Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 4)

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.

Find the whole series in Psalm 37 here.

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.

This section of the Psalm teaches that whether you have little or great abundance, as a believer you are secure now and for the future in the Lord.

The Righteous Are Secure

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.

Do you believe that the Lord is smiling upon you because you have enough zeroes in your checking account? Or, on the contrary, do you feel like He has abandoned you because you have so little money you don’t know where the next rent check will come from?

It’s tempting to look around at the so-called “rich people” in our world today and wish you had what they had, to think it would be so much easier if you had “a million dollars.” That phrase “a million dollars” is our way of saying we wish we didn’t have to worry about money.

SONY DSC

Photo credit: pixshark.com

But what the ungodly have in abundance now they will not carry with them into eternity. They will leave every dollar, every huge house, every fancy car, every expensive wardrobe behind. And no matter how they earned all of that — by honest or dishonest means — they walk into eternity with nothing.

The righteous won’t carry anything out of this life either. However, we will walk into eternity with the hope and certainty of the inheritance that Peter describes as imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [1 Pet.1:4-5]

Believer, the riches we have in Christ far surpass anything we can “have” during this life!

tree_of_abundance

Photo credit: wallpapersinhq.com

Lost: Power of the Ungodly

17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
    but the Lord upholds the righteous.

When I first read this about the arms being broken, in my head I thought, literal arms (as in, left and right). In a way, it is connected to the previous verse covered in the last part of this study about bows and swords. But in the Hebrew (zeroa), it literally means arms in the sense of being the center or seat of human strength. The wicked, then, will be deprived of their very power and ability to oppress the righteous.

On the contrary, the Lord upholds or sustains us. We are secure in and can rely upon His grasp of us. This does not mean He will immediately solve all our problems or not allow us to go through difficult times (financially or otherwise). It does mean that ultimately nothing can separate us from His love (cf. Rom. 8:35-39]. It does mean that we have His strength, which is far above and beyond our own, for the trials we face.

secure

Photo credit: seanlaurence.com

We are Known and Protected

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.

I talked above about having riches beyond money and material goods. And in verses 18-19, the Lord affirms several things to the blameless (those in Christ’s positional righteousness):

  • He knows our days, not only the number of them, but also the difficulties and the joys in them.
  • A believer’s heritage, also translated “inheritance” is something that endures forever (see 1 Peter scripture above).
  • In morally, ethically, or even personally difficult times, we will not be ashamed to have our faith firmly in Christ. We will not be embarrassed or disappointed by the hope in Him, whether we suffer or whether we have little.

You may have noticed the world around us not getting better, but in fact (if you’re honest) much worse. More astonishing human atrocities, more disasters, more evil. Those in Christ–though we are affected by the world we live in–are not impacted in the sense of circumstances changing what we hope in–and that is a permanent, eternal dwelling place with God.

dwelling

Photo credit: simplyheavenlyfood.com

I usually don’t favor the New Living Translation for studies, but in this case, a cross reference from this part of the psalm to Proverbs 10:25 in the NLT is excellent: When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.

Give What You Cannot Keep

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.

Despite the abundance that the wicked have (many) in contrast to the more rare righteous man and his little, the wicked steals–that is, borrows without paying back. He dishonors. He takes advantage of his wealth and position to borrow and advance himself, without regard for making the debt right in the end. Fortunately, we know God will make it right.

However, the righteous man (however little he does have) is generous and giving. Why? In some sense at least, the righteous responds to the Lord’s blessing–to His mercy to him–by showing mercy.

grapes

Photo credit: mercywolf.com

The righteous (those blessed by the Lord) have the capacity to be generous even though they don’t have a lot because their perspective is correct. All that makes up your life–your possessions, your money, your daily comings and goings–is all temporal. Are you willing to put it all at His feet, knowing that it is not yours to keep anyway?

Christ taught this perspective, too:

35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? [Mark 8:35-37]

Paul, who had a life of much education and great privilege, and was a highly intelligent man born into deeply rooted Jewish ancestry and a wealthy family, still said:

whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…. [Phil. 3:7-9]

Even in difficult times, we can trust God to protect and provide for His own. This doesn’t always mean the Lord will bless in a material or monetary sense, but rather, we will always have the abundance of Him. We are spiritually wealthy, no matter what, and this is a much more significant wealth than all the gold and silver of the world.

Part 5: Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World

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One thought on “Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 4)

  1. Pingback: Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 6) | Stand in the Storm

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