Psalm 37 is a wonderful poem, full of wise sayings. It’s actually organized as an “acrostic,” in which each new saying begins with a different Hebrew letter, in alphabetical order. This made it easier, in a time before printing made it possible for average people to own copies of the Scriptures, for students and serious worshipers to be able to memorize and recall the psalm’s teachings.
The subject of Psalm 37 is expressed right up front in the first verse:
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers.
- The issue these wise sayings are trying to address is what philosophers and theologians call “The Problem of Evil,” or what we common folk might put more simply as, “How come they get away with it?” Why is it that some of us really try to play by the rules and still suffer from sickness and sorrow, while others seem to cheat, steal and take shortcuts, yet often have an easier life? Whose side is God on, anyhow?
The “wicked” were doing a lot of things that should have brought down God’s judgment:
- The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them. (12)
- The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to kill those who walk uprightly. (14)
- The wicked borrow, and do not pay back. (21)
- The wicked watch for the righteous, and seek to kill them. (32)
- I have seen the wicked oppressing, and towering like a cedar of Lebanon [bullying].(35)
I’m sure this reminds you of some of the injustices you see around you twenty-five hundred years after these words were written. Doesn’t it make you angry? Doesn’t it make you seethe?
Seethe is an interesting way to describe passionate feelings of anger. In cooking, to seethe something means to boil it, and if you are seething with anger, you feel as if your blood is boiling. In the first verse which I discussed above,
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
both verbs, fret and be envious, come from roots that describe something becoming hot. And both are in a Hebrew verb form that implies the feeling is partially self-induced, as if to say, “Don’t get yourself all worked up, all hot and bothered.” The heat of anger is magnified by our concentrating, even fixating on it. We fan the flames from a little spark to a forest fire.
The remedies found in this psalm fall into two categories. First, over and over again we’re assured that the success of the wicked is only apparent:
The Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that their day is coming. (13)
In the end, their judgment will be sure and complete. Of course, “the end” may not come soon enough for us to feel personally satisfied, which can give us more reason to fan our anger flames.
That’s why the second emphasis in this psalm is so important. Essentially, it’s telling us to mind our own business. Stop thinking about the seeming prosperity of the wicked and think about the promises God has give to YOU:
- The Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide forever. (18-19)
- The righteous shall inherit the land, and live in it forever. (29)
- The law of their God is in their hearts; their steps do not slip. (31)
- Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land. (34)
As you focus on these verses, you can feel a gradual calming, your anger at the injustice is cooling off.
The ultimate position of security is described in verse 4:
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
If we get lost in him, his will becomes our will. Then the desires of our hearts are the same as the desires of his heart. Happiness and fulfillment are automatic.
But what about the wicked?
— Pastor George Van Alstine
Special Service This Sunday
We were saddened by our inability to locate family after Robert Jackson’s passing several weeks ago. Because we consider him part of our family, we will be honoring and remembering him together as a special part of our Communion Sunday service this week. Please come and join us.