Jul 24, 2014
Our hearts are always full of desires.
Whether it’s desire for food, or friends, or God, or sex – at every waking moment we are always desiring something.
Which is why the promise of Psalm 37:4 captures our attention –
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Powerful promise. But what does it mean?
Some think it means that if I delight in God, then he will give me whatever else I desire, whether it be a job or health or a new car.
But there are a couple reasons I don’t think that’s what this promise means.
What Happens When We Delight in the Lord?
One reason is because of what happens when we delight in the Lord.
Think of a time when you delighted in something — maybe a sunset. While you delighted in the sunset, were you desiring food? Or new shoes? Or fame? No.
As you delighted in the sunset, what you desired was the sunset. You wanted to keep enjoying the beauty of the sunset.
Later on you might have other desires, but at the moment that you delight in the sunset, what you desire is the enjoyment of the sunset.
In the same way, when we delight in the Lord what we desire is the Lord — to keep beholding his glory, worshiping his majesty, seeing his beauty.
So when we delight in the Lord, the desires that we have in our hearts are desires for the Lord. So what Psalm 37:5 means is that if we delight in the Lord, he will satisfy our desires for him, by giving us more joy in him.
Does God Give Believers Everything We Desire?
Another reason is because in the Bible God does not give believers everything they desire.
Take Job, for example. Job was the most righteous man in the world (Job 1:8), which meant he delighted in the Lord. And surely Job desired that God would immediately heal the boils on his body. But God did not give Job this desire of his heart (Job 2:8).
Think also of David. David delighted in the Lord. And David desired to build a temple to the Lord. But God did not give David this desire of his heart (1 Chronicles 17:1-4).
Or take Paul. Paul also delighted in the Lord. And Paul desired that God remove his thorn in the flesh. But God did not give Paul this desire of his heart (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
So the Bible does not show God fulfilling all the desires of everyone who delights in him. But the Bible does show that if we delight in the Lord, then he will fully satisfy us in himself (Psalm 73:25-26).
What Do We Learn from the Rest of Psalm 37?
I read through the rest of this psalm, to see if there were other promises that might help us understand what it means for God to give us the desires of our heart.
I was surprised to discover one promise that was repeated five times in this Psalm. It’s the promise that the righteous who meekly wait for the Lord will be blessed by God with the gift of the Land (Psalm 37:9; Psalm 37:11; Psalm 37:22; Psalm 37:29; Psalm 37:34).
So what was this gift of the Land? I assumed it was the earthly Land of Israel.
But then I remembered that the Land Abraham was looking forward to receiving was “a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” which is “the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:16,10).
This deserves further study. But it makes me think that Psalm 37’s promise of the Land is not just about the earthly land of Israel, but also has something to do with enjoying God forever.
If so, then the promise of the Land is another way of describing God’s promise to give us the desires of our hearts by satisfying us in himself.
That’s what God promises us in Psalm 37:4 — satisfied hearts.
God promises that if we delight ourselves in him, his glory and beauty and love and majesty will so fill us that we will desire nothing else. Our hearts will be completely full. We will be perfectly content. He will have satisfied every desire of our hearts — in himself.
And Psalm 37:4 teaches that God will do this for everyone who delights himself in the Lord.
Which raises one last question –
How Do We Delight Ourselves in the Lord?
This is not something we can simply choose to experience. Because of our remaining sin we need the Spirit’s work to see and feel God’s glory in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
So this is not ultimately under our control. It is a sovereign, gracious, and blood-bought gift from God.
But there are steps we can take through which God promises to give us this gift.
First, confess sin. Sin grieves the Spirit, diminishing his work (Ephesians 4:30). So turn to Christ, and confess to him all known sin.
Second, trust Christ. God provides the work of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:5). So look to Christ’s mercy, by faith alone. Turn from everything else to trust him to change your heart so you see and feel him as your all-satisfying treasure.
Third, pray for the Spirit’s work. Jesus promised that the Father will increase the work of the spirit on everyone who asks (Luke 11:13). So pray – earnestly.
Fourth, meditate on God’s word. The Spirit softens our hearts, and reveals Christ, through his word (Ephesians 6:17). So find passages displaying God’s glory in Christ, and read them slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully.
Fifth, humbly and persistently wait on the Lord. He promises that as we come to him in faith, he will satisfy our hearts by pouring out his Spirit and revealing Christ to us (John 6:35; John 7:37-39; Galatians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:18). So trust his promise, and persist in seeking him.
He will be faithful. He will pour out his Spirit’s work so you once again can see and feel the glory of Jesus Christ.
And when you do, you will find yourself delighting in the Lord – so satisfied in him that you desire nothing else.
Just writing those words helps me see how much I need him. So — enough on this blog post. Time to seek the Lord.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- What Are the Promises of God?
- How to Be Content
- Why Do I Feel Far from God? (4-min video)
- A Reader Asks: “What if I’ve Never Had Joy in Christ?”