(3) Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
(4) Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3– 4, NIV
Dear Father in heaven, we love and honor your ways even when they are bitter ways. We long for courage and strength. Lord, help us to believe. Grant faith to the millions surrounded by death, faith that overcomes everything through utmost self-denial. Let your light shine out to bring life to the nations in the midst of all that is happening. Your light shall lead and guide us, and peace will come, a deeper peace than we have ever known. Remember each of us in all our concerns, and grant that the struggles of life may lead us to peace. If hard and bitter ways should be our lot, help us to remain steadfast, never complaining about our burdens even in the most difficult days, for through grief and trouble the way leads to you. Amen.
The context of the words of Psalm 37:3– 4, NIV
Psalm 37:1–11 encourages David's audience to maintain a proper relationship with God by refusing to wallow in anxiety over their circumstances. Instead, they ought to trust in the Lord, find their joy in the Lord, and commit their future to the Lord. The tone of this passage resembles Proverbs chapter two, which explains the benefits of following godly wisdom. Matthew 5:5 holds a promise that parallels verses 9 and 11 of this psalm.
In this psalm, David contrasts the way God protects and saves His people, contrasted with the ruin which awaits the wicked. Much of this seems to be based on David's own experiences (Psalm 37:25, 35). As with many other passages in Psalms and Proverbs, this passage encourages godly wisdom. Those who reject God and His ways can expect uncertainty on earth and disaster in eternity.
Meaning of the words
"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture"
David continues his wise counsel (Psalm 37:1–2) by telling his audience to put their confidence in the Lord and do what's right. Those concepts are inseparable: trusting God and obeying Him go hand in hand. The book of James was written to teach that legitimate faith leads to related works. James 2:18 comments, "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." Chapter 2 ends by insisting that "faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26). Legitimate faith leads to good works in keeping with that faith (John 14:15).
The command to "dwell in the land" echoes the New Testament's call to "abide" in Christ (John 15). The meaning is something more than merely existing or surviving (Galatians 5:16). The following verses speak about delight and commitment. To "dwell" in the land, or to "abide" in one's faith, requires wholehearted engagement (Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 10:27).
Another way to see this statement is in contrast to an English expression, "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." The cliché describes how people often think different will be better, instead of recognizing the good we already have. That might apply to our church, our family, or other aspects of our lives (1 Timothy 6:6). Israel's real-world experience with the Promised Land typifies God's will for His people (Hebrews 3:15–19). When we refuse to enter it, we're choosing our own fears or preferences over the will of God (Hebrews 3:12–13).
"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart"
This verse is easily misapplied, as are many such references to the promises of God. To "delight in the Lord" is to enjoy all the blessings found in Him, because they are from Him, not merely because they are to our benefit. It's often said that the person who delights in the Lord values the Giver more highly than His gifts. The Hebrew word translated as "delight" here is from a root word that implies pleasure and enjoyment.
In context with the surrounding verses (Psalm 37:3, 5), this clearly refers to those whose desires are in harmony with those of God. A person who "delights in the Lord" has righteous desires. He will not desire anything that springs from selfish desires. No one can expect God to give something contrary to God's will, or the Lord's glory. So far as our wills are attuned to the will of God (John 14:15), our requests will be granted (John 14:14; Matthew 6:33). This idea is expressed often in the Psalms (Psalm 21:2; 145:19).
Some commentators suggest this statement could be interpreted to mean the Lord will place into our hearts those desires which are godly. In other words, when we delight in God, He makes us want what He wants (Romans 12:2; Galatians 5:16–24).
Psalm 16:11 assures us that in God's presence there is fullness of joy, and pleasures that last forever are at His right hand. A truly joyful life, one which extends through eternity, is based on our delighting ourselves in the Lord. The book of Ecclesiastes traces Solomon's search for happiness and meaning in a variety of things, but his search led only to emptiness until he found happiness and meaning in a personal relationship with God. At the end of the book he counsels his readers: "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'" (Ecclesiastes 12:1)