universe
as you hold out the word of life"

You have a great calling. As the apostle Peter told us in 1 Peter 2:9,

"But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises
of him who called you out of darkness
into his wonderful light."

Christians, gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Be transformed by it, then go out and show others that beauty.