Sunday, February 18, 2007

Desires of your heart?

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with those Bible passages that seem to promise everything if you just do ______. Here's one such passage from today's reading in the Psalms:
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart
Commit your way to the Lord
trust also in him and he will do it
Psalm 37.4-5
Why do I both like and dislike this passage? Well, look at it -- give me the desires of my heart, huh? Sign me up! But if I have unfulfilled desires, this makes it sound like I'm not delighting enough in the Lord or something. And the exhortation to commit my way to the Lord and trust him doesn't help with this complaint.
Another issue I have with this passage is the phrase "give you... desires". Does this mean "grant your heart's desires"? Or is it more like "change your heart to desire only what the Lord wants for you"? I think the context favors the former, but unfulfilled desires seem problematic under either interpretation.
But if I calm down a bit, take a deep breath, and and read the rest of the psalm, I get a better picture of what goes on. In fact, just the next two verses are very helpful:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Psalm 37.6-7
So, what does "he will do it" mean in verse 5? That he'll bring out my righteousness and the justice of my cause -- assuming that my cause is just, which I think it would be if I delight in the Lord, and commit my way to him, and trust in him.

Then verse 7 tells me to wait patiently. It may take a while, in other words. It also says not to fret "when" (not "if") "men succeed" in wickedness. So sometimes they will succeed and I'm supposed to "wait patiently" -- very unnatural.

Ha -- if it were natural, that part wouldn't need to be there.

So what does this mean to me? For one thing, I should remember that fulfillment of the promises may take time. For another, it's important to be clear on what's being promised -- if I have selfish desires and God promises to make the justice of my cause manifest, then... well maybe I'm trying to cash a doctored check.

But ultimately, what it means is that as I delight and trust in him, that he's with me and for me. And that's good news.

No comments: