One verse that is often misunderstood is Psalm 37:4. All of us love to quote it, but do we truly understand what it means?
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart” (Psalm 37:4)
Okay, so let’s look at this verse. Now, some Bible folks will say that God is going to give us whatever we think we want. But is that really what the Psalmist was trying to tell us?
Hmm. Well, I believe the key part of this verse is where he wrote:
“Delight yourself also in the Lord.”
Do you agree that is the primary message in the Psalm? Okay, if so, when we delight ourselves in the Lord, does He change the desires within our heart to what most honors Him and then give them to us? I don’t think so. We certainly don’t always get what we want, do we? Even the Rolling Stones understood that! [lol just kidding]. However, He does teach us to value (and even want) what He — in His sovereign and loving plan — gives us.
One thing we will grow to understand is that as we draw closer to our Lord (and begin to consider who He really is) we will want what He wants. The desire of our hearts will be moved . . . changed . . . and we will hear Him say, “Well done.” Ah, and when that day comes, He will flood us with more joy than we can imagine. He will say, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, 23).
Now here is the exciting part of this: we don’t have to wait until we die to know how He wants us to live! He commands us, for His glory and our good, to delight in Him not just in Heaven forever, but today, here and now!
To delight in our Lord is to be happy with Him and in Him. To do that, we must cultivate our relationship, be patient but steadfast in our pursuit of Him. This is no different than our relationships with other people. Think of your spouse (if you have one). Did you just suddenly meet and decide, hey, let’s have a family . . . no, your relationship had to grow. Well, as we spend time with our Lord; as we bow our knee before Him as our Lord, as well as spend time with Him as our friend! Huh? We can do that? Yep, Jesus declared, “I don’t call you servants any longer . . . Instead, I call you friends . . .”
Glory to God! How do we do that? Oh, it is so easy. We draw closer to Him by learning and meditating every day on what’s true about Him. (I recommend that you read great books like: Knowing God by J. I. Packer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life by A.W. Tozer, and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. Oh sure, I could recommend all kinds of other books. But these will get you started). Or, do what worked for me, pray!
In this verse above, it’s always helpful to think about what the text says compared to what it doesn’t say. that verse reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord.” It doesn’t say, “Sit there and wait for the Lord to come and delight you.” Do you see what I mean?
I am talking about an active, not passive, pursuit of God! An easy synonym to pursuit would be to “avidly seek Him.” Although our Father loves us deeply, He doesn’t spoon-feed us His desires and plans. We need to go to His banquet, reach our hands out and grab the delicious cuisine He has laid out for us. As surely as we need to feed our physical bodies, it’s our responsibility to feed our spirits by opening His Word and allowing it to mold our thoughts toward God, and to delight in Him!
Yes, our God and His Word are nourishing, but just knowing that it is nourishing won’t bring us to the table. We need to turn from our self-satisfied lifestyles; our selfish thoughts; our greedy and selfish plans and turn to cultivate an appetite for God! The Psalmist also wrote, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!”(Psalm 34:8).
Personally, the way I have grown closer to my Lord was to meditate on His unfathomable love and grace. I lost myself in Him! Instead of continually meditating on all of the pains and disappointments in my life, I began to focus solely on Him! He became the center of my thinking, and before I know what was happening, I became satisfied!
The Good News Translation renders Psalm 37:4 as:
“Seek your happiness in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire.”
Isn’t that what Jesus taught?
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33)
Ah, my dear friends, a natural outgrowth of our pursuit, and as we grow to find our happiness in God, we will begin to want to do what pleases Him; our hearts will be given over to Him; we will delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our hearts!
Whatever we want will be exactly what He wants for us. Our desires will, at last, be identical with His desires. Oh, Glory to God! There will no longer be a difference between duty, and delight! Oh, what sweet relief!
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