“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. As we’ve been doing together for the last several Thursdays, 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.)
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.
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 74:19).
- 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?