Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Study on Psalm 37


Psalm 37, Verse 1
“Do not fret ...”
The first three words of Psalm 37 are a sermon in themselves. And how much better off we would be if we would only follow that advice.

Now what does it mean to fret. According to the dictionary, to fret is to "be continually perturbed by worry, anxiety, annoyance, or resentment." And that is a pretty good description of the world as it exists today. People are worried about everything, anxious about everything, annoyed about everything, and resentful about everything. And look at the shape the world is in because of it.

"Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious …”
Now what does it mean to be envious. The dictionary defines envy to be "a feeling of mortification or discontent excited by seeing the superiority or prosperity of another person." If you are envious then you are looking at the wrong thing. You focus is on "another person," not on God. And there is a biblical principal that by beholding we are changed into the image of what we dwell upon. If you are full of envy your thoughts are on the world, not on God, and consequently you will become like the world. You will become like that which you envy. The dictionary goes on and says of envy that it is the "desire for the possessions or advantages of another." Envy then is a transgression of the 10th commandment - Thou shalt not covet. And again envy is "ill will combined with jealousy."

"Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity."
Now ask yourself this, What in the world does the wicked have that we should be envious about? As verse two points out, nothing. Everything they possess will ultimately prove to be an illusion.


Psalm 37 -- Verse 2
“For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.”
Everything the wicked possess is a illusion. Everything they possess - wealth, power, prestige, fame - all will vanish away, because without God, none of it is real. So why in the world should any Christian be envious of even a Donald Trump? But human nature being what it is, we all fight this battle.

Look at Psalm 73 - the first three verses. “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:1-3).

Look at what David is saying, "My feet had almost stumbled, My steps had nearly slipped." And why? Because of envy. To be envious you have to look "down" at the world. And if you are looking down you are not looking "up" to God who alone can keep you from stumbling and slipping. Envy will drag you down into the muck of the world. It will destroy you. David goes on and says in verses 12-13 of Psalm 73 that his envy of the wicked almost caused him to lose his faith in God, to believe that all his efforts to be true and faithful were in vain. “Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence.” (Psalm 73:12-13).

Envy will separate you from God. And so it was with David until he stopped looking down and started looking up. “When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.” (Psalm 73: 16-18).

And so it will be with us. We will go in whatever direction we look. Until we learn to stop looking down and start looking up we will go down with the world.

Having in these first two verses of Psalm 37 outlined the problem, David now goes on in the next several verses to give what can only be described as a prescription of how to walk with God.

 

Psalm 37 -- Verse 3 Step one on how to walk with God.

"Trust in the Lord …"
What is trust? What does it mean to trust? The dictionary defines trust as "reliance on the integrity, veracity of a person." To trust in the Lord is to rely on Him because of who He is.

"Trust in the Lord, and do good …
If you trust in the Lord, if you rely on Him, then you will also do good. It is a package deal. You can never do good if you don't trust in the Lord, but if you trust in the Lord you will do good.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.”
I like to paraphrase that last part to "Dwell in His land, and feast on His righteousness." And that is what we all want, to dwell in His land - the new heavens and the new earth. To truly feast on His righteousness.

 

Psalm 37 -- Verse 4 Step two on how to walk with God.

"Delight yourself also in the Lord …"

The dictionary defines delight as "a high degree of pleasure or satisfaction - thrill with pleasure." And so we might paraphrase this to say "Thrill with pleasure in the Lord." Doesn't that sound good? And when you do that, the verse continues to say "He shall give you the desires of your heart."

Now what are the desires of our heart? If you are of the world it would be riches, wealth, honor, fame - all things that are just passing shadows, mere illusions. But if your heart is thrilling with pleasure in the Lord the desires of your heart are going to be the things of God. And that you will receive. You will get to live with Him, dwell with Him, and abide with Him. You will become ever more like He is. Isaiah says: “Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 58: 14).

And what is the "heritage of Jacob"? Ultimately the new heavens and new earth. Salvation, eternal life, and the very presence of God.

Look at Psalm 145:19. It says, “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.”

Here whose desire will He fulfill?  He will fulfill the desire of "those who fear Him." Now normally we define the "fear of God" as being an awesome reverence. And so it is, but if you link this verse with Psalm 37:4 which says, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart" then we must come to the conclusion that the "fear of God" must also contain an element of "delight" of "thrilling with pleasure." For it is "those who fear Him," those who "delight" themselves "in the Lord" that have their desires fulfilled.

