What does it mean to have the Lord’s favor? What kind of “favors” do we ask of the Lord, and on what basis? Do we even ask?
Psalm 27 is a beautiful psalm of petition and praise of God’s salvation. Like so many psalms, this one deals with real life fears and pressing dangers. In light of the circumstances there is a “preaching to oneself” through prayer and praise continually. We should note this discipline in our present difficulties. However, the discipline to preach to ourselves through prayer and praise will only be God glorifying, and personally satisfying, if we understand the desired end.
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.
David has a single-track mind, a focused sight-line…to be with the Lord.
A little over a year ago I went in for an eye exam and still checked out with 20/15 vision. The only caveat to the good report was that, while my vision at a distance was great, as I transitioned from long to short-range vision, the transition and focus was taking longer and longer. After the doctor put that lens contraption on my face, that made me look like a borg, I was astonished at the clarity of near text and the ease of transition from long to short-range. So, a trip to Walgreen’s later, I had my first pair of readers.
Pain is like that.
David’s “one thing” pursuit is only increasingly focused through suffering and the threat of even death. David first of all fortifies his resolve to trust God (v.1). In asking the questions, he answers with truth…God wins. This 1-2 punch of honest praying and faithful self-preaching, leads to a confidence (v.3). This “confidence”, derived from the truth of God’s word, is like putting on reading glasses.
With clarity, in the light of the pressing evil, David can say that he wants to be with God more than anything. More than deliverance or battlefield victory, David wants God. More than the comforts of a throne or royal courts, David wants God as his shelter (v.5). Basically, David sees God as “home” and present difficulty only focuses His passion and vision for that end. And like previous psalms, verse 6 shows how this singular, future passion works out to present-tense praise and worship.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “ Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
The favor that David seeks from God is God Himself. God had previously commanded David to “Seek my face” and David is asking God, in the midst of real hardship, to strengthen him to obey the Lord’s command. This gives us an interesting, and very clear, cross-section of important truths:
- Suffering causes us to pray.
- Our prayer should be what we know to be God’s will (the Word).
- Our petition in the midst of trouble should be obedience.
- We know that there is future deliverance, but if there is present deliverance, it serves to only bolster our passion to want to be with God, NOT to make this world a more comfortable home.
I don’t know what your difficulty is (I know mine). I understand that fighting for meaning in pain is wearying, at least until you learn what David understood. Whatever the 1000 other (sub)reasons we suffer, the singular reason is to provoke in us a resolute passion to want to be with God (privately in devotion, corporately in church, eternally in His presence). Don’t stop praying in your suffering until you can say, “I want this one thing, Lord. Do me this one favor. I want you. YOU.”
Now, one more thing. This all sounds nice, and all, but when unemployment lingers for a year, or the cancer doesn’t go away, or you feel abandoned and alone, how can this passion be sustained?
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
Be taught. Have the Word of God before you in private devotion, meditation, Scripture memory, and prayer. Have the Word of God explained to you through the preaching of the Word in a faithful local church. Bring the Word of God to bear on another’s life through discipleship, because teaching others teaches you. The Lord will instruct you through present difficulty so that you can accomplish His will of pleasure in His presence. This is important, because as the evil / enemy persists, you forget truth. Be taught, and you will be regularly reminded.
When God’s truth saturates, it eventually penetrates. When it does, you believe. When you believe God, you believe some really big things!
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!