BY GERALD COWAN — Psalm 37 is a “teaching psalm” of practical instruction. It is credited to David, apparently written late in life but not connected to any particular event or circumstance. As such it is valuable for teaching everyone. It is easily divided into three major parts.
I. GENERAL EXHORTATIONS TO THE RIGHTEOUS (1-8)
DON’T FRET BECAUSE OF EVILDOERS: don’t envy their apparent success and wealth (1-2, compare Psalm 73). People have an incorrect concept of what is good:
- Personal pleasure, success in works and ventures.
- Possessions, material wealth, money, property.
- Prestige, position, power — who will be greatest?
Man seems fixated on mammon, what is not God, not from or of God (Matthew 6:24). The first three of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-7) warns against accepting and worshiping any but the only true God or profaning or abusing His name by applying it to anyone or anything other than what He himself specifies in His Word.
PUT YOUR FAITH IN THE LORD (3-8). Trust in the Lord and do what is good, and you will dwell in His land of promise, feeding on His faithfulness (3). Delight in the Lord who will give you the desires of your heart (4) — not anything and everything you may want or try to get, He will give access to what you should desire from Him, spiritual things.
COMMIT YOUR WAY TO THE LORD, trusting in Him, yielding to His will and purpose (5-6). He will bring your (approved plans and works) to pass, proper conclusion (5) and bring forth your righteousness and justice (6).
REST IN THE LORD AND WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM (7). Don’t demand instant satisfaction and fulfillment of all your desires and prayers. Being able and content to wait patiently is a choice. God says be patient; He does not give patience or force one to be patient.
DO NOT FRET BECAUSE OF THE SUCCESS OF THE PROSPEROUS OR WICKED (8-10). Don’t do anything from envy, anger, wrath, and worry. It only causes harm.
DON’T DO ANYTHING THAT IS WRONG OR EVIL IN ITSELF (8). Evildoers shall be cut off from God (9a). In time the evildoers will have no place among the righteous (10).
II. EMPHASIS ON MEEKNESS AND HUMILITY (9-11, 21)
Do not envy wicked ones who seem to prosper and live joyfully.
Repeat for emphasis: wait patiently, be righteous, be meek. Patience means to endure without being broken. Righteous means doing always and only what is right and good, nothing wrong or bad. Meek means cooperative, obediently and faithfully serving those placed above one. Meekness is not weakness; it is strength under control, in submission to an acknowledged master or overseer – even an owner. It is the meek who inherit and possess God’s promised blessings. Others will get nothing good.
Those who wait on the Lord shall inherit the earth (9). The meek shall inherit the earth and have abundant peace (11). The righteous shall inherit the earth (22) and dwell in it (29). Wait on the Lord and keep His ways to inherit the land – you will see it (34). The righteous with little is better off than the wicked, no matter how rich (16).
III. CLARIFICATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED (12-40)
The wicked – the “bad guys” – identity and prospects: Their wickedness will be turned back on them. Not “karma” but consequences. The wicked do not stay in power forever – they will pass away (35-36). The ultimate and eternal end of the wicked is hell, the second death (Revelation 20:15).
The righteous – the “good guys” – identity and prospects: Righteousness must encompass and include desire, motives and intention to be right in everything, doing only what is right and good in the sight of God, good for all who receive it. Good is from agape, love as commanded by God for Him, for oneself and all others. The Lord upholds the righteous – His support will not be taken away from them, though they may be persecuted for it. He Himself is their inheritance forever; their inheritance is eternal (17-18), reserved in heaven for them if they stay faithful (1 Peter 1:1-9).
The faithful cannot be taken out of the hands of God and of Jesus Christ (John 10:28-29). The righteous have the enduring hope of eternal life (1 John 2:25) attended by peace, salvation, and the strength of the Lord (37-40). Above all they have hope of promised eternal life in heaven with God (John 3:14-16, 1 John 2:25).
MAKE PSALM 37 YOUR PERSONAL MOTTO AND MOTIVATION, THEN RECOMMEND IT TO OTHERS.
I intend to share soon a short series on motivation: how and why to be an overcomer. Read Revelation 2-3 to see seven things the Lord promises to give to or make of the overcomer. First John 5:4 assures us that faith is the victory that overcomes the world (and the ungodly). Take the way of Christ to make yourself, the home, the church, the nation, and the world better. Give yourself to Him and then bring others to Him. Let Christ come into you, then introduce others to Him as well. What you do to and for yourself is your choice – Neither God nor Christ nor the Holy Spirit will do it it you, either with or without your will and personal participation.
When I was in ninth grade I heard a girl sing in school assembly a hymn. “To love someone more dearly every day … and answer when He calls, This Is My Task.” I still think the song might make a good part of one’s personal standards and commitment.
I feel urged to consider and put into words my own mission and task, my own journey with Christ. I encourage you to do the same investigation of yourself. You know that the Lord reads and knows not only your words and actions but also the thoughts and intentions of your heart (Hebrews 4:12-13). He knows if your mind and intentions – even when singing words composed by others as we do in worship — match your own way of life. Are you pleased or fearful to have Him “read your mind”?
To understand and benefit from reading Scripture ask three questions: (1) what does it really say, (2) what does it mean, and (3) how does it apply, especially to me in my world today?
Apply that approach when you read Psalm 37, the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), or any other “teaching” passages from the Bible.
Gerald says he spent more than six decades trying to make up for being a late bloomer in ministry for Christ. He sends out his “Personal Periodical” by email. This article was taken from one of his issues. Ask him to send you his periodical.