Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
A read-through of Psalm 37 would quickly show us the err in which we apply verse 4. I’ve heard countless times Christians quote this verse to boast in God for how he’s blessed them with a job, health, marriage, etc. Thus the hearer assumes that if one “delights” in God, then all of their dreams come true. As if somehow entering church is equivalent to skipping through the crowded streets of Disneyland.
I’m fully aware that these are well intended Christians who mean no harm to their family in Christ nor to the Word of God. My intention is simply to understand the text. May we see it for how it’s written, apply it accordingly, and walk, not into Disneyland, but into the glorious riches found only in our Living God, Jesus Christ.
David in Psalm 37 is comparing the righteous and the wicked. Evildoers are succeeding while the righteous are starving. The Psalmist reassured the original hearers that God loves and cares for his people, and each will be rewarded in due time. But as for the evildoer, he will “fade like the grass” and their “swords shall enter their own hearts.”
But in the midst of this beautifully written and divinely inspired song, we have a promise. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
We easily read “delight” and assume it means “to be happy or joyful.” Thus that rendering leads us to read this psalm like this: “Find happiness in God, enjoy serving him and going to church, be grateful for salvation, etc.”
The Hebrew word anog, translated ‘delight,’ literally means “to be soft or pliable.”
The connotation of this word does involve joy and happiness but in its root meaning reminds me of Isaiah 64:8,
But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
This idea of giving ourselves to the Lord and allowing him to mold us fits the flow of the Psalm. The next verse, thinking of ‘delight’ in this way, is paralleled to 37:4.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
There is a running theme in this Psalm that the righteous submits to the plan, wisdom, and working of God. The child of God doesn’t fight his sovereignty, but willfully and joyfully allows his Father to make decisions and shape his character.
And thus we receive the desires of our hearts. If we are completely subjected to the authority and use of our Lord, what desires will we have? David answers this very question.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday. (verse 6)
But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (verse 11)
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord. (verse 39)
These are only a few but I encourage you to read it for yourself and mark all the blessings that God gives to those who delight in him. David didn’t just write this, he lived this. He knew that the best place to be was in the creative, loving hands of his God. And that his greatest desire wasn’t kingdoms, wealth, relationships, or pleasure, but God himself.
This is why I believe that King David was declared as a man after God’s own heart. Because he wanted what God wanted. He desired solely his Lord and all that he is; righteousness, peace, salvation, joy, and justice.
Jesus would preach this very thing to his disciples after they asked him how to pray. Christ makes an astounding statement to them.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (Luke 11:13)
To give ourselves completely to God’s direction and use is the ONLY way to receive these good gifts. It’s not simply being happy that I’m a Christian. It’s not simply being willing to serve in church. It’s not found in only telling people how good it is to be saved. It’s the heart cry of the song:
Take me, mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand*
May our heart’s desire lead us into the Potter’s caring hands, and allow him to shape us into all he created us to be. May we not sell our lives short for temporary pleasures that are here today, gone tomorrow, and weigh us down in shame and guilt. But may we hold on to his promise:
Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace. (Psalm 37:37)
*Potter’s Hand- Darlene Zschech/Hillsong Australia