PSALM 37 COMMENTARIES
Psalm 37 - Wisdom Over Worry
This Psalm is simply titled, A Psalm of David. Verse 25 tells us that it is David in his older years, giving wisdom in the pattern of a song. This Psalm is roughly acrostic in arrangement, with the lines arranged with Hebrew sentences that begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In style this is a wisdom psalm, directed not to man but to God, teaching after the manner of the Book of Proverbs.
A. Counsel for the afflicted people of God.
1. (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.
a. Do not fret because of evildoers: It is a common thing for the righteous to fret or be envious about the wicked. Asaph was bothered by this problem in Psalm 73, wondering why the wicked often experienced so much prosperity.
i. "The words 'do not fret' literally mean 'do not get heated,' which is also how we might express it. Or we might say, 'Don't get all worked up.' Or even, 'Be cool.'" (Boice)
ii. "To fret is to worry, to have the heart-burn, to fume, to become vexed. Nature is very apt to kindle a fire of jealousy when it sees law-breakers riding on horses, and obedient subjects walking in the mire." (Spurgeon)
iii. Morgan wrote of this worry, this fret: "It is wrong; it is harmful; it is needless. Let the trusting wait. Events will justify the action."
iv. "It is as foolish as it is wicked to repine or be envious at the prosperity of others. Whether they are godly or ungodly, it is God who is the dispenser of the bounty they enjoy; and, most assuredly, he has a right to do what he will with his own. To be envious in such a case, is to arraign the providence of God." (Clarke)
b. They shall soon be cut down like the grass: David gives the same answer Asaph came to in Psalm 73, understanding that any prosperity experienced by the workers of iniquity was only temporary. Grass is green for a season, and so is the herb - but they both wither quickly.
i. "In the Middle East the lush spring vegetation may lose its beauty in a few days after a hot, dry desert wind (hamsin) has parched the land." (VanGemeren)
ii. We think of a wicked man eating a magnificent dinner while a godly man goes hungry. The wicked man eats anything and everything he wants, and his table is loaded as he enjoys his meal. Then we see the bigger picture: he eats his last meal on death row and in a moment will face terrible judgment. Now, with larger perspective, the godly man doesn't envy or worry about the wicked man. "Evil men instead of being envied, are to be viewed with horror and aversion; yet their loaded tables, and gilded trappings, are too apt to fascinate our poor haft-opened eyes." (Spurgeon)
iii. "The test is found in Time. All the apparent prosperity of the wicked is transient; it passes and perishes, as do the wicked themselves." (Morgan)
2. (Ps. 37:3-4) Put your trust and delight in the Lord.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend [or feed on] faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
a. Trust in the Lord, and do good: Instead of worry and envy, David counseled the man or woman of God to simply trust God and do good for His glory. It is remarkable how quickly we can get distracted from the simple work of trusting God and doing good, and often looking at the seeming prosperity of the wicked is one way we are often distracted.
i. "Faith cures fretting. Sight is cross-eyed, and views things only as they seem, hence her envy; faith has clearer optics to behold things as they really are, hence her peace." (Spurgeon)
b. Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness: David also counseled the man or woman of God to leave aside worry and envy by simply enjoying the blessings God gives. He provided Israel a land to enjoy, and His faithfulness was like food for them everyday.
c. Delight yourself also in the Lord: David advised the man or woman of God to replace worry and envy with a conscious delight in the Lord. This means to cheer one's heart and mind by considering and by faith receiving the multiple goodness and blessings of God.
i. Delight yourself: Several writers explain and apply this idea.
• "Expect all thy happiness from him, and seek it in him." (Clarke)
• "It includes a deliberate redirection of one's emotions...[such as] Paul and Silas in prison, singing as well as praying." (Kidner)
• "We cannot delight thus without effort. We must withdraw our eager desires from the things of earth, fastening and fixing them on Him." (Meyer)
• "In a certain sense imitate the wicked; they delight in their portion - take care to delight in yours, and so far from envying you will pity them." (Spurgeon)
• "The reason many apparent Christians do not delight in God is that they do not know him very well, and the reason they do not know him very well is that they do not spend time with him." (Boice)
ii. "Do not think first of the desires of thy heart, but think first of delighting thyself in thy God. If thou hast accepted him as thy Lord, he is thine; so delight in him, and then he will give thee the desires of thy heart." (Spurgeon)
iii. We notice that David wrote, delight yourself also in the Lord. The word also is important, reminding us that there are legitimate joys and pleasures in life outside the life of the spirit. The believer who truly trusts God has the capability to also find true delight in the Lord.
