Psalm 37:4, notes

The Duty of Delight (Ps. 37:4)

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Delight.  It is that reality that every person is in constant pursuit of.  We seek it and find it in many things – a sunset, a spouse, a friend, or even a sporting event, among others.  I have heard recently and agree with, among others, C.S. Lewis and John Piper, who have transformed my thinking about verses of the Bible like this, from which they draw that the consummation of a man’s delight in anything results in an outward expression of praise due to the inward reality of joy.  Moreover, I attest to the fact that more often than not, if we are truly excited about something we tend to share it with others.

This verse out of the Psalms is one of the more loaded verses that I have come across, though I aim at this being a short volume, more or less due to confinement of time.  My preparation of this sermon is for a local school’s student-led ministry meeting – “First Priority”.  For my purposes, and the direction of this verse, the ministry couldn’t have had a better title.  I believe that with this text, God aims at revealing that title as dynamic, life-transforming truth.  My hope is to continue to build upon this short writing in the future if the Lord so provides more time in the pilgrimage He has given.

‘Command and Promise’

The text is primarily split into two elements: command and promise.  “Delight yourself in the Lord” is a command of God.  “He will give you the desires of your heart” is a promise of God.  Moreover, they are dependent upon one another.  God affects them both to produce the other.  Yet, He commands us to delight.  God makes it our duty to delight and to delight in Him.  As there are two elements, let us take them as such, command and, then, promise.  

This is the nature of true worship.  First, God is the only being whereby it is not sinful for Him to exalt Himself.  He does not mean to give His glory to another (Is. 42:8).  Imagine if I were to walk into my home tonight and in the presence of my wife exclaim, “Delight yourself in me!”  It just doesn’t work!  There is nothing about me at all that is desirable less God’s traits. Paul, Barnabas, and Peter are worshipped as gods at certain points in the book of Acts and each time they refused and mourned over the people’s act of worship.  However, when Thomas upon seeing Christ raised from the dead and touching His wounds falls down and worships Him, and Christ does not refuse His worship.  Why?  Because Thomas was doing what he was created to do, and Jesus was receiving what He alone is worthy to receive.  Thomas was satisfied in God, and God was glorified in Thomas. As a preacher, if I were to stand before a congregation and draw their attention away from God and place it upon anything else, I would be harming the congregation, for I would have moved their consciousness away from the infinitely glorious and desirable God and placed it upon that which is fleeting, fading, and finite.  God on the other hand can righteously command, “Delight yourself in Me!”  For, when God commands that we delight in Him, He commands us to satisfy ourselves and find our greatest joy in Him.  In Jeremiah 2:13, God says that His people had committed two evils against Him, one, that they had forsaken Him, the fountain of living water, and two, in place of Him they had created broken cisterns that could hold no water.  God is not concerned, then, that we delight to much, but rather that we sell ourselves short by delighting in what is not infinitely worthy of our worship.  In the words of C.S. Lewis, “we are far too easily pleased”.  We settle for things that cannot satisfy because God crated us for His glory, not that of anything else.  As He created us for His glory, so it was always to be that we are to find our greatest joy and delight in God.  Thus, God commands us to delight in Him.  God exalts Himself and in this exaltation we see the most loving act.  

We make provision to delight in what we delight in.  If we desire to delight in a sunset, we walk outside at the close of day.  If I desire to delight in my wife, I make picnic’s or make the bed, or clean the house, or do yard work.  In such instances, the desire is there to delight in the object of affection.  The provision we make are the means to the end of delighting in that object.  If our delight is rightly in the Lord, then we make provision to delight in Him.  We study the Scriptures, commune in prayer, serve and teach in love, meditate and praise.  All of these are means to that end of praising God.  The Shorter Catechism poses this question:  “What is the chief end of man?”  and answers, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  John Piper, here, makes the observation that these are not separate pursuits but rather one and the same – that we glorify God ‘by’ enjoying Him forever.  Therefore, in everything that we do we ought to pursue our joy in God, whether it be eating breakfast, taking a test, walking, breathing, talking, working, etc.  We must have a conscious awareness of God in every activity of life, for in so doing we glorify Him.  

Is this not the exact opposite of what we hear all the time – that we should not pursue delight at all, but should live boring, mundane lives as Christians.  Thus, our desires are deflected upon other things and off of God who alone can give us joy.  Again, we do not desire to much, we desire to little.  We do not delight enough because we do not delight in God.  As Christians, we are to seek our delight, our satisfaction in God.  We must fight for joy. 

Praise is the consummation of one’s delight in God.  Our Lord said that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.  When we set our sights on a beautiful afternoon, or an engaging attraction, the spontaneous reaction that occurs is praise often shared with another.  We want others to delight in what we are delighting in.  How this ought to play into our evangelism!  If we delight in God, then let our lips praise Him with authenticity.  This is a heart issue!  The Pharisees offered praise with their lips but their hearts were far from Him (Mark 7).  Our affections are to be consumed by God – whether it be mourning, excitement, joy, happiness, sorrow, anger – our range of emotions are to be subject to this one – delight in the Lord resulting in praise which glorifies Him.  

Delight is not a begrudging duty.  This command is the difference between ‘have to’ and ‘desire to’.  When we think of the word “duty” we think of a begrudging task.  Our mind turns to making up beds and washing dishes and taking out the trash and doing things for other people even when we really don’t want to.  The command to delight in the Lord is not like this.  The commandments of the Lord are not burdensome, and neither is the duty to delight.  God says, “I give you this command, and it is the most loving command that I could give to you, that is, delight yourself in me.”  When we wash dishes, clean clothes, and make dinner, we are to do those things in the pursuit of joy in the Lord.  Doing the deeds in themselves is not the end, but only the means to the end of enjoying God.  Thus, we are to take everything captive and make it obedient to the end of enjoying God in the activity.  This is how we glorify God in all things, whether we eat, sleep, or drink.  God is not served by human hands.  He is not concerned with our duty.  He is concerned with our heart, with our inward man, with us being filled with joy in knowing Him.  Why does God command us to delight in Him?  Because He desires us to know and feel that He is our greatest joy and treasure, and in so understanding to receive His most glorious praise.

Concerning the promise, it is this: that as we delight ourselves in Him who is most delightful, so our heart is filled with more desire for Him who is most delightful.  

The text does not say “Delight yourself in yourself, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  It reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  There is a direct correlation between the object of delight and the nature of the desires given.  If we were to delight in ourselves, then God would give us the desires that we deserve, that is, those that corrupt and lead to hell.  However, when we delight in the Lord and find Him to be the source and sustenance to our greatest joy, then the desires that He creates within us are those desires to delight in Him still more.  Such desires lead to eternal life with Him.  As we are filled with God, so our desires are transformed from earthly desires to spiritual desires.  If we truly have God as our greatest delight, then the desire of our heart will be more of Him.  Here, God is happy to oblige.  He enables us or inclines us to delight all the more in Him, and in this we too are most satisfied.  Our greatest good is to delight in God.  As God sets the standard of good, so He commands us to delight in Him, and so He gives us the desire to pursue hotly after joy.  As our heart’s desire is to find great joy, so we will only be satisfied when we obey God’s command to delight in the Lord.

All of this points to conversion.  It is impossible for a man to delight in anything but himself if he does not know Jesus Christ to be his personal Lord and Savior and Treasure.  Our heart has to be changed; we must be born again.  Until we are born again, our heart will shrivel under the weight of years of vanity, and disappointment, and joylessness.  Jesus said that the man who knows the Son, knows the Father.  He who knows the Father has had a new heart and a new spirit placed within him by the Father.  It is this new heart that God’s command and promise come to: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”


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