WORD STUDY – DELIGHT – ענג
Psalm 37:4:”Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I remember when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute this verse was very popular. We were all young, ambitious with very specific ideas of our future ministry. We were convinced that if we delighted ourselves in that work God would surely give us the desires of our hearts as it was after all God’s work we were seeking to do. The guy living next to me in the dorm had a different take on Psalms 37:4. He felt if he really delighted himself in the Lord, the Lord would see fit to make a certain young woman his wife.
Of course as I look back on those days I can easily see, at least for myself, that my motives for delighting myself in the Lord were really selfish motives. I wanted to be a success and famous in the Christian community where I would one day return to Moody to speak in their chapel on how God had mightily used me. I really didn’t give much thought to the fact that maybe the desires of my heart were not exactly God’s desires. The verse didn’t say that, it only said if we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our hearts, emphasis on that pronoun our.
The word delight is very interesting. It comes from the word aneg which means to take pleasure in. But is also means to be delicate. This is really a romantic word. At least the word is in a feminine gender. I know that gender does not play a significant role in translation but when you have a word like this I think it is important. I remember before I performed a wedding I met with the couple for a time of pre-marital counseling. I had stepped out of my office for a moment and when I returned I happened upon the couple as they shared, shall I say, a rather tender moment together. They were unaware of my presence for a brief moment, but in that moment I observed aneg. This future husband was gently stroking his future wife’s face, he tenderly brush her hair aside, then he placed his hand behind her hand and ever so lightly brushed his lips against hers. I watched the future bride’s face light up with pure joy. Being the diligent Hebrew student I was I immediately thought to myself, “Ah ha, I have a picture of aneg. But then I thought of this young man whom I knew. I knew that the only desire of his heart was that he make this young woman happy, that he brings her pleasure and joy. He would sacrifice anything personal even his life for her.
This is what the word delight ‘aneg really means. It is not the intimacy of worship. If it were, David would have said shachah or worship the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. ‘Aneg is not the act of worship, but the rather it is the longing, yearning and desire for that moment when you can be alone with your God. To be able to just enjoy His presence and let Him enjoy yours. To let that feminine side of gentleness, and tenderness be expressed. To let him gently stroke your cheek and let Him see your eyes shine with joy before Him and allow His heart to be gladdened over having brought you such joy.
When you enter into such a relationship he will give you. The word give is nathan, spelled Nun, Taw, Nun. Spelled backward it is Nun Taw Nun. It is spelled the same backward or forward. The sages teach that it is spelled this way to show that giving goes out and comes back. He will give you the desires of your heart and the resulting joy we experience will return that joy He gave right back to Him.
But to fully grasp the depth of this passage we must examine this word desire. It comes from the root word sha’al. Its Semitic origin lies in an old Akkadian word sa’alu. It is suggested that this is where we get our English word salutation. I am not sure about that, but it does mean a greeting intended to ask after one’s welfare. Just like we would greet someone by asking: “How are you feeling?”
When I was a pastor I once handled a funeral for a young woman’s mother. The young woman was, of course very saddened and despondent. Then I watched her husband come up to her. He gently stoked her cheek and look into her eyes, she then took his hand with both her hands and laid his hand on her cheek where she wanted him to touch her. He then asked: “What can I do, ask me anything, and if it is within my ability I will do it.” Believe me at that moment I have no doubt that man would have gladly given his own life for his wife if it would have brought a smile to her face. But he didn’t have to do that, the smile came anyways as she told him how much she loved him. That is sha’al.
So to, during our moments of ‘aneg delight as the Father reaches out to us and we take His hand and place it where we hurt the most and He will gently ask: “What is it, what can I do? I’ve given my life for you, is there more that I can do? Just ask.” That is what it means when David says; “He will give you the sha’al desire of your heart.”