Psalm 37:4 - "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart..."
"What does it mean to delight?" That was the question I found myself asking as I read this verse. In some ways it seems a pretty simple notion to grasp, but when I tried to pin it down to a definition I found myself struggling.
If I may, I'd like to share with you what I found when I decided to go digging into the word and concept of 'delighting'.
The word delight can be taken three ways; as a noun, and as a verb. As a noun it is simply a great joy or pleasure, a feeling of elation. As a verb it can be used in two ways - a person can delight something, or delight in something. That is, one can either perform the action of delighting something else, or, and this is the more curious sense, it seems one can actively take part in receiving delight from something else. So, the first use of the verb would be to give something a feeling of great joy or pleasure, and the second use would be to actively work at feeling great joy or pleasure. Perhaps it could almost be to make oneself feel great joy or pleasure about something else.
When considering it myself I wasn't sure about this last one, which seems the most significant of the uses in Scripture. Is delighting in something just a matter of recognising that it's enjoyable and then training yourself to enjoy Him? Something didn't quite fit, so I turned to the dictionary.
The definition of 'delight' in Webster's dictionary is thus:
"delight vt. ... < de-, from + lacere, to entice, lit., to ensnare ... to give great joy or pleasure to -vi. 1. to give great joy or pleasure 2. to be highly pleased; rejoice (usually with in or an infinitive) -n. ... 1. great joy or pleasure 2. Something giving great joy or pleasure ..."
What struck me most in all of that were the origins of the word - to entice or ensnare. I hadn't expected that. I thought about it - to delight something is to ensnare or entice it. That sounds a bit sinister. What's more, if I reversed it, then to delight in something is to be enticed or ensnared - willingly. A bit weak willed isn't it? I considered the application of this in the context of a relationship with God, and it struck me. Listen up!
'To delight in something' is to allow yourself to be enticed or ensnared. Not as in a sneaky trap which ensnares you despite your best efforts, but a willful giving of oneself to something that is trying to attract you. Like cake or ice-cream, the thing cannot (or will not) trap you, but you make a choice to be taken in by it, to give in to it - that you may delight in it.
Let me offer another example. It's like a girl who likes you and is letting you know. There's a point where you decide that you can reject her, or instead, you can enjoy that she is attracted to you and get excited by it. If we can remove any thoughts of guilt about these things, be it cake, ice-cream or girls, what you're left with is something good that you can allow yourself to get excited about, enticed into, and then...the experience comes - delight as a noun. To delight ion something then is to set yourself up for the experience, and not just sit around on your bum waiting for it to impress you!
Makes sense so far? I hope so, because we're about to go a little deeper - it turns out that I think there's some Biblical truth to this whole thing. You see the dictionary definition was nice enough, but I figured that rather than just take Webster's word for this verse might mean, I should go and look up the actual Hebrew term used to make sure I wasn't going astray. So I did. Closing Webster's I opened up my concordance and found that the Hebrew word for 'delight' here, is 'anag' meaning 'soft' or 'pliable'...it also happens to be the case that it has a feminine sense about it.
"Okay," you might be thinking, "what does soft, pliable and feminine have to do with delighting in something?" Well, here goes...
'Soft and pliable' fit in quite nicely with the concept of allowing oneself to be enticed. You see, if you're not pliable and soft, then you're hard and rigid and you aren't going to allow yourself to be moved by anything. Chances are you're going to be one of those people who insist that if something is that marvelous, then it shouldn't have any problem defeating your walls, and overcoming you. Now, taking that description, of who does it most remind you? Not wanting to be offensive, may I suggest that the answer is...men? And this is where the feminine part comes in.
Two Halves of Humanity
It occurs to me that this feminine reference is not dictating that 'delighting' is an exclusive feminine action but that it is something which is seen most readily, within the female sex. You see, I believe that the sexes were created masterfully by God and that part of their purpose is to teach truths about God, life and attitudes. I also believe that each sex has something a little different to teach; one sex highlights one set of truths and ideals, and the other another set so that together they work in harmony - two halves of humanity. In the case of 'delighting' it occurs to me that what we have here is a concept that finds its best example within the female sex.
If you think about it, it can be seen that women are wonderful examples of 'delighting'. They are very familiar with the concept of having something become a joy to them by allowing themselves to be taken up by it, and allowing it to move them or excite them. Put simply, women are more naturally 'delighters' than are men; they are more familiar with giving themselves. This is one big reason why they need to be very careful in guarding their hearts; not giving their hearts away - delighting themselves in something - too easily. Pearls shouldn't be cast before swine, but guardedly reserved for the right time and occasion.
Now guys, referring back to what I said before, 'delighting' isn't just a female action. We are also able to delight in things, allowing ourselves to be taken in by them and giving ourselves over to them. This could be any number of pursuits, hobbies or work or also be a woman. It shows itself in us in different ways, has different effects, but when we allow ourselves to be enticed by a woman, delighting in her, we often show it through provision and service. What's especially interesting is that 'delighting' is reciprocal. If a woman captures a man's attention, and he delights in her he feels greatly empowered, as though he could shift the earth, and he's moved to serve. He will work for her, provide for her, give his time and his efforts and his money for her, and he will die for her, no problem. He gives himself to her in service and in sacrifice. When a woman feels his delight through his words, service and sacrifice, she then too begins to delight in him. For her, I think, the delight is more experiential than for him. He feels empowered, but she feels loved, she feels joy - excitement, happiness, and she just wants to be with him. She will serve him too, and she will offer herself to him. What's more, it usually starts with some element of pleasure or attraction - a delight. For him it might be her beauty or appearance, for her more than likely something he does - his manner, hard work, or his pursuit of her.
