Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:3-4)
If you have been in church or around the Bible for any season, this verse has probably popped out at you at some point. On the surface, it sounds like a man-centered verse. It almost has the nasal ring of a carnival ringmaster crying out to the crowd, “Step right up! Step right up! Get the desires of your heart today! Do you want money? A promotion? A better marriage? You can have anything your heart desires! Just delight yourself in the Lord and you can have it all!”
Of course, this interpretation of the verse is all poppycock. It is not about me getting a new car or having my team win the World Series or, on a more serious note, having an addiction suddenly removed from me.
Rather, the focus of the verse is about getting the desires of your heart correct. To begin with, the Bible tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) And it continually instructs us to cleanse our hearts, to lay aside selfishness, worry, and “the sin that so easily entangles.” Pursuing the desires of a sick heart is not the goal of a holy God. He wants to correct the desires first and then fulfill the desires of the new heart.
But how do we do that?
Well, think of yourself as an iPhone and God as your iTunes account. You have some of the songs on your iTunes already added to your phone, but not all of them. For what you have, it works…mostly. But it is not a good copy of the master version on your desktop. If you want your phone to have everything that resides on your master version, the only way to get them is to sync your phone up to the computer. So, you plug in your USB to your phone and to the computer, and voila! You now have your songs. This is similar to what God is telling us to do in verses 3 and 4 here. When the psalmist writes, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness,” he is telling us to “sync” our heart with God’s. That the way to get the Master’s version to overwrite our current heart is to:
- Trust in the Lord (not in yourself.) Remember, trusting in yourself got you into this mess. Trusting yourself won’t get you out of it.
- Do good. – This means to do the right and ethical thing according to God’s law/standards. We like to think that we are a law unto ourselves (“Well, that may be true for you, but not for me.”) But when we live according to God’s standards, a change begins to occur in us that transcends even the rule of self.
- Dwell in the land – Don’t just vacation in God’s land. Live there. He has reserved a specific place for our hearts to live and if we will make it our residence, we will find the fruit is sweeter and the victories are sure.
- Befriend faithfulness – Another way of translating this, is “feed on faithfulness.” Let faithfulness be your nourishment. The safe pasture that strengthens your whole being. Don’t be flaky or wishy-washy. Stand firm. Be strong and courageous. But be faithful to what/whom? Faithfulness to God and His ways. Do not waver from His principles, but allow it to guide your decisions and the way you interact with others.
Thus, when he says, “Delight yourself in the Lord” in verse 4, he is merely summarizing the four points listed above. In this light, the words “And he will give you the desires of your heart” become not a prescriptive statement, such as “if you do A, you will get B.” Rather, it becomes a descriptive statement, such as “when you do A, you will have B.” The focus, then, is not on the getting but on the becoming. It is about God changing your desires to mirror His own, so that now, together, you and He can pursue the same desires.
Sync your heart up to God’s. Trust in Him. Do good. Dwell in the land. Feed on faithfulness. Then your desires will be like His. And you will have the desires of your heart.