What Delights God

What brings you delight? What gladdens your heart and gives you joy? It could be any number of things. Personally speaking, there are many things that bring me delight: the laughter of my kids, a smile on my wife’s face, reading Tim Winton, listening to Bob Dylan, eating rib fillet steak with pepper sauce, or stepping back to admire my freshly cut lawn. What about you?

More importantly: What about God? What brings delight to the heart of God?

There are of course a number of different things. For example, God delights in His Son (Is. 42:1, Matt. 3:17, 17:5), in what He has made (Ps. 104:31), in His people (Ps. 149:4, Zeph. 3:17), in honesty (Prov. 11:1), in justice (Jer. 9:24), and so forth.

But another passage recently caught my attention: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting-place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord. ‘These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” — Isaiah 66:1-2

After asserting that everything was made by Him and everything is open before Him (v.1-2a), God reveals the type of person who draws His gaze, who finds favour with Him, who delights Him. The man or woman who is humble, who is contrite in spirit, and who trembles at His word (v.2b).

These three traits are closely related and together reflect a deep and willing surrender and submission to God. I find John Oswalt’s summary of what they mean to be helpful: “…the humble recognition that we can do nothing either for or to him (humility), the awareness that we deserve nothing but destruction from him (contrite in spirit), and the desire to do nothing other than what he commands (trembles at my word).”

It strikes me that these three characteristics are almost the opposite of what is delightful to so many in our day. Humility, contrition and trembling at God’s word are not exactly high on most people’s wish list! Yet these things delight God, which should drive us to pursue and practice them.

Would you say your life is characterised by humility? Are you growing in dependence on God and thankfulness to God? Or are you more characterised by self-reliance and self-promotion? What about brokenness over your sin? When the Spirit of God gently exposes sin in your life, do you respond in hardened defiance or wholehearted repentance? Do you tremble at God’s word? Do you revere the Bible as God’s living word? Do you read it, treasure it, savour it, and, most importantly, obey it?

Is this you? Humble? Contrite in spirit? Trembling at God’s word? These are the people who delight the heart of God. Let’s pursue it together.