Intro: Psalm 37 encourages us to take the long view when it comes to our lives. David encourages us to not get angry when we see cheaters prosper but to trust in the Lord. For he has promised to prosper and give unspeakable joy to his followers.
37:1 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Main Point: Psalm 37 was written by David in his later years, and from what seems to be a stable point in life. It is with this perspective of having seen a full life that he can write this psalm. It is the psalm of an old man who has seen the faithfulness of the Lord. It is the psalm of a King who cares for the hearts of his people and wants them to trust in the Lord no matter their circumstances or how prospereous those who do evil appear to be.
David has seen how those who appear to be prospering even though they do not follow the Lord meet a bitter end and how those who have placed their trust in the Lord are vindicated again and again. Having seen the Lord’s faithfulness over his lifetime has allowed David to say two things, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken” and the evil “pass away and they are no more.”
Interesting Points: The first thing I noticed was the use of the word “fret” three times in just 8 verses. When I think of the word fret in English, I think of a word similar to worry. However, the word here is better translated “agitated” or something similar. The Hebrew word has the idea of burning with anger. In this particular form it seems to mean something like “don’t set yourself ablaze with anger.”
Verse 8 illustrates this idea perfectly. David encourages us to let go of our anger and our wrath. He then encourages the reader to not “set yourself ablaze” because this leads us only to evil.
I know a few people who, when they get to meet a saint that has lived a long and faithful life, ask them “if you could do anything different what would it be?” I think we get an idea from this psalm what David might have done differently. I think he would have spent a lot less time getting worked up when the wicked around him seemed to prosper and spent more time trusting in God’s faithfulness and justice.
I also see the heart of a King who wants to remind his subjects to make good choices. I can imagine that the decisions in David’s day were similar to the ones that we have to make today. Often times, especially with the youth in our country, it can appear that the decision is to either become a law breaker and wealthy or to be righteous and poor. This, I think, is even more heightened in the disadvantaged communities in our nation. The choice is often between something like dealing drugs or a life in poverty. So David reminds us and the readers of his day in verse 16 that it is better to be poor and righteous than wealthy and wicked.
David’s connection with the wicked and paying borrowed money back is interesting. This is even more interesting to me considering that if you watch TV in any given hour, you are liable to see at least 1 commercial offering to settle your debt for pennies on the dollar. Surely for someone who can never afford to pay the debts that they have accumulated, this is okay and a form of grace. But the way it is being sold has nothing to do with your ability to pay it back. It comes across as our right to rid ourselves of this debt. As Christians, we should think twice before entertaining such ideas or we will find ourselves in the category of the wicked.
I also find it interesting that righteous are givers, not loaners with a reasonable rate of return. I am not saying that loans are evil, but I am saying that if we aspire to live up to the Biblical concept of love we need to consider being more generous and just give our stuff away. Isn’t that what Jesus told the rich young ruler to do?
Verse 25 is by far my favorite. David thinks back over his whole life and can say that he has never seen the righteous or their children lack. Just as a man who has lived many years can say with certainty that the sun will come up tomorrow, so David can say that the Lord will take care of the righteous.
Lastly, David tells us in verses 28 and 29 that righteous will be preserved forever and that they will live in the land forever. It is clear to me that David, as we have seen in other psalms, is referring not only to this life but also the one to come. It is a reminder for us that this life is only the beginning. While the time is short here, it will determine where we spend the rest of eternity.
It is also a reminder that while in this life in can appear at times that the righteous have been slain at the hands of the wicked, ultimately the Lord will grant them eternal life and pleasures evermore.
Emotional Reactions: I love to hear words from those who have lived this life well, and have seen the Lord’s faithfulness. Hearing the utterances of a wise old man just brings peace and encouragement to continue in following after the Lord. It brings a sense of reassurance that doing what is right will be rewarded.The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Quotation information. Purchase an ESV.