The Meaning Behind Delight

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 

It is easy to read this verse and think, ever so quietly and secretively in the back of our minds, yeah, right…. To ever so subtly roll our eyes when we see this verse next to the lists and lists of things that God has yet to grant us. It doesn’t appear to match up. The job you have worked so hard to reach, but all you keep hearing is “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” The test for which you stayed up studying endlessly and still failed. The hours you spent at the gym that don’t seem to show in the mirror. Clearly, there are so many desires in my heart God hasn’t given me. We often come to this conclusion subconsciously. I know I have. I have waved it aside in my head: Oh, that the verse is not quite true. 

We adopt the lens of our own human minds. We pretentiously hold it up to our eyes like a jeweler’s loupe, scrutinizing and critically studying cherry-picked misunderstandings, all the while forgetting that we are studying the very words of the Almighty. We miss the wholeness of the diamond in our hands. 

Here is some food for thought before we start: the devil will trick us into dismissing the beauty and crystal-like intricacy of Scripture one line at a time. 

So how do we combat this? We pray, and we ask God to show us His truth and grace, one word at a time; “[a]sk and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).  Let’s do this with Psalm 37:4, because what if there is so much more than we thought?

Delight yourself in the Lord 

When we read or hear Psalm 37:4, our minds and ears are immediately drawn to the second half of the verse: “…and He will give you…” What will God give me? Our minds immediately adopt the perspective of “what’s in it for me.” However, before we discuss God’s gifts and the desires of our hearts, it is necessary to rewind and acknowledge the most crucial part of the verse: “Delight yourself in the Lord…”

Delight is a beautifully stunning word. Even its weightless pronunciation seems to encapsulate its simple, but profound meaning. To delight is to “take great pleasure” or “to give keen enjoyment.” With this understanding of the English word, we might understand delighting in the Lord as finding pleasure or joy in God. 

However, as we study the word of God, it is important to remember the Hebrew in which it was written, a language with a completely different alphabet and set of words, some of which have no direct English counterpart. The dictionary definitions of English words do not always capture the depth and profundity of the original Hebrew text. Hebrew word studies of Scripture allow for a deeper and more complete understanding of how the Word of God speaks to the deepest parts of our souls. It is part of seeking Truth one word at a time. 

The Hebrew word for desire in this verse is hitanag, which “…[a]ccording to the root, [means] to treat God with delicacy, to be soft before Him. In other words, we might read this as the act of presenting ourselves with great humility and openheartedness…” (1). Another source says the root for delight, anag, “…is a command which charges us to find our enjoyment in Jehovah” (2). When we truly treasure something or someone, we act delicately in order to emphasize and honor its value. In this way, we delight in that thing or person. We bend to it, so to speak, as to grant it high priority in our lives. And it is our joy to do so. 

Study of the Hebrew word for delight reveals that to delight yourself in the Lord goes beyond a simple joy or pleasure in our Heavenly Father. It is a delicate bending to His will: treating Him as the greatest and most valuable treasure of our hearts. And loving to do so. 

This idea must be understood before we continue to the next part of the verse, for the second part is dependent on the fact that this delight in the Lord is active and present within our hearts. It is a command for delight that permeates every aspect of not only our faith, but also our lives. Only from this ground can we possibly understand the desires of our heart. 

And He Will Give You the Desires of Your Heart 

Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV) reminds us that “[t]he heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” The desires of our human hearts and flesh are deceitful, fleeting, and selfish. Every “want” or “desire” of our human hearts are not the desires of God. They do not represent a delight in God and what He calls good. So, how can He give us what our hearts desire? 

Let’s reframe this. As initially mentioned, the temptation is to read this verse selfishly. If I delight in God, He will give me what I want. This is true, but not in the way you might be thinking. 

As we read Psalm 37 in its entirety, we understand what true delight in Jehovah looks like. It is “[t]rust[ing] in the Lord and do[ing] good…” (37:3a NIV). It is “[c]ommit[ing] your way to the Lord…” (37:5a NIV). It is allowing Him to make firm your steps (37:23a NIV). This involves studying His word expectantly, praying ceaselessly, and loving others unconditionally: fully delighting in the Lord amplifying the desires of His perfect heart above the desires of our sinful nature. They joyfully involve pursuing righteousness, pursuing what is good in spite of the desires that would tempt our hearts. 

As we do this, God promises change through the redeeming work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. God transforms our very hearts to look like His own. When we delight in His will above our own, His will becomes ours. When we delight in His righteousness above all else, His righteousness defines us. When we delight in the Lord, “…we need to ask for desires that are ‘according to His will’ not our will” (3); the desires of His heart become the very desires of our own. He teaches us what to desire, how to desire. 

Study of the word “desire” reveals that “…the linguistic context of the word is not about personal desires but rather about asking or making requests” (4). Part of bending to Him in delight is asking Him to help us do just that. Help me delight in you Lord. Teach me to desire what you would have me desire. It brings us peace to remember that “God never gives a commandment without also providing the enablement” (5).

So no: God does not grant every fleeting, deceitful “want” or even “lust” of the human heart, for when our delight is found in Him, we will not be seeking these things. But also yes. It is true that when we truly delight in the Lord, we will receive what the eternal piece of us, our souls, truly desire, want, and need. 

Works Cited:

  1. Moen, Skip. “The Egocentric GOSPEL (2): Hebrew Word Study: Skip Moen.” Hebrew Word Study | Skip Moen, 29 Sept. 2016,
  2. COMMENTARY, PSALM 37:4. “Delight Yourself in the Lord.” Precept Austin,
  3. COMMENTARY, PSALM 37:4. “Delight Yourself in the Lord.” Precept Austin,
  4. Moen, Skip. “The Egocentric Gospel (1): Hebrew Word Study: Skip Moen.” Hebrew Word Study | Skip Moen, 29 Sept. 2016,
  5. COMMENTARY, PSALM 37:4. “Delight Yourself in the Lord.” Precept Austin,

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