Delight yourself also in YHWH; and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Desires – Well, this is more like it! This spiritual magic formula has some usefulness. If I just make myself happy with God, He’ll give me what I want. Since I have a long list of “wants,” this promise has enormous appeal. A quick way to the good life, right? Well, not exactly.
In 2004 we looked at this verse. The Hebrew mish’alot (plural of mish’ala) is translated “desires.” The root verb is sha’al, usually translated as “ask.” We make God’s role one of fulfilling wishes that we already have. God becomes our personal genie, a wish-granting provider, a heavenly Santa Claus. But what if the verse says something else? The root verb, sha’al, frequently describes the action of asking God for guidance. The supplicant does not come to God with an already-formed plan in mind, asking God to fulfill the request. Instead, the supplicant comes without the necessary direction and asks God to provide instruction. The supplicant is the one in the needful position. But the wish is not to fulfill one of the already existing options. It is to provide an option that is as yet unknown.
The Hebrew verb in this verse is in the imperfect tense. This means it describes an action that isn’t finished. If God were going to fulfill my desires, pretty soon the list would be done. But the verb indicates that this process is never done. In fact, another facet of this verb suggests that it is a fluid, dynamic condition, like stepping into a fast-flowing stream.
If we apply this meaning to the noun, mish’ala, we might argue that this verse is not that God fulfills one or more of the existing desires of the heart, but rather than God will give us the desires themselves. We stand empty, openhearted, delighting in His presence. And we discover that God fills us with inner desires – His inner desires for us. If my delight is in Him, I do not come with my Christmas list anticipating that He will supply my desires. I come without anything but my delight – and I discover that He alters my heart so that I am filled with desires that reflect my delight in Him.
If this exegesis is correct, then we are suddenly confronted with this amazing truth. The only way you can be passionate about life is to delight yourself in Him. Your previous wishes are no indicator of the desires God will place in a heart willingly submitted to Him. You will not find the passion of greatness by reading What Color is Your Parachute or any other of the dozens of self-assessment goal-setting books. You will only know the passion that God has intended to become the driving force of His purposes for you when you stand empty before Him. He is not waiting to give you what you want. He is waiting to give you your wants and then fulfill them.
We’ll take another look at this verse in a few days, after some cognitive digestion.
Topical Index: mish’alot, desires, Psalm 37:4