Last week, we looked at Psalm 5, which gave us a basic blueprint for processing
current events, especially the evil we see in the world.
Today we’re jumping into Psalm 37, another Psalm of David, as you can see from the title. But where last week was more of a blueprint of how to process current events, today imagine yourself sitting down over coffee with King David. If last week was crisis counseling, what to do immediately after you read the news, this Psalm is more like process counseling which you rehearse in the following weeks. These are the truths David wants us to hang on to and remember long term.
I’m sure you’ve had conversations with people before and you ask them for advice on something, and the moment they start to talk, you can tell - oh, they’ve been in my shoes. Just the way their voice inflection is, their body language – they know what you’re talking about, and when they encourage you to do something or to not do something… you can tell, they speak from experience.
And then there are those who you can tell, they are trying to imagine themselves in your shoes. Doesn’t mean they don’t have anything good to say, or that their advice isn’t godly or helpful, but sometimes you can just tell that they don’t know your situation.
That’s not David. He’s near the end of his life now, and he is wise. He’s seen some things. But he’s gentle, meaning he’s teaching you with a smile and happy eyes. He’s sitting with you, not standing over you. You can hear the experience in his voice. He’s not a teacher trying to prepare you for a test – he is a counselor who wants you to be encouraged. So I encourage you to just rest this morning and listen to the wisdom of God through David:
1 Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.
Don’t be agitated refers to fretting, a kind of worry and anxiousness. Don’t be envious. This word envy or jealous doesn’t necessarily mean, “man, I really want to be like them.” It’s closer to being like a jealous husband, which is an obsessive worry or anxiousness.
It seems that what David is talking about here is those moments when we see evil sort of going unchecked in the world. We see evil men and women seemingly getting away with whatever they are trying to do, they seem to be free to take advantage of those less powerful, and sometimes we are tempted to be agitated with God, “as if he were unkind to the world and unkind to his church in [allowing] such men or women to live, and prosper, and [continue in their evil like] they do.”
Where jealousy and envy can creep in though, is we are tempted to think, man, if I just didn’t have a conscience, I could do the same thing and get what I want out of life too. Those who do evil seem pretty happy in their twisted little world, I wouldn’t mind having some of that joy myself.
One way this played out for Jodi and I this past month was that we purchased an older pickup truck. We bought it privately, and as the seller was writing up a bill of sale for us. He put the date at the top, his name, our names, we both signed it, and then for the purchase amount, he just drew a line and said, “I’ll just leave the dollar amount blank so you can put whatever you want in that line.”
And the thought crossed our mind: The government picks our pockets all the time and finally the little guy has the power to pick theirs. We’ll just write a low number so we don’t have to pay as much tax on this vehicle. It’s not that much compared to what they do anyway.
This is the kind of thing David warns us about. Don’t play that game. Don’t become one of them. Why? Because evil has a shelf life. 2 For they wither quickly like grass and wilt like tender green plants.
You’ve all picked up a container of food or box of cereal or something, and checked the expiration date. Right? There is a day coming when the milk should be dumped out. It has reached the end of its shelf life. It gets removed and thrown aside.
David is reminding us that evil has a shelf life too. There is an expiration date on every world system, structure, or power who does evil. There is an expiration date on evil in general! A day is coming when evil, and the people who persist in it, will be removed and thrown aside. So don’t be jealous of them now! Because if you envy the wicked, you are envious of grass that lives a couple months and then withers. (Henry, 793) You’re envious of a gallon of milk that is already turning and one day will be tossed out. Instead –
- 3 Trust in the Lord and do what is good, dwell in the land and live securely…or other translations say dwell in the land and feed on faithfulness. To dwell in the land is the language of covenant – So in other words, trust in the Lord, do what is good, and feed on the promises of God. You can trust that he knows, that he sees, and that he will expose the darkness for what it is. You can also trust that he will take care of you and your needs! That’s the verse 4…
- 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. This doesn’t mean God is a cosmic vending machine that will fulfill every appetite and preference and impulse you have. It means desire and delight go hand in hand. David’s advice is to delight in the Lord. To want to be near him; to enjoy him; To want to be close to him; To enjoy his presence, to celebrate his love and his grace and his blessing, and to find your satisfaction in him more than anything else in this life. And when you do, you will find that he meets you there. He gives you the very thing you are most delighted in: HIMSELF!
