“Take pleasure in Yahweh;
And He will give to you the petitions of your heart.”
Recently, I my wife was listening to a popular Christian radio station in our area and I heard, during one of the breaks between songs, a commentator saying, “God wants to give you your heart’s desires…” Ultimately the man went on to explain that the more we delight in God the more God will bless our lives. And as I was standing there listening to this, I said to myself, “that’s surely not what David meant when he wrote these words.” By human terms, David’s life was a mess. His brothers did not like him much, his first wife was embarrassed by him, his father-in-law (King Saul) tried to kill him multiple times, and he spent much of his life hiding in the wilderness from the King and his men. Even as a king, David spent much of his time at war, he murdered one of his close friends, committed adultery, lost a child because of his sin, had another son take his kingdom out from under him, was denied by God in terms of building the Temple, etc… Yet, David understood where to go for peace and sanctuary. A life of trial and strife surely could not have been the desire of his heart (read the Psalms!), but he did take ultimate pleasure in Yahweh. If the radio commentator is right, David is doing something wrong. I think that the radio commentator is wrong…and so go all those who would read the Bible out of context.
In many ways, Psalm 37 reads more like a chapter in Proverbs than in the Psalms (then again, it would be one of David’s sons who would write the former). It contains a series of reflections or ponderings about living life well in this fallen world, and here in verse 4, we find the language that the radio commentator was drawing from. English translations tend to render the language similarly, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The language seems pretty straightforward, and it is, but to understand this passage we need to make sure we do not gloss over the implications of what it is saying. The problem arises when people separate the first part of the verse from the latter part of the verse. The commentator was reading the verse this way: “If I delight in God then God will give me the things that I desire.” But, if we genuinely delight in something (or in this case, someone), isn’t that one in which we delight the desire of our heart? Indeed, it is!
The point is that God does not want to give us the desires of our hearts; God wants to be the desire of our heart! And when God is the desire of our heart, God gives more and more of himself to us, not the “stuff” that this world is filled with and we so often allow to become our treasure. Jesus said to set your treasure in heaven (on God! — Matthew 6:19-21) for where our treasure is there our heart will be. The reason that David could write these words in the midst of so many trials of life was precisely because God was the one in whom David delighted. And as David delighted in God, God gave to David more and more of himself…a place of refuge in a time of trial.
This world is filled with things and people that will try and become the desire of your heart. This world is also filled with well-meaning people who study their Bibles in the light of their own preferences. All of these things are pitfalls and traps that we must avoid. John the Apostle instructed us that we are to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1), that means all the spirits you encounter, even those that wear the garb of Christianity. There are many that will mislead and under their influence we will set our hearts on other things. Do not fall into that trap. Make God your soul desire in life and he will richly bless you with himself.