SSL 11 - Psalm 37:1-11
THIS WEEK: Classified as a wisdom Psalm and written by David's in his later years (v. 25), Psalm 37 answers the age old question of what we should do when the bad guys win. Sometimes it seems like it doesn't pay to be good, and when evil prospers and good suffers, Christian believers can be tempted to doubt God, I mean, everybody else does it, why not us? David had been there many times and wrote this Psalm to share his insights on this problem, which is based upon the wisdom he had accumulated from many years of walking with God. The central truth of the lesson is this: When the bad guys win, submit to God, be content with Him, do what is right in His sight, and trust the Lord to ultimately judge righteously.
Read Ps. 37:1-2 - Don't Worry About The Ungodly
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.
v. 1: "Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers" - The opening verse establishes the theme for the psalm. Charah, the Heb. word for "fret," means to burn, in this context literally "don't allow yourself to get heated-up." In short, when we see bad men prospering, instead of allowing it to anger and upset us, we should submit to God with the understanding that He will deal with the evildoers in His time and in His way. We're also commanded not to envy evildoers their ill-gotten gains. Sometimes the reason we don't want evildoers to prosper is not so much about condemnation of the sins they commit, but the secret wish that we could get away with the same thing. Scripture clearly tells us to set aside all envy of anyone, evil or otherwise (1 Pet. 2:1).
v. 2: "For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb" - Even though the evildoers may prosper for a season, as we learned last week in Ps. 90, this mortal life is short. Thus, when we take an eternal view as Christians believers, we have no reason to envy them, do we? What we have-eternal life--is immeasurably more valuable than earthly material prosperity.
Read Ps. 37:3-6 - Put Your Trust and Delight in 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. 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.
v. 3: "Trust in the Lord...do good; dwell in the land...befriend faithfulness" - David learned from personal experience that Trusting God is not a just an empty phrase we use but a deliberate course of action, a decision to trust Him to control the outcome when evildoers seem to be winning and you are losing. David experienced this first hand when he was being pursued by Saul and his army of followers. The best way to keep your mind off the bad guys is to "do good," that is, leave things in God's hands and go on with your normal activities out of obedience to God. "Dwell in the land," means being content with what God has already given you and "befriend faithfulness" means you should keep seeking after (or feeding on) God's truth so you will avoid the temptation to try to right the wrongs on using your human initiative.
v. 4: "Delight yourself in the Lord...He will give you the desires of your heart" - The Heb. word for "delight," oneg, literally means a delicious delicacy served at a feast, which, in this context David was saying that he really experienced enjoyment and pleasure from his relationship with God. If we take our eyes off the things of this world and really fix them on God, we will experience that delight. The second phrase fits the two ideas of this verse together: if you truly delight in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart because your heart will desire the right things.
v. 5: "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act"- The Heb. word for "commit," galal, literally means to roll, in this sense, to rid yourself of a burden. Thus, if you seek refuge, protection, peace, and satisfaction in God, he will rid you of the burden sin places on your life. When you establish this level of intimacy with God as David did, God will act-bring these promises to pass. If you remember the story of David's adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover it up (1 Sam. 11), you know that he had to learn this the hard way.
v. 6: "He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday" - This pictures a situation where evil people are criticizing you and slandering your character. I you commit your "way"-your case-to God, He will protect your character. Your innocence will be like the "light," with no cloud on it, and "justice as the noonday" means your reputation and character will be clear like the brightest part of the day for all to see.
Read Ps. 37:7-8 - Rest in the God Who Deal with the Wicked
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!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
v. 7: "Be still...wait patiently...fret not over the one who prospers...carries out evil devices" - This is the hard part of submission. The Heb. for "be still," chashah, literally means to hush, be silent and listen carefully, followed the command to "wait patiently." Secondly, repeating the idea of v.1, we're told not to "fret," that is, not allow ourselves to get heated-up or upset when we see bad people winning. Taken as a whole, this verse tells us when we see bad people prosper, we should be silent and patiently wait on God to deal with them in His way and in His time, without being anxious over the result. It my take months, years, or even a whole lifetime for God to act, but He tells us not to worry about and go on with our lives.
v. 8: "Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil" - The Heb. word used here for "anger," hārốn, refers to divine anger, the provenance of God. The Bibles teaches that most anger leads to sin and that we must strive to control it. Here, David wisely tells us that if we give-in to anger, rage (or wrath), and anguish (fretful) toward evil people who seem to be winning, it will accomplish nothing except harm to ourselves and possibly our loved ones. In fact, falling prey to these attitudes is the opposite of delighting in, trusting, and waiting on God. In effect, we are rebelling against God's timing and justice-we've "tended to evil."
