A Pepper Grinder Post

Delight Yourself in the Lord – Part 2

In the last post, we looked at Psalm 37:3-4 and found that God was giving us the amazing message that if we take pleasure in him, he will fulfill our deepest desires. (If you didn't read the last post, I would recommend that you read first.) Now let's take a look at verses 5 and 6. We need to start by going back to our Hebrew poetry lesson. The last two verses were a unit (starting with the letter Bet), and now we can tell that we are in a new unit, because verse 5 starts with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet, Gimmel. On the other hand, while the verse 1-2 unit and the verse 3-4 unit were antithetic (verses 1-2 focusing on the wicked, while 3-4 talked about the people who were trying to follow God), we don't see verses 5-6 going back to the wicked again. Instead, verses 5 and 6 echo the thoughts of verses 3 and 4, telling us that following the Lord will bring great reward.

The NIV’s translation of verse 5 starts out with, “Commit your way to the Lord.”  That is the kind of phrase that just rolls over my brain without really registering.  I understand making a commitment, or committing something to someone, but committing my way to the Lord is too abstract for my fairly concrete brain.  So I was delighted to see the wonderful wording in the Hebrew.  The word translated as commit literally means to roll. 
boulder Thus, I would translate the first half of verse 5 as, “Roll your decisions onto the Lord.”  I love “roll” because it paints a picture in my mind.  I see myself with this huge stone that is my decisions about my life (literally, in Hebrew, my path).  I know that I must move it, but I am terrified that I will not be strong enough and will be crushed by it.  At this point, God comes along and offers to carry it for me.  He crouches low on the ground and I roll the stone onto his back—not an easy task, but one I can do.  Then he stands up and carries off the stone that had so intimidated me.

Verse 5 ends with the statement, “Trust in him and he will do this:” which makes me ask what “this” is.  Here is a place where Hebrew poetry comes to our rescue again.  When I first read this, I thought that verse 5 was a continuation of verse 4.  Thus, God was telling us to delight ourselves in him and he would give us the desires of our heart, and then going on to say that if we trusted in him, he would do it, meaning, give us the desires of our hearts.  However, we know from the form of the acrostic poem that verses 4 and 5 are not a unit, even though they have a similar message.  Verses 3 and 4 are a unit, and 5 and 6 are another unit.  That is why the NIV ends verse 5 with a colon—it is saying, he will do it, and next comes what he will do.  “He will do it” points ahead to verse 6, where we read, “He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”  This pulls us back to the central theme of the whole Psalm, which is that while it may seem to be going better for the wicked right now, in the end, the righteous will triumph.sunrise

So where does this leave us?  For me, the key to it all (the $64,000 question, as my mother used to say) is how to delight myself in the Lord.  I think one key is found in verse 5.  Even though this is a new acrostic unit, verses 5 and 6 are also in synonymous parallelism to verses 3 and 4, so they are partly rephrasing (partly also extending) the thoughts in the first set.  I think this means that rolling your decisions onto the Lord is part of the key.  Something that has helped me with this (when I have had the presence of mind to do it) is to ask God to guide me and then to try to stay in tune with him – and then ASSUME that he is answering my prayer and IS guiding me as I make decisions.  Of course, I try to think about decisions biblically, but there are MANY decisions that, in my opinion, don’t have a clear principle to guide them.  In these cases, my goal, having asked for guidance and trying to stay on God’s frequency, is to go ahead and make a decision and trust that he is guiding me, whether I feel like it or not.

However, life is about more than making decisions.  While I think that rolling our decisions onto the Lord can take a load off our backs and open us up to enjoying the Lord, I don’t think it IS enjoying the Lord.  The question I asked at the end of the last post still remains, how are we supposed to enjoy God?  I am moving here from drawing meaning out of the Scriptures to my own musings, so take this with a grain of salt, but here are some of my thoughts:

