“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
How many times have you heard this verse quoted or even quoted it yourself? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? By itself, that one statement seemingly holds great promise. “If we delight in, love God, and find joy in Him, He will fill our lives with all the things we enjoy and value.”
Just one problem. That “interpretation” is taken out of context and totally self-focused. In order to understand the original meaning, let’s step back and consider the greater context of the verse – Psalm 37 – so we can better grasp the meaning of verse 4. (If you have time, read Psalm 37:1-9 now.)
The context of Psalm 37:4
In this psalm, David – the shepherd boy God made king – contemplates an age-old dilemma. Often, evil people prosper while those who faithfully follow God struggle to pay the bills and provide for their families. It’s tempting to envy “evil” people who enjoy wealth and all the things the world offers. We may even wonder what’s the use of following God? Maybe we should just do things the world’s way?
Things really haven’t changed throughout history. Since the fall, people have acquired wealth through deception. Innocent people have gone hungry. Evil people enjoy luxury while righteous people suffer great need. The wicked gain at the expense of the godly. The ways of the wicked both tempt us and harm us.
David saw this plight in his own day. He knew this earthly life is not fair. But as horrible as the situation was and is, he knew it was temporary. He wrote Psalm 37 to encourage God’s people to see things through an eternal lens. To realize that the spiritual far outweighs the physical.
The wicked and their wealth will one day perish (Psalm 37:20), but the spiritual inheritance of the godly will “endure forever” (Psalm 37:18). The things of this world are fleeting and temporary. The things that only God can give will remain for eternity.
A Better Understanding of Psalm 37:4
Now that we’ve looked briefly at the larger context, let’s reconsider verse 4. “Delight” means to be “soft, pliable” and to “pamper oneself.” We are tempted to “delight” ourselves in the world, to be molded by it and to lose ourselves in its offerings. But God calls us to yield ourselves to Him, to be soft and pliable in His hand so He can shape us into His image.
In the surrounding verses, David helps the reader understand what it means to “delight yourself in the Lord.” Here are three ways David encourages us to do this:
- Trust in God through active obedience (Psalm 37:3).
- “Commit” our way to Him by living under submission to His will (Psalm 37:5).
- Wait patiently for God to act on our behalf (Psalm 37:7).
A Christian who “delights herself in the LORD” will be pliable in God’s transforming hand because she trusts in, submits to, and waits on Him.
But what about the “desires of your heart?” The context helps us understand this as well. God’s people saw the seeming success and prosperity of the wicked, even at the expense of the righteous. The purpose of the psalm is to encourage those who trust in God that the wicked will not win. If God’s people will continue to “trust in, submit to, and wait on” God, their “desire” (request and petition) for righteousness to prevail will be satisfied.
5 Ways the LORD Will Fulfill the Desires of the Righteous
- Justice will be done. The wicked will be punished (Psalm 37:2, 13, 17, 35-36, 38).
- The Lord will protect His children and give them strength in times of difficulty (Psalm 37:15-17, 24, 39-40).
- The righteous will receive an eternal inheritance (Psalm 37:18, 29, 37).
- The Lord will sustain them in times of need (Psalm 37:19).
- The righteous will experience the Lord’s love and faithfulness (Psalm 37:28).
When we patiently trust in God and submit ourselves to His care and protection, He will be faithful to sustain, protect, and provide. And we will see His justice carried out in His time. The wicked will not prevail.
Do you see this verse from a different perspective? How has your understanding changed?
Other posts you might like:
- The Real Promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13
- Do You Misuse Philippians 4:13?
- Proverbs 22:6 is NOT a Promise
Some upcoming events you might be interested in:
Oct 1-2: Enjoy God’s Word Women’s Online Bible Study Conference – This 4th annual conference organized by Katie Orr is a huge encouragement for all women who want to get more out of God’s Word every day. Dozens of solid Bible teachers share their experience and heart. I’m honored to get to share here too! The $49 ticket gets you lifetime access to the recorded teachings. Find out more.