Read Ps. 37:9-11 - Trust God to Punish Evil-Doers and Reward the Faithful
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.
v. 9: "evildoers shall be cut off...but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land" - Note the contrast. We are assured that the prosperity of evil-doers is temporary and their day of retribution will surely comes. While not a hard and fast rule, some commentators say evil-doers will have a shorter lifespan, which is certainly been true in the destructive lifestyles of many celebrities. The term "cut off" refers to divine judgment, which means evil-doers will also be cut off from the life to come. And "those who wait" for God, as previously explained in v.7, has a double meaning: God will not only bless and take care of us in this life, but, as co-heirs of Christ, will allow us to join Him in His kingdom in the next.
v. 10: "In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there" - When the psalmist says they "will be no more," it doesn't mean they cease to exist; it means they are no longer worthy of notice, "not there" anymore. Their season of fame is short-lived and they are soon forgotten.
v. 11: "But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace" - The Heb. word for "meek," anav, has the same meaning as humble. Meekness does not means weakness; it means brokenness: a person who realizes that, because of his own sin and weakness, he must trust and rely upon God completely. It also means that we aren't entitled to self-righteously judge wicked people, because apart from God's grace, we would act the same way. In Mt. 5:5, Jesus quoted this verse in the third beatitude, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." The world says the opposite: those who are assertive and aggressive, step all over other to get what they want-will win. But David and Jesus disagree: the meek will win in the end. The term "in abundant peace" refers to spiritual prosperity, not material gains. The person who finds his adequacy in Jesus Christ as Lord rather than himself will have peace in great abundance.
APPLICATION-King David's advice on what to do when the bad guys are winning:
1. Trusting God and submitting to His will means ridding ourselves of irritation, envy, and anger toward evil-doers. When we get irritated (i.e., fretful, vv.1,7,8)) by bad people who get away with their evil ways, we sometimes wrongly assume that we understand the solution to the world's problems better than God does. By ridding ourselves of this irritation, we are submitting to God's sovereign right to deal with the evil-doers in His time and way. When we envy (v.1) the ill-gotten gains of bad people, we sometimes marginalize the sins they commit and wish we could get away with the same thing. We are commanded to rid ourselves of the sin of envy, give it over to God in confession, and submit to God's judgment of the problem. We are also commanded to rid ourselves of anger (v.8). Becoming angry is not of itself a sin, but failing to control it surely is. Anger shows that we aren't in submission to God's sovereignty and in effect, we are saying, "God, I don't like the way You're handling this and I'm tired of waiting on You to take action. This sort of anger is selfish and therefore sinful. We must put it away and give it over to God, and submit to His solution and timing.
2. "Delighting" in God means putting on trust, obedience, patience, and humility (meekness). When we see the bad guys winning, we need to shift our focus away from them and toward God. This involves applying several spiritual characteristics:
(a) Apply Trust in the Lord (vv. 3,5). This isn't just an empty wish but a deliberate course of action on our part to trust God with the problem.
(b) Apply Obediance (v. 3). The words in the verse, "do good, dwell in the land, and cultivate faithfulness" all point to obedience to leave matters in God's hands, go on with normal life, and seek after truth (in God's Word) in order to avoid the temptation to try to right the wrongs using human effort.
(c) Apply Patience (vv. 7,9). The words to "be still and wait patiently" is one of the hardest part of submission. God rarely acts on our expected time table and may take months, years, or longer to finally vindicate us. Yet, if we trust Him and obey Him as in (a) and (b), then we must submit by waiting for His timing.
(d) Apply Humility (v. 11). "Meekness" as used in the verse doesn't imply weakness; it means brokenness; because you recognize you own weakness and sinfulness, you know you must depend on Jesus Christ for His strength and righteousness rather than your own. Humility also means being aware of our own in adequacy apart from God, but at the same time, realize our adequacy in Him (2 Cor. 3:5). Finally, this awareness of our own sin and weakness means we aren't entitled to self-righteously judge evil people, because, apart from God's grace, we're as bad as they are. In Mt. 5:5, Jesus quoted this verse in the third beatitude, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." The world says the opposite: those who are assertive and aggressive, step all over others to get what they want-will win. But David and Jesus disagree: the meek will win in the end. The term "in abundant peace" refers to spiritual prosperity, not material gains. The person who finds his adequacy in Jesus Christ as Lord rather than himself will have peace in great abundance.
CENTRAL TRUTH OF PSALM 37: When the bad guys are winning, (1) submit to God, (2) be content with Him, (3) do what is right in His sight, and (4) trust the Lord to ultimately judge righteously.
PRAYER: Lord God, our heavenly Father, we come before your this morning with humble and thankful hearts, praising You for the love, mercy, and grace You show us as individual believers and as members of this good church. We can never thank You enough for sending Your Son Jesus to die for us on a cross so that we can may be forgiven of our sins and spend eternity in heaven with You. We thank you, Lord, that we are able to assemble together again to study and learn the truth of Your Word, and I ask that you would guard the health and well-being of each person here. We all thank You that the healthcare providers in this area are moving forward to vaccinate the people of this country and we pray that these efforts it will fully and finally put an end to the spread of the Corona virus. Lord, we pray for our nation and its leaders during this time of transition with the hope that they will put their partisan differences aside and work together to do what is in the best interests of all the people. I ask, Father, that all of us will take to heart the important lessons that David teaches us today in this great Psalm, so that instead of fretting about the what's going on in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere and instead, submit to you, do what is right, and trust You to ultimately control the outcome. In the name of our blessed Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ, I ask these things, AMEN.