Psalm 37 is a study in contrasts between the righteous and the wicked. It encourages us to trust in God, devote our lives to Him, and know that He is sovereign. All things will ultimately be resolved by Him, if not immediately then in the final judgment. It’s a content-filled psalm and I’ll be unpacking it in several parts. Enjoy the journey.
Quick overview of the psalm
David wrote this psalm as an old man looking back over his life [v. 25] and reflecting on his experiences with life and with the Lord. In his lifetime, David saw a lot of wickedness succeed and a lot of righteous people suffering. That led him to encourage the righteous as to how they should respond.
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.
Key things to pick up from this part of the Psalm
Don’t fret about evil: Here and twice in the next section of verses, we’re told, “fret not,” or “do not fret, as the NAS puts it. Fret is a weird word to most of us and we probably don’t use it a whole lot. It has the sense, from the dictionary, of being constantly or visibly worried or anxious. Spend a day in the world working or simply observing people and you will see evil and wrong behavior. For a feeling, reasoning believer, this can be a great cause of distress. After all, we want the true justice — not the world’s method, but God’s.
Don’t envy those who sin: It often takes much more effort to walk as a believer than it does to walk without God. Sometimes we might be tempted to envy those who get away with evil. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. [Prov. 23:17 ESV]
Yet the consequences of those people are clearly laid out in verse 2: whoever lives with their backs to God will fade as green grass fades into yellow, brittle patches in the winter and as plants wither and die (despite your best attempts at the right amount of water!).
Photo credit: minecraft-kid.com
Trust in God, live your life: The emphasis in verse 3 is reliance upon God for the ultimate outcome, but also for the daily walk. Follow after God in ways that you know are pleasing to Him.
Make faithfulness your crop: If we go with the imagery of dwelling in the land, for example, imagine yourself on a farm. There are daily needs: tending of animals, feeding crops that you are growing… in other words, maintenance so that the farm continues to run and sustain all that lives on it. The Hebrew phrasing here expresses the idea that we are to cherish faithfulness, to seek God faithfully, to metaphorically “feed” our faithfulness. That’s what sustains the “farm” that is our heart. That’s what brings forth the crop: a fruitful life.
Photo credit: raynerstonefruit.com.au
Take pleasure in what really matters: We’re exhorted to delight ourselves in the Lord. What does that mean to you? I see delighting in Him as understanding more and more of who He is, appreciating His creativity and creation, seeking to be conformed to the likeness of Christ more and more. The world we live in offers a ton of distractions, all presenting themselves as things that will satisfy.
So delighting in God changes your perspective on what the true desires of your heart ought to be. You no longer want the empty, temporary, passing things of the world; instead you seek after things that are eternally valuable [cf. Col. 3:1-4; Ps. 119:37]. Those are the new desires of your heart.
Put it at the Lord’s feet: When you’re committed, you don’t have your feet dangling in the air as you sit on the fence, waiting to see which way you want to land. Committing your way to the Lord is saying, Lord, I give you my life. I give you all that is in me. I give you the course of my life and all the steps I take in it. Lead me and guide me how you see fit.
Photo credit: quoteimg.com
Know God is not idle: He will act, He will “act with effect” is the sense of the Hebrew. Your life is the Lord’s sketchbook in which He draws and accomplishes all that His good purpose has in store for you — for His glory. Wherever you are in your life, or wherever you’re about to go, be assured the Lord is acting.
God is your advocate: Though some of the evil and wickedness may be directed specifically against you, in the end the Lord will act as the just judge. Even if judges in this world fail you, the highest judge in the land will not. The idea of the Lord bringing forth your righteousness is as one acting as your advocate in a cause or a case of being wronged. As the light shines brightly, especially at midday, the rightness of your cause will shine forth.