Casper ten Boom (1859-1944), Corrie ten Boom’s father, was a Dutch storekeeper who helped to hide Jews escaping the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. A member of the Dutch Reformed Church, he was in his eighties when Germany occupied his hometown of qHaarlem in The Netherlands. When Jews were forced to wear the Star of David on their clothing as a way of marking them for increasing levels of abuse and persecution, Casper chose to wear it also, as a way of identifying with his Jewish neighbors. He was arrested with his family during a Gestapo raid on their home, and died shortly after his imprisonment on March 9, 1944.
In this account shared by his grandson Peter, Corrie’s father is remembered for his last recorded words.
The long hours crept by slowly as we stood there facing the yellow brick wall. My heart was full of questions. I kept thinking of the Psalm which Grandfather had read the evening before. After our imprisonment we had been taken to the police station at Haarlem. In the gymnasium there, with thirty other prisoners lying and sitting on the floor around him, Grandfather had taken his Bible and read the Ninety-first Psalm. How peaceful those words had sounded to our anxious souls: ‘He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”
But now, standing in the corridor of Scheveningen prison, doubt filled my heart. “A thousand shall fall at thy side,” Grandfather had read, “and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”
But tragedy had struck. Where was the host of angels we had prayed for so often? Had God forgotten us? Then I glanced over at Grandfather sitting in the corner. There was such an expression of peace on his pale face that I could not help marveling. He actually was protected. God had built a fence around him. Suddenly I knew: The everlasting arms are around all of us. God does not make mistakes. He is at the controls.
At last they took me to my cell. As I walked past Grandfather, I stopped, bent over him, and kissed him goodbye. He looked up at me and said, “My boy, are we not a privileged generation?”
Those were his last words to me.
Source: Corrie Ten Boom, Father Ten Boom (Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1973), 10-11.
One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I 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 inquire in His temple. ~ Psalm 27:4
If you could ask for one thing from God, what would it be? How long would you think about that question before submitting your request? Most of us have immediate needs… money for a car repair, or direction for a big decision, or relief from a broken marriage. Those are serious needs, but is that the one thing you want the most?
Let me reframe that question in a way that helps me: if there was one thing I could ask from God that would fulfill and satisfy my heart every day for the remainder of my life, what would it be?
Isn’t that the kind of thing you ask for when you can only ask for one thing?
In Psalm 27:4, David exposes the deepest longing of his heart when he writes, “One thing I have desired of the Lord.” There is something he wants from God… a single desire. He hasn’t said yet what it is, but to get the one thing it seems clear I must want just one thing.
But desire is not enough. He writes, “that will I seek.” Some people will go all their lives wanting God, but will never seriously seek God. David is different. He throws himself into the effort, seeking God by faith with determination and intentionality.
What is he seeking? To dwell in the presence of God “all the days of my life.” Every day. He does not want to merely “visit,” but David wants to live there… in His Presence.
What does he want to do? Two things…
(1) He wants to “behold” Him. He wants to see God, but not with his physical eyes. Walking into the deepest recesses of the Temple complex, David would have only seen the Ark of the Covenant with the eyes in his head, but with the eyes of his heart he knows he can gaze on the “beauty of the Lord.” No speaking is involved, just seeing… simple, childlike wonder at who He is… contentment in His love… deep satisfaction. David’s soul thirst becomes soul rest.
The apostle Paul later describes how the daily practice of “looking” at Jesus was changing him, even in the midst of destructive circumstances. He writes,
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
(2) In the presence of God, David also wants “to inquire.” David stands out from most of the men in his generation because he regularly asked God for direction. He understands that God is sovereign over all creation, and he wants to be personally subject to the rule of God. Throughout most of his life, he rarely made a move without consulting God. For example…
- 1 Samuel 23:1-3 David inquired of the LORD, saying…
- 1 Samuel 23:4-5, 10-11, 12-14 David inquired of the LORD once again.
- 1 Samuel 30:8-9 David inquired of the LORD, saying…
- 2 Samuel 2:1-2; 5:17-21 David inquired of the LORD, saying…
- 2 Samuel 5:22-25 23 David inquired of the LORD…
- 2 Samuel 21:1 …and David inquired of the LORD.
David’s one desire is to live his life within the confines of an intimate relationship with God.
He wants to know God…
He wants to please God in every decision… and
He shares his desire in order to influence the generations that would follow.