Is God's "God-ness" Enough?

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

“I am with you”, says God. “Therefore, fear not.”

“I am your God”, says God. “Therefore, be not dismayed.”

In righteousness God promises strength, help, and upholding. “I will”, God says. “I will.”

Faith sees these words and embraces them as reality. It looks and says, “Jesus bought that for me with his blood!”

Jesus bought God’s “God-ness” as I’m terming it. Because of this amazing reality, God is with me. God is my God, and he promises to be my strength and help, and to uphold me. God’s righteous right hand is on my side. All of this. For me (and you). In Jesus. Is it enough?

I’m asking God to persuade my heart at every inkling of doubt to trust and believe this solid ground as I face the uncertainty that is every single day of 2014. Join me.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you… What?

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart“, the Psalmist writes in chapter 37 verse 4.

Question:

What is the promise of this verse?  What exactly does “give you the desires of your heart” mean?

Confession:

I am so caught up in myself and in the world I see.  Sadly, my vision of true worth and true beauty is far from 20-20.  My senses just don’t pick up on what really satisfies – I’ve become desensitized…  dull…  I feel like I’ve entirely missed the point of Psalm 37:4 for the majority of my life.

I have come upon this sentence multiple times.  Each time, the Psalmist’s words have met my heart in varying but similar ways:

  • “Really?  Delight myself in the Lord and he’ll give me whatever I want??  Awesome!  Done deal!”
  • “I’m pretty sure I was wrong before – this probably doesn’t mean I get whatever I want if I delight myself in the Lord.  BUT, maybe if I start to want things that God wants he’ll grant me those wants.  And maybe some of these wants I have can sort of become ‘godlified’ so that it’s less greedy…but in the end I still get some of what I want…”
  • “Maybe this delighting in the Lord thing has more of a shaping effect on my desires than I thought before – maybe God means that he’ll put the actual desires in my heart as I focus on him.  Maybe that’s how I start to want the things that God wants.  And maybe he’ll give me some of the same wants that I’ve wanted before, only now they’re really what God wants for me because he wanted me to have the want and stuck it in my heart!”  (my brain… I know…  this happens all day…)

The Trend:

Did you notice a trend in each of those themes of thought?  If I could pick a key word to describe all three of those, I’d choose the word self.  Sure, the latter two were a little less obviously selfish.  But don’t let the spiritual mask over the face of my idolatry fool you – at the core, I kept hoping that God was in some way promising that if I’d just delight in him, he’d be the supplier of all that I’ve ever wanted.  In fact, he was promising something far different (and far greater) if I had eyes to see.

Breakthrough:

The promise of this verse as I see it now is quite simply this:  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you [himself].”

Recall that the psalmist wrote that he will give you “the desires of your heart”.  Why do I believe you can safely replace “the desires of your heart” with “himself”?

My reasoning is quite simple:  Delight presupposes desire.  In other words, if you find yourself pursuing your delight in something or someone, it must be true that you first desire the object of your present delight.  You cannot truly delight in something or someone that you despise.  Otherwise, the “delight” is a ruse.  It’s hypocrisy.

So if that’s true, then my delighting in the Lord is a result of the fact that I desire him.  The promise becomes something so much greater than God giving me the stuff I’ve always wanted.  As my heart is changed to desire God, delight in God rises, and as I’m delighting in the Lord, his promise comes:  “I will satisfy the desires you have for me by giving you myself.”

In fact, would it not be cruel and unloving of God if he was promising something other than this?  Think about it… “I desire God.  Therefore I delight in him.  God then responds by giving me [money], [a great job], [some other substitute] instead of what I actually desire (namely, God, himself)???  No!  No, no, no!  

I’m not saying that God doesn’t bless his people.  I’m just saying that’s not necessarily the point of this verse!  This verse is saying that your heart’s abundant desires can not merely be met by God, but, more incredibly, can be satisfied fully and completely in God.  As desire for God produces authentic delight in him as the supreme Treasure that he is, he promises to satisfy you by giving you himself.

Thrill or Disappointment?

