May 22, 2008
Delight Yourself in the LORD – Psalm 37:4
Psalm 37:4 (ESV) – 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
This verse is often misinterpreted by Christians as meaning that God will give me whatever I want (i.e. earthly blessings) if I delight in Him. But think very carefully about what the Psalmist is saying here…
1) “Delight yourself in the Lord…”
The Hebrew word translated “delight” (עָנַג, pronounced aw-nag) literally means to be delicate or feminine (Strong’s, עָנַג.) It carries the idea of being pliable or sensitive. In this particular context, it means to be dependent upon God and to derive one’s pleasure from Him.
Does this describe us?
Do we rely solely upon God?
Do we derive our greatest pleasure from Him?
To determine the answer to this, let me ask us a very simple diagnostic question: Would we rather spend time communing with God (in worship, the Word, prayer, even in our vocation) or with other people, engaged in other activities?
I can only speak for myself here, but I am often guilty of preferring the things of this life to the living and true God. It is not uncommon for God to seem distant or abstract in our sojourn here on this earth. At the same time, the good gifts which God has given to us (for example: family, friends, food and shelter) are often so accessible and provide instant gratification. I confess that I am often guilty of delighting in them more than God. How about you?
The Psalmist calls us to delight ourselves in God. In fact, He does more than just make a suggestion here. The verb translated “delight” is an imperative in the Hebrew, meaning this is a command. This is not a helpful suggestion which the Psalmist sets before us… no… this is a command from the pen of the inspired Psalmist to strive to delight completely in God.
How do we do this?
I have just confessed that I am not always good at this, so I am probably not the best person to answer this question. However, I have found that when I am most focused upon God… when I am bathed in the revelation of God found in His Word… when I spend considerable amounts of time in prayer… most importantly, when I remember the greatness of my salvation as found in Jesus Christ… then my delight in God is always greater. Therefore… for me… it seems that the key to delighting in God is spending much time in His Word and prayer and worshipping my God who has saved me eternally in Jesus Christ.
This is not an isolated command in Scripture. We see this set forth as the normal experience of believers all throughout Scripture…
Psalm 27:4 (ESV) – 4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: 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 inquire in his temple.
Psalm 42:1-2 (ESV) – 1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 63:1 (ESV) – 1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Philippians 3:8 (ESV) – 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…
Notice in this last example (Phil 3:8), the Apostle Paul states that he is willing to give up “everything” so that he may know Jesus Christ. Delighting in God can be costly… but it is worth it. The Psalmist tells us that this desire for pleasure in God will not be ignored…
2) “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
The term translated “desires” (מִשְׁאָלָה, pronounced mish-aw-law) refers to petitions or requests (TWOT, מִשְׁאָלָה.) In Hebrew thought, the heart was primarily the seat of the inner man. It was the source of the will. In other words, the Psalmist tells us that God will honor our delighting in Him by graciously giving us what we are asking of Him from the very depths of our being.
Now think carefully here… if we are delighting ourselves in God… then what are the desires of our heart?
If we are relying upon God and deriving our primary pleasure in Him, then He is the desire of our heart. The promise here is not that God will give us the things of this world if we delight in Him… no… the promise is that God will give us Himself, if and when we delight ourselves in Him.
The greatest blessing which we can ever receive is to know God and bask in His glory. Jesus said that eternal life is ultimately all about knowing God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent (Jn 17:3.) The greatest blessing imaginable is for God to make His face to shine upon us (Num 6:22-27.)
God promises that when we delight in Him… when we are relying upon Him… when we take pleasure in Him… then He will give Himself to us. The Apostle Paul was willing to give up everything in order to experience this (Phil 3:8.)
How about us?
Does this describe us?
Do we bask in the blessing of knowing God?
If not… then are we truly delighting ourselves in the Lord?
May our prayer be that God will set our affections upon Him, first and foremost. May we desire Him more than anything else. May we seek Him earnestly. May we pant after Him. May we count all things loss for the sake of knowing Him. May we delight ourselves in the Lord… and may He give us the desire of our hearts.