 

Psalm 37 -- Verse 5
Step three on how to walk with God
"Commit your way to the Lord …"

Now what does it mean to commit. The dictionary defines commit as "entrust to another’s care." And so when we commit our way, ourselves, to the Lord we are entrusting Him with all our plans, with all that we have and all that we are. We are giving all into His care. Which means - we must let go. If we hold on to "our" ways, to "our" plans, to "our" things, then they have not been entrusted to the care of God.

The word translated entrust may be literally translated as "Roll off onto." We might paraphrase it to say, to "cast ourselves, our way, our lives upon" to "throw ourselves upon the Lord." As it says in Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Jesus took up this thought on the Sermon on the Mount when He said: "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).

Notice what Jesus is saying. If we cast our burdens, our plans, our ways, our selves on the Lord then we won't be fretting about all these things. We won't be worried, or anxious about these things. We have "entrusted" all that we have are and will be into God's care. And we know that we can rely on Him, we can trust Him. As the wicked fret, we delight ourselves in the Lord. And we can do this because we know that He really cares for us.

And as we commit our way to Him the promise is (continuing with verse 5) "Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." And what is the "it" that He will bring to pass. It is that we may dwell in His land and have the desires of our heart (verse 3-4), and the righteousness and justice of verse 6.

Psalm 37 -- Verse 6 “He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday.”

And what is your, my, our righteousness - the righteousness that shines as a light, like the noonday sun? As the Bibles tells us plainly "THE LORD” He is “OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jeremiah 23:6). And JESUS is LORD.

 

Psalms 37 -- Verse 7
Step four on how to walk with God
"Rest in the Lord …"

What does it mean to rest? Rest is defined as "a state of quiet repose, freedom from care, peace, quiet." Sounds good doesn't it? This is just the opposite of fretting -- of being continually perturbed by worry, anxiety, annoyance or resentment.

That is what we most commonly think of resting being. But there is yet another definition -- "that upon which something leans for support." Yes, I know, I am using a modern English definition here, but it fits. Can we truly ever say that we are at rest in the Lord as long as we strive to support ourselves, to stand on our own strength? No, never. It is only as we lean on the Lord, only as He is our support that we can stand and walk as Christians.

To "Rest in the Lord" is to find both quietness and strength. “For thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’” (Isaiah 30:15).

And note also, "salvation" is found in that rest -- because the rest is in God. “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:26).

 

Psalm 37 -- Verse 8
Step five on how to walk with God
"Cease from anger …"

What does it mean to cease. It means quite simply to "stop." To "stop doing an action, desist" to "come to REST." And it is only as we come to "rest in the Lord" that we can "cease from anger."

"Cease from anger, and forsake wrath …"

To forsake is to "renounce' to "abandon," in other words, to repent. Repentance is after all a forsaking, a turning away from sin, from wrong -- to the Lord. This is not something we can do on our own. Repentance is a gift of God. (Acts 5:31).

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret - it only causes harm.”
Do not fret!!! Why? It only causes harm. Harm to who? Will any of your fretting cause any harm to the person who is the object of you errant thoughts? No. Not at all. It is you who's harmed. You only do damage to yourself when you fret. You only injure yourself. But once again, we are reminded that in the long run there is no real cause to fret over anyone or anything.

 

Psalm 37 -- Verse 9
Step six on how to walk with the Lord

"Wait on the Lord …"

“For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth.”

To wait, what does that mean? According to the dictionary to wait is to "remain, expecting something." Now that is interesting. To remain is to abide. In Revelation 3 in the message to the Ladiocian Church Jesus is represented as knocking on the door of the heart. Why? That He might enter and abide in and with every one of us.

We are to wait, "expecting something." Something most wonderful. Waiting also implies patience -- something most of us are in short supply of. But it is a fruit of the Spirit.

Now something interesting here in verse nine. It says that those "who wait on the Lord" will be the ones who "inherit the earth." In verse 11 it says that it is "the meek" who "shall inherit the earth." Can we then conclude that the meek are those who wait on the Lord - in great expectation of something most wonderful happening.

 

Psalm 37 -- Verses 23, 24
One final comment before I leave Psalm 37. Take a look at verses 23 and 24.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.”

We have been talking about how to walk with God. To walk with God our "steps" must be "ordered by the Lord." That is, we must be willing to walk His way. But there is another point I want to make here. This may be a little bit of a stretch, but I think it fits. Let’s tie in Acts 3:6 to these verses and see what happens.

Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

God says to every one of us, "What are you doing sitting in the dirt? In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." Will we? Many are afraid to try because they are afraid they might fall. This is where Psalm 37:24 comes in. "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand."

So what if we stumble and fall. Is not God our Support, our Rest? Can we not trust Him to lift us up again.

So, then ---
“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!!!”