Psalm 37: a lesson on waiting for the Lord
Psalm 37 Of David. (1)Do not fret because of those wo are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; (2)for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. (3)Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. (4)Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (5)Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: (6)He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. (7)Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. (8)Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. (9)For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. (10)A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. (11)But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (12)The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; (13)but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (14)The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. (15)But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. (16)Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; (17)for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. (18)The blameless spend their days under the LORD's care, and their inheritance will endure forever. (19)In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. (20)But the wicked will perish: though the LORD's enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke. (21)the wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; (22)those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. (23)The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; (24)though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. (25)I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. (26)They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing. (27)Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. (28)For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed; the offspring of the wicked will perish. (29)the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. (30)The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. (31)the law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. (32)the wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death; (33)but the LORD will not leave them in the power of the wicked or let them be condemned when brought to trial. (34)Hope in the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it. (35)I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, (36)but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. (37)Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. (38)But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked. (39)The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in 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.
This psalm very much reminds one in its construction of the sententious and pithy conciseness of the book of Proverbs. It does not contain any prayer, nor any direct allusion to David’s own circumstances of persecution or distress. It is rather the utterance of sound practical wisdom and godliness from the lips of experience and age, such as we might suppose an elder of the church, or a father of a family, to let fall as he sat with his household gathered around him and listening to his earnest and affectionate admonitions.Reverend Barton Bouchier, English writer, 1794-1864
A psalm of David. So simple.
But the Reverend Bouchier is right- this one is different. The only clue of a time frame or other extenuating circumstances in David’s life or of God’s people is verse 25:
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. Psalm 37:25 ESV
David teaches a lesson in this psalm, rather than a praise to God or a prayer for help like in previous psalms. And according to verse 25, this is wisdom he shared in his older age.
The discussion is one we all wrestle with, the age-old question: if God is good all the time, then why do evil men prosper? And seriously, that is a question better answered with wisdom and experience.
David- with the wisdom of his older years- attempts to answer this question through another acrostic poem. These were probably written to aid in memorization as each line begins with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters in the alphabet and forty verses in the psalm, every other line acrostic.
Do not worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Psalm 37:1-2 NLT
“Do not worry” or “do not fret,” David uses this phrase a couple of times in this psalm. An interesting word choice. When someone wicked succeeds at his/her wickedness, worrying and fretting is not the word choice we might use. More like anger and frustration. Jealousy. Do you get angry when someone who is clearly no good succeeds? Maybe a promotion at work or recognition ahead others and is undeserved? How about Hollywood? Hollywood is filled with evil. Or other positions of power? The list goes on.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
Or maybe what David is getting at is envy. Maybe it’s vindictiveness. Do we seek to take things into our own hands when someone seems to get what they don’t deserve?
Do we let this unfairness shake our faith in God?
This psalm probably covers all of those things. David is trying to teach his listeners to let God handle things and to keep their eyes focused on what really matters. Recognition, prosperity, wealth, and power are things of this world, not things of God.
Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves, do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
David says stop worrying about what others are doing or getting, instead do these things . . . and this is quite a list, my friends:
Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the LORD and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper- it only leads to harm. Psalm 37:3-8 NLT
Trust in the Lord.
Tale delight in the Lord.
Commit everything to the Lord.
Be still in the presence of the Lord.
Wait patiently for Him.
Stop being angry.
Do not lose your temper.
Roll the whole burden of life upon the Lord. Leave with Jehovah not thy present fretfulness merely, but all thy cares; in fact, submit the whole tenor of thy way to him. Cast away anxiety, resign thy will, submit thy judgment, leave all with the God of all.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Not an easy thing to do. But what peace, to just let it all go and trust in the faithfulness of our loving Father.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV
Often, we like to just focus on the last part of this verse and get mad when things don’t work out the way we think they should. Take delight in means to be very happy about something, to enjoy something very much, to take a lot of pleasure in.
God promises us something in this verse, and it’s amazing. And so very simple.
If our pleasure and our happiness and our delight is in the Lord, He will give us more of Himself. God knows that He is all we need. He will sustain us when we are weak. He will make us happy when we are sad. He will provide for us when we are hungry. He will love us when we feel unlovable.
Our hearts change and begin to align with God’s heart: is this the key to a happy and fulfilled life? Is that what David is saying?
And how do we do that? Spend time with God. Read His word, be still and quiet in His presence.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. Psalm 37:9-11 ESV
David reminds us here to “wait for the Lord.” Stop worrying about evil and the justice you desire . . . wait for the Lord. For a couple of reasons. One, God is faithful. He has been faithful throughout time and will be faithful until the end of time. He promises to care for His children in this life and the one to come. He is faithful.
Secondly, the Lord is patient. We should be too. Peter says this:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9
Even though God knows the outcome, He waits. Therefore, so shall His children. We must patiently wait for His hand to move, leaning upon His love and faithfulness and strength.
Because, my friends, He will move upon evil. Be sure of this promise. In fact, Peter goes on:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 2 Peter 3:10
Like Peter, David’s psalm reminds us not to fret, but to be patient and wait on the Lord.
May we have just a bit of the Lord’s patience as we wait along with Him for the day of redemption. When the Father releases all of Creation from the bonds of evil and sin. When Jesus returns to claim what is His . . . may we have just a bit of the patience that the Father has.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7a
Be still. Wait patiently.
The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24 NLT
The Lord delights in the details of our lives? Every detail?
The Lord takes pleasure in, enjoys very much, finds joy in every detail of our lives when we are walking in His will.
My friends, you mean something to the Creator of the universe. Your value is in Him. Do you ever feel unworthy? Truly, the reason is because you are seeking value form something other than your Creator. Go back to Him.
To Him, you are valuable.
The LORD rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble. The LORD helps them, rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him. Psalm 37:39-40 NLT
One thousand years later, Jesus spoke similar words as recorded by Matthew:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10
Father in heaven, thank you for your word and for this psalm. Thank you for your faithfulness throughout time and even today. You are good and faithful, infinite and eternal. And you are also real and present, gentle and loving. Thank you for all that you are, for you are all that we need. Thank you for all that you’ve created, and yet that you still love and take delight in every aspect of the lives of your children. We love you. Amen.