Over the years, I’ve heard many people pining about their desires for marriage. In my 20’s I did too. More often than not, the verse I’ve heard people use to encourage people down and out about their singleness is Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will grant you the desires of your heart.” People have hung onto that verse as a promise from God that they will find someone to marry. In my younger years, I’ve even quoted that passage in my prayers for a spouse.
Once I began to look at the teachings of the New Testament, I saw that singleness was spoken of highly and as a preferred status for the kingdom of heaven. Both Paul and Jesus affirmed that singleness is ideal. So where does that put us in terms of our desires for marriage? 2 things come to mind: 1. Marriage is not a preordained fact of life. It is as fluid as any other choices we make. We were not destined for marriage or singleness from eternity past. 2. Marriage really isn’t that important in terms of the New Testament mission. That caused me to question whether using Psalm 37:4 as a comfort verse for those feeling down about their singleness was the best approach. My conclusion, it isn’t. Here is why.
Anytime we take verses out of context from their immediate passage and in the entire flow of scripture, we end up with faulty beliefs about God. Do this enough and we end up believing God made promises about things He never promised. Then we suffer disappointment in God because He didn’t live up to His promises to us. So what does Ps. 37:4 mean? To get the answer, we’ll want to look at the surrounding verses.
1st, let’s start with the Psalm’s first 6 verses:
1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2 For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
What we see in the context is an admonition to pursue righteousness, goodness, and faithfulness to God. We are called to not worry ourselves with the deeds of the wicked, but to pursue the opposite. The reasoning is because the wicked will not last They will wither away.
When verses 4&5 encourage us to delight in the Lord, the desires of our heart are spelled out in verse 6: “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday (I’d recommend reading “judgment” here as wise acts, or shrewd acts).
In reading the passage in context, delighting ourselves in the Lord is related to pursuing righteousness and faithfulness through doing good, which will result in our character being recognized. Unlike the wicked that will wither away, the righteous who delight in the Lord will last.
That reading works as a connect point with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” It is the hungering for righteousness (in other-words: when righteousness is the desire of our heart), God will fulfill his promise and fill us.
The Lord’s promise is to take care of the righteous, to be their provision, to honor them and establish them. If we look further down this Psalm to verse 25, we get another famously quoted phrase:
“I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken. Or his descendants begging bread.”
When I began to see many of the commonly quoted scriptures in their contexts, I had to adjust some of my theology (what I believed), to make it line up with the holistic truths of scripture. As a result, my faith has been made stronger and more established. I have come to see God’s goodness permeate even the most dire and frustrating of situations, because I know his word is eternally rooted and universally practical–regardless of what the world says.
So take some time, read Psalm 37 in its entirety and jot down the main themes in the context. It is amazing what we learn about God’s character in his word, when we read it in its context. There is a fullness of truth that we cannot get by ignoring the context.
Did this post challenge your thoughts? What are your reflections? Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you for reading. Here at the TM Williams author site, it is my goal to Expand Your Mind Through the Power of Words.