Men, Women - God and Humanity
Bringing it back then, this blog started in the Bible and that's where it's going to end. What I described above isn't just available in human relationships but also in spiritual ones - in our relationship with God. You see, just a woman shows us how to give ourselves and delight, I think a man shows us how we move the heart of God. When a woman opens herself up, what does the guy do? He serves and he sacrifices and he gives - flowers and jewelry and chocolate! When we open ourselves up, God moves, and as the Psalm says He gives the desires of our heart. But we're not just talking gifts. What is the woman's delight - the gifts? No - the man who gives them. The gifts are nice, but just symbols, she would trade all of them in if she had to choose them or her man. So too, God gives gifts, He grants desires, but they are not the true delight, it is Him - closeness to Him.
Let us pause for a second though. It is sadly true that there are some women who would choose the necklace over the man who paid for it. Her heart is for herself and for the finery, not for the man. However, a necklace cannot respond, and though she opens herself up for it, it cannot do anything in response. So she uses the man to buy her the necklace, not realising that her delight is misplaced. So it is with us. Thinking back to women, who must carefully guard their hearts, restraining their delight, we must learn from this also.
All of us, men and women, must guard our hearts well, even aggressively. It is easy to delight in all kinds of things. To allow ourselves to be enticed by something and to open ourselves up to it - pour ourselves, and our pearls, out before it. Relationships, pursuits, vehicles, hobbies, vanities, we give ourselves to them, delight in them - but not in God. And for what? Something that cannot respond. It is true that relationships are hard, they require work, yet what would you rather have?
I believe that a relationship with the Lord – centered upon the Lord - is empowering and encouraging and a joy. It is a delight (noun) that inspires you to delight (verb) and results in even greater delight (noun). The question though, is where does it start? Well, as things stand with all of us right now, I believe the answer is - with us. We should look to our own hearts and see to it that we are 'soft and pliable' towards God, accepting Him - delighting in Him.
I began this with Psalm 37:5, however, if you go back one verse to 37:4 you will find that it says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." I believe that this is the true essence of worship. Within the Bible there were those whose worship consisted merely of sacrifice and ritual, not only in a literal sense, but also in their heart, their attitude. They saw worship as paying their dues to God, doing what is required, and then when done the continued on with their own lives. I believe that it was those people who were never really satisfied with the Lord their God, and who had little strength or courage in turmoil, turning to grumbling at many corners.
However, there were also others in Scripture. People who followed the same pattern of religion as the others yet they seemed to be able to accomplish anything. Their hope did not fade, their faith did not die. Though they were challenged they withstood everything sent at them and their legacy was one of miracles, victories and joyful overcoming. What was the difference? Perhaps not that much in practice, but plenty, I think, in heart.
In Mark 8, Jesus said that those who try to save themselves and keep their lives would in the end lose them, but those who did not hold on to their lives but gave themselves, would gain them. I think this is the secret of those who drew close to God - the David who danced, the Daniel who prayed long, the prophets who sought the Lord hard - all those who seemed unshakeable and incredibly close to God.
They have made God their delight and received back the desires of their heart.
So too will we, if we will delight in Him - if we will be soft, pliable - allowing ourselves to be enticed and captured. Maintaining a relationship - passion, spark - is hard, it takes work. If we get into the attitude that we have always to be impressed by the other and by their actions then things will begin to die. We will suffer from the law of diminishing returns, becoming hard to what has come before and needing something bigger and more potent to meet our 'requirements'. However, if we can learn to delight, learn to receive, and by our will remain soft and pliable - whether towards God or our spouse - the response, the joy, will be there.
How then do we delight in God? We have to learn to control our mindsets, our moods and attitudes. Many find it hard to remain soft with the Lord, some don't even know how to start. They demand that God impress them, that God overwhelm them - whether by miraculous performance, irrefutable proof or some other means. It is upon God to move first, they say...and they're right. . I mentioned that God might be represented in the nature of men. One characteristic most accept is the men are the pursuers and the initiators. The thing is - and this is what I think we all need to remember - where God is concerned He has initiated, and He does pursue. God delighted in us from the start, loved us from the beginning, and in His delight He served, He sacrificed, He gave His life away. Christ crucified and dead is the proof of God's utter delight in us. All He awaits for is a response - whether it be for the first time, or years on when hearts have grown cold. I am convinced, that if any of us suffer from a hard heart, we need only meditate long and prayerfully upon the man of sorrows hanging upon the Roman instrument of death, and we will know God's heart, and it will move us.
In it He frees us, in it He empowers us by His love, in it are all the treasures of God.
"Delight yourself in the Lord..." - Open yourself up to Him each day in response to His delight in you. Soften your heart to hear His voice, allow yourself to be captivated by Him...
"...and He will give you the desires of your heart" - peace, presence, joy, Himself.
If you are feeling hard this day, far from God, look to the God who delights in you, the God upon the cross, and know that His heart is eternally towards you. Soften your heart, and enjoy Him, your delight.