A Reflection on Psalm 27:4b

Jeremy Purvis, Ruling Elder

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.

In this Psalm, David asks to spend all eternity doing something he could never do on earth: stare unceasingly at God’s beauty. He knows that no man can see God and live (Ex. 33:20), but when he finally arrives in God’s heavenly dwelling, well, then his deepest desire will be fulfilled. He will finally be able to take in the resplendent radiance of God’s glory with his very eyes.

But did you notice that David asks for one extra thing? He asks to inquire in God’s temple. Some translations say seek. Others use the word contemplate or study. Besides gazing on God’s beauty, David wants to be in God’s presence in a perpetual state of searching. I think a lot about David’s second request.

I do research for a living, which means I spend most of my time trying to solve the same problem a hundred different ways. Occasionally, my team and I will have a breakthrough moment. By “breakthrough,” I mean an incremental advance of modest significance. Of course, the breakthrough only leads to more questions and more troubleshooting. Research is slow and tedious work.

I realize that this doesn’t sound like a fun job for most people. My children don’t show much interest in scientific research, and my wife is being polite and thoughtful when she asks about how things are going in the lab. But for the right person (you know who you are), a life of painstaking inquiry is a dream come true. The proverbial phrase, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know” is an exciting truth for those who love to inquire, because they can add to their personal wonder by simply learning a little bit more. Inquirers experience deep delight in knowing that there is infinitely much to know—even if they don’t know what they don’t know.

Which brings us back to Psalm 27:4b. David knows God is unsearchable in his beauty, power, and wisdom (Isa. 40:28, Rom. 11:33–36). He knows he could never begin to ascertain the full glory of the living God. It stretches too far and too deep. But maybe that’s exactly the point. Getting to know God in his infinite beauty and glory will require an infinite amount of time, and so we will need to spend forever in his presence to fully know him. If the Lord is unsearchable in his divine attributes, then to “inquire in his temple” is an eternity-long task. I think that’s a pretty solid request!

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