Psalm 37:4 (NIV)
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
This is probably a familiar verse to most of us. We often cite it with expectation that God is going to fill our lives with all the things we value and enjoy. Right? Well, perhaps we should pause and look further at the context and intent of what David is imparted when he wrote this Psalm.
In this Psalm, David considers the age-old question of why evil people seem to prosper and flourish while those who endeavor to live righteous lives often experience suffering and hardship. I sense that the Psalm was written as an encouragement to the people of God to not worry or fret over this matter. And it is probably a good message for us to contemplate in light of the current tension, conflict, and violence going on in our nation right now. David begins: “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither … like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Verses 1-4)
But as we read past these verses and look into the meditation that follows, David widens our perspective to envision life beyond current circumstances. He encourages us to live in the light of eternity, and he redirects us to set our hope in the everlasting purposes of God … not just what we observe or experience in the present. He affirms that there will be a time of judgment and recompense which will be accomplished on God’s timetable. I think that most of the tension we encounter at the moment is the conflict between light versus darkness. John observed: “This is the verdict. Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) Paul articulated: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) But we see that God is sovereign even in the midst of whatever evil intent He allows mankind to inflict on one another. Light will ultimately prevail because God is light. (Cf. 1 John 1:5)
5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Cf. Matthew 5:5)
In these and the following verses, David goes on to describe how the behavior of godless people will judged and recompensed. Their wicked schemes will only return upon themselves. Wrongdoers will ultimately suffer the consequences of their actions. But the righteous will abide under the care of the Lord … and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. (Verses 18-19) And consider Verses 23-28: 23 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. 25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. 26 They are always generous and lend freely; others will see that their children are blessed. 27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.
Even though we observe that God allows evil in this world, He is with those who fear Him. The Father loves those who are just, righteous, and faithful. “And the heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice.” (Psalm 50:6) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) And He will reward each person according to what he or she has done. (Cf. Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12) So we are exhorted by David, the Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ, to commit ourselves to what is good and righteous … to trust in the Lord always … and to wait for Him and His reward.
With these things in mind, I encourage you to revisit the meaning of Verse 4. To delight in the Lord is to love Him with all your heart … to enjoy Him … to serve Him … to please Him … to trust and obey Him. But what is the desire of your heart and mine? In the context of the entire Psalm, we learn that the desire of our heart should be focused on the everlasting life that awaits us. Our inheritance, His promises, are the reward for perseverance in faith. Jesus said, 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6) Yes, to be with Lord Jesus forever is the desire of our hearts. And He will give eternal life to those who delight themselves in Him.