Psalm 37:4 “Delight Yourself in the Lord” 8-14-11 p.m.
Years ago, Corrie Ten Boom wrote, “Look around, you’ll be distressed. Look within, you’ll be depressed. Look to the Lord, you’ll be at rest.” From all of her experiences, she ought to know. And her words are so applicable today. There are so many things we can look around at, and become distressed or depressed about: the stock market is crashing, the economy is not in good shape, the nation seems to be sinking in moral depravity, people we care about are straying or suffering. But even in the worst of times, there is joy available for the Christian – IF we look for it in the right place.
Our passage for tonight reminds us of what that “right place” is – and it is in the Lord Himself. I think most of us probably know this, but it is good to be reminded of it. The most important thing that any one of us can do in times like these – and indeed at any time – is to delight ourselves in the Lord. That is our text for tonight, from Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord.” The verse goes on to say more, as many of you know, but I just want us to focus on the first part of that verse tonight, because that is what we really need, more than anything else, to “delight ourselves in the Lord.”
I. :4 “Delight yourself in the Lord”
The word “delight” here is a Hebrew word that is only used about a half dozen times in the Bible; the word means something “delicate” or “soft” that a person would enjoy, and take delight in. Isaiah 66:11 uses it of a nursing child who delights in his mother. Isaiah 13:22 uses it of the “luxuries” that are found in palaces. Delight may be in people, or in things, or in various experiences. A “delight” is not merely a discipline; when you delight in something, your thoughts are constantly turning to it; you think of it early, often, and late. It makes you smile to think of it; it cheers your heart when other things oppress you. You do all that you do regarding it, purely because it IS your delight! A person’s delight may be found in any number of things – but the Bible commands us here to find our delight in the Lord. That same “delight” that we try to find in so many things, we are to find in HIM.
Job 22:25-26 uses the same Hebrew word when it says: “The Almighty will be your gold and choice silver to you. For then you will delight in the Almighty.” We are to delight in God, like some do gold or silver or precious treasures.
We are to have a love relationship with the Lord; a relationship of mutual delight. I finished reading the Book of Zephaniah this week in my Bible readings, and I came across this passage in Zephaniah 3:14 and following:
“Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more … The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will renew you in His love; He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
Here is the picture of that mutually delightful love relationship that we are to have with the Lord: it says that we are to “exult with all your heart” – WHY? Because “the King, the LORD is in your midst.” We are to exult over Him! But that is not the end of the story! It then goes on in :17 to say that yes, “the Lord your God is in your midst” and then it says that “HE will exult over YOU with joy … (and) rejoice over you with shouts of joy”! So WE are to exult over Him, and HE exults over US! We are to find our exultation and joy and delight in our relationship with the Lord. Indeed, as we have said a number of times, this is what we were made for!
The problem is, I don’t think that most people – even most of God’s people – really understand that we are to find our delight in the Lord. But the scripture commands us to do that – here and elsewhere – and tells us of the delights that are available for us in Him. I’ve quoted Psalm 16 numerous times over the past couple of years: “In Your presence there is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” David said there is joy and pleasure to be found in the presence of the Lord. We will have that in its fullness in heaven, but it can begin now. We are to find our pleasure and delight in Him.
And as we have seen in our Sunday morning messages in Habakkuk the past couple of weeks, one of the biggest problems we have comes from trying to find our delight in things other than God – whether it is food or drugs or sex, or possessions, or tv shows, or success on the job, or in various kinds of relationships. We keep trying to fill that “void” in our lives with things besides God, but nothing else can fill that empty place like He can — and we end up hurting ourselves and others. The single greatest need that every one of us has is to truly find our delight in the Lord, just like Psalm 37:4 commands us here.
II. The Commitment Involved
It is important at this point to realize that there is a commitment involved on our part if we are going to delight ourselves in the Lord. The Hebrew verb here is in the Hithpael tense, which is reflexive. It means that you are doing this action for yourself. “Delight yourself” in the Lord. This indicates that there is effort and commitment involved on your part. You must choose to do it; you must give effort, you must turn your mind towards it; you must exercise the disciplines required to achieve it.
