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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What Is Delighting in The Lord?

Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."

What does it mean to "delight in The Lord"?  Is it a magic formula to get anything we want? We read this verse and wonder, what does it mean?  Let's clarify a few things first: It is not telling God that you love Him and then expecting that He will give you everything you want.  It is not bargaining with God, that if He will do something, then you will do something else.  Biblical truth is consistent with itself, so then, what does it mean?  I believe there are some wonderful expressions of this passage in the book of Samuel that will give us insight and help us apply the truth to our lives.

1 Sam 16:13-14
"So Samuel got the animal horn that was filled with olive oil. He anointed David in front of his brothers. From that day on, the Spirit of the LORD came on David with power. Samuel went back to Ramah. The Spirit of the LORD had left Saul. And an evil spirit that was sent by the LORD terrified him."

Saul had failed to be completely obedient in the destruction of the Amalekites. Fear dominates his life, he lies to push the blame on others, but God knows the heart and Saul's heart and dependence was on himself, not in trusting God.  This was his last opportunity, before God would reject his leadership, yet he assumed since God had put him in that position, he would always be king.  Then God sends the prophet Samuel to anoint David as the new king.

 {Just for thought... Though David has been anointed King, he did not assume the position until God actually gave it to him. God left a disobedient king in power for 40 years. God can still work regardless who is in power. The difference is that Saul did not receive the blessing of having been obedient to recognize the workings of God while he was king.}

Back to our story in 1 Sam 16:13-14.  Notice that when David was anointed king, the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power, but the the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul.  The reason was not that the Spirit could only occupy one person at a time. No, God had chosen one who was obedient and desired what God desired. It was the principle that David learns and share in Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Perhaps a little of the back story will help. Out with the sheep, David learns to love and depend on God. His heart's desire is to know God in an intimate way.  In 1 Sam. 13 Saul acts unwisely and takes the priestly role on for himself trying to keep his soldiers from deserting. He was driven by fear, rather than by faith in God and reveals that in a difficult situation he would rather trust his own resources rather than trust God.   In verse 14, Samuel gives God's evaluation of his kingship: "But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”  {1 Sam. 13:14}

David had a "heart after God;" Saul did not.  Go back to Psalm 37:4, the delight of  David's heart was was God, so God gave him what his heart desired, more of Himself.  Saul delighted in power and his own abilities, and he got what his own abilities and power could produce, an evil spirit, jealousy, and ruling by shear force.

C. S. Lewis one said that there are two types of people, those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "Thy will be done."  Saul represents the tragic later example.

God will allow us to go our own way and reap the consequences, to go to the empty wells of self sufficiency, self indulgence,  self glorification, and self confidence. Like drinking salt water, the thirst is never quenched and we only keep longing for more. But like the prodigal son, when we come to the end of our own sufficiency and we make Him the delight of our heart, He freely grants Himself to us. When we repent of our sin and seek Him, He will forgive. We will get what our heart desires and begin to learn the satisfaction of His sufficiency in all things.

God took David from tending sheep; he did not lay around in the grass dreaming that one day he would become king. He was diligent in the little things when no one else was around; faithful and obedient. God chose him because his heart sought those things things which pleased God.  In a similar way God takes us out of many different situations and places us in places to serve Him. But if we fail to trust Him and begin depending on our own strength and abilities, we will begin to delight more is ourselves than in God. God then gives us that which is our delight and all the heartache that comes as a consequence to such folly.  As the psalmist said in 106: 11-15:

   "The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived. Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.  But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel.  In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them."   

God delivered the people when they cried out to Him, but not long afterward, they forget all He has done. Then they began to crave for special foods, and God granted it, but it came without His blessing, and sickness overtook them.

While we live and breathe here in this temporal body, the temptations will always dog us at our heels. Temptations to seek personal gain over seeking God's will, temptations for self glorification, attempting to prove our worth by what we do, and the temptation to find delight in anything other than the Father. But if we will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will be able to say as the author of Hebrews said:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." [Heb. 12:1-3]

"Fixing our eyes on Jesus," or choosing to focus our thoughts on Him through the situations we encounter reflects our focused desire in God. As we contemplate all He endured because of His great love for us, we will become encouraged, and God helps us to not grow weary, and helps us to get through the discouraging times.  Remember what the psalmist said in Ps 145:19:  "He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them."

In C. S. Lewis' Narnian tale, The Magician's Nephew, the great lion, Aslan explains to how though the witch ate the fruit of the magical tree, she did it her way and not His. The results were not what she expected: “All get what they want; they do not always like it.”  The witch desired the fruit of the tree that would grant unending life, however eaten in contrary to the Emperor's laws it brought unending life, but unending misery as well.

The good news is that we can choose who we will seek after. We can choose to seek after God and God will grant the desires of our heart. Or, we can choose our own way, which God will allow, but with the tragic consequences that will eventually occur.

The larger question that remains is "Will you delight in The Lord?" It is a question that we must ask every day and it is a choice we make.  We will delight in someone or something, the issue is Who will be the object of our desires.

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