Do not fret because of those who are evil, or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
“A Streetcar Named DESIRE”
When I was a freshman at Hope College I remember taking a class called, “The Art of Cinema” to fulfill a fine arts core requirement. Someone had told me it was good, and super easy—so naturally I signed up, not thinking I would really get much out of it. I was wrong! Those great stories—Mutiny on the Bounty, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (seriously), and so many others—have stuck in my mind for almost 40 years. They got me to see life and think about life differently. In the end, the class turned out to be anything but “easy,” but it was definitely “good!”
One movie we watched in that class was the famous screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire, with Vivian Leigh and Marlon Brando. At one point in the movie Leigh’s character, Blanche Dubois, goes to visit her sister and brother-in-law in New Orleans. She is looking for a street named Elysian Fields. To get there, she’s told to “take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemeteries.” Elysian Fields, in Greek mythology, is the heavenly afterlife, and so the symbolism of how one gets there is striking!
David’s song in Psalm 37 speaks about desire. In verse 4, David instructs us to “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It’s a wonderful promise, and it is wonderfully ambiguous in its meaning. Most scholars agree that God’s promise through David is that He will give us BOTH the right desires AND he will fulfill those right desires.
In other words, God’s promise for us is both the best possible destination AND the only possible “streetcar” that can take us there!
The Hebrew word for desire David uses in Psalm 37 comes from a root word that means “to ask.” Ultimately, what we desire is what we are asking for…and what we truly ask for is what we get. When I would get socked by my older brother growing up, his excuse was usually something like, “He was asking for it!” And you know what? He was right! So what was David asking for in Psalm 37? What are you and I asking for?
David contrasts “the wicked” (11 times) with those who are “meek, righteous, blameless, upright.” In short, David says that both will get what they’re asking for…both will ultimately get what they’re pursuing. The streetcar named Desire always eventually transfers to the one named Cemeteries.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul picks up on that truth. Paul warns against pursuing the “desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, Colossians 3:5), and urges us to “desire the gifts of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:1). Paul tells us that “those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5) Both streetcars are named Desire, and both make a transfer to the Cemeteries. But for those who desire what the Spirit desires, the journey doesn’t end there. Theirs is an lifetime adventure that never ends!
So, how do we board the right Desire?
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4)
It sounds good, and super easy, doesn’t it? But you can’t work your way onto that train, you can’t fight or argue or buy your way on…you have to accept God’s invitation, and that invitation has a name…Jesus.
The prophet Haggai, writing more than five centuries before Jesus was born, referred to this coming Messiah as the “Desire of all nations.” Jesus’ invitation onto the adventure of a lifetime is to “trust” in him (Mark 5:35), to “dwell” in him (John 15:4) and to “enjoy” him (John 10:10). If we take delight in what Jesus offers…if we reach out and accept his invitation…he promises us the ultimate destination, and the ultimate ticket to get there.
This week is Holy Week in the Christian Church. It’s the week where we remember the first and greatest journey from Good Friday death to Easter Morning life. It’s the week where we celebrate that Jesus’ Easter journey can be OUR journey too! Jesus extends the invitation to ride…he has given us the deep desire to board. Jesus holds the ticket. He wants to give you the desires of your heart.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. (Ps. 37:6, NLT)
Grab hold of that kind of real Easter life today! Trust Jesus, dwell in him, enjoy him, take delight in him…and always stay thirsty for his Living Water!