C.S. Lewis, in what I consider to be one of his greatest works, his sermon on “The Weight of Glory”, writes that Greek and Latin students, when they are very young, and are first learning the language, have to do the very difficult work of just memorizing words and paradigms, which can very dry and dull indeed. Few people are willing to give the time and attention necessary for the mastery of those languages. But, he said, when they have mastered them, then they have the rapturous delights of reading the Greek and Latin classics in those original languages, which few today can enjoy. But the “rapture and delight” do not come at first; they only come after much discipline and arduous labor that it took to get to that delight.
What we need to understand is that it can be like that in our walk with God, too. When you hear the pastor say: you can find delight by walking with God every day in prayer and in His word, you may go home and begin to read your Bible, and say some prayers, but you don’t find any “joyous rapture” in it! Indeed you may not. Perhaps God may give you a foretaste of joy in those first devotional times – or it MAY be at first for you just like those Greek & Latin students that Lewis was referring to; at first it may just be a discipline for you: you read the word; you start to learn what it means; you sing some songs; pray some prayers. At first it may be merely discipline – but if you are truly a Christian (that is a key factor!), and if you continue in it – then you WILL eventually find delight and joy from your time with Him. And like those students of the classical languages, you will grow to have more and more and more delight, the more you know Him. Our God is Infinite – and the pleasures and joys that He has to offer us are infinite. Psalm 16:11 tells us “In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” – the pleasures He has to offer us will never cease! But we may need to discipline ourselves at first to begin to find those delights that are available in Him.
III. What Does This Look Like In Practice?
Ok, so then what does this look like in practice? What specifically are we supposed to do?
King David was a person who was able, for much of his life, to find his delight in the Lord. What did he do? We see several things in scripture:
— He got up early to spend time with the Lord. Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, O Lord, you will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee, and I will eagerly watch.” As we have talked about before, those words indicate the commitment that David had to walk with God in prayer first thing in the morning. It is vital to begin your day that way if you are going to delight in the Lord. He said in another Psalm, “I will seek You earnestly.” That Hebrew word, “earnestly” literally means “early.” If you are serious about seeking God, and delighting in Him, you need to seek Him first thing in the morning. It is good to spend other time with Him, too, as we shall see, but it is a MUST to start your day with Him.
— When David met with the Lord, he would sing. We saw this Wednesday night in prayer meeting: he said, “I will joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning.” (Psalm 59:16) David found joy in the presence of the Lord by singing.
— He also sought God in His word, and found treasures there that he delighted in. He said in Psalm 119:103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, yes sweeter than honey to my mouth.” So he met with God early, he spent time singing, in prayer, and in His word.
— And he did this not only first thing, but all through the day – a couple of Wednesday nights ago, we saw how in Psalm 55:17 he said, “Evening and morning and at noon” his prayer would go up to God. That did not mean that he only prayed at those 3 specific times, but that at every portion of the day, he was found walking with God, delighting in Him. This is what we must do, too, if we would delight in the Lord; we must walk with Him constantly throughout the day.
There is another passage that gives us some instruction regarding delight in the Lord, and that is Isaiah 58:13-14. It says there: “call the Sabbath a delight … honor it, desisting from your own ways; then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth …” We see there that delighting in the Lord means a couple of things:
— it means to delight in His day. He says “Call the Sabbath a delight.” Delight in worshipping Him on Sunday; be regular in your attendance morning and night. And spend time during the day Sunday, too, resting, and reading godly books, and listening to worship music. Delight in Him in a special way on His day.
— It also says there “desist from your own ways.” This gets back to what we have been talking about for the last several weeks in Habakkuk and elsewhere: if we are going to delight in the Lord, we are going to have to turn away from the practice of the sins in our lives which put a “cloud” in our relationship with God. You can never really have full delight in Him, when you are continuing in known sin. “Your sins (cause) a separation between you and your God”, as Isaiah says. The single biggest thing some of us need to do, to begin to delight in the Lord, is to follow the advice of Isaiah, and “Desist from you own ways”.
