One Thing Have I Desired

By Mike Willis

Dr. A. Dudley Dennison wrote, in his book Windows, Ladders, and Bridges pp. 101-102), the following comments about one’s priorities in life:

Not long ago, a survey was taken of men who had survived heart attacks in their forties. Most reported that these coronary episodes had made them confront, as never before, the whole question of life’s purpose, and how to live it. Several of the men felt that having a coronary was the best thing that had happened in their lives. They felt they had been wasting their lives up to that point, and the new chance they now had to reorder their priorities might otherwise never have come. One man reported that, as one form of therapy, his doctor had given him the assignment to write a clear statement of what he wanted to accomplish with the rest of his life. For the first time in years that man seriously took stock of where he had been going and where he should be going with his life.

Another man expressed gratitude to a nurse who had had a great deal of experience in the care of heart patients. She’d been able to make him feel that he was a very fortunate man, because relatively early in life he’d been warned against what she described as “breaking your heart chasing rainbows that can’t be caught and would be worthless if they could be.”

What happened to these victims of heart attacks needs to happen to more of us; that is, we need to reassess our priorities in this life. Each of us needs to constantly reassess the goals which he has in this life.

David spoke of the chief goal in his life when he wrote, “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” (Psa. 27:4). Frankly, I can think of no greater goal in life than the one which David mentioned. Will you take a few minutes to meditate on David’s goal with me?

“One Thing Have I Desired Of The Lord”

Man’s heart needs to be single. It needs to be set on one thing. A divided allegiance with reference to one’s service to God is fatal. Jesus taught that a man cannot serve two masters (Mt. 6:24). Where one’s treasure is, there will his heart be also (Mt. 6:22-23). When it is torn between two loyalties and goals, it cannot serve either of them sufficiently.

Not only does man’s heart need to be single, it needs to be set on spiritual things. Many have a single heart – a single heart set on temporal things. We can read constantly of men and women who have set their heart on some temporal goal (such as a career in sports or acting, money, a house, and other temporal goals). These were not the “one thing” which David desired. Apparently, David had learned that the pleasures of this world are fleeting. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, neither is the ear filled with hearing” (Eccl. 1:8). The pleasures of sin are but “for a season” (Heb. 11:25). The world and all that is in it are passing away (1 Jn. 2:17).

Hence, Christians need to emulate the example of David and set our hearts on things which are above (Col. 3:1-2). David said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord!” Having his heart set on spiritual things, a man recognizes that only the Lord can fulfill his heart’s desire. Hence, he turns to God to find satisfaction. Yet, in this, he realizes that his desire will not be fulfilled by empty yearning left alone.

“That Will I Seek After”

David realized that he must speak after the things which his heart desired if he ever expected to have them. Mere yearning after something will not result in the obtaining of it. There must be efforts united with the desire in order to obtain the heart’s desire.

Another thing that is rather obvious at this point is this: a man’s energies are usually consumed in pursuing the things which his heart desires. A man is a unified being: whatever his heart desires is what his body does. A man does not commit wickedness out of a good heart; rather, his heart is evil, and therefore, he does evil (Matt. 12:33-35.) Realizing this aspect about man, we are able to judge whether or not a man truly loves the Lord through his actions.

I cannot look into another person’s heart and judge whether or not he loves God. I can, however, judge the nature of his fruits. If a man’s life is characterized by habits such as forsaking the assembly of the saints, neglect of prayer, failure to study God’s word, and boredom in worship, I can guarantee you that his heart is not set on spiritual things. He is not seeking after them because he has no love of them. The things which his heart desires is what he has time for doing.

Brethren, the things of God are worth every effort we can put forth to obtain them. In the parables of the merchant who found the goodly pearl and the man who stumbled upon a treasure which was hidden in the field, Jesus revealed that man should sell everything he had in order to obtain the kingdom of heaven. The spiritual things which God has available for His children are worth whatever we have to give up in order to obtain them. So, let us set our affections upon them and seek them with all of our might.