iv. "Again, he delights in you; I speak to such of whom this may be supposed. And it is indefinitely said, 'His delights were with the sons of men, Proverbs 8:31. Think what he is, and what you are; and at once, both wonder and yield." (Howe, cited in Spurgeon)
d. And He shall give you the desires of your heart: This is a wonderful and even safe promise. The one who truly delights in the Lord will find their heart and desires changed, steadily aligning with God's own good desires for one's life. Thus we see that finding delight in God is a key to a happy, satisfied life.
i. This shows that God intends to fulfill the heart desires of the redeemed man or woman of God. To be sure, it is possible for such desires to be clouded by sin or selfishness; yet even when so clouded there is almost always a godly root to the desire that is entirely in the will of God. The man or woman of God should find their rest in this, and leave aside worry and envy.
ii. "They said of Martin Luther as he walked the streets, 'There comes a man that can have anything of God he likes.' You ask the reason of it. Because Luther delighted himself in his God." (Spurgeon)
iii. The principle of Psalm 37:4 is the foundation for a principle sometimes called Christian Hedonism. It is a pursuit of satisfaction and pleasure, but rooted in a delighted focus upon God.
iv. Most of all, it shows that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He gives us our delight. If He is our delight, He gives us more of Himself. "Longings fixed on Him fulfill themselves." (Maclaren)
3. (Ps. 37:5-6) Trust God to protect and promote you.
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.
a. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him: Here David explained what it meant to delight one's self in the Lord, as described in the previous verse. It means to commit one's way to Him and to truly trust in Lord. It means to find peace, protection, and satisfaction in a surrendered focus upon God.
i. Commit your way: "The Hebrew for commit is literally 'roll', as though getting rid of a burden (cf. Joshua 5:9). But it comes to be used simply as a synonym for 'entrust' (Proverbs 16:3) or 'trust'; cf. Psalm 22:8." (Kidner)
b. And He shall bring it to pass: The one who has this delighted focus upon God will see Him bring these promises to pass. Fame and fortune are not promised, but the true and deep desires of the heart find their fulfillment.
i. "The more we fret in this case, the worse for us. Our strength is to sit still. The Lord will clear the slandered. If we look to his honour, he will see to ours." (Spurgeon)
c. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light: As God fulfills these desires of heart it reveals the righteousness of the man or woman of God, shining forth in light like the noonday sun.
i. He shall bring forth your righteousness: "To the view of the world; from which it hath hitherto seemed to be hid or eclipsed by reproaches, and by grievous calamities." (Poole)
ii. As the light: "It shall be as visible to men as the light of the sun, and that at noon-day." (Poole)
iii. "As God said in the beginning, 'Let there be light, and there was light;' so he shall say, Let thy innocence appear, and it will appear as suddenly and as evident as the light was at the beginning." (Clarke)
4. (Ps. 37:7-8) Find rest in the God who deals 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. evident
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret-it only causes harm.
a. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: Because God has promised to faithfully take care of those who put their trust in Him, we can rest in the Lord. We can wait patiently for Him instead of fretting and fearing that God has forgotten us or intends evil for us.
i. Rest in the Lord speaks of a particular kind of rest - the rest of silence, ceasing from words of self-defense. The idea is that we will not speak to vindicate our self, and trust in God to protect us.
ii. "Do not murmur or repine at his dealings, but silently and quietly submit to his will, and adore his judgments, and, as follows, wait for his help." (Poole)
iii. "If the spotless Lamb of God was dumb, before those who were divesting him of his honours, and robbing him of his life, 'silent' resignation cannot but become one who suffers for his sins." (Horne)
b. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret - it only causes harm: David wisely advised the man or woman of God to give up anger, wrath, and worry (fret). They accomplish nothing except harm. They are the opposite of delighting one's self in the Lord and patiently waiting upon Him.
i. Cease from anger: "Especially anger against the arrangements of Providence, and jealousies of the temporary pleasures of those who are so soon to be banished from all comfort. Anger anywhere is madness, here it is aggravated insanity." (Spurgeon)
5. (Ps. 37:9-11) Trust that God will punish evildoers and reward the meek.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. Anger anywhere is 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.
