Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
“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
In this verse, so full of riches, we have the spiritual ambition of the psalmist, and the notable thing is how his single purpose resolves itself into two parts. Just as the single seeds of many plants separate themselves out into two seed-leaves, and just as the sunshine, that most fruitful unity, breaks up, to put it roughly, into light and heat, so the spiritual ambition of the psalmist, of which he is speaking in this verse, reveals itself under two different aspects. One thing he desires of the Lord, and then that one thing shows itself as two things. He yearns to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His holy temple. And from this, we gather that beholding and inquiring are but different aspects of one life, vitally interwoven with each other. They are not contrary nor contradictory like day and night or cold and heat. They are related elements in every life that is hungering and thirsting after God. All the experiences of the soul in its inward rest and never-ending searching may be summed up in beholding and inquiring.
The Desires of Every Christian
One notes, first of all, how spiritual life runs down its roots into beholding. “We beheld his glory, full of grace and truth.” “Behold the Lamb of God.” There are three desires in the heart of every Christian one is to run his course with honour. The second is to endure, without embittering, the bitterest that life can bring. The third and deepest of the three is this, to be always growing more like the Master in inward character and outward conduct.
Now tell me, what is the Gospel way towards the achievement of these deep desires? It is not speculation nor philosophy. It is a way within the reach of every man. To run with honour, to endure the worst, to be changed into the likeness of the Lord–all of them are based upon beholding. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus.” “He endured as seeing him who is invisible.” “We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.”
David was not a dreamer. He did not covet a temple-life of idleness. He wanted to run well and to endure and to be transformed into a glowing spirit. That was why, beset by sin, he cried with all the passion of his heart, “One thing have I desired–to behold.”
Inquiry Follows Beholding
The next suggestion of the words is this, that beholding is always followed by inquiring. We see that in every sphere of life and not only in the region of the spirit. Think, for instance, of the stars as they shone down on ancient man. For ages, in those dim and distant days, man must have been contented with beholding. But just because he was a man, made in the image of God, he could not rest in any mere beholding. He began to wonder and wondering inquired. What were these lamps glowing in the heavens? Who kindled them? Who kept them burning? Did they have an influence on human life? Did they foretell the destinies of mortals? So man, confronted with the stars of heaven, first beheld the beauty of the Lord and then inquired in His holy temple.
Or, again, think of the world of nature that lies around us in its beauty. Touched with the finger of God, man has beheld that beauty in a way no beast has ever done. No dumb creature has any sense of beauty. The scenery makes no difference to it. The oxen, knee-deep in the pasturage, never lift their eyes up to the hills. One great difference between man and beast is this, that man, and man alone in this creation, has beheld the beauty of the Lord. The sunlight as it glances on the sea–the flowers that make beautiful the meadow–the haunting mystery of the deep forest–the lake, the lights and shadows of the glen–such things have touched the heart of man and moved him and thrilled him into song in a way no dumb creature ever knew. Just because man is man one thing is true of him–he beholds the beauty of the Lord. But just because man is a man and not a beast, he never can rest content with mere beholding. There is something in him, the breath of his Creator, impelling him to ever-deepening wonder until at last in that wonder he inquires. “Hath the rain a father, or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it” (Job 38:28-29)? So science is born, and all theology, and growing insight into the ways of God–because beholding is followed by inquiring.
Inquiries Are Answered by Beholding
There is one other relationship to mention, for without any question David knew it. The gladness of the spiritual life is that its deepest inquiries are answered by beholding. Let any man inquire after God, for instance, eager to know what kind of God He is, longing to be assured that He is Love so that He may be absolutely trusted–well, there are many ways that such a man may take in the hope of answering that deepest of all questions. He may examine the arguments for God, or he may read biography or history; he may turn to the reasonings of philosophy or rely on the pronouncements of the Scripture. But, my dear reader, there is another way–it is what the Bible calls a new and living way: he can behold the beauty of our Lord. He can behold His love and carry it up to heaven and say, “That love of Jesus is the love of God.” He can behold His care for every separate soul and lift that up to the heart to the throne. He can behold His loyalty to His friends and His pardoning mercy for the guiltiest sinner, and then he can say, “God is just like that.” Do that, and what a difference it makes. God is no longer cold and unconcerned. He is love. He actually cares. He will never do His children any harm. “We beheld His glory, full of grace and truth, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father.” The agonized inquiries of the heart are answered–by beholding.