“That I May Dwell In The House of The Lord All The Days Of My Life”

The object of David’s desire is now revealed to us. His one desire of the Lord and the thing after which He sought was to be able to dwell in the house of the Lord all of his life. This blessing must be understood in its historical context. The “house of the Lord” was the tabernacle. The tabernacle, in Israelite worship, was the place of God’s presence, the divinely revealed place and program of worship, and the place in which God revealed His will to man. There were several occasions in David’s life when he was separated from the house of the Lord. On such occasions, David sang, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary” (Psa. 63:1-2; this psalm was written while David was in the wilderness of Judah, separated from the house of the Lord). Indeed, he confessed, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth” (Psa. 26:8). The house of the Lord, one must observe, pertained to the “days of my life;” hence, there is no reference in this to heaven.

Even as David had appreciation for the house of the Lord under the Old Covenant and longed to dwell in it all of the days of his life, even so should Christians appreciate, adore, and long to dwell in the house of the Lord under the New Covenant, His lovely church (1 Tim. 3:15). Though the world around us might not be content with the simple ways which God has ordained in the church, the Christian should frankly confess his love for the people of the Lord (“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise . . . .” – 1 Cor. 1:26-27), the worship authorized by the Lord (a worship which has little appeal to the fleshly parts of man), and the program of work to be carried on by the people of God.

Frankly, I am contented with the house of the Lord which is revealed in the Scriptures. I have no desire to go flirting with man-made denominations and other religious innovations of men. I am perfectly content and happy with the house of the Lord.

I pray to the Lord that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all of the days of my life. For I am not content to run to the house of the Lord spasmodically; I want to dwell there. I want the constant association of the Lord and His people. I want my relationship to be so close to the Lord that when I am in trouble, I am not turning to a complete stranger for help; I am turning to my “bosom buddy,” my constant companion throughout life. Furthermore, when I testify that I want to dwell in the house of the Lord all of the days of my life, I am recognizing that I want to dwell in the house of the Lord during the days of my youth – the days during which young people of this world are “sowing their wild oats,” during the strength of manhood, and during the last days of my life on this earth.

During the days of dwelling in the house of the Lord, I want to devote every ounce of my energies to His service. I want the Lord to wear out my temporal body in His work. This is my earnest desire. To the best of my ability to express it, this is what I understand that David wanted as his one desire of the Lord.

“To Behold The Beauty of the Lord, And To Inquire In His Temple”

The psalmist had two primary reasons for wanting to be in the house of the Lord: (a) to behold the beauty of the Lord and (b) to inquire in His Temple. Let us notice these two blessings which He desired to obtain through dwelling in the house of the Lord.

David longed to see more of the beauty of the Lord. The glorious attributes of God manifest the beauty of His character. Being a Spirit, God is n -it considered beautiful because of physical appearance; his beauty is in His character and characteristics. The attributes of God which manifest His beauty include the following: (1) omnipotence; (2) omnipresence; (3) omniscience; (4) holiness; (5) mercy; and (6) grace. There are other attributes of God which show His beauty which others could readily add; however, I am impressed also with the balance in His character. God is not filled with a mushy love which allows others to tread over Him; God is not so stern in His holiness that He makes no provisions for sinful men to have access to Him. Rather, His character is balanced.

We learn of the nature of God through several ways. We learn of His omnipotent power and divinity through the things which are made (Rom. 1:19-21). We learn about Him through the Law of Moses. By looking at Christ, we can see God (Jn. 14:9). Furthermore, we learn about God through the gospel. As we learn the glorious attributes of God,we are drawn to Him like a moth to a flame; His character attracts men to Him.

It is in the house of the Lord, i.e. in the church, that I hear that word of the Lord expounded which reveals to me the nature of God. It is also there that I learn what God wants me to do in this life. David wanted to be in the house of the Lord that he might “inquire in the Temple.” The Jews learned the will of God through the revelation given by God through the high priest when he used the Urim and Thummim to learn God’s will in a matter. David wanted to be in the house of the Lord that he might continue to have access to the word of the Lord.

God’s word is revealed to us through the Bible. In preaching God’s word, men learn what God desires for . them to do in this life. Men assemble together in the presence of God to learn more about what God desires for them to do in this life (cf. 1 Cor. 14:24-25). Even as David wanted to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life in order that he might learn more about God’s will for his life, so also should Christians want to be in the Lord’s house with other saints to learn more about God’s will in this life.


If you started the sentence, as David did, “One thing have I desired . . .,” how would you finish it? Would you conclude it in the same fashion as David did? I pray that it will not take a heart attack to awaken each of us to placing his priorities in the order which God demands that they be placed.

Truth Magazine XXIII: 39, pp. 627-629
October 4, 1979