22 February 2013

"The Beauty of Truth...and a lesson about true worship"

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in November 2010.  Phil explains what David meant by "the beauty of the Lord."

As usual, the comments are closed.

"One thing I have 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."—Psalm 27:4 

What did David have in mind when he spoke of "gaz[ing] upon the beauty of the Lord" in the Lord's Temple? Surely it was not any physical beauty embodied in the Tabernacle itself or its furnishings. Nor is it likely that David saw much loveliness in the Temple liturgy, which featured nonstop animal sacrifices that were anything but beautiful.

As a matter of fact, the Tabernacle where David worshiped was a temporary, makeshift arrangement on mount Moriah. In 2 Chronicles 1:3, we are told that the Tabernacle of Moses' time was kept at Gibeon. Presumably, most of the tabernacle's furnishings were kept in storage there, too—until a generation after David, when Solomon built a more glorious Temple. During David's reign, the tent that was situated on the future temple grounds in Jerusalem was just a temporary place David had prepared as a shelter for the ark of the covenant. There was nothing elaborate about it. In fact, David himself thought the temporary tabernacle was woefully inadequate, and he pleaded in vain with God to let him build a permanent, more elaborate, place of worship (2 Samuel 7:1-13).

So be sure you understand what David is saying in Psalm 27. The whole psalm is an expression of longing for his favorite place of sanctuary—"the house of the Lord." But it was not the structure, or the location per se, that gave him a place of sanctuary. And "the beauty of the Lord" that he wrote about could not have had anything to do with the tabernacle itself, its furnishings, or the bloody rituals involved in the offering of sacrifices.

But when David speaks of "the beauty of the Lord" in verse 4, he is talking about the glories of divine truth. That's obvious from the parallel phrases: "To behold the beauty of the Lord / And to meditate in His temple."

David's profound love for the beauty of revealed truth is evident everywhere in his poetry. In fact, the psalms themselves were inspired verses—God's Word in written form, reciting His attributes, rehearsing His faithfulness, exalting His glory. Those psalms constituted the music of Israel's worship. The very essence of worship for them was (and still ought to be for us) a celebration and recitation of God's truth. True worship is not the spewing forth of indiscriminate and unintelligible passion; it is and must always be anchored in truth, and a celebration of the magnificent beauty of God's self-revelation.