- 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act, 6 making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Commit your ways to the Lord literally means to “roll your ways upon the Lord.” It’s the same idea as 1 Peter 5:7 – cast your cares on him because he cares for you. This is the opposite of being agitated and anxious. Spread out your cares before the Lord, and leave the outcome to him. The promise here is that he will act. Even if someone has thrown you under the bus, or it feels like the world is against you, God will, in due time, clear up everything that is cloudy. He will shine into everything that seems dark. And God will make sure you are never hung out to dry.
So, we can, verse 7 Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the person who carries out evil plans. To wait expectantly is the idea of someone giving birth. It’s the idea of a pregnancy. We look at the world and see evil happening and say “Why isn’t God doing something!?” But that’s like looking at an expecting mother and saying, “Why don’t you have a baby yet!?” Well, she might say, I already do have a baby. You’re going to have to stop asking and wait patiently. We wait expectantly knowing that that child is already here developing but will soon be here in fullness. In the same way, we wait expectantly for God to rid the world of evildoers knowing that what will be, that full and complete destruction of evil, has already begun but hasn’t come in fullness yet. But it’s coming.
8 Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. 9 For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land (Again, that means they will receive the covenant blessings). 10 A little while… back to the baby in her mother’s womb… a little while, just a couple more months and she’ll be born… just a little while and the wicked person will be no more; though you look for him, he will not be there. 11 But the humble will inherit the land and will enjoy abundant prosperity.
I said last week that the psalms give us Permission to be anxious and fearful, because God understands we can’t see into the future like he can. We don’t know what all is coming, so we naturally tend to be a little worried. So the psalms give us permission to be human. But they also encourage us to bring our anxiousness and our fearfulness to the Lord! We are not to stay in fear or anxiety. It only brings harm! There is nothing good that comes from living in anxiety or fear.
See a lot of the time, we have our minds set on the flesh… meaning we can only see the physical realm. Again, remember, we are studying the Psalms because they help us make sense of what we see happening in the world around us or what happens to us. And verse 12 and 13 are going to say, hey listen…There is more to this than you can see.
12 The wicked person schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him – Here on earth, in the physical realm, there are intentional plans by human power structures and systems to live independently of God. You’re seeing it more and more in our own country – those power structures and systems are targeting Christians or churches or pastors sometimes as what is wrong with the world instead of the means for things to go well. Anymore, it seems like, if the church stands for some truth, there are people actively working to make it hate speech or call it divisive or whatever. And even the most sincere believer can allow fear to creep in.
But while people with evil intent are sitting at home drawing up plans for how to take down God’s people, here is what is going on in the throne room of God: 13 The Lord laughs at him because he sees that his day is coming.
The Lord laughs at them. It literally means he finds it amusing. Entertaining. That doesn’t mean he’s flippant about it. It just means God has the opposite of panic. THAT’S WHY GOD TELLS US, “DON’T BE ANXIOUS!” BECAUSE HE’S NOT ANXIOUS! Don’t let yourself be agitated by evil in the world, just do what is good and trust me!
It might seem like evil is having a heyday in your world, but God knows their day is coming. He can see everything they can’t see. He sees how their plans end. And here’s what God sees: 14 The wicked have drawn the sword and strung the bow to bring down the poor and needy and to slaughter those whose way is upright. Here is the end that the Lord sees: 15 Their swords will enter their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.
Their swords will enter their own hearts. Their bows will be broken. He’ll even break their arms, v 17 says which means, whatever strength they think they have will be taken away while the Lord protects his own.
