“But be sure that you always out rejoice your adversaries. If something is worth fighting for, it is worth rejoicing over. And the joy is essential in the battle, for nothing is worth fighting for that will not increase our everlasting joy in God.” John Piper

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: 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 seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me”.  Ps 27:4-6

You do not usually equate beauty and joy with warfare, but that is exactly what the psalmist does in Psalm 27: 4-6. In verse four, the psalmist reveals the passion that drives his life. It is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life so that he may enjoy the beauty of the Lord. The Scriptures are clear that the purpose of God in all that he does is to declare his glory. God creates a people so that they may see and enjoy his beauty. The Westminster Confession captures this thought when it answers the question, “What is the chief end of man?” with this answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” John Piper has helped to clarify this awesome truth by altering this answer slightly but profoundly. He writes that the chief end of man is to “glorify God by enjoying him forever.” The more we see and enjoy God’s beauty, the more he is glorified. So, our desire to be satisfied and God’s desire to be glorified are not two but one. So, the command to enjoy God is both the duty and delight of our lives.        

Usually we think of beauty in the terms of sight. Something profound and deeply satisfying is experienced deep within us when we see a majestic Sierra sunrise or see an artistic Pacific sunset. We may not be able to define what beauty is, but we know it when we see it. When we talk of the beauty of God we are not primarily speaking of a physical demonstration. We are talking about the beauty of his character. God is profoundly beautiful in that he is infinitely good. The psalmist captures this thought with these words: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. “ [Ps 16:11]The great joy of heaven is being able to experience an eternity of pleasures that flow from the limitless goodness of God.

The psalmist has experienced the beauty of God in the “house of God,” the temple. According to C. S. Lewis, this passage points to the importance of experiencing the reality of God in a physical place. Certainly, the Jewish worshipper equated the glory of God with his presence in the Temple. A longing to go to Jerusalem was like a physical thirst that is quenched when he goes to be with him [Psalm 42]. It is in the temple the worshipper is “satisfied with the pleasures” of God and one day in his house is better than a lifetime spent elsewhere. [Psalm 10] Now, the psalmist is cut off from this blessing because of the “evil men” who are advancing against him to devour his flesh. It is being cut off from the glorious presence of God in the Temple that is the occasion of the writing of this psalm.

The attack upon the psalmist is not ultimately directed at him. It is an attack against the Lord. “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” declares the writer.  There is an unbreakable and intimate relationship between the believer and His Lord. Behind the human enemies that besiege him are spiritual forces who hate the glory of God. If they cannot destroy the life of the believer, they will seek to rob him of his joy in the Lord. 

However, because the Lord is committed to glorifying himself in his servant, the psalmist is confident in the heat of battle. “In the day of trouble he will hide me in his dwelling; he will keep me safe in the shadow of his tabernacle.” Although he is cut off from the physical temple, he is not cut off from the personal presence of God. The Lord will “hide” him and keep him safe in the darkest of times. Nothing can rip him from the strong hands of God. Instead of him falling down or giving up, he will stand tall, for the Lord will lift him up. Instead of him cowering in the valley of confusion, he will be towering on the mountaintop of truth. His head will be exalted above his enemies that surround him.  

What do these verses say to us about the battle for beauty in our lives? First, it reminds us that we are created for an awesome purpose. In Isaiah 43:7, the Lord declares, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.”  Because God is creator and sovereign over every power, he will see to it that our lives will glorify him.

Second, we are his, not by our will but by his choice. “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.” [Isaiah 41:9-10] Our welfare and his glory are entwined. So, no matter how long or intense the battle, we have God as our strength and our help. So, what can man do to us?
Third, the issue that we are ultimately fighting for is not our comfort or our ease but our joy! God is so beautiful and good that he satisfies our hearts even when we are suffering and struggling. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” [Nehemiah 8:10] The psalmist is surrounded by enemies. They are real and they are evil. But, in the midst of the battle, pressed on every side, he sees the all-sufficient, awe-inspiring good God at his side. Paul says it like this: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [Phil 4:4-5]It is the nearness of our great and good God that drives away all anxiety.

Finally, our joy is won, not by passive waiting, but aggressive thinking. The Lord lifts the psalmist up so that his head is exalted above his enemies that surround him. I take that to mean that the Lord gives him powerful insight that his enemies cannot grasp. He sees unseen realities that bring him empowering joy in the day of trouble. That truth comes from the Word of God. We “see” his beauty by hearing and banking on his words. It is through the promises of God found in Scripture that our heads are lifted up. It is through the written Word that we see the beauty of the Lord shining all around us. It is the sword of the Spirit, known, memorized, meditated upon and prayed over, that becomes the spotlight that directs our heads and our hearts toward the goodness and greatness of our Lord.

So, if you want to win the battle for joy in God, you have to pick up the sword of the Spirit. In its hardened and polished steel, you will see the glorious image of our beautiful, all powerful God, fighting with and for you. Your delight in his beauty, in the midst of darkness, will glorify him.