a. Those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth: This is another reason for our delight in and rest upon the Lord. We can trust His promise that He will take care of His own not only in this world, but in the world to come. In contrast, evildoers shall be cut off.
i. "I have frequently remarked to you that, although the wolf is very strong and fierce, and the sheep is very weak and timid, yet there are more sheep in the world than there are wolves; and the day will some when the last wolf will be dead, and then the sheep shall cover the plains and feed Upon the hills. Weak as the righteous often are, they 'shall inherit the land' when the wicked shall have been out off from the earth." (Spurgeon)
b. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more: The evildoers have their day of prosperity, but it is short-lived. Soon the wicked who are the famous and praised in this world will be of no notice or standing at all (you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more).
i. "The shortness of life makes us see that the glitter of the wicked great is not true gold." (Spurgeon)
ii. "The whole duration of the world itself is but 'a little while' in the sight of him whose hope is full of immortality." (Horne)
c. But the meek shall inherit the earth: For emphasis, David repeated the idea of God's care for and reward to the meek. They, not the evildoers of this world, shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
i. "The 'meek' are they who bear their own adversities, and the prosperity of their enemies, without envy, anger, or complaint." (Horne)
ii. "The context gives the best possible definition of the meek: they are those who choose the way of patient faith instead of self-assertion." (Kidner)
iii. The meek shall inherit the earth: Jesus quoted this line in the Sermon on the Mount, in the third beatitude (Matthew 5:5). "It is right to say that Psalm 37 is an exposition of the third beatitude, even though it was written a thousand years before Jesus began his public ministry. It unfolds the character of the meek or trusting person in the face of the apparent prosperity of the wicked." (Boice)
B. The triumph of the godly and the passing of the wicked.
1. (12-15) With a laugh, God defeats the wicked.
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.
a. The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth: Earlier in this Psalm David contrasted the fate of the righteous with the fate of the wicked. Now he considered the inevitable conflict between the righteous and the wicked - how, without reason, the wicked plots against the just. Their gnashing of teeth shows the depth of their anger and hatred.
i. "The wicked show by their gestures what they would do if they could; if they cannot gnaw they will gnash: if they may not bite they will at least bark." (Spurgeon)
b. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming: For all the plotting and gnashing of teeth of the wicked, they accomplish nothing against the Lord and His people. God simply laughs at them, knowing their end.
i. "If God can laugh at the wicked, shouldn't we be able at least to refrain from being agitated by them?" (Boice)
ii. For He sees that his day is coming: "The evil man does not see how close his destruction is upon his heels; he boasts of crushing others when the foot of justice is already uplifted to trample him as the mire of the streets." (Spurgeon)
c. The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow: The wicked plot and gnash their teeth, but do not stop there. They work to carry out their plots and their fierce anger against God's people. Even so, God shall protect His own and their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
i. "Like Haman they shall be hanged upon the gallows built by themselves for Mordecai. Hundreds of times has this been the case. Saul, who sought to slay David, fell on his own sword." (Spurgeon)
7. (39-40) The reliable help and deliverance of the Lord.
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.
a. The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord: This is a helpful thought at the end of this Psalm. In David's praise and encouragement of the righteous man or woman, it is possible that one might think those ones are saved by their own righteousness. David reminds us that their salvation is from the Lord, and that He is their strength in the time of trouble.
i. He is their strength in the time of trouble: "While trouble overthrows the wicked, it only drives the righteous to their strong Helper, who rejoices to uphold them." (Spurgeon)
b. He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him: David brings the thought back to the fundamental trust that the righteous have in God. Their place in Him is secured in their trusting love of the Lord.
Bible.org - S. Cole
Psalm 37: What To Do When The Bad Guys Win
What do you do when the bad guys win? I'm not talking about when the Chicago Bulls beat the Phoenix Suns for the N.B.A. championship (although if you're distraught, you could apply this message to that situation)! I'm talking about how we respond when we do what's right and get penalized, while the wicked seem to prosper.
Sometimes it seems like it doesn't pay to be good! When the evil prosper and the good suffer, you can be tempted to doubt God, especially if you're the good guy! If you're not careful to cultivate the right perspective, you can be tempted to say "Forget it!" and join the evildoers.
