|Taking The Long View|
Psalm 37 ought to be required reading for all Christians. It gives us hope for the future while we live in a wicked world and it gives us direction for how to live our lives given the hope that we have in our Messiah Jesus. Notice as we walk through this psalm how much it sounds like a series of proverbs.
1 – 2
It’s hard to watch evil people prosper. It happens all the time. The rich get richer as they step on the backs of people below them. The powerful get more powerful even though they arrogantly reject God. Elections don’t go our way. We end up struggling and weak and we wonder—why doesn’t God do something about it?
David’s words for us here are “don’t get uptight.” The theme of this psalm could be: “take the long view.” Once I was part of a fifty mile hike. When you set out on a hike of that distance you don’t think so much about today’s walk and how your feet hurt now, but you plan and set yourself towards the end—the goal or you will never reach it. That’s the way it should be with us and this life.
God has a plan that is bigger and longer than our ability to grasp sometimes. Though in our minds the wicked seem to never go away, from God’s perspective they are like grass on a hot summer day. In verses 3 through 9 we learn what we should do:
3 – 9
Trust – means to “have confidence in.” Have confidence that the Lord is your God and He is looking out for your good and for His kingdom’s good.
Do what is good – Instead of focusing on what the wicked are getting, concentrate on how the Lord is prompting you to do good—to offer His salvation, to bless others, to love unconditionally.
Dwell in the land and live securely. The language used here is of a shepherd. “Live securely” is the word: “to graze” or “pasture.” I think the saying “bloom where you are planted” might apply here. You can thrive anywhere by the strength that God gives those that take root in Him. Don’t be looking for satisfaction through the shortcuts of those that don’t know God.
Delight – this is a wonderful Hebrew word. It means “to be soft and pliable.” We ask: how can I get what I desire in my heart? The answer is to make your heart soft and pliable in the Lord’s hands. Let Him start to shape your character and your desires so you want what He wants. Then when you ask you will ask according to God’s will.
John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
This reminds me of something Pastor Chuck Smith has said: “Just enjoy your relationship with the Lord and He’ll take care of the rest.”
Commit – the word means “to roll.” I guess the idea here is like pushing a boulder down a hill. Once it’s done there’s no calling it back. That’s the way it should be with us. You say “God I need you to take this and guide me and answer according to Your will.” Then you leave it there. That is much easier said than done—but you have to know that He will act. It may just not be how you would act, and that’s okay. Often how He “acts” is to change, not the circumstances but your character, so that His righteousness becomes yours and it shines brightly in this dark world.
Be Silent – Refrain from Anger – verses 7 and 8 are related. When we see things in the world that are clearly wrong we get agitated and angry and we want to speak out and do something to make it right. Now I’m not advocating that we cede from society and no longer vote or take part in the political process. What I am saying is that our attitude needs to be one of waiting for the Lord to move. This also works when it comes to relationships. When someone does something to us, we want to strike back, but as David says “it can only bring harm.”
Let’s go back to a verse we looked at last time:
Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone's eyes. 18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. 21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
If you do good to those who hate you it really messes them over in a good way. Again, we need to have the long view—not only to see evil conquered by good, but to wait for God to move and don’t jump ahead of His plan.
Those that do evil will not last, but if you put your hope in the Lord you will last forever!
So verses 10 through 15 basically restate this truth in poetic language:
10 – 15
Notice that it the “humble” that will “enjoy abundant prosperity.” If you have a tender heart towards God and realize you are in need of a rescuer, Jesus promised is “abundant life”. It isn’t abundant materially, but abundant in relationships, both with God and our brothers and sisters—and heaven and eternity is all about relationships.
I love how the Lord “laughs” at the schemes of the wicked against the Lord’s people. In reality they are nothing against Him—nothing at all. The end of those who reject God is not pretty. All the prosperity in the world is meaningless with a relationship that lasts into eternity.
16 – 17
Verses 16 and 17 read like a proverb—but a very true one. We may have nothing as counted by this age—no money, no beauty, no power, no intelligence (as the world defines it). But we have something that might seem so little in their eyes—a relationship with the God of the universe. But it is enough, and the Lord promises to support us in that relationship. He does that through His presence, through fellowship, through wisdom, and through comfort in life’s difficult times.
As we see in the next part here, that “little” that we have is really quite a lot.
18 – 20
Verses 18 – 20 really picture the contrast between those who love the Lord and those who reject Him. God watches out for us and has created an eternal inheritance. He will make sure we make it to that inheritance.
1 Peter 1:3-5 According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by God's power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Now something that is really cool is that we have an inheritance from God, but Jesus also has an inheritance. Want to know what that is? It’s you and I! (Ephesians 1:11).
Contrast that with those that reject God. They are “enemies” of God and whatever great things they think they have, it will go away like smoke rising from a fire.
The rest of the psalm is a series of proverbs comparing what a person who loves God is like and what a person who rejects God is like in their character.
21 – 22
The character of those who hate God is that they are only it for themselves. But those that love God and His Son Jesus and have a relationship are being transformed into a godly character that at its root is selfless love. We are indeed blessed by His gift of eternal life which lifts from us the curse that is on all of humanity due to our rebellion against God.
23 – 24
Isn’t this a beautiful couple of verses? As we are transformed into His character He establishes our direction, and though we fall, which we will do, He is there to hold our hand. Wow!
25 – 26
Verses 25 and 26 seem to be a description of the character of the righteous. They are generous and care for their families and their character begins to rub off on those around them like their family. Your legacy matters—your kids and your family and friends are watching you. What will they remember about you? What part of you will become a part of them?
27 – 29
These verses are a reminder that the change made when we become children of God through Jesus is a permanent change. Yes we will stumble (see verses 23-24) but we are on a trajectory of doing good—mirroring the character of God—a character of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). We are kept safe forever in that relationship.
30 – 31
Verses 30 and 31 talk about how that changed character is expressed. The wisdom we utter is the wisdom of doing things God’s way, and we love to hear His instruction. Desiring to be like God is always the right thing to do. He will never lead us into a place where our character will “stumble.” It is always a good thing to want to be like our God.
32 – 33
These verses talk about the fact that at times it seems we are in trouble as those who reject God attack us. But in reality, God will not “leave us” in their power, and though the enemy seeks to condemn us in our failures, God will never condemn us because He judged Jesus so that He didn’t have to judge us!
34 – 38
Sometimes we get impatient as we see troubles that we face, and a world that is more and more opposed to God. Here David encourages us to have patience and wait. Eventually we will see the plight of those that reject God and stay in their wickedness. In verses 35 – 36 though it seems that those with no humbleness towards God flourish and are permanent residents—it will all change when the Lord returns to set up His kingdom on earth.
Verse 37: Don’t put your eyes on the rich and powerful of this age—put your eyes on those who are rich in their relationship with God and mirror His character—that’s where the future lies.
39 – 40
The bottom line is: where is your refuge? Is it in the stuff of this age? Or is in the things of the Lord? I don’t mean to say that we should go around in sack-cloth and not own anything.
To clarify, let’s look at:
Luke 12:29-34 Don't keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don't be anxious. 30 For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 "But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. 32 Don't be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won't grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.