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Putting First Things First...
Marc Chagall - David


First things First

Purity of Heart and Singleness of Vision

by John J. Parsons

Psalm 27:4 (BHS)

One thing I asked from the Lord, that I will seek...
(Psalm 27:4)


In this verse, King David says, "One thing I ask of the Lord; that is what I will seek." Notice immediately that David asked for one thing – not many things.  He did not come with a litany of requests. He was not double minded.  As Kierkegaard said, "purity of the heart is to will one thing." David sought the best he could find. He wanted the "pearl of great price."

The verb translated "I will seek" (avakesh) comes from the verb bakash meaning "to desire." The noun form, bakashah, means a request (in modern Hebrew the word bevakasha means "as you wish" or "you're welcome"). The verse could therefore be read as, "The one thing I ask from the Lord is that which I will desire."

This is a prayer for surrender. "Lord, I pray to you not as I understand You, but as You understand Yourself..." The "one thing" that David wanted above all else was to know the Lord - to "behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His Temple." This is what we need. We need eyes of wonder; we need eyes that are open to the glory and Presence of God - in everything.

Desire itself is a "neutral" thing, of course. "The flesh lusts against the spirit, and spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17). Most of us desire things that do not ultimately satisfy us. This is the "default" mode. We settle for trifles. We yield to petty desires that do not quench the eternal thirst within us. We cheat ourselves of the eternal for the sake of temporal.  Kierkegaard calls such boredom the root of all evil.  It is the "spirit" of the flesh - the inner restlessness that leads to discontent.

Having spiritual desire is a great gift from heaven, because through it we first realize what we really want and need.  Our eye becomes "single" (Luke 11:34). The mark of spirituality (ruchaniyut) is wonder and contentment. The "beauty of the Lord" is to be filled with glory and peace. If we consciously delight ourselves in the Lord, He has promised to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).

May the Lord give us the desire for Him before everything else.  Amen.

Hebrew-English Transliteration:

Hebrew-English transliteration

achat sha'alti me'at Adonai, otah avakesh

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