King David’s singular longing for close fellowship with the Lord caused him to continually seek God’s presence and His favor. In the book of Psalms, David passionately stated, “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” (Psalm 27:4, ESV).
The “one thing” David asked of the Lord refers to the foremost ambition of his life—that which was of utmost importance to him. David’s “one thing” was to know God through an intimate, lifelong relationship with Him. In Psalm 23:6, David affirmed, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (ESV). The “house of the Lord” references the tabernacle, the Lord’s dwelling place (Leviticus 26:11). David prayed that He would abide in God’s presence all the days of his life.
David wanted to be in close fellowship with the Lord every single day. “Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells,” prayed David in Psalm 26:8. “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God,” he declared in Psalm 84:1–2. These are not passing thoughts or flimsy intentions. These are the wholly devoted, passionate yearnings of a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14). More than anything else in life, David wanted God Himself.
Believers discover their true home is in the presence of God (Psalm 42:1–4; 84:1–4). “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house,” declared David (Psalm 65:4). Believers experience “fullness of joy” in the Lord’s presence (Psalm 16:11; see also Psalm 21:6).
Morning by morning, day after day, David desired to experience the goodness of God’s presence. To “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” refers to David’s desire to worship and adore God simply for who He is and not what He could get from Him—he sought God’s face, not His hand. Such an encounter encompasses the true nature and essence of worship.
Real intimacy is necessary to hold someone’s gaze attentively and contemplate that one’s beauty. Pursuing God’s face is equivalent to developing an intimate relationship with Him: “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!” (Psalm 63:1–3, NLT). David’s “one thing” that he asked for and continually sought after was to look at God intently and to worship the beauty of His holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 29:2; 96:9).
In Psalm 27:4, the word for “beauty” in the original language means “grace, favor, kindness, goodness.” The same term is used in Psalm 90:17: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us.” Those who earnestly desire unbroken communion with God will diligently set themselves to the “one thing” of seeking the Lord’s presence and favor.
When Mary of Bethany sat at Christ’s feet listening to His teaching and spending time in His presence, Jesus told Martha that Mary had “chosen the good portion,” the “one thing” that was “necessary” (Luke 10:38–42, ESV). Mary’s greatest desire was to know the Lord through intimate fellowship with Him. The apostle Paul pursued “one thing” in life as well: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings. . . . Not that I have already obtained all this, . . . but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:10–14).
What is the greatest longing of your heart? Is it to seek God’s presence daily and know the Lord more intimately in all His beauty and wonder? Can you say like King David, “This one thing I have asked of the Lord”?