Question: Isn't it true that some recent writers have elevated
the role of personal desires in decision making based on Psalm 37:4?
Answer: Yes. Psalm 37:4 reads:
"Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart." The line of
thought is that as the believer grows in his delight of the LORD, God will transform that person's
desires so that they conform to His. Bruce Waltke writes: "When God is in control of your life,
He is also in control of your desires. The things you long for in your heart will be put there by
the Holy Spirit." John MacArthur says that if you are Spirit-filled, "Do whatever you want!
. . . God does not say He will fulfill all the desires that are there. He says He will put the
desires there! If you are living a godly life, He will give you the right desires,
For the traditionalist, the equation of personal desires with God's desires becomes a means for
determining His individual will. The writer reflecting the Wisdom view is agreeing with
Augustine: "Love God and do what you please."
But this appears to be another exercise in inferring conclusions that go beyond the statement of the text.
The passage does not say anything about God giving desires to anyone. In the context, the
believer is disturbed because the wicked are prospering and the righteous are being victimized
(Psalm 37:1,7). So he pleads his case to God in prayer. In
response, God assures him that the godly will receive the land as an inheritance (37:11).
Their prayers will be answered and the wicked will fail. In this setting, the promise of verse 4
points to the expectation of answered prayer. Allen Ross summarizes the meaning: "Rather one
should trust in the LORD who can answer prayers of the heart (vv. 3-4)".
Delitszsch shows a parallel example where delight in the Lord is connected with God hearing
prayer (Job 20:26-27). He says that delight in God means desiring
the right things which God will not "refuse." The desires in question, then, are those of the
believer who appeals to God in prayer - not desires transplanted by God.
In heaven our desires will be perfect. But until then we will need to judge our desires by the
Word of God. But when our desires are in harmony with all of God's moral will, they can be
followed with confidence. This is not a novel way of finding God's individual will, but simply
loving God and thus being able to do what we please. This is the Way of Wisdom.