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Sermon Manuscript030407 - "One Thing I Ask"

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Robert L. Hutcherson, Jr.

Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church

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                                                           Psalm 27

One Thing I Ask

The Rev. Karla J. Cooper, Pastor

March 4, 2007

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1. Who wrote (or is credited with writing) the text?

That the principal contributor to the collection, the main author of the Book of Psalms, is David, though denied by some moderns, is the general conclusion in which criticism has rested, and is likely to rest. The historical books of the Old Testament assign to David more than one of the psalms contained in the collection. Seventy-three of them are assigned to him by their titles. The psalmody of the temple generally is said to be his. The Book of Psalms was known in Maccabean times as "the Book of David. David is cited as the author of the sixteenth and the hundred and tenth psalms by the writer of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:25, 34). Internal evidence points to him strongly as the writer of several others. The extravagant opinion that he wrote the whole book could never have been broached if he had not written a considerable portion of it. With respect to what psalms are to be regarded as his, there is naturally considerable doubt. Whatever value may be assigned to the "titles," they cannot be regarded as absolutely settling the question. Still, where their authority is backed up by internal evidence, it seems well worthy of acceptance. On this ground, the sober and moderate school of critics, including such writers as Ewald, Delitzsch, Perowne, and even Cheyne, agree in admitting a considerable portion of the Psalter to be Davidic. The psalms claiming to be Davidical are found chiefly in the first, second, and fifth books - thirty-seven in the first, eighteen in the second, and fifteen in the fifth. In the third and fourth books there are only three psalms (Ps 88., 101., and 103.) which claim to be his.

The next most important contributor would seem to be Asaph. Asaph was one of the heads of David's choir at Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:17, 19; 16:5), and is coupled in one place with David (2 Chronicles 29:30) as having furnished the words which were sung in the temple service in Hezekiah's time. Twelve psalms are assigned to him by their titles - one in Book II (Psalm 1), and eleven in Book III (Psalm 1-3-83). It is doubted, however, whether the real personal Asaph can have been the author of all these, and suggested that in some instances the sect or family of Asaph is intended.

On the whole, the collection may be said to have proceeded from at least six individuals - David, Asaph, Solomon, Moses, Heman, and Ethan - while three others - Jeremiah, Haggai, and Zechariah may not improbably have had a hand in it. How many Korahite Levites are included under the title, "sons of Korah," it is impossible to say; and the number of the anonymous authors is also uncertain.


2. From what perspective does the author write?

The usual Hebrew title of the work is Tehillim, or Sepher Tehillim; literally, "Praises," or "Book of Praises" - a title which expresses well the general character of the pieces whereof the book is composed, but which cannot be said to be universally applicable to them. Another Hebrew title, and one which has crept into the text itself, is Tephilloth, "Prayers," which is given at the close of the second section of the work (Psalm 72:20), as a general designation of the pieces contained in the first and second sections. The same word appears, in the singular, as the special heading of the seventeenth, eighty-sixth, ninetieth, hundred and second, and hundred and forty-second psalms. But, like Tehillim, this term is only applicable, in strictness, to a certain number of the compositions which the work contains. Conjointly, however, the two terms, which come to us with the greatest amount of authority, are fairly descriptive of the general character of the work, which is at once highly devotional and specially intended to set forth the praises of God.

It is manifest, on the face of it, that the work is a collection. A number of separate poems, the production of different persons, and belonging to different periods, have been brought together, either by a single editor, or perhaps by several distinct editors, and have been united into a volume, which has been accepted by the Jewish, and, later on, by the Christian, Church, as one of the "books" of Holy Scripture. The poems seem originally to have been, for the most part, quite separate and distinct; each is a whole in itself; and most of them appear to have been composed for a special object, and on a special occasion. Occasionally, but very seldom, one psalm seems linked on to another; and in a few instances there are groups of psalms intentionally attached together, as the group from Ps 73. to 83., ascribed to Asaph, and, again, the "Hallelujah" group - from Ps 146., to 150. But generally no connection is apparent, and the sequence seems, so to speak, accidental.