David had been there. Although he had been anointed king as a teenager, he spent the better part of his twenties running from the ungodly King Saul. On several occasions, David did the right thing by sparing Saul's life, only to watch Saul return to his comfortable palace, while David went back to a cave. During that time, David and his men did right by a man named Nabal, protecting his shepherds and flocks from bandits. But when David asked a small favor of Nabal in return, Nabal said, in effect, "Drop dead!" David had many occasions to reflect on the problem of personal injustice.
As an old man (Ps. 37:25), David wrote Psalm 37 to share his insights on this problem. The psalm reflects the wisdom he had gleaned from years of walking with God. There is far more here than we can cover in one short message. But in skimming it, we can discern some principles for how we should respond to personal injustice:
When the bad guys win, submit to God, be content in Him, and do rightly, trusting the Lord to judge righteously.
The psalm is an acrostic in which approximately every other verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet (the English gets out of sync). This made it easier to memorize, although it makes it more difficult to discern the structure of the ideas which are interwoven throughout. But roughly, 37:1-11 deals with the idea of submitting to God; 37:12-26 speaks of contentment in Him; 37:27-40 expands on doing rightly; and, trusting the Lord to judge righteously recurs through the whole psalm.
1. When the bad guys win, submit to God (37:1-11).
Although the word "submit" does not occur in these verses, it is the idea behind both the negative and positive commands given here. Negatively,
A. Submitting to God means putting off irritation, envy, and anger.
Three times we are commanded not to fret (37:1, 7, 8). The Hebrew word means to burn. The verb is in the Hebrew reflexive stem which could be translated, "Don't work yourself into a slow burn" when you see evil men prospering. Don't let it get under your skin; it will only lead you into wrong (37:8). One reason we get irritated when we see evil men getting away with their schemes is that we are assuming that we know how to run the world better than God does. So one aspect of submission to God is to put off such irritation, giving God the sovereign right to deal with evildoers in His time and way.
We're also commanded not to envy wrongdoers (37:1). This confronts the selfishness and evil motives in our hearts. Often the reason we don't want evildoers to prosper is not that we abhor the sin they commit, but that secretly we wish that we could do the same thing. We want for ourselves the pleasures of sin which they are enjoying. But we must submit to God by judging our envy.
We're also commanded not to anger (37:8). The first word ("anger") comes from a Hebrew word meaning "nostrils." When someone gets mad, his nostrils flare out. The second word ("wrath") comes from another Hebrew word meaning "hot" and points to rage. The Bible teaches that most anger is sinful and that we can control it (otherwise it wouldn't command us to stop doing it). Anger shows that we are not in submission to the sovereignty of God. We're saying, in effect, "God, I don't like the way You're running things! It's not fair! I don't deserve this kind of treatment from these wicked people." The bottom line is, we're not submitting ourselves to God.
A rule of thumb for discerning righteous anger from sinful anger is this: If I am angry about injustice done toward others, it may be righteous anger. This anger should motivate me to take appropriate action on behalf of the victims. If I am angry about injustice done toward me, it's probably sinful anger. Most anger is selfish and therefore sinful. Submitting to God when I see the bad guys winning means putting off irritation, envy, and anger.
B. Submitting to God means putting on trust, obedience, patience, and humility as we delight in the Lord.
When we see the bad guys winning, we need to shift our focus from the evildoers to the Lord. Five times in 37:3-9 David mentions "the Lord" by name and five more times he uses the third person pronoun to refer to the Lord. He is saying that the antidote for getting frustrated with the prosperity of the wicked is to be deliberately God-centered. This involves putting on several qualities:
Put on trust (37:3a, 5). "Trust in the Lord" is not a hollow slogan; it is a course of action. It means that when evildoers seem to be winning and you are losing, you roll the whole problem onto the Lord and watch Him vindicate you in His time (37:6).
Put on obedience (37:3b). "Do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness." Leave things in God's hands (trust) and go on with your normal duties obediently before the Lord. Don't let the other person's sin lead you into sin. Do what God has given you to do in obedience to Him.
Put on patience (37:7, 9). "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him." That's the hard part of submission, isn't it! He may not act on your timetable. It may take months, years, or even a whole lifetime for God to act and vindicate you. But if you trust Him to be a just and righteous God and if you submit to Him, then you'll wait patiently.
