Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 7)

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.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
    and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
    you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
    spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
    though I sought him, he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
    for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
    the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

This section of the Psalm teaches the wicked will meet with their due end and the righteous will live in the peace and refuge of the Lord.

Keeping the Lord’s Ways

David’s ongoing belief was that he would continue to see God working good out in his lifetime as we see from this earlier psalm:

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! [Ps. 27:13-14 ESV]

We love these verses in Psalm 27 because we so need God’s strength and courage for daily life! We need to remember He will bring His good out of all that we face. And here in Psalm 37, David looks back on a lifetime faith journey with God, seeing how faithful God has clearly been. He exhorts his readers to keep the Lord’s ways: to be obedient and to persevere in the face of being surrounded and attacked by evil men.

There is again a promise to Israel about their land (as we have seen so many times throughout this psalm) coupled with a promise that the wicked will be driven out, cut off, destroyed, and cease to exist. This continues the idea we looked at last time about God’s justice. Israel wants to see justice done: drive the ungodly out and let us dwell peacefully in the land!

But there is an emphasis on leaning into God’s justice, not taking our own. It is not the man of violence and war, the man who takes matters into his own hands who is promised a future, but the man of peace. It is the blameless, upright man, morally innocent and of high integrity as we see in a few verses from now.

Photo credit: lightandfreedom.com

Photo credit: lightandfreedom.com

The exhortations are to Israel, who if they could have obeyed would have realized the promises of God at that time by inheriting the promised land. And the exhortations are to us, as Christ’s body today, who have a future hope and inheritance. Our obedience flows from our faith and hope in Him who has promised and is unchanging.

Just as Israel was to be a peculiar nation, we, too, are to be set apart. There is to be something different about a believer. We’re not to fit in to the world, but to patiently and diligently walk in God’s ways, not the ways of the world that press hard upon us to conform to it.

Why All the Waiting?

David knows we need these repeated exhortations to wait. It can be very tiring to live in this world as a follower of Christ and not grow weary and discouraged. These are very human emotions and God certainly created us with a rich tapestry of emotions, didn’t he! We may be tempted to ask as David did earlier in his life, how long, oh Lord? How long do we have to continue plowing through this evil world?

David lived 1,000 years before the promised Messiah. He encouraged patience as he looked forward to the time of Christ. Now we look forward to His return and we still need patience. God’s time table is not the same as ours, as you can see. But waiting is not doing nothing. When we wait on God, it means that we have a certainty, an expectation that He will do precisely what He says in His perfect timing.

The Spread of the Wicked

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
    spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
    though I sought him, he could not be found.

David gives personal testimony to the working of the Lord in relation to the wicked. Despite the apparent worldly success of the ungodly, he ultimately faces destruction. The picture of the wicked here is that of a tree growing nicely, sinking deep roots, flourishing and prosperous. “Growing in its natural soil” is the sense the Hebrew gives. The branches of a healthy tree spread themselves far and wide.

Photo credit: pictures.4ever.eu

Photo credit: pictures.4ever.eu

Who is this that’s doing so well, giving to all the world the appearance (by its standards) of success and achievement? He is the morally wrong; concretely, an (actively) bad person, even violent. There are no limits to what he will plan or do, guided only by his own evil desires. To the idea of wickedness here David adds the word “ruthless,” which carries with it the sense of being awe-inspiring or terrifying. What defense is there against such a man? Clearly only God is the strongest protection and can be the final deliverer!

In case there’s any doubt, David describes three times, in three different ways, the outcome of living a life in rebellion to God: passed away, was no more, could not be found. This last is “found” in the sense of no longer being in a place where he previously was, especially in reference to a place of wealth, treasure, comfort, success. If you believe there are no consequences for living without God and simply amassing all you can get for yourself in this life, I hope these verses make you stop and reconsider!

Two Different Futures

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
    for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
    the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

Two roads lie ahead: one for the godly and one for the ungodly. We’re exhorted to keep God’s ways and observe the righteous man as an example of how to walk keeping His ways (v. 34): upright, blameless, at peace with God and with man as much as possible (Romans 12:18). Do you see a person walking with God who strikes you as upright and blameless in God’s sight? I do not mean a perfect or sinless person. I mean someone who you see Christ in and see Christ through: in their attitudes, in their words, in how they interact with and treat others? It is a person to note, just as Paul encouraged the Corinthians: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. [1 Cor. 11:1 ESV]

Notice that even though safety, deliverance, and refuge are promised in the next verses — all things that God does do in this life — the emphasis remains on a future hope.

War and Peace

What does it mean to be a man of peace?

  • Have peace. You must first have eternal peace with God (reconciled through Christ) before you can ever be a man of peace among men (I use “man” and “men” in the anthropos usage, representative of humanity — man or woman).
  • Live in peace. A man of peace rests in God, waits for Him, and isn’t anxious or easily provoked to unwise action or words.
  • Bring peace. A man of peace brings peace to other men after that, as Christ spoke of in Matthew 5:9.
Photo credit: purpleark.org

Photo credit: purpleark.org

In contrast, what does it mean to be a transgressor?

  • The word is sinner and indicates outright rebellion against and hostility toward God.
  • A transgressor “breaks away” from just authority and strikes out on their own, which proves to be to their own peril and demise.
  • From the English dictionary: to infringe or go beyond the bounds of (a moral principle or other established standard of behavior).

The emphasis here for the ungodly is again to be utterly destroyed in the ultimate judgment. A fearful future indeed.

Brought Through by the Lord

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

Like the notes of a magnificent orchestral piece coming together in a dramatic, final crescendo, here the psalm ends with a crescendo of hopes in God:

  • for salvation: salvation can be found in no other place than Christ (related: Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5].
  • as a stronghold: a place or means of safety and protection (related: Isa. 25:4; Nah. 1:7; Ps. 9:9]. Within the Lord’s arms, we live in a place not easily penetrated by the invading enemy. The Lord Himself is our impenetrable defense.
  • for deliverance: in the sense of being freed from external evils (yasha). The idea that God delivers can be seen in both an immediate and future sense.
Photo credit: whatzitoya.deviantart.com

Photo credit: whatzitoya.deviantart.com

How could we ask for a greater hope or a greater encouragement than this? To be saved, to be protected, and to be delivered by the Almighty. There are many places we can try to hide and many other ways we can try to cope with the evil of this world. But they all fall so short of our Lord. I pray He is your single refuge today and always.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 7)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s