Our own title of the work - "Psalms," "The Psalms," "The Book of Psalms "2 - has come to us, through the Vulgate, from the Septuagint. Yalo, meant, in the Alexandrian Greek, "a poem to be sung to a stringed instrument;" and as the poems of the Psalter were thus sung in the Jewish worship, the name Yalmoi appeared appropriate. It is not, however, a translation of either Tehillim or Tephilloth, and it has the disadvantage of dropping altogether the spiritual character of the compositions. As, however, it was applied to them, certainly by St. Luke (Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20) and St. Paul (Acts 13:33), and possibly by our Lord (Luke 24:44), we may rest content with the appellation. It is, at any rate, one which is equally applicable to all the pieces whereof the "book" is composed.





"The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In {spite of} this I shall be confident. 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. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, Seek My face, my heart said to You, Your face, O LORD, I shall seek. Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the LORD will take me up. Teach me Your way, O LORD, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD." (Psalms 27:1-14 NASBR)



There are times in our lives when our world comes crashing down on us; if anything can go wrong, it will. When life seems to be going in a downward spiral, you’re at the end of your rope and you can’t tie a knot to hold on - fear often takes hold of us. Fear traps us in the belief that nothing will ever improve, that we are ensnared and will never escape. When life gets us down, fear fills the void left by hope.


Fear is not the domain of the timid, but swells over all of us no matter how brave we may appear to be.


Julius Caesar once remarked that even the shouts of his enemies were music to his ears, but he was terribly afraid of thunder. When it vaguely looked like a storm was brewing, he began to shiver and shake. Peter the Great, considered by many to have been the greatest czar of Russia was terrified to cross a bridge. He would tremble in his boots whenever he stepped onto a bridge. King Louis the XV, of France, was so afraid of death the he ordered the subject off limits in his presence. Stalin was constantly in fear of being poisoned or killed. He had 8 bedrooms which could be locked up like safes in a bank. Nobody ever knew in which of these bedrooms he slept on any given night.


We fear losing our health, our wealth, our family; our friends. We fear losing the promotion or even the job. We fear growing old, but even more, we fear death.


On his return visit to many parts of the world, Herbert Hoover was asked by a reporter what, in his judgment, was the prevailing mood of the peoples in the lands he had visited. "The dominant emotion everywhere in the world is fear. This applies to every part of human activity; finance, industry, farmers, workers, thinkers, and government officials."


God has an answer to our problem of fear. The answer to our fears, the solution to our worries lies in the simple understanding of God’s presence. King David, who penned these words in Psalm 27, knew the meaning of the word fear better than most. His life consisted of one vicious attack on his life after another. For years he was the number one fugitive in Israel, always hiding from the wrath of King Saul. Later on, his life was threatened by the revolt of his own son Absalom.


We may not find ourselves as outcasts, pursued by potential murderers, with our lives on the line. But our problems still plague us. Our hope evaporates as our resources diminish fast. We may feel that to be left at the mercy of circumstances, under their tyranny, is to be torn apart and left with nothing.


David begins with a sense of certainty, of calm in the midst of a storm.


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.


One of the striking characteristics of Psalm 27 is that David utters in the same breath a deeply-felt call for God to rescue him in his hurt, together with a beautiful statement praising God that speaks of the certainty of God's authority and sovereignty in David's life. The fact that David believed both of those things at the same time speaks of his maturity.


This morning, therefore, we will look at Psalm 27, where David sings the praises of his God.

In verses 1--3 David says that God's power is unassailable, his authority is unchallengeable: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" "Whom could I possibly name as an opponent of the one whom God favors?" asks David. "Can any opponent even have the slightest chance?" David does not compare God's power in the world, God's battling with the forces of evil in the world, in terms of, say, a football game between two fairly evenly-matched teams. David asks, "Who could possibly stand in opposition to my God?"


David goes on to speak about how God met his need when he faced enemies in the past. He calls some of his enemies "devourers." Like us, David experienced pain that was close-up and personal. People ripped at him, tore at him and used him; people who were close to him tried to take advantage of him. At other times the problems confronting him seemed to him like a war breaking over his head; all the circumstances of life seemed to work against him. But, David says, whatever the problem, whatever the enemy, whatever the difficulty, his God is greater than all of them. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?"


