Psalm 37 is another acrostic psalm of David. In this psalm, each letter of the Hebrew alphabet appears only once in order, with each successive letter introducing a unit of four lines, with a couple minor exceptions. This psalm is also unique in that is reads like the Proverbs. Instead of having a thematic structure, this psalm consists of short wise sayings concerning wicked and the righteous. Since there is not a readily discernable thematic structure, we will approach the study of this psalm differently. We will notice some key jewels of wisdom in this psalm and make appropriate applications.
I. Trust In the Lord (37:1-11)
A. Do not worry
- David begins the psalm with the admonition not to worry or fret because of evil men. The worry seems to be concerning how evil people seem to flourish and prosper. Hence, David says, “do not…be envious of those who do wrong.” We are not to look longingly at the actions of the world, thinking that they are in better circumstances than we are. When we look at them and think they have things better, we are only considering physical and material things. We are not considering the things that are truly important, such as God, families, and relationships.
- David reminds us that those who do wrong will soon wither like grace and die away like green plants. Just as a plant looks green and hearty, eventually it must pass away. The outer actions do not reveal what is truly going on within their lives. It may appear that everything is going well for them, just as a plant appears green and healthy. But, something will happen to cause the evildoers to wither.
B. Do good
- David says that we are not worry but we are to continue doing good. There are five admonitions David gives to encourage us to not fret or envy the wicked.
- Trust in the Lord. First, David calls for us to trust in the Lord. We are to look at all we have in the Lord and enjoy the blessings of God. Too often we do not enjoy what we have because we are too busy looking at someone else’s possessions or circumstances. Trust God to take care of you and to continue to provide for you.
- Delight yourself in the Lord. Second, David tells us to find our delight in the Lord. Do not try to find happiness in the things of this world. Material things just continue to let us down. As much we think the next possession will not let us down, it will. Our possessions always let us down and never give us the true happiness we long to achieve. Instead, look to find your joy in the Lord. There is not a greater joy than knowing we have done what God has wanted.
- Commit your way to the Lord. Third, David says we have to make a commitment to God to serve him. We cannot be wishy-washy, half-hearted servants and expect to receive God’s promises. We are called to have a purpose in life. We are called to have a firm resolve in our life decisions to have our way match God’s way.
- David declares that God will do great things when we commit our way to the Lord. God will make our righteousness shine like the dawn. Our good deeds will stand out. God will notice our works and those works will shine like the sun at dawn. We will be seen as God’s servants by our actions for they will contrast the works of darkness. Further, David says, “He will make…the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
- Be still and wait patiently. Our challenge is to wait for God. Justice will come. Do not fret when men succeed in their ways and when they carry out their wicked schemes. Wait for God and he will take care of these people, holding them accountable for their actions.
- Refrain from anger and turn from wrath. How easy it is to be consumed in anger when we see what the wicked are doing. Do not harbor the anger within you. Why? When we keep this anger it leads only to evil. We have lost our trust in God and we build up an anger that wants to bring about our own personal vengeance upon people for their actions. Let God be angry and repay, not ourselves.
II. The Meek Will Inherit the Earth (37:11)
A. Call to meekness
- David said, “But the meek will inherit the land, and enjoy great peace.” David is contrasting this end result with consequence of the wicked. The wicked will be cut off and in a little while they will be no more. God is going to strike down those people who practice evil. However, the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.
- Does this passage sound familiar? I hope it does. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). David used these words to the people of Israel, understanding the land to be the promised land of Canaan. Jesus expands upon this promise, offering the earth as our inheritance. Meekness is the important characteristic for us to mold into our lives.
- What is meekness? The New American Standard translates “Blessed are the gentle.” Gentleness is certainly a key component of meekness. A few people have translated this word as “mildness.” But we are missing something because Jesus was not saying we are to laid back. Neither was Jesus saying that he is laid back when he said he is meek and lowly in heart. Robertson says that meekness describes “gentleness in strength.” Now I think we are able to get our hands on what we are called to be.
B. Becoming the meek of the earth
- Meekness sees the right to act with power but remains controlled. Meekness chooses not to exercise its power over other people. Meekness does not demand to heard, demand to be seen, or demand its rights. Meekness practices submission when other options are available.
- We want to be heard. We want to forge our way so that we will be appreciated by others. We think we are important and we are willing to take action to show the power and strength we have. Meekness does not use that strength. Meekness does not use the power available to justify oneself. This is the example of Jesus who had the power to end his arrest, to compel people to worship him, and who had the right to be king. But he showed us meekness by submitting himself to God even though he was deserving of these things. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.
III. The Wicked Have Their Day Coming
A. The Lord laughs at the wicked (37:12-13)
- Watch what David says: “The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them.” We are terrified at these words. The wicked are plotting against those of us who are trying to be righteous. The wicked desire to see our doom. What is God doing in all of this?
- God laughs at the wicked. God laughs at their plots and their schemes. Why does God laugh? How can God sit back and laugh? The Lord laughs because he knows their day is coming. This also can be our response to the wicked. We know their day is coming and they will get what they deserve for God has promised it.
B. The wicked will perish (37:20)
- David said, “The wicked will perish: the Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke.” Their end will come. The appeal of the wicked will fade like the beauty of the field. In fact, they will vanish like smoke.
- This is why we are not to fret because of evil men. This is why we are not to be envious of those who do wrong. If we want to follow after them our end result will be the same: we will vanish like smoke.
IV. The Righteous’ End Result
A. God uphold them (37:24)
- “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (37:23-24). God will stabilize our way and make our feet step on firm ground when we are following his will. We may have some rough patches in life. We may have weak moments and times when we stumble. But we will never fall because God is upholding us by his hand.
- What a beautiful thought to be in the hand of the Lord. Always in God’s sight and always on God’s mind. He watches over us and takes care of us. God is always with us. “The Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off” (37:28).
B. God provides for them (37:25-26)
- What a statement by David: “I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.” David declares that he has lived a long life. Over the span of those years he has never seen the righteous forsaken. God always takes care of the righteous.
- What is the unique characteristic of the righteous? The righteous are always generous and lending freely. The righteous realize that the things of this world are God’s and by being generous, we are trusting that God will take care of our needs. God says that he will take care of us when we will let go of material things and be generous with all we have. We fight against the religions that preach “health and wealth” from God, and rightly so. But let us not overlook this principle while fighting that error. When we entrust our possessions to God, God will entrust us with more important possessions. Show ourselves to be good stewards of God’s physical blessings and we will be entrusted with God’s spiritual blessings (see the parable of the talents and the parable of the minas-Luke 19:11-27 & Matthew 25:14-30).
C. God gives them wisdom (37:30-31)
- “The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.” We must have the law of the Lord in our hearts and in our minds at all times. Too often we are focused on things that are not intended to draw our attention. We focus on money, jobs, family, possessions, and our desires and forget to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
- When we lose sight of Jesus is when our feet can slip. Then we make decisions and reap our consequences because our foundation has not been on the Lord but on ourselves. Our mouths speak what is in our hearts. If our hearts are in tune with God, then our mouth will utter the righteous things of God.
To Go Home
-Better is the little
- “Better is little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked” (37:16). It better for us to be righteous and have little than do all we can to have great wealth. The power of the wicked will be broken and all their wealth will be lost. The righteous may have little now, but will never be broken and will inherit far more in the great day of the Lord.
- Let us practice contentment. Let us see that we have so much from God. While we may not have all our neighbors have and all we see on television, we will never been lacking and never be wanting as long as we are righteous. God is the giver of every gift. Let us trust him to give us all we need. (NIV)