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…
"The noblest study of mankind is man." Such an oft-quoted, widely accepted dictum at least requires challenge. Is it? On thought, challenge gives place to denial. The noblest study of mankind is not man at all, but God. The knowledge of ourselves and our brethren is very valuable knowledge. Without it there can be no wisdom, But still more urgent and important is it for us to know and understand our common Father. Without this there can be no salvation. When Charles Kingsley lay dying, his daughter, coming quietly into the sick-room, overheard him softly repeating to himself the words, "How beautiful God is!" Kingsley was a true worshipper because he was a lover of God. He had felt and responded to the attractiveness, winsomeness, graciousness; in a word, to all the "gathered delightsomeness" of the Divine character. Have we so learnt God in Christ? Note the purpose that inspired the psalmist's prayer. He longed for further visions of God's beauty — "to see the beauty of the Lord." Strictly speaking, beauty is that property, or, rather, assemblage of properties, in a person or object that delights the eye, and satisfies to the full the keen sense of vision. But as the mind and soul possess what corresponds to the organs of vision in the body, by common consent the same word "beauty" is used to describe all those qualities which charm man's intelligence and make successful appeal to his heart. In our daily speech we not only talk about beautiful faces, and beautiful prospects, we speak of thoughts, dispositions, and deeds as beautiful, too. So that there is no incongruity in using this term to set forth the attractive character of God. Of the God of the Christian, the God of the Bible, it is true not only that "honour and majesty are before Him," but also that strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. So that if we have not yet seen the beauty of the Lord the reason may be that we have not been looking at the right God. I am afraid that Amiel's description of God as the "Great Misunderstood" is pathetically true.
1. Misunderstood doctrines account for much misconception. That most misunderstood doctrine of the Atonement accounts for most. There is a painting in a Continental church which illustrates this. God the Father, with angry face, is seen leaning over the battlements of heaven, aiming the arrows of His wrath at the hearts of men below. In the mid-distance His Son Jesus Christ is shown looking upward in the direction of the arrow-shower, running to meet them, catching them in His person, or breaking them with His hands as they fall. What a travesty of Christ's atoning work! Our salvation took its rise in the Father's heart, and we behold the beauty of the blessed God in the face of Christ on the cross as nowhere else.
2. Another reason why we have not yet beheld the Divine beauty may be the condition of our sight. Spiritual beauty appeals to the eye of the soul, and we know not that we are blind. Eyes we all have, but some of us see not. One of Goethe's characters complains that his soul has only feelers. That might be true at that period of his history, but he started with eyes. The power of spiritual vision is a birthright. And yet how many there are who are groping after God, instead of meditating on His seen glory. They need the opening of the eyes of the heart, which is God's gift of grace.
3. A further reason of our failure to see God's beauty is our impatience and hurry. It takes time to behold.
(A. O. Sauderson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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 inquire in his temple.