It is hard for some of us with our New Testament experience to know how to relate to David's statements about his enemies. We are told to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, so we very often struggle in knowing precisely how to equate David's description of his political and military foes with anything we experience. But our struggle may be because of our geographic location. There are places in this world today - in Islamic, in Marxist countries - where the enemies of the kingdom of God, those who are set against the will of God, are using political and military power to crush Christians. If we are puzzled by David's statements about his enemies, where we live may be more of a factor than the times we are living in.


More often, our enemies are the salesmen of ideas and philosophies, the purveyors of a lifestyle committed to adoration of self; the people who say that your first love should the acquisition of power, money, security, thrills, pleasure, tranquility-- anything but righteousness. Francis Schaeffer says that our age is committed to personal peace and affluence, not godliness. So, rather than confronting military and political enemies of the truth, our enemies are the purveyors of the ideas that allure those we love, even we ourselves, to believe their lies.


Let's look behind what's apparent about our enemies. In discussing verse 12 of this psalm last week, where David described his enemies as "false witnesses and such as breathe out violence," we said that that statement is very much in line with Jesus' statement in the New Testament about his enemies. Addressing those who were trying to kill him, Jesus said, "You are of your father the devil. He is a murderer and a liar." I think David knew intuitively what we know because of the word of Scripture-- that behind every human being who is destructive, every human being who would hurt us, every human being opposed to the cause of God, stands the final enemy. Human servants of Satan are dupes, ultimately. We can love them; we should pity them. The enemy they represent is the one towards whom our antagonism should be directed-- the murderer and liar himself. When David faced military enemies I believe he intuitively knew that the one his hatred ought to burn against was their leader, not those who were marching in armies against him. When we in our day encounter wickedness in our world we ought to be able to forgive its proponents and hate its origin.


Verses 1 through 3, then, are David's reflections on the no-contest situation that exists between his great God and those who are David's enemies, those who are attacking him. David is convinced that God is supremely in authority; God's power is unchallengeable


The magnificence of his Lord led David to hunger for a magnificent response: a mature, godly, righteous faith in God. This is described in verse 4:



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.


David's request to dwell in the house of the Lord is accompanied by diligent seeking, because this request matters very much to him. To me the most striking words in that psalm are the two little three-letter adjectives, "one," and "all." "One thing, only one, I have asked from the Lord," David says. "I am not a double-minded man. I don't want to love God and love the world too. If the Lord will grant this one request then he may deny me everything else and I will still be happy. I am single-minded in my longing." And he asks that he may be blessed with this all the days of his life. "My desire is not going to fade with time," David says. "It is not something that I feel only now and again, on religious holidays, etc. This is an everyday, all the days of my life, forever kind of longing." David is single-minded: he wants only one thing; and he is consistent: he wants this thing all the days of his life.


Let us examine this for just a moment before we look more directly at the request itself. How does David's single mindedness sound compared to the spirit around us today? One thing that really characterizes our day is the desire for change. Change your jobs, diversify your investments, we are told. Only backward and ignorant people are content with one wife or one husband for a lifetime, we hear. Consider the variety available and move on to the next thing - a new hobby, a new place, a new car, the latest fad, the next opportunity.


The Scriptures are very clear, however, that we really are fools if we live our lives questing for new things all the time. The quest we need to be involved in is seeking the one thing that is worth living for and then be as devoted to it as we possibly can; to seek the one Foundation that will remain and then stand there and refuse to be moved. The world says “diversify”, but the Scriptures say “devotion” is the height of wisdom. This one thing is what David sought all the days of his life.