  • Trial and error.  Try different things.  What makes you feel close to God?  What produces good results that make you think you really are getting close to him?
  • Talk to him.  Notice, I didn’t say pray.  For me, when I think about praying, it is all associated with doing a good, religious duty.  The best times that I have with God are often when I talk to him (usually aloud) and pour out my heart to him and tell him how I feel.  I listen to see if he has something to say back to me.  Something which my wife has started doing recently which I think is really cool, is keeping a prayer journal.  She pours her thoughts out to God on paper and then writes down (in a different color) any Bible passages that come into her mind or anything that she thinks God is saying to her.
  • box of journalsRead the Bible, expecting to understand God better.  Here again, it is SO easy to fall into reading the Bible as a duty.  I think that we have to stop seeing reading the Bible as something we do to be good.  Imagine that you are a woman in love with a man who has gone off to war.  You know him some, but desperately want to know him better, and one day, his mother brings over a big cardboard box full of letters, poems, stories, and journal entries that he has written.  She explains that he asked her to give these to you so you could know him better, even though he is far away.  You find a fascinating mish-mash of things he wrote at all ages, in all moods.  Some things give amazing insight, some are dull, but all together, they start to give you a picture of the man you love.  Reading the Bible needs to be rescued from the religious prison we have put it in and become something we do to pursue a relationship with God.
  • Sing or worship in some way that is meaningful to you.  Like the two previous items, this is something that can be seen either as a religious duty or as part of a relationship to God.  You could be chanting the Roman Catholic liturgy in Latin, but be doing it because you want to tell God how much you love him.  By the same token, you could be singing a worship song with beautiful words expressing love for God and have only duty in your heart, or be thinking about whether or not you sound good (or anything else).  The crucial issue is: are we worshipping to engage in a good or religious act, or are we telling God we love him and want to be closer to him?
  • Do things that you enjoy WITH God.  I often fall into the trap of thinking, “I will be a good person.  I will have my quiet time FIRST.  Then I will be free to do what I want without feeling guilty.”  The message is clear.  Serving God is a duty, but it is not what I love.  How would I feel if my wife felt that way about her relationship with me?  To counteract this, something I have started doing sometimes is choosing to do something that I enjoy WITH God.  Suppose that I am reading an exciting spy novel.  It is not unusual for my wife and me to sit in a room both reading.  From time to time, she will stop and read me something funny or interesting or striking from her book, and we might talk about it a little.  Why couldn’t I do the same thing with God?  Why can’t I go for a bike ride and talk to God as if he were a cycling buddy (except a LOT deeper)?  Why can’t I watch a movie and stop from time to time to discuss it with God?
  • traffic jamAsk God to be in control of what happens in your life, and then assume that he is.  My tendency, if I am stuck in traffic or run into an annoying setback or delay, is to feel annoyed or sorry for myself.  “Why does this have to mess up MY day?”  Instead, I am trying to learn to see whatever happens as from God, and to ask two questions.  “What good thing is God doing through this?” and “How does God want me to respond to this?”  If I am stuck in traffic and react the way that is natural for me, I arrive at work feeling crabby and annoyed.  On the other hand, if I saw the traffic jam as giving me more time to talk to God or sing to God or listen to a book on tape with God before plunging into my work day, my feeling would be very different.
  • Express your true feelings to God.  The Psalms are a prime example of this.  Many of them were written by David, who was clearly someone God loved, but the emotions expressed are powerful and run the gamut from joy to grief to shame to outrage.  God already knows how you feel; don’t be afraid to express it to him.  You can weep to God, laugh before him, or yell at him.  The key, especially with what we might think of as the darker emotions, is to express them to God and go through them with Him, rather than just pushing them down or letting them harden into bitterness.
  • Watch out for routine.  Here is what I tend to do.  I decide that something is a “good” thing to do.  So I decide, “I will make time every day to do this.”  Then I start doing that.  To some extent, this shows self-discipline and is not a bad thing.  The problem is that it is SO easy for something that I started out doing to get closer to God to turn into something that I do because it is part of my routine and therefore something I SHOULD do to be good.  When I fall into that kind of thinking, the activity, no matter how beautifully conceived, becomes dead and worthless.  I have seen this happen over and over in my life.

The bullet points above are merely some of my ideas.  They are meant to prime the pump as you ask, how can I delight in the Lord?  Delighting in the Lord is a reward in itself, and yet God has promised us the double blessing of fulfilling the deepest desires of our heart as we do it.

Father, I am so good at keeping my distance from you.  I take things that could help me know you and love you more, and I turn them into dead duties.  I am so sorry.  I want to change.  I want to learn how to find true pleasure in being close to you.  I want my deepest desires to be satisfied, rather than just getting the things that I think I want.  I want to be in love with you.  Show me how, please.

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