"Don't envy sinners, but always continue to fear the Lord. For surely you have a future ahead of you; your hope will not be disappointed. . . . O My son, give me your heart. May your eyes delight in my ways of wisdom." (Proverbs 23:17, 26)

What sort of activities in life do you find to be truly delightful? Webster tells us that to delight in something means to take great pleasure in it, or to be highly satisfied in it. Given that understanding, what are those things from which you derive great joy and satisfaction? Perhaps you find this in watching a ballgame? -- or taking in a new movie? -- or reading a book? Maybe, for you, it's found by traveling and seeing new sights? -- or even by having your grandchildren come for a (brief) visit? What is it that brings you delight?

Alexander McClaren wrote that these verses (from 15-35) of this twenty-third chapter of Proverbs really amount to a condensed teaching of the entire book. If that is true (and I've no reason to think otherwise) then the very heart of it all lies here in the exhortation of verse seventeen: "but always continue to fear the Lord". Another translation goes this way: "live in the fear of the Lord all the day long." This is where our heart is to be. It is from this that you and I, as children of God, are to derive our joy - delighting in Him and taking joy in our grace-enabled-capacity to please Him in all our doings.

It was David who said to God, "I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart." In Psalm 112:1 we read: "How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments." The prayer of the righteous is this: "Make me walk in the pathway of Your commandments, for I delight in them." (Ps 119:35) You see, here we are given the secret to real joy. It isn't to be found in the vanishing vanities of this world - the passing glories of this life which are no more substantial than an apparition or a shadow. To crave these things (to seek satisfaction in them) is as foolish as longing after some tasty sweet which melts immediately upon entering the mouth and leaves behind hardly a trace of its essence and which does nothing at all to curb the appetite. Rather, our delight is to be sought (and found) in the person of our God and in living daily so as to please Him.

The writer reminds us that "surely there is a future" for us. I agree, but even if today were all we had, then it would be a wiser course of action to live that day for the Lord rather than opting to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Even if we had only one day to give the Lord, then let it be given, and let us find great joy in that tiny sacrifice unto our God. McClaren writes that to live in the fear of the Lord "all the day long" is "to live by habitual faith, in communion with, and love and obedience to, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." But how do we do it?

Psalm one suggests the importance of following the path which the Lord sets forth in His Word. Our delight, then, is in the Word of the Lord, meditating on what He reveals about Himself and taking strength, comfort, and encouragement from His promises. Delighting in His Word means we surrender to be guided by God's wisdom, avoiding the faux wisdom of this fallen world (the counsel of the wicked). Our delight is in knowing the Lord and walking with a keen awareness of His abiding presence. Now, perhaps you think that a very difficult thing. Then let me remind you of what we are told in Psalm 139: 5-6 (and I'll give it to you as found in the Message): "I look behind me and you are there, then up ahead and you are there, too - your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful for me." Do you see it now? God is always with us, beside us, ahead of us, behind us. He will never leave His children. His comfort is with us at all times. Therefore, is it not reasonable that you and I should take delight in His presence while sojourning through this dark world?

And what about taking delight in His commandments? Is that so difficult to imagine? I know, I know - if you are like me (and I imagine you are) every glance at the commandments of God only reminds me of my failings and my sin. We cannot fully obey God's commandments, so how is it possible to take delight in them? Well, first of all, let me remind you that, as a Christian, the whole of the Law indeed has been fulfilled on your behalf in Christ Jesus who stands for you. Positionally, you appear (in Christ) before the Father as one who has fully complied with every one of His expectations and demands. You should be thankful for that.

But then, secondly, you should also take joy in the sanctifying presence of the Spirit of God in your life that, even now, is applying enabling grace to you, transforming your heart and bringing it into harmony with the heart of God. If you are troubled by your sins - rejoice! - for God has enabled you to be repulsed by your sin even as He is. If you weep and cry out for help to walk more faithfully and with greater consistency in obedience to Him - then rejoice! - for flesh and blood has not given birth to this delight in you.

Bottom line, our joy, as believers, is in giving our hearts to the Lord (v.26) and knowing that, as we do so, God takes delight in us! Think about it!