Put on humility (37:11). To be "humble" (NASB) or "meek" (NIV) means to realize our own weakness and sinfulness so that we rely on the Lord, not ourselves. This awareness of our sinfulness means that we won't self-righteously judge the wicked. Apart from God's mercy, we would act just as they do. Humility means being aware of our own inadequacy apart from the Lord, but at the same time of our adequacy in the Lord (2 Cor. 3:5). Meekness does not mean weakness but, rather, brokenness. A humble or meek person is like a strong but broken horse: powerful, yet submissive to its master's touch.
Jesus took Psalm 37:11 as His third Beatitude: "Blessed are the gentle [humble, meek], for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). The world says just the opposite: "Blessed are those who assert themselves and stand up for their own rights." But Jesus and David disagree; it's the meek who will ultimately come out on top. The "abundant prosperity" of 37:11 is literally, "abundance of peace" and refers to soul-prosperity, not to material riches. The person who finds his adequacy in the Lord rather than in himself or his things has an abundant source of peace.
Be delighted in the Lord (37:4). Trust, obedience, patience, and humility can all be summed up in the phrase, "Delight yourself in the Lord." Be captivated with the Lord and all that He is. Rather than focusing on the things which the world seeks, focus on the Lord. In gaining the Lord, you gain everything else you ever need: "He will give you the desires of your heart." This doesn't mean that He will give you anything your selfish heart desires. If you are delighting yourself in the Lord, then your desires will be in line with His desires. This is the Matthew 6:33 of the Old Testament: "Seek first God's kingdom and righteousness and all these things [your needs] will be added unto you."
You may apply these principles to your marriage (or to any relationship). Say that a husband wrongs his wife (insensitivity, verbal abuse, adultery--you name the sin). She will be tempted to get irritated, to be envious ("he does as he pleases, but I can't"), and to get angry. If she responds selfishly, by getting even or standing up for her rights, she will only cause more damage to the relationship.
But if she responds to the wrong done her by putting off irritation, envy, and anger and putting on trust in the Lord, obedience, waiting patiently on Him, and humility (awareness of her own inadequacy but also of Christ's sufficiency), not in a spirit of self pity, but rather delighting herself in the Lord, her husband will say, "She's got something I need!" He may be brought to repentance and the marriage may be saved. But whatever the outcome, she enjoys the abundant peace that comes from the Lord.
So the first principle is, When the bad guys win, submit to the Lord.
2. When the bad guys win, be content in the Lord (37:12 26).
This psalm doesn't come from an ivory tower. It comes out of the crucible of David's life and recognizes the fierce conflict which exists between the wicked and the righteous (37:12-14). We may face some difficult times that try our faith. We may be afflicted and needy. But whatever the trial, we can learn to be content in the Lord. These verses reveal two areas for contentment:
A. Be content that the Lord will judge (37:12 15).
God isn't worried about the proud schemes of the wicked (37:13). He knows that the seeming victories of the wicked only last for a season, and then their schemes will come back on their own heads.
An atheist farmer ridiculed those who believe in God. He wrote a letter to a local newspaper in which he boasted: "I plowed on Sunday, planted on Sunday, cultivated on Sunday, and hauled in my crops on Sunday; but I never went to church on Sunday. Yet I hauled in more bushels per acre than anyone who believes in God and goes to church." The editor printed the letter and then added this remark: "The Lord doesn't always settle His accounts in October."
As Christians, we can be assured that if the Lord doesn't settle the account in this life, there is a coming judgment when everything will be made right (Rev. 6:10-11). We can leave vengeance to God, being content in Him (Rom. 12:19-21).
B. Be content that the Lord will provide (37:16 26).
Personal injustice often hits us in the pocketbook. (I speak from experience!) But there are great lessons to be learned when the bad guys win by stealing your money or goods. Here are two:
(1) The Lord will provide for your needs, but your needs may be less than you think (37:16). You may only have a little, but it will be enough. You may fall (37:24; financially or materially in this context), but you won't totally fail. The Lord will sustain you (37:17, 24 25). Sometimes the Lord has to take away our things to reveal to us how much we take pleasure in this world and how little we take pleasure in Him. We need to learn that if we have food and covering, with these we can be content, as long as we have the Lord (1 Tim. 6:8).
(2) If you expect the Lord to provide, you've got to trust Him by giving. David says (37:17), "The Lord sustains the righteous." If you keep reading you discover that the righteous are marked by generosity (37:21, 25-26). To claim God's promises to the righteous, you have to meet the conditions of being righteous! You have to be a generous giver.
