We battle with a variety of anxieties and fears throughout our lives, and we either overcome them, or more likely, sweep them under the carpet or tolerate them. This psalm of King David addressed these issues and how he found confidence and protection. David rhetorically questioned himself on his own vulnerability and fears at his precarious position within his own domain, framing the psalm in terms of seeking safety in the midst of dangers from battling one’s enemies, and even alluded to his own family home being unsafe (v.10). The fact is, nowhere is safe in this fallen world, and oftentimes, we take much for granted the safety we have. Life, as in David’s days, may well be like a battlefield!
If we are perennially looking for safe places to put our roots down, whether it is in careers, jobs, family, or a community, we may be unduly disappointed with the constant battles that may be raging around us. Our own approach to secure safety is varied, for example, many enjoy a good fight or challenge and are driven by it to succeed, often isolating and exhausting ourselves in the process; others become cynics, moving through life distrustful of most people and situations and not caring about anything in particular; while some may just throw the towel in, overwhelmed by it all, and opting out of living the conventional life. But David takes us through a different way; he was not one who delighted in the shedding of blood (incidentally, nearly all his wars were initiated on God’s instructions), nor was he a cynic, or someone who gave up easily.
King David’s focus was to seek God’s face in His house, a protected hiding place and a likely ‘home,’ so he could delight in his Lord, to meditate and to praise and worship Him (vv.4-6). However, no one was allowed to live in the Tabernacle or in the Temple, nor can anyone tolerate God’s presence for an inordinate time, as His holiness would not permit it. So, what does ‘seeking God’s face’ mean? ‘Face’ indicates a presence, an appearing in front of someone. Metaphorically, David was saying that God’s face was the face he looked for throughout his life, inferring an intimate eyeball-to-eyeball engagement, for one could not look at another in the eye for long, unless the relationship is on a confident footing. However, God, in more than one instant, did not permit His face to be seen: viz., with Moses (Ex 33:18-20) and with Cain (Gen 4:13-14). The reason perhaps was best illustrated graphically with one of Zechariah’s visions, where he saw Joshua, the high priest, in excrement-covered garments before the angel of the Lord, despite being ritually cleansed earlier (Zech. 2-3). How then can anyone come before God’s face, except through the finished work of our High Priest, Jesus Christ (Zech 3:8-10).
David’s counsel was to first fearlessly seek God’s face (v.8), to be taught by Him His ways (v.11), to believe in Him and in His goodness towards us (v.13), and to courageously wait for the Lord (v.14). The alternative was to be mired in a hopeless spiral of battlefield syndrome, where he would be fearfully anxious when he veered away from God’s presence. David’s only desire is to know God intimately and personally, and the depth of this relationship explained his fearlessness. This communion is intentionally developed and not a haphazard occurrence (v.4); it involved a seeking, a dwelling, and a beholding of the Lord, which always includes the practice of the spiritual disciplines (Richard Foster’s Celebration of Disciplines at http://www.firstcrcreddeer.org/filerequest/3784). By observing daily what was taking place in the Temple, the King would have been struck by the constancy of the animal sacrifices as a reminder of God’s holiness and man’s sin; and looking into the face of Jesus Christ would certainly provoke our thoughts of His eternal sacrifice. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear, is the reality behind one thing have I asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; 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 meditate in His temple. This was King David’s good advice.