Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” What does it mean to delight yourself in the Lord? The Hebrew word translated as delight in this passage gives us some clues. Besides being translated as delight, it can also mean to pamper or refresh oneself; to take one’s pleasure; to have exquisite delight; to live in enjoyment; to use amorous behavior; to make soft or pliable; and to luxuriate.
Beyond some of the other possible translations of the Hebrew word, the tenses and moods used for this word shed additional light on what it means to delight yourself in the Lord. Delight is a verb that is in the middle voice, meaning that the one taking the action is both the subject and the object of the verb.
Let me explain further, in this passage the subject taking the action is yourself, which means that you are both the subject taking the action of delighting in the Lord and that you are also the object of the action of delighting in the Lord. Why is this important? It’s important because the use of this grammatical structure means that the object is so deeply effected by the action being taken by the subject that it is brought into a new condition or state of being.
Let’s consider another sentence to help illustrate this. If we said, “Bob flies the airplane.” Bob would be the subject, flies would be the verb, and airplane would be the object. In this example, because of what Bob did to the airplane, the airplane entered a new condition or state of being called flight.
When you take the action of delighting yourself in the Lord, then you enter a new condition or state of being—a state of being that is called delight.
Again, just like when Bob flies the airplane, and it enters the state of flight, when you delight yourself in the Lord, you actually enter the condition of delight.
In other words, delighting in the Lord isn’t just something that you do. It’s something that you become. I believe that’s why one of the meanings of the word is to be made soft and pliable, because when we delight in the Lord, a transformation occurs, our state of being changes. The Christian heart should be easily molded. And, when we delight in the Lord, we become tender, soft, and pliable.
One of the potential meanings of delight is to luxuriate. The word luxuriate means, to enjoy beyond any limits; including limits of time, limits of amount, and limits of quality. Also, delight indicates that this condition is one of amorous behavior or love. In other words, to delight yourself in the Lord, means that you are luxuriating in love—you are taking your pleasure in the endless and infinite love of God.
In the light of all of this, one way Psalm 37:4 could be paraphrased is, “Luxuriate yourself in love, in the Lord, and you will be brought into the Lord’s condition of pleasure, pliability, refreshment, and enjoyment. In this state, God will grant you your deepest desires.”
Are you starting to see the power of delighting yourself in the Lord? Since all of this is true, why don’t we delight ourselves in the Lord more often? Why don’t we make our life one of delight by luxuriating in God’s infinite love? Sometimes, it is because we waste our delight on temporary things. Therefore, we must learn to focus our delight on the eternal. Sometimes, it is because we are too busy delighting ourselves in ourselves. Therefore, we must remember that real human fulfillment isn’t possible in a self-focused life. Next, and this is one of the most dangerous reasons we don’t delight ourselves in the Lord, sometimes it is because we are too busy delighting ourselves in the things about God instead of delighting in God Himself.
The Purpose of Signs
Fourth generation missionary Rolland Baker, whose ministry has seen over one hundred people raised from the dead in Africa, said, “We are convinced that one reason God does not do more miracles is that they often get more attention than He does. And no matter how great physical miracles are, relationship with God is even greater.”
Miracles and healing are signs that point to God, but it’s dangerous when we have more interest in the signs than in God Himself.
What is the purpose of a sign? Naturally speaking, a sign is indicative of the immediate presence or the impending presence of something. For example, if you see the sign for a bathroom, it means that a bathroom is either right there, or perhaps just ahead.
In the same way, supernatural signs point to the immediate and impending presence of the King and His kingdom. When signs occur they are also windows into the nature and character of God. They give us glimpses of what God is really like. But, as wonderful as they are, signs are not God.
A Firsthand Experience of God
Delighting yourself in the Lord will require you to take more pleasure in God Himself than in what He does. Additionally, delighting in God as a person, for who He is and not just what He can do, is not just another trick for getting what we want. That kind of manipulation doesn’t work in any other relationship, and it certainly won’t work with the All-Knowing One. Love must be without dissimulation—it must be pure, sincere, guileless, and concerned only with the One who is the object of our love.
The command in Psalm 34:7 is delight yourself, meaning that others cannot delight in God for you. Delighting yourself in the Lord will require you to have a real, firsthand, experience of God for yourself.
There is no such thing as a secondhand experience of God.
The closest thing would be a firsthand experience with someone else who has had a firsthand experience of God. But, proximity to others who know God, or enjoying testimonies of someone else’s encounters with God, are not a substitute for “delighting yourself”. In fact, the very purpose of testimonies is to help reproduce similar encounters of your own.
We must be cautious not to allow another’s firsthand experience with God to be a substitute for our own. Far too often, we have mistakenly thought that if we know something about God in our heads, something that someone else knows about God in their hearts, that then we really know it too. People can imitate the depth of another, even while remaining in the shallows for themselves. We can all too easily say, “brother so and so said” and, even while we are quoting spiritual greatness, still have a hollowness in our words because we are simply parroting another’s fullness.
