Delight is an interesting word, one that I almost never use when writing and even less often when speaking. When I do use “delight” it is usually as a noun, as in “much to my delight.” Most English translations of Psalm 37 use delight as a verb. The New King James reads, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” There is an subtle difference between how I typically use delight and what David is expressing in this Psalm.
I might use the term like this, “I found a $20 bill in my coat pocket, much to my delight.” In this case I am an inactive recipient of delight. The unexpected cash in my pocket is responsible for causing joy. In Psalm 37, David places the responsibility for delight not on God, but on us. (Don’t stop reading and call me a heretic just yet, stick with me.) We are instructed to “delight yourself” in the Lord. In other words, we are to take the responsibility to find joy in Him. The Hebrew word translated “delight” עָנַג (anog) comes with a connotation of being soft and pliable. The implication is we conform our will to His. We lay down our desires so that His desires can become our own.
This does not mean that God isn’t delightful or a source of joy. His goodness is a never-ending fountain of joy, but we can not appreciate His goodness in areas where our will is not His will. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” is not a prescription for what you can do to get God to give you whatever you want. Rather, it is instruction for submitting to Him and taking on His desires as your own. He promises that if you look to Him as your source of joy (delight yourself) He will place His desires in your innermost feelings and deepest thoughts. David uses six verbs through Psalm 37 as his instruction: delight, commit, trust, rest, wait, and obey. Until we decide to find our joy in Him and not in getting our own way, we can’t fully commit, trust, rest, wait or obey.
The awesome part is found in verse 23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Once we start submitting our will to Him, He can then truly order our steps and not only do our desires (which are His) come to pass, our delight in Him now causes Him to delight as He leads us through life. What an adventure!