Many years ago a secretary of a British missionary society called on a Calcutta merchant for a donation. The man wrote a check for $250, a sizeable amount in those days. Just then an urgent cablegram was brought in, informing the merchant that one of his ships and all its cargo had been lost at sea. The merchant explained and told the secretary, "I need to write you another check."
The secretary understood perfectly and returned the check for $250. The merchant wrote another check and handed it to him. The secretary was amazed to see that the new check was for $1,000. "Haven't you made a mistake?" he asked. "No," said the merchant, as his eyes filled with tears. "That cablegram was a message from my Heavenly Father which said, 'Do not lay up treasures on earth.'"
If you're walking uprightly before God and giving generously to support the Lord's work, and someone cheats you out of money (or you lose it some other way), you can be content that God will provide for your needs. He's not blind to what's going on. Keep walking uprightly, keep being generous, and keep trusting Him, and He will take care of your needs and your family's needs (37:25-26).
So when the bad guys win, submit to God and learn to be content in Him.
3. When the bad guys win, do rightly (37:27-40).
We saw this theme earlier (37:3), but it's prominent in 37:27-40. When you're wronged, the temptation is to retaliate with wrong. But our focus should be on pleasing the Lord in spite of how others wrong us. Here David outlines three areas of righteous living: Righteous actions (37:27); righteous speech (37:30); and, righteous thinking (37:31, "heart" = the inner person). Let's consider them in reverse order.
Righteousness begins in your thought life ("heart"). God changes us by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:1-2) through His Word (Ps. 37:31; 119:11). If you are not steeping your mind in Scripture so that it shapes your thinking in every situation, you will not respond in a manner pleasing to the Lord when someone wrongs you.
If your thought life is being shaped by Scripture, then your words will become progressively righteous. When someone wrongs you, rather than lashing out with abusive speech, you will speak words of wisdom (37:30) that build up and give a blessing (Eph. 4:29; 1 Pet. 3:9).
And, if your thought life and words are in conformity with Scripture, you won't retaliate with wrong actions (Ps. 37:27). Instead of responding to evil with evil, you will seek to overcome evil with good (Rom.12:21). Instead of being mean, you'll respond with kindness.
So David is telling us that when the bad guys win, we should submit to God, be content, and do rightly. Permeating the whole chapter is a fourth principle:
4. When the bad guys win, trust the Lord to judge righteously (37:2, 9, 10, 12-15, 17, 20, 22, 28, 34, 35-36, 38).
If you've been wronged, get the long range picture. God is a God of justice (37:28); He will right all wrongs someday. Have you ever noticed in the Book of Revelation how God lets wicked Babylon go on in sensuality and wealth until the last hour? Then in one day, in one hour, her judgment falls (Rev. 18:8, 10, 17, 19). Right up to the eleventh hour it looks like wickedness will triumph. Don't be fooled! In that final hour, God will act on behalf of His saints (Rev. 18:20, 24).
So David's bottom line must be our bottom line: "The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble. And 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). If you take refuge in God, you can trust Him to judge righteously and vindicate you.
But you may be thinking, "That's great for eternity, but what about now? Is getting trampled on by ruthless scoundrels while I wait for heaven all that I have to look forward to?"
You may get trampled on, but you have something while you wait. In this psalm God's blessings upon the righteous are summed up in a recurring theme: "inherit the land" (37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34). What does this mean? In its context, it applies to God's covenant promise to Israel, that they would dwell in Canaan, the land of His promise. David is saying that God isn't going to let the wicked displace the righteous from God's promised land.
There is an application for us. There is a sense in which the righteous (or the meek) inherit the earth now. The righteous man, as we have seen, is submissive to God and content in all that God provides. The apostle Paul was such a man. He described himself as "having nothing yet possessing all things" (2 Corinthians 6:10). He knew how to be content no matter what his circumstances (Phil 4:11), so he could enjoy all that God richly supplies (1 Tim. 6:17; 1 Cor. 3:21 23).
The disciples were righteous men. On one occasion, Peter was concerned because he and his companions had left everything to follow Jesus. He asked, "What is there for us" (Matt. 19:27; Mark 10:28). Jesus answered, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms" ... then He adds ... "along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30). Christians have it now and then!
There's no guarantee of exemption from persecutions, but there is a sense in which even now we inherit the earth as we trust in and follow the Lord. We can enjoy what He has supplied even if we're persecuted, because we know the Creator. We can delight ourselves in abundant peace (37:11), even when the bad guys win.