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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

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For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
Psalm 139:13-14

A beautiful psalm quoted by many. Memorized by clergy and laypeople alike. A delightful passage to show that we are special people because God created us. We are wonderful!

But I couldn’t understand what it meant to be fearfully made. What does that mean? As it turns out, not exactly what I thought.

This Psalm praises the Lord for His vast knowledge and power. It begins by admitting that God knows us completely and was the sole agent of our existence. God’s creative power is elaborated on by showing that He created us in the womb and that our frames (skeletons) were not hidden from Him.

God’s powerful miracle of creation is detailed in Genesis 1. Every day he elaborates on his workmanship, beginning with light, then land, seas, stars, plants, etc. He reviews his works every day and proclaims that it is good. We know that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17) and he showed that with an intricate masterpiece called the heavens and the earth.

But God wasn’t finished. The best was yet to come. Day six, God determined to make mankind, a creation after his own image. He made them male and female and blessed them. It wasn’t until after Adam and Eve were created did he say that his creation was VERY good.

This is what Psalm 139:14 is referencing.

If you were to look up the Hebrew word for made, you’d see that there is no reference. It was added by the English translators as is the word and that separated fearfully and wonderfully.

So taking those words out, we are left with, I am fearfully wonderfully.

The word fearfully can easily be translated to “ones being fearful.” Literally, ones that bring fear or awe.

So now we have ones being fearful, wonderfully.

The Hebrew word for wonderfully in this verse is “palah” literally meaning ‘to be distinguished, or set apart.’ These verses use the same Hebrew word.

But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell…” Exodus 8:22a (italics mine)

But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Israel an Egypt. Exodus 11:7 (italics mine)

The second use of the word wonderful in Psalm 139:14 is the Hebrew word “pala.” This is only slightly different in spelling but means, ‘extraordinary.” This is clearly different than the meaning of ‘wonderfully’ that was previously used.

Here is the exact transliteration of the Hebrew text:

I shall acclaim you on that ones being fearful I am distinguished ones being marvelous deeds of you and soul of me one-knowing exceedingly. (www.scripture4all.org)

Here’s how it could read:

I praise You, for out of all the things that bring awe, I am distinguished. Extraordinary are Your works; I can’t deny them.

The psalmist praises the Lord for all his wonderful works that he can’t deny. But among all of these things that bring fear or awe to us, we as humans are distinguished or set apart. The vastness of the heavens and the complexity of the smallest of cells leaves us breathless, but we as God’s image-bearers are set apart from them. He created us for a greater purpose. Every person was born with a spirit so to relate personally to their Creator who is spirit (John 4:24).

We are special. But we should never use this verse to glorify mankind.

God chose Israel, not based on anything they were or did, but simply because he chose them. (Deuteronomy 7:6-11) Similarly, God created us differently than everything else. He gave us his breath of life, chose us, redeemed us, and called us his own, not because of anything good we have done, but because he chose to. This Psalm isn’t glorifying people, it’s glorifying an all-powerful God who loves us and created us for a specific purpose.

Because he knitted us together, and set us apart from all other created things, in humility we should pray as the Psalmist concluded:

Search me O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.

sadThe intruding crash of crystal silenced the party. The hum of conversation hushed. The melodic sonata from the grand piano rudely interrupted. She didn’t raise her head. On her knees, she beheld the shattered pieces of glass strewn across the marble floor. Her eyes welled with tears as a knot formed in her throat. She was afraid. Afraid of the master.

He’d spent much time prepping the crew for this event. This celebration was to honor his father, the good man responsible for his wealth and status. The grand occasion was for his glory so perfection was required. Any error was to result in immediate termination. Everything was on the line.

Errors are what she did best. Forgotten chores, late arrivals, and broken dishes. He’d been gracious to her in the past, but this had to be it. There was no excuse. She’d ruined the party and deserved to be removed from service.

Slowly picking up the pieces, her head still hung low. She attempted to control her weeping as to save what face she had left. Then a hand reached for her. She recognized the well-manicured nails and olive-colored skin. She traced the hand upwards with her eyes and met the loving gaze of her master. Taking his hand, he helped her to her feet.

“Are you okay?” he whispered. She could only shrug.

Dignified women raised snobby noses at her. Well-dressed men snickered amongst themselves. A mocking atmosphere belittled the humiliated servant.

The master addressed the crowd. “I apologize for the mess. It was my fault. I bumped this poor lady. We will get this cleaned up right away and continue the celebration.”

He then turned to the shocked woman. In a soft voice, he calmed her. “I’ll make sure this is taken care of. Go and get another tray of drinks. You have a party to serve.”

To you I lift my eyes, oh You who are enthroned in the Heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their Master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our GOD till he has mercy upon us.

Psalm 123:1-2