I can’t say this has always been true in my life, but when I read this and thought about it, it thrilled my heart (which spurred this blog post).  I can think of how this promise would have met me in the past – sadly, I would have probably been somewhat disappointed that my “old” desires aren’t even in the picture.  Tragically, I’d have viewed God as the inferior substitute satisfaction, rather than the other way around.

So how does this promise meet you?  I’ve tried to be transparent in my assessment of my own life.  Can you be transparent with yours?  God is promising himself to you.  Does this land on you with thrill, or with disappointment?

Who’s Who? Commentary on Psalm 37:23

Psalm 37:23-24 was this past week’s Fighter Verse.  As I worked through memorizing these verses, I lingered on verse 23 for some time.

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way.”

I say “I lingered” – actually, I got stuck on the grammar.  I kept asking, “Who is he?” and “Who is his?” in this verse .  A natural reading of the text suggests a solution, but in typical Andrew style, I over-analyzed it and my mind spun for a while trying to figure out if I was really right about the conclusion or not.  (Perhaps that series on pronouns and antecedents would have been helpful to pay attention to in 8th grade English class)…

Ah, but alas, when grammar skills fail, just apply a little logic and math.  Rather than thinking of this dilemma in terms of a sentence diagram, I started looking at it in terms of possible pronoun-antecedent outcomes.  2 pronouns * 2 antecedents = 4 possible pronoun-antecedent outcomes:

1. “he” = “a man” , “his” = “a man”:
(“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when [a man] delights in [the man’s] way.”)

While it is true that man is exceedingly good at approving of himself and his own ways, the Bible is clear that self-approval does not stand as anything close to the primary ground for right standing with God.  In fact, the Scriptures teach us much about our fundamental sin condition, leading to wickedness and moral fallenness.  From Psalm 37 as a whole, we know that the LORD does not establish the ways of the wicked.  Option 1 seems highly unlikely.

2. “he” = “the LORD” , “his” = “the LORD”:
(“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when [the LORD] delights in [the LORD’s] way.”)

Make no mistake – the LORD delights in his own way.  This is fundamental right-ness.  For the LORD to be God, he must supremely delight in his own way.  He must uphold the infinite value of himself, his name – there is no one greater or more supreme to delight in.  However, it doesn’t seem that this is the reason for which the LORD would establish the steps of a man either.  While his establishment of man’s ways is could be seen as an overflow of his delight in himself, it is probably not what the Psalmist is referring to as he constructs verse 23.

3. “he” = “a man” , “his” = “the LORD”:
(“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when [a man] delights in [the LORD’s] way.”)

I’ll tip my hand and admit that I believe this to be the correct, and perhaps most natural reading of the verse.  Here, it would be understood that the reason a man’s steps are established by the LORD is because the man delights in the way of the LORD.  I gain a confirming clue from v. 4 of the same psalm:  “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart”.  Well, here the pronouns are quite clear.  To use language from v. 23, “a man” is doing the delighting in the LORD, and in reply, the LORD gives the man the desires of his heart.  Nearly the same sentence structure leads me to believe that delighting in the LORD is the precursor to the LORD’s acting on behalf of the delighter.

4. “he = “the LORD” , “his” = “a man”:
(“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when [the LORD] delights in [the man’s] way.”)

I believe that #3 is the correct pronoun-antecedent mapping, but I found it interesting to ponder the implications of this reading.  Could it be that the LORD delighting in a man’s ways is why the man’s steps are established?  Well, if this is true, one would naturally ask a second question:  “What state of a man does the LORD delight in?”

I believe it can be well argued from the Scriptures and from Psalm 37 (v. 4 again?) that it is when a man delights in the LORD that the LORD delights in the ways of that man.  When the LORD is the supreme delight of a man, the LORD is happy in the ways of that man.

The careful eye will observe that, if conclusion #4 is the correct one, we’re right back at #3 as the ultimate correct conclusion.  When a man delights in the way of the LORD, the LORD delights in the way of that man and the result of that series of delighting is the establishment of the man’s steps by the LORD.

It may seem like it was round about, but I loved thinking out the implications of each alternative reading.  And my joy was increased knowing that “though [I] fall, [I] shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds [my] hand.” (v 24) … when I delight in his way.