Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
-- Ps 37:4

Psalm 37:4 is a widely beloved verse in the Bible, with good reason. Its right up there with your Jeremiah 29:11's and Romans 8:31's and the like when it comes to getting that quick confidence boosts in God's eternal providence.

Yet... I submit that it may be one of those verses that might tend to fall into that Prayer-of-Jabez, name-it-claim-it syndrome. You know the idea: be good and do what God says and he'll give you what you ask for. Which, of course, flies quite in the face of the gospel reality that the Christian life will (and indeed should) involve at least some certain amount of suffering and trial (thus making us more Christ-like). And in some places, this sadly mis-focused mind-set that God is primarily here to give us the things we ask for has began to take quite an evident toll on the expanse of the kingdom.

"But what's wrong with God giving me what my heart desires?"

Well...nothing. As long as your heart desires the right things. And who can claim that their heart is constantly set on such things?

I don't believe that Ps. 37:4 is one of the most mis-interpreted verses in the Bible, rather I would offer that I believe it to be one of the most under-interpreted. That is to say, it holds so much more than is seen at first glance.

This verse is usually read in the sense that God "will give you that which your heart desires." But that's not what it says, in fact it is specifically worded to say that God "will give you the desires of your heart." Did you catch that? Not necessarily the things you desire, but perhaps He'll simply be giving you the very desires themselves, in the first place.

And that's when you move one step closer toward your heart being constantly set on the right things.

Yes, God can, and sometimes may give you the things that you do desire. This is a good thing - Christians should rejoice in the blessings of God that He gives us in this present world. There is nothing wrong with praying to be blessed - as long as its done with wisdom and a right understanding of what contrite prayer should truly be.

But a heart that is most completely delighting itself in the Lord is one that is not concerned with the affairs of this world, "where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal." Rather, a total delight in the Lord is a desire to have more of Him. And that is the desire that we know He loves to fulfill.


83princess said...

All I can say is "amen" and thanks for that great post!

dwm said...

It is easy to think of Psalm 37:4 in a material sense as you indicated (and it is probably acceptable to do so to some extent), but I think you're correct in saying that there's more to it than that. I think the "desires themselves" could be characterized by something called "longsuffering".

If you read the entire chapter (specifically what it says about those who do evil), one thing that seems clear is that our chief desire should be for God. It is almost as if that verse could say, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you Himself".

What better thing could those mentioned in Hebrews 11-12 have "hoped for" (11:1) when their situations seemed grim, even to the point of death? I think that often we don't desire the right things at all, but thankfully He knows that and is patient...

modsolution said...

I believe what this verse is saying is that when we we set our hearts toward God he will give us the desires of our heart, in the sence that we will start to desire to do things his way. In other words he will give us the desire to spread his word he will give us the desire to do what is right. So lets face it it is not hard to do things if we desire in our heart to do them.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the desires God gives us as we seek Him could be called our "vision"? God has foreordained works that we should walk in them. To be in the center of HIS will and not our own modified version. To be able to see what God has for you to do, crafted by Him to do it and not only that but aslo given the desire to do it! It's all grace!

BamaG33K said...

A very good insight for the day before Valentine's.

I wonder if we know what is our TRUE heart's desire? Maybe it's deep in our heart where we really know who we are and Whose we are and what will make us truly joyful because God has already put that knowledge there. Maybe the trick is learning to be aware of what is really in our hearts instead of being distracted by the material and carnal desires that we only THINK are our "heart's desires."

Anonymous said...

I think the key to this scripture is "desires of your heart." It is not the desires of the flesh. Or the desire for material goods. If you examine what your heart truly desires, is it not love? Is it not acceptance? Is it not peace? the heart does not desire a new car, or a bigger house. If you delight in God, you will find peace and love. If you have the peace of God, and love, you will have everything that matters in life.

tim said...

fantastic David- God bless you and my thanks!

tim said...

Fantastic David - God bless you and my thanks!

Drew said...

Thank you -- I have heard that verse misquoted so many times by prosperity preachers and name-it-claim-it fanatics.

It's good to know there are others reading it rightly.

J said...

One has to admit, however, that your interpretation of this verse produces a very limited result. I am not saying that your interpretation is inaccurate, but here is what it seems to say:

Want more of God? Sure.
Want more of anything else? Go fish.

In any time of lack of food, money, shelter, companionship, etc., why would this verse comfort anyone?

The only possible thing, I suppose, that could be comforting is the possibility of acquiring peace. But then what's the point of the phrasing at all? Why not just say that God will give you himself if you ask for it, and that is all that you are promised to get?

Anonymous said...

Ezekiel 36

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.(27) And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

If we as spirit filled Christians have received this new heart as well as this spirit, then we have good clean non-corrupted hearts.

Thus if God is giving us these desires, they obviously need to be tested, but they need to be seriously considered as God speaking to us.

Anonymous said...

Should I then understand this verse as saying: "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will grant you the desires of HIS heart"?
It seems this verse is slightly missleading?

samara0329 said...

If you delight yourself in the Lord, you will desire what God also desires.