From Psalms 36-39
Today’s psalm provides moral instruction. It gives guidance concerning how to live a moral God fearing life. It seeks to understand the apparent success and prosperity of people who adopt immoral lives. Do you ever ask what’s the point? Why not give in to temptation when others do? If so, this psalm is for you.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Psalm 37 contains a reasonable amount of moral instruction. The psalmist questions why moral instruction is important because the wicked seem to prosper in this world. In the short run, the wicked seem to prosper, whereas the righteous very often seem to suffer at their hands. But it is the longer run that counts, and in the long run true satisfaction is to be found in the righteousness which is characteristic of those who live in relationship with the living God.
1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. (Ps 37:1–2)
The psalm assumes its audience is struggling with injustice in the world. It begins instructing its listeners not to worry because of evildoers or wrongdoers. Their time is short.
The psalmist distinguishes the righteous from the wicked in the world around him.
Psalms generally assume in this lifetime evil will be judged. Rather than worry the psalmist exhorts his listeners to focus on the LORD.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:3-4)
Regardless of how the evildoers live, the psalmist encourages his listeners to trust in the LORD. He will look after his people and will eventually deal with injustice.
He also instructs his listeners to do good. He is not clear on what he means so it could be anything. Normally it involves caring for others. Some preachers today hold trust and good works apart. The bifurcation is not biblical. They both go hand in hand.
God’s people have the greatest treasure of all. This is why the psalmist encourages them to…
Delight themselves in the LORD. He is our one true desire. He will make himself known and you will feel his presence.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Ps 37:5-6)
Following the LORD requires commitment and trust. Commitment involves a goal and perseverance to see it through. Trust involves depending on others and a whole lot of patience.
The psalmist promises if they do these things the LORD will act. They will mature and grow in character. They will be part of the LORD’s plan to set the world to rights. I find it easy to forget the LORD works in the world.
Continue to believe he will make a difference in his kingdom.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Ps 37:7)
The psalmist instructs his listeners to be still and not to worry. Rather he wants to them to trust in the LORD and do good. A theme we will continue towards the end.
The psalmists instructions turn to what we should avoid.
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (Ps 37:8-11)
Wait for the LORD. The wicked will be cut off.
Those who wait will inherit the land. The theme is brought up repeatedly throughout the psalm (v9,11,22,29,34). Presumably the psalmist is writing at a time when foreigners had control of the promised land. He encourages them God’s humble people will be restored to their inheritance and delight in the LORD and the peace he has brought about.
The wicked will be no more, banished.
12 The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. (Ps 37:12-15)
In the psalmists world there are the righteous, God’s people. The wicked who oppose the righteous and oppress the needy. The LORD who is king, covenant maker and judge.
Is this different from how you normally perceive the world?
What will happen to the righteous, needy and the wicked?
16 Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.
20 But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. (Ps 37:16-20)
The righteous live on, the wicked don’t. What is involved in being righteous, as the psalmist seems to be speaking about.
21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives;
22 for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.
25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. (Ps 37:21-26)
The righteous take on debts they can honor and payback. They are generous with their time and money. They give.
The LORD directs the steps of the righteous. They spend time with the LORD and follow his direction.
The children of the righteous learn from their parents example. They follow in their steps and become a blessing to others. God promised his people would be a blessing (Gen 12.1-3)
27 Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. (Ps 37:27-29)
The LORD loves justice. So his people should seek to please him. Another name the righteous go by in the Old Testament is his ‘Saints’. A noun the apostle Paul often to describe believers.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.
32 The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.
33 The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial. (Ps 37:30-33)
The righteous speak. They probably speak of what they have learnt from the LORD and his law. The scriptures.
Its a good thing to share these things with other people in our daily practice.
They speak to promote the Kingdom of God. The wicked will try to oppose them. Eventually the LORD will put an end to them.
34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.
37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. (Ps 37:34-38)
The righteous are exhorted to wait for the LORD. Another repeated theme. Living as God’s people involves more than trusting and being involved in ministry. It involves waiting for the LORD.
Are you waiting on the LORD for something?
The wicked don’t seem to have a bright future. They will be cut off, passing away, absent from view and destroyed. There is no future in wickedness.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. (Ps 37:39-40)
God saves the righteous from the wicked. He protects them and delivers them because they take refuge in him and wait for him.
Story of Jesus
The psalmist instructed his listeners to be still and not to worry. He wants to them to trust in the LORD and do good. In the gospel Jesus instructs no different.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Mt 6:25–33)
Trust in the LORD, wait on him and do good.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.