“I Call These Noises Silence”

Stacked River StonesRead Psalm 37
(especially verses 1-8)

4 Delight yourself in the LORD;
  . … And He will give you the desires of your heart.
 …………..                                                  (Psalm 37:4)

What does verse 4 mean?

That God will give us everything we ever wanted? That the thing(s) we want can be had for the string of delighting in the Lord? That the price of getting my desires is delighting in God, like I exchange delight and get everything I ever imagined? If I delight in God he will change my desires so that my desires line up with His will, is that what verse 4 means?

I don’t think so.

And I think the reason is pretty obvious if we just think about it a little bit.

Sometimes in seeking to avoid a clearly wrong interpretation we settle for a solution that is safer but still wrong. Clearly, the wrong interpretation is any understanding that puts God on the end of a string and makes Him the dispenser of desires rather than the completely satisfying sovereign Lord that He is. So what is the more typical and “safe” interpretation of verse 4?

Usually, what I have heard over the years and even read in a few commentaries goes something like this. “When we delight in the Lord, He changes our desires to coincide with His will and that’s how we get the desires of our hearts.”

Safer, but wrong.

Look at the text again.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD;
  . … And He will give you the desires of your heart.

To delight in something is to desire it, to cherish it, to be intoxicated by it. You sit in one place doing one thing but you count the moments to when you can drop what you are doing and pick up, or hold, or discuss, or play, or eat, or listen to the thing in which you delight. To delight in a thing is to be mesmerized by its beauty or the pleasure one gets through it. 

David invites us to delight ourselves in the Lord and promises that the Lord will give us what we delight in–the Lord! He will give us Himself!

Perhaps this helps.

Substitute the word “ice cream” for Lord in the first part of the verse. “Delight yourself in ice cream / and he will give you the desires of your heart.” What does the first line anticipate? It anticipates the getting of the thing, in this case, ice cream, that it delights in; the heart gets the thing it desires when it desires the right thing.

So David is saying that if we delight in the Lord, if we cherish the Lord, if we are intoxicated with the “wanting” of the Lord, He will satisfy our wanting with the only thing that can satisfy us when we are mesmerized with Him.

He will give us Himself.

This is why some years ago (2005), John Piper wrote a book titled, GOD IS THE GOSPEL (which I just noticed is subtitled, MEDITATIONS ON GOD’S LOVE AS THE GIFT OF HIMSELF). It is why for a number of years I have said something like this:

“If the greatest being in the universe wants to give the greatest gift He could possibly give to those He loves, He has to give Himself. There is no greater thing He can give than Himself and that is precisely what He has done in the gospel and what he promises in the gospel He is going to give for all eternity.”

I want to do what David did. I want to invite you to delight in Him, to find in Him who redeemed you a supreme and complete satisfaction. To train your heart to reject all substitutes for joy that are not centered in your joy in Him. All the substitutes will fail you but He will never fail.


Poems for Psalms
(Another addition to The Poetry Project”)
Always good to read the Psalm first.

I Call These Noises Silence*

Annie Dillard called it
   ..  “Teaching a Stone to Talk.”
Or, at least I thought she did.

She was talking of a man on an island
who was literally “trying to teach a stone to talk”.
His was a fruitless venture. 
But sometimes
I think his effort is a metaphor
for something else.

My heart,
the stone at the center of my passion
is as inarticulate as granite,
and just as impenetrable.

It is dull, insensate
and ponderously slow
to learn.
Words get choked in the hidden and throat-less interior
of its corruptions and idolatry.

But if it is to be free,
if it is to find joy
if it is to ever and forever flourish,
it must be taught.
It must learn a language.
It must adopt an alien tongue.
An alphabet of the spirit,
Groups of letters and affections have to be learned.
It has to be cultivated.
It has to learn to delight not in mud puddles
but in a holiday at the beach.
It has to learn to not settle for the puddle when
infinite glories are offered in delights that are alien to it.

It has to learn that the Crucified One is the only object,
the only person in the universe
that will satisfy its fathomless longing for joy.

“So, Lord of life, teach my stoney heart to speak.
Teach it to wait on You and in You and for You.
In this stillness, change my heart.
I call these noises silence.
and I’m waiting for You to open my mouth
so my delight is truly and completely in You
and my praises ring with passion.
Because only You will satisfy the emptiness of the silence.

Augustine was right.
Our hearts are restless,
until they find their rest
(and their joy, and their hope, and their everything)
in You.

* The phrase comes from Dillard’s essay, “Teaching a Stone to Talk”, and is included in the book by the same title (Harper and Row, 1982).

Go to Psalm 38    “I Deserve the Harshest Rebuke”

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