Psalm 37:4 (NKJV) Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
This is a scripture that we Christians take great pleasure in quoting. We quote and claim this because we believe that if we do in fact delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us whatever we ask.
John 14:13 (NLT) You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.
1 John 5:14-15 (NLT)14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.
Well most of us know from experience that God doesn’t always give us what we want. So does that mean that we aren’t delighting ourselves in the Lord?
The leader of the weekly bible study at my church has highlighted this scripture in two of his recent studies and that prompted me to ask the question what does it mean to delight yourself in the Lord? Then when you know what it means how do you do it?
Delight yourself in the Lord
When David wrote Psalm 37 he was apparently upset because of the prosperity of the wicked. They didn’t follow God and yet everything appeared to be going great for them. But when you read the entire psalm you see that while the wicked delight in carnal or physical things we the children of God, should never be envying them.. We are to look at and delight in the things of God and His Kingdom. When we look at those things and delight in the Lord and the promises in His Word, we realize that the day of their day of reckoning is coming and it won’t be pretty.
Psalm 37:12-20 (NLT) 12 The wicked plot against the godly; they snarl at them in defiance. 13 But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming. 14 The wicked draw their swords and string their bows to kill the poor and the oppressed, to slaughter those who do right. 15 But their swords will stab their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. 16 It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. 17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the LORD takes care of the godly. 18 Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. 19 They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough. 20 But the wicked will die. The LORD’s enemies are like flowers in a field— they will disappear like smoke.
But the righteous, who delight themselves in the Lord, will be rewarded.
Psalm 37:21-31 (NLT) 21 The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers. 22 Those the LORD blesses will possess the land, but those he curses will die. 23 The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. 25 Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. 26 The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing. 27 Turn from evil and do good, and you will live in the land forever. 28 For the LORD loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly. He will keep them safe forever, but the children of the wicked will die. 29 The godly will possess the land and will live there forever. 30 The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. 31 They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path.
The word “delight” here is a Hebrew word, “anog”, and means something “delicate” or “soft” that a person would enjoy, and take delight in.
Isaiah uses the word of a nursing child who delights in his mother;
Isaiah 66:11 (NKJV) That you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, That you may drink deeply and be delighted With the abundance of her glory."
He also uses it of the luxuries found in palaces.
Isaiah 13:22 (NLT) Hyenas will howl in its fortresses, and jackals will make dens in its luxurious palaces. Babylon’s days are numbered; its time of destruction will soon arrive.
When you delight in something, your thoughts are constant towards it; you think about it all the time. When you think about it you smile. When things get tough, thinking about it lifts your spirits. That’s the kind of delight David is talking about.
This Delight is Mutual
As our scripture says we are to delight ourselves in the Lord and if we do He will give us the desires of our hearts. That signifies a mutual relationship. We delight in the Lord and He gives us our heart’s desires.
Here’s an example of what I mean from the book of Zephaniah
Zephaniah 3:14-17 (NLT) 14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 For the LORD will remove his hand of judgment and will disperse the armies of your enemy. And the LORD himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster. 16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! 17 For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
What Zephaniah said is that we are to rejoice with our whole hearts. In other words delight ourselves in the Lord because He is with us. Then he says, in verse 17, that the Lord is indeed with us and, because He is, He will delight in us. We are to find our delight in our relationship with the Lord.
Isaiah 58:14 (NLT) Then the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
Psalm 16:11 (NLT) You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Psalm 40:8 (NKJV) I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart."
Romans 7:22 (NKJV) For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
Psalm 1:1-2 (NLT) 1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.2 But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.
How do You Delight Yourself in the Lord?
We delight ourselves in the Lord by doing what pleases Him and putting His law, His Word, in our hearts. Matthew Henry in his Exposition of the Old and New Testaments said “He has not promised to gratify all the appetites of the body and the humours of the fancy, but to grant all the desires of the heart, all the cravings of the renewed sanctified soul. What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and live to God, to please him and to be pleased in him.”
Delighting ourselves in the Lord, as I wrote earlier means that our thoughts are constant towards God and that everything we do is in obedience to Him. Because we are not yet completely conformed to the image of Christ, we can’t do this on our own.
Romans 8:29 (NLT) For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
We need the work of the Holy Spirit to help us delight ourselves in the Lord.
John 14:26 (NLT) But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
The Holy Spirit helps us but here is what we can do as well.
Psalm 119:16, 24, 35, 47, 77 (NKJV) 16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. 24 Your testimonies also are my delight And my counselors. 35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it. 47 And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love. 77 Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; For Your law is my delight.
You are doing the five things I just mentioned that help you delight yourself in the Lord and things don’t change. Your desire is, of course that these things change. The key is to believe in the promises of God and to trust that what He says He can and will do.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Remember that to delight yourself in the Lord is to completely submit to His will and in submitting, to accept His will. That’s impossible for us to do to do when catastrophe strikes, but it is only possible when we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit. When we run out of words to say or pray, the Holy Spirit does the praying for us with groaning that we don’t understand.
Romans 8:26-28 (NLT)26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
1 Corinthians 2:11 (NLT) No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit.
Will God Really Give You the Desires of Your Heart?
Delighting ourselves in the Lord means that we find peace and fulfilment in Him. Our scripture says that if we delight ourselves in Him then He will give us what we desire. Does that mean if we go to church every Sunday, bible study every week, have a long quiet time with Him every day, and “seek and save the lost”, that He will give us a new Mercedes, a big new house, a wife or husband? He may do those things but that’s not what Psalm 37 or other scriptures say. The idea in Psalm 37 and other scriptures is that if we really delight in the things of God, then our desires will start to look like His. When that happens He will fulfill every one of our desires. He will even grant our wants, as our heart’s desires begin to match up with His will. Chances are that when you delight in the Lord your greatest desires will not be for material things but your priority will be on Him.
Matthew 6:33 (NLT) Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Philippians 4:19 (NLT) And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
While wealth, status, and material possessions are good things, and there is nothing wrong with any of them, they are temporary and can never really satisfy. The more material things we have the more we want. The more prestige we have the more we want. The more money we have the more we want. Again there is nothing wrong with any of these things but they are all temporary. The things of God’s kingdom are the things that will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV) 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Here’s the way Solomon puts it;
Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NLT) “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NLT) 13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
On the other hand;
1 Timothy 6:6 (NLT) Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.
1 John 2:15-17 (NLT) 15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
Material things, prestige, position and the other things the world offers will never completely satisfy or fulfill us. God is the one who will meet all of our needs. He will always provide above and beyond our expectations.
John 4:14 (NLT) But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
God will satisfy the desires of anyone who is truly delighting in Him because those desires will be according to His will. The key to enjoying life is not in getting God to give us what we want. It’s in learning to want what a loving God wants to give us. When we truly delight ourselves in the Lord, then we desire His will more that our own. Yes, God really does give us the desires of our hearts when we delight ourselves in Him.
Editors note: Originally published August 2015 modified 8-26-17 to improve final paragraph.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.