In this hour, more than ever, we need originals, first-run editions, not cheap copies, not reasonable facsimiles, but men and women who really know God. We need those who have soared the heights and breathed the rarified air. We need those who have plumbed the depths, who’ve explored the endless fathoms of God for themselves.
Leaving the Herd
In order for his to occur, we’ll have to lose our herd mentality and venture into undiscovered meadows. St. John of the Cross paints this picture so beautifully in his poem The Spiritual Canticle.
In the inner wine cellar
I drank of my Beloved,
and, when I went abroad
through all this valley,
I no longer knew anything,
and lost the herd
that I was following.
There he gave me his breast;
there he taught me
a sweet and living knowledge;
and I gave myself to him,
keeping nothing back;
there I promised to be his bride.
Now I occupy my soul
and all my energy in his service;
I no longer tend the herd,
nor have I any other work
now that my every act is love.
If, then, I am no longer seen
or found on the common,
you will say that I am lost;
that, stricken by love,
I lost myself, and was found.
The Purpose of Theology
I’ve often wondered why more people don’t talk or write like St. John of the Cross. I think it’s because we’ve substituted a deep heart knowledge of God with intellectual premises and theological certitudes. Don’t get me wrong, our intellects are designed to become a beatified asset. And theology, as the study of God, is vital to laying the foundations of sound doctrine. Doctrine is not a dirty word. Yes, we must continually lay foundations of sound doctrine, but it is so that we may arise to the rarified air of adoration. The best purpose of theology is to soar the heights and swim the depths of God’s nature.
I like the way A.W. Tozer described the role of the intellect and of theology in knowing God, “I need to point out that there are three basic levels of knowing God. First is the intellectual level. This is based entirely upon the evidence at hand… God gave us a mind and expects us to use it, especially in the area of knowing Him… (but) the intellectual level goes only so far. The next level is theological. This is organizing truth into what we call doctrine. Theology is great, and I believe in theology, which is simply the study of God. What could be more exciting than that? All theology must be based upon the Word of God. Theology is not an end in itself, but rather points to the One who is greater than theology. When theology becomes an end in itself, it ceases to be a way into the knowledge of God. What people need today is truth—truth organized in a way that allows us to understand what God is about. The primary problem with theology is that we have organized it according to man’s prejudice. Theology should be the study of God, not our human interpretation of God. That is where we encounter problems. Is God a Calvinist or is He an Arminian? According to some theology, you must be one or the other. We have the intellectual level and the theological level, but that is not enough. Let’s move on to what I call the mystical level. I always get in trouble when I use the word mystic. I know this word has been abused and misused, but I am not afraid of controversy. I think the word mystic covers quite nicely what I am trying to say. Down through the years there have been great evangelical mystic writers. These writers were so in tune with God that all of them, without exception, suffered persecution at the hands of church authorities. Their concept of God was so pure and lofty and holy, the average person could not grasp it. When I talk about the mystical level of knowing God, I am speaking of that which pierces the Cloud of Unknowing—the area that cannot be discerned by human knowledge and understanding, that rises above the intellect and even theology and goes into the area of experiencing the presence of God. Brother Lawrence put his thoughts about this in his book Practicing the Presence of God. This is what the mystical level is all about. Yes, we need to have an intellectual level first. And yes, the theological level is necessary to keep within the confines of the revealed Word of God. But all of that leads us deeper and higher, if you please, into the very heart of God. If I am going to know God, I need to penetrate the manifest presence of God, where His character and nature have been revealed to me in never-ending wonder and amazement. It is simply not enough to know about God. We must know God in increasing levels of intimacy that lift us above all reason and into adoration and praise and worship.”
Oh, that we might venture out into the Cloud of Unknowing and experience what Tozer calls the mystical level of knowing God. That’s what delighting yourself in the Lord will lead you into. It will cause you to chart a course into the depths of God and lose sight of the shore. In the process, you’ll enter a new state of being, nothing less than the Lord’s condition of pleasure, pliability, refreshment, and enjoyment and, in this state, God will grant you your deepest desires.
Nathanael & Michelle
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PSS – We had an amazing kickoff for the 2017 series of the #NorthwestAwakening in the Seattle area. One man had a non-cancerous tumor on his chest for over 20 years and it disappeared after prayer, another woman who suffered with Fibromyalgia for years was running the aisles pain free with full mobility, one woman who had suffered a stroke no longer needed her walker and was running, another woman with hip problems for over 25 years was healed, pain free, and her uneven legs became even, and one young woman received healing from dyslexia through a word of knowledge and just wept and wept in the Lord’s healing love. Yay Jesus! Check our ministry schedule for a full listing of where we’ll be next!