Nowhere did that happen more gloriously than at the cross of Christ. What Satan thought was a victory lap for him turned out to be his fate, signed, sealed, and delivered. What he thought secured our eternal death instead became our eternal salvation!
The strength of Satan, the arm of Satan, used to be sin and death. He could always hold those two things over our heads. He could always point to our sin and accuse us of all kinds of things. You’re not good enough. God doesn't even want you. He’s holding out on you. You can’t get to heaven. You’ve done too much wrong. You are just a sinner!
And if he couldn’t get you with those lies, he could always hold your death over you and make you afraid to die, always living in fear and anxiety, wanting you to think that dying is the worst possible thing that can happen to you.
But in the cross of Jesus those strong arms, that power of Satan is broken. Sin no longer has power over us, because Jesus wanted to die for sinners. He died for us while we were sinners, not after we got things straight. The power of sin was broken for good when Jesus bowed his head from the cross and said IT IS FINISHED! Which means you can’t out-sin the cross!
Additionally, death is no longer a threat to fear or to hide from. The cross was an instrument of death fashioned against Jesus, against the people of God, but Satan’s own plans for evil got shoved into his own chest as Jesus stood up and walked out of that tomb fully alive! What Satan thought would signal the end of humanity ended up being the signal for the end of HIM!
The bow that launches arrows of fear and doubt and accusation against you was snapped in half and Satan’s eternal future was sealed and delivered as Jesus rose up out of that tomb as our resurrected Savior.
Now, because of his life death and resurrection, Jesus’ blood now surrounds and protects the people of God, He watches over them, and shields them. Verse 19 – The person who trusts himself or herself to the Lord won’t be disgraced in hard times; they will be satisfied in days of hunger. It doesn’t mean nothing bad will ever happen to them, but the everyday problems of life will look very different to the one who trusts God.
In fact, look at verse 21. Even in times of need, those who trust the Lord and delight in him are gracious and generous! When everyone else is borrowing stuff from others and then never paying them back, those who delight in the Lord are not living in fear – they are finding that he is the desire of their hearts; he is their delight; their lives are an overflow of love for and from the Father, and their lives are marked by grace and generosity. What if the opposite of fear is actually generosity? What if the opposite of anxiety is actually giving?
But because we tend to live in our flesh more than in the spirit, we get a little sweaty and think, what if God just drops the bottom out on me sometime? What if he doesn't show up for me? What if he tells me to give away more than I can afford to give? What if at the end of the month, we don’t have enough to pay all the bills? Can I outgive God, to where even God is going, “oh, no, no, no, no. Don’t give… NO! Stop!…. Aw man. You gave way more than I’m able to supply. You should have been less generous.”
If that’s your fear, verse 25 comes from a wise old man who has been following Yahweh since he was a teenager, and here’s what he says: I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread. He (the righteous) is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing.
He has never once seen the Lord turn his back on his own children. Never once. Instead, he increases them. They are always generous. Always letting people borrow their stuff. Giving of their time. Their children are a blessing. His promise is that he will never abandon his people.
He will keep his covenant with them. V 30 and 31 say they will study his word, and gain wisdom and justice and instruction from God. As a result, they won’t be knocked out by current events. They won’t be knocked out by Evil people. They won’t be jealous of people who seem to get away with nonsense. Even when the enemy turns and fires on you, verse 33 says God will not leave you in the power of the enemy! He won’t leave you hanging!
So to sum up Psalm 37 in a few sentences, it would be this – don’t get agitated and anxious when you see evil in the world. Don’t get jealous of people who do wrong, and obsess over how to beat the system. God is not anxious or agitated at all. Remember that evil has a shelf-life. So be patient and wait expectantly – sin and death will soon be gone forever. And lastly remember that the gospel of Jesus flips evil straight over on its head, turning even the most ugly and horrible act in the world into something redeeming and beautiful, giving hope and a future to even the worst sinner of them all.
Keith Brooks, Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009)
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 358.
John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Ps 37:33.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994)
Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Ps 37.