Oct 4-29: “Heirloom” Book Launch Team – I need your help to introduce my upcoming devotional book about spiritual legacy to the world. The book launch team is also a lot of fun! And you get a few goodies! Who’s in?? Apply now. Find out more about “Heirloom.”
Sept 23-25: Falling in Love with Jesus Online Retreat – Another great online opportunity for women to be encouraged through God’s Word. I am honored to be teaching here. And the proceeds from this event benefit Mercy’s Light Family, a maternity home and transformation housing for girls/young women in Kenya. Find out more.
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It’s so great to learn a new perspective about this verse. Thanks a lot!
Psalm 37 is my favorite chapter in the Bible. It saved my heart during some very hard times. I also especially love this verse (Psalm 37:4), and have always believed it to be a promise of God, sometimes helping me to wait on Him when my heart’s desires were crushed. I never thought about delighting in His Word as bringing me physical pleasure or temporal things that I like. I thought He would give me the correct desires and then bring them into my life.
In fact, in recent years I have thought that He actually created me with the desires He wanted me to pray earnestly for. But just today, I realized there is only one real desire in my heart, which is for my loved ones to come to Him.
I know the first thing people will tell me is that He cannot force people to give up their will in order to give me the desires of my heart. But do you think He has created me with this desire in the first place, and that is why my heart yearns for those people to know Him, or does the promise mean something else?
I am 62. From the time I was little, when someone would ask me what I would wish for if I could have any one thing in the world, I would say, “That everyone in the world will come to know Jesus and love Him.” Now that I am a great grandmother, the only prayer I have is that my family and all those I know and love will turn to Him. I think God gave me the desire for those people so I would pray for this, and that He will give me the desire of my heart because He put it there in the first place. Is this in error?
I believe that God has definitely put that desire in your heart as it is His will that none should perish, but come to know Him and have eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). I want to encourage you that when we delight ourselves in God, as you said, His desires are in you and He would want you to pray into it/has put it on your heart to pray for them. He may have already revealed this to you. It is the heart of God that everybody should come into relationship with Him. So keep praying, because God is using your prayers and I believe that you are making a difference in people’s lives through your prayers. “…The earnest prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Hope this encourages you 🙂
This is a wonderful perspective, but the verses state Psalm 34 when you meant 37
Thanks for the catch! I meant verse “4” instead of “34.” I fixed it!
Thanks for this article. Like it. A few places mentioned chapter 34, e.g. “1. Trust in God through active obedience (Psalm 34:3).”, and I think you mean Psalm 37:3.
Yes! Thank you, I will correct it!
Psalm 37:4 delight thyself also in the Lord and he will give you the desire of your heart ❤️ thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to use you fully explain Psalm 37 it open up my understanding . May 11,2019
I agree that the more common interpretation of this verse is self-focused—that God will give you everything on your wishlist if you delight in him.
First: every and anything we receive from Him must be according to His will and for His glory and purpose—not that I pretend to know all of His purposes.
But second: there were things we “desired” before we were saved, but with salvation comes change, including what we desire. We no longer desire what we used to. So in this sense the verse aims to teach us that as we delight in the Lord he will determine (give) what desires we have in the first place! He will “take” away old desires and “give” us new desires in our hearts…
It’s not about OUR wishlists, but about Him giving us (in our hearts) what HE wants us to want… a new wishlist, so to speak, and THOSE He will fulfill for His own sake!
YES! I have come to realize, as I continue to grow in the Word (oh, so far to go!), that, as you indicated, our heart’s desires change the more we delight in the Lord. So, it could even be said that the word “GIVES” actually means He implants into us the (actual) desires (we now have) in our heart. Just as I was given my hair color, or the personality traits of my dad, God fills our hearts with desires (for Kingdom things). So, could it also be that this verse isn’t about having our requests met at all, but rather about the work God does in our hearts? But then, if God is the One who implants those desires into our hearts, it only makes sense that He would also be the One to grant them. Now that’s good stuff!!
Sharing is caring 💞
Im blessed ❣️
Thanks a lot and God bless 🙏