In the New Testament Mary, the sister of Martha, is commended by our Lord Jesus because she rose above the clamor of the household, all the chores that needed to be done, not wondering what her friends would think, etc., to sit at the feet of her Master. She chose the best and it will not be taken from her, Jesus said. Mary stands in contrast to a man named Demas, who is described later, in Paul's writings. Even though there was a time when Demas served the Lord, at the end, the last mention of him in Scripture is this, "Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me." Mary chose the best part, which would not be taken from her; Demas allowed himself to be seduced away. Have we chosen the best part? Or have we allowed ourselves to be seduced away? As individuals? As a congregation of committed believers in Christ?


Let me mention another attack upon this single-minded devotion that David describes here. Many of us find ourselves able to resist the more overt influences of the world, but a more difficult a more subtle influence is the appeal to Christian "busyness," to religious fervor and activity. When we examine ourselves in this regard we find that we are no longer single-minded, we no longer have one guiding devotion in our life.


Here are a couple of paragraphs I paraphrased from an article written to pastors by Eugene Peterson:


“The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier should sound to our ears like using adulterous as a modifier to characterize a wife or embezzling as a modifier to characterize a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemy. Hilary of Tours diagnosed our busyness as a blasphemous anxiety to do God's work for him.”

Also about prayer from the same article:

“I know it takes time to develop a life of prayer: set-aside, disciplined, deliberate time. It isn't accomplished on the run, or by offering prayers from a pulpit or at a hospital bedside. I know I can't be busy and pray at the same time. I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted or dispersed. In order to pray I have to be paying more attention to God than to what people are saying to me; more attention to God than to my own clamoring ego.”


Sometimes our desire for the one thing that is worth having is dissipated by pure busyness. But David calls out in his prayer against both worldliness and busyness: "I only want one thing." David's single-mindedness is matched by his consistency. His longing would last all the days of his life.


Some people ridicule religious concern and spiritual conviction by saying that such things are only for kids and old people -- for those who are too young to know better or too old and feeble to do better. You are considered a fanatic if you have a love for God that will not fade with time. In this regard, David is a fanatic.


What is it then that David is asking for when he says, "One thing I have asked from the Lord . . . that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life?" I would like to suggest an alternative phrasing which is a little closer in application to our day and age. David is saying that he wants to be at home in the presence of God. The "house of the Lord," the tabernacle in David's day, was a place where Jews went when their desire was to be face-to-face with God. Although their style of worship allowed them to speak of God being in a place, it must have been clear to them, as it is certainly clear to us, that God does not reside solely in any particular location. God is no more present in a church building, in the Holy Land or anywhere else, than he is in all the other places of the universe because God is everywhere all at once. As I heard Bishop Ingram teach “The Church is a PEOPLE, not a PLACE.”


To be in God's presence is to have an attitude of appreciation and delight, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. God's face is toward us at all times but we have a choice about whether we will face him or not. We can choose whether or not we will rejoice because of him, seek to learn from him and come to recognize his handiwork in the events of our lives and in the world he has made. For some people nearness to God is frightening; for others it is irrelevant. David longed to be at home in the presence of God.




Where do you find you are most at home in this world? What does being "at home" mean to you? Aren't you at home where you are most free to be yourself, where you are most comfortable, where you are most secure, where you have the most freedom to be honest about who you really are? We are at home where our roots are the deepest, where we know we belong and where we can most be ourselves.


My parents moved back to Lincoln in the years since I left their home to be on my own. I now live in their home, and they are at home with the Lord. A great deal of the furniture I grew up familiar with is now gone, replaced by newer furniture. Yet, despite all the changes, whenever I walked into my parents’ house I felt at home. I could go to the refrigerator and help myself without having to ask anybody. I could put my feet up on the coffee table (as long as Mom didn’t catch me!!). I didn't have to make a good impression any more. (Truth is… I gave up trying: they knew me too well!) I had a real freedom to be who I am, to talk about things I liked to talk about, to listen to other people and just be relaxed. I think that is what David is asking for here. He is saying, "The place I want to be most at home, most comfortable, most real, most secure, the place I know I will be certain I belong in is when I am face-to-face with the Lord, when I am in the very presence of God. That is what I am asking for. That is the single-minded, consistent request of my heart…that God will make me more and more at home in his presence."