But if we will put into practice the things that David did, and that we see elsewhere in scripture – even if at first it is really just a “discipline” like C.S. Lewis talked about, then we will eventually, with God’s grace and help, find delight and joy in Him.
I have mentioned Samuel Rutherford several times over the past couple of years. Rutherford was the pastor of the church in Anwoth, Scotland, and who was forced into exile in Aberdeen, away from his congregation, but who kept in touch with them through his letters, which have been preserved in a book, The Letters of Samuel Rutherford. In those letters, he reveals a growing depth in his relationship with the Lord, and an intense delight in Him, that should challenge every one of us. In one of his letters, to William Gordon, he wrote the following:
“The dross of my trials gathered a scum of fears in the fire, doubtings, impatience, unbelief, challenging of Providence as sleeping, and not regarding my sorrow; but my goldsmith, Christ, was pleased to take off the scum, and burn it in the fire. And blessed be my Refiner, he hath made the metal better … now His love in my heart casteth a mighty heat; He knoweth the desire I hath to enjoy Him … Love, love defieth reproaches … I am further from yielding to the course of defection, than when I came hither. Sufferings blunt not the fiery edge of love; cast love in the floods of hell, it will swim above; it careth not for the world’s plaistered offers. It hath pleased my Lord so to line my heart with the love of my Lord Jesus, that … I laugh at the world’s golden pleasures, and at this dirty idol, that the sons of Adam worship. This worm-eaten god is that which my soul has fallen out of love with.” (to William Gordon, p. 101-102)
There Rutherford said that through his time of exile, God had so refined him and filled him with the love of Jesus, that he laughed at what he called “the world’s golden pleasures.” He had something better to delight himself with than what the world had to offer: he had the delights of the love of His Lord! THIS is what Psalm 37:4 is saying that God is to be for us: our delight – more than anything else in this world.
Now, I am going to admit to you, that I do not personally know a single individual for whom this is true today as it was for Samuel Rutherford. Maybe you would say that it is true for you – I hope it is – or maybe you know someone like that. I just know that I am not. I do want to be that kind of person … but I am far from it now …
As I shared Wednesday night, I have some glimpses of this; I get up every morning and spend time in worship & singing, and in God’s word, and it changes my attitude for the day. I think it was John Piper – but I can’t find the quote; maybe it was someone else (probably David Brainerd?:) who said: “I wake up sad every day, and have to preach the gospel to myself.” That is what I have to do. I never wake up, as my Aunt Betty used to say, “a merry sunshine”; I am more like her proverbial “grouchy bear.” So I brush my teeth and immediately head out for my prayer walk. And I sing, and thank God, and pray – and I always come back feeling better than I did when I went out. I do “delight myself in the Lord” at least at times. When I am in the car by myself, I sing, and lift my hands, and just worship the Lord. And I do that periodically throughout the day, too. I have a taste of what this passage is talking about – but I am far short of the depth of what it means, to really continually “delight yourself in the Lord.” I need a whole lot more of that delight in Him than I presently have. And I imagine that some of you could say the same thing. But at least it helps if we know that this is what we need, and start working our way towards it. Our greatest help is not going to be found anywhere else. What we need more than anything is to delight in the Lord. We need this:
— more than we need the stock market to go up
— more than we need a job
— more than we need money or a new house or car
— more than we need to be well
— more than we need that relationship
— more than we need our favorite team to win
— more than we need anything else, we need to learn to delight in the Lord. Because if we really learn to delight in Him, then we will have what it takes to be truly happy no matter what happens with any of these other things. And the truth is, even if you have all of these other things, you will never be truly happy, until you learn to delight in the Lord. It is absolutely our greatest need. God help us, to truly learn to “Delight ourselves in the Lord.”