The idea of delight occurs approximately 110 times in Scripture in various forms. Less than fifteen occurrences are found in the New Testament. The related concept of "please" occurs about 350 times, about seventy-five of these occurrences in the New Testament.
The Old Testament. Two of the most common Hebrew terms for delight are hepes [,pej], "to bend towards, to be inclined towards [an object or person], " and rasa [h'x'r], "to delight or take pleasure in."
God delights in the obedience of his children more than in sacrifices ( 1 Sam 15:22 ). Obedience to his commands so pleases God that he will prosper his people as they walk in his way ( Num 14:8 ; Deut 30:9 ). God delights in his people ( Psalm 16:3 ).
God is also delighted with honesty in business ( Prov 20:23 ), a blameless life (11:20), truthfulness (12:22), and the prayers of the upright (15:8). God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness to those who please him ( Eccl 2:26 ), and he promises to deliver those in whom he delights ( Psalm 18:19 ). God delights in showing mercy ( Mic 7:18 ), and kindness, justice, and righteousness bring him pleasure and cause him delight ( Jer 9:23 ).
People are encouraged to delight in that which pleases God his law ( Psalm 1:2 ; 112:1-9 ). God's statutes are to be our continual delight ( Psalms 119:24 Psalms 119:70 Psalms 119:77 Psalms 119:174 ). We are to delight in God's law because we love it ( Psalm 119:41-48 ). We are to rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation ( Psalm 35:9 ), for in so doing we will receive the desires of our hearts ( Psalm 37:4 ).
It is possible for people to delight in or take pleasure in that which is foolish or evil. Some people "delight in doing wrong" ( Prov 2:14 ), in voicing their own opinions (18:2), in lying ( Psalm 62:4 ), and in waging war ( Psalm 68:30 ). It is clear that the object of our delight or pleasure is critical. It is possible to delight in those things that are good and proper; it is also possible to delight in that which is an abomination to the Lord ( Isa 66:3 ).
The New Testament. The Greek word most commonly used for "delight" is eudokeo [eujdokevw], usually used when God's purpose, resolve, and choice are in view.
God points out his delight in his Son at both the baptism and transfiguration of Jesus ( Matt 3:17 ; 17:5 ). This pleasure points to a distinct anointing and blessing that rest upon Jesus. Indeed, "God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him" ( Col 1:19 ). God's peace rests upon those in whom he delights ( Luke 2:14 ), and God works in those destined for salvation according to his good pleasure ( Php 2:13 ). God is not pleased, however, with the disobedient and unbelieving ( 1 Cor 10:5 ).
As our supreme example, Jesus took great pleasure in honoring and obeying his father ( John 5:30 ; 8:29 ). That which delights Jesus should be our delight as well. We should make it our all-consuming desire to please him ( 2 Col 5:9 ; 1 Thess 2:4 ; 4:1 ; 1 John 3:22 ).
We are to delight after God's law in the "inner man" ( Rom 7:22 ). We are to delight in our weakness, for this is when God's power is most clearly revealed in our lives ( 2 Cor 12:10 ). We should not, on the other hand, delight in false humility or religion ( Col 2:18 ). Our desire should be directed toward the salvation of souls ( Rom 10:1 ). Faith is essential if we are to please God ( Heb 11:6 ), and God is especially delighted when we pray to those in authority ( 1 Tim 2:3 ). In the essential relationships of life, God is pleased when wives submit to their husbands, husbands love their wives, children obey their parents, parents encourage their children, slaves obey their masters, and masters treat their slaves kindly ( Col 3:18-4:1 ). It is as living, holy sacrifices that we become pleasing to our Father in heaven ( Rom 12:1 ).
Daniel L. Aiken
Bibliography. M. Unger and W. White, Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament; W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; W. Wilson, Old Testament Studies.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Delight'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".