Finally, David tells us that there are two kinds of satisfaction that are related to this desire to be at home in the presence of God; and there are two kinds of protection he describes that grow from it. God has made us creatures who are capable of feeling. We can respond with joy and enthusiasm and great feeling about many things. And God made us that way because He himself is beautiful. In the presence of God, David says, he will "behold the beauty of the Lord." David is saying that every emotional longing he has, his every desire to feel and experience will be met by the person of God.


Then, secondly, David says, "I will meditate in God's temple. I have been given a mind, an intellectual capacity, as well. I have been given curiosity about the way things are. I have been given a desire to learn, a longing to find out about things, and that comes from God. In meditating or inquiring in the temple of God I will find that the needs of my mind are also met."


Bible-believing Christians are often accused of being anti-intellectual book burners. (This accusation may actually be true in some places.) But people who really have a sense of the Scriptures, people whose faith is founded on the Book should never be anti-intellectual, should never be opposed to men learning and growing and understanding. Jesus said, "I am the truth." The further we penetrate in our endeavor to find out what is true the more likely we are to encounter God. There is a place for righteous opposition to what Paul calls "the wisdom of this world." But the humble desire to know is God-given. That will lead us to Him.


There is therefore a two-- fold satisfaction that comes from the mature longing that David feels. Our emotional life will be satisfied by the beauty of God, and our intellectual desires will be satisfied by meditating or inquiring in his temple.


Then, in verses 5 and 6, David says that there are two kinds of protection that grow out of this desire. "There are times," David says, "when God will conceal me in his tabernacle." David is describing times in his life when he was not taken out of the battle, when the hurt, the struggle and the pressure of life cut him very deeply. God refused to remove him from the pain, yet somehow, by his Spirit, he covered David's “heart of hearts”. We too experience such times in our lives when God conceals the inner man; when he protects us and gives us peace even in the midst of turmoil and struggle.


My father suffered with cancer over a long battle of several months before finally succumbing. His body hurt; the prognosis of what he would have to face worsened every day; the medicine he had to take hurt him almost as much as the cancer itself. I was with him every day during this time, and I can tell you that in the midst of all this, his heart was protected all the while. Even though the outer man was wasting away, the inner man was being concealed, being held up. David tells us there will be times like that in our lives.




But David also says there will be days when God will set us on a rock, when we will sing the praises of God as loud as we want to, knowing that our enemies cannot touch us. We will be removed by the Hand of God from the difficult circumstances. God will sovereignly move in and take care of things. He will set us on the high ground. The rejoicing, the outpouring of praise that will result from that is described by David at the end of verse 5 and in verse 6.


In verses 1 through 6 of Psalm 27 David sings a song of praise to God. First, David says forthrightly that his God is greater than any enemy he can conceive of. David has seen and is convinced of God's protection against the devourers, against the battles, the wars, that descend on us in large measure. And because he knows how great his God is, David finds awakening in his own heart a greatness of faith, a mature longing which is tenacious, single-- minded and consistent throughout all his life. Knowing this brings about both emotional and intellectual satisfaction, as well as protection, in David's life. Even as we know that God protected us through His Son, Jesus the Christ, who was sent to us, lived among us, died and rose again in payment for all time for all of our sins…so that WE too, can pray “May God grant that our hearts' desire too will be to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives.”


Let us pray…























































Order of Worship

Sunday March 4th, 2007

11:00 A.M.


Opening Hymn……………………” Take My Life and Let It Be”, Hymn 292




Call to Worship……………………………….Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Hymn…………………………………… “Tempted and Tried”, Hymn 355


Prayer…………………………………………..Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Prayer Response………………………………….Give Us This Day”


Scripture Reading……………………………..Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Decalogue………………………………………Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Gloria Patri………………………………………….Congregation


Sermon…………………………………………Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Invitation to Christian Discipleship……”I Need Thee Every Hour”, Hymn 327


Altar Call/Offertory………………………………………All


Offertory Response……………………………”All Things Come Of Thee”


Affirmation of Faith…………………………………Congregation


Benediction……………………………………..Bro. Robert Hutcherson


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