Read: Psalm 37:1 – 2; 7b; 8 – 22; 35 – 36, 38; Psalm 24:19
Psalm 37 is a natural sequel to Psalm 36, which concluded with David’s prayer for God to deliver him from the arrogant and wicked (Psalm 36:11). The title of Psalm 37, which is simply “To David,” may be understood to mean the Psalm is the Holy Spirit’s answer to David’s prayer in Psalm 36:11. That the warning in the psalm to not fret (the Hebrew word translated “fret” means literally to burn with anger) over evildoers had to be given even to a godly man like David reminds us we are all vulnerable to the temptation to this type of anger and envy. Psalm 37 is an “acrostic” psalm, each section beginning with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Think About It: Ample reasons are supplied in Psalm 37 as to why the evildoers need not be envied, beginning with the very temporary nature of their flourishing referred to in v. 2. Verses 7b; 8 – 22; 35 – 36, 38 spell out in detail the fate of the wicked. What reasons are supplied in these verses that can help me not to burn with anger at evildoers?
Prayer: Lord, help me to keep in mind the ultimate fate of wrongdoers, and to pray for them to be granted the repentance that leads to life.
Read: Psalm 37:3; Psalm 115:9 – 11; Proverbs 3:5 – 6; Ezekiel 34:13 – 14; John 10:9
Psalm 37 continues with a list of imperatives meant to guide David and any godly person through the perils of this wicked world. The imperatives of v. 3 are these: trust in the Lord; do good; dwell in the land; befriend faithfulness. The imperatives to trust in the Lord and do good are found in countless places throughout Scripture. The Gospel itself is an open invitation to trust in God, that trust being imperative for salvation. The image of dwelling in the land is significant in light of God’s covenant with the patriarchs. God promised ownership of the land to Abraham and his descendants unconditionally (Genesis 17:8 “forever”); however the privilege of dwelling in the land was conditional upon obedience (Deuteronomy 28:58 – 63). The imperative to “dwell in the land” is therefore the imperative to be obedient to God’s will not with the obedience of dead legalism, but with the obedience that springs from love (Deuteronomy 6:5). Whereas the covenant with the patriarchs involved unconditional ownership of land and conditional occupation of real estate, the New Covenant we enjoy in Christ involves spiritual territory (Ephesians 1:3). We have unconditional promises, especially the promise of salvation. But our progress in sanctification is conditional upon our obedience and equipping (Ephesians 4:11-13), and our fruitfulness is conditional upon our abiding in Jesus (John 15:1-11).
The imperative to “befriend faithfulness” means “to tend faithfulness like a shepherd.” Faithfulness requires careful, constant watchfulness (Matthew 26:41) because we have a tendency to wander away (Isaiah 53:6).
Think About It: Am I enjoying the spiritual blessings that are mine in Christ to their fullest extent – and if not, why not? (The problem isn’t that God hasn’t provided them!). Am I tending to faithfulness in my Christian life like a shepherd tends the sheep, with constant, careful watchfulness? Or have I been losing track of spiritual things? What do I need to work on, starting now?
Prayer: Lord, strengthen me to watch and pray; help me to keep it together.
Read: Psalm 37:4; Nehemiah 8:10; Isaiah 58:14; Philippians 3:1, 4:4; Matthew 6:33; 7:7 – 11
The best known imperative in Psalm 37 is found in v. 4: delight yourself in the Lord. The Jerusalem Bible, a Roman Catholic translation published in the late 1960’s, translated this verse something like this: “Make the Lord your only joy, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It would be a tragic misinterpretation of this imperative and its promise to think that in it we have discovered the secret of getting fulfillment of every selfish want. Spurgeon observed that Psalm 37:4 is an imperative to not set our hearts on earthly things. If we set our hearts on the Lord, and find our only joy in him, He will place righteous desires in our hearts. When He purifies our desires so that we want what He wants, He withholds nothing from us.
Think About It: What are my heart’s desires? What needs to change in my heart?
Prayer: Lord, help me to be able to truly say, “All my springs of joy are in You.”
Read: Psalm 37:5 – 6; Proverbs 16:3; 1 Peter 5:6 – 7
The imperative of Psalm 37:5 is “Commit your way to the Lord.” The Hebrew word for “commit” comes from a root word meaning to “roll” or “roll down,” and one interesting possible translation would be to “lie wallowing.” The Lord invites us in this verse to take all of our ways, all of our responsibilities, all of our anxieties, all of our plans, all of our opportunities, and roll them on to Him – and then to lie down and just wallow in Him. His promise, if we will do this, is that He will act, and what He will do is spelled out in 37:6: He will vindicate us, He will bring righteousness forth for us, He will bring everything good into the light.
Think About It: Am I hanging on to any anxieties, concerns, plans, or responsibilities that I need to roll on to God? Am I ready to let go and just leave it all to Him?
Prayer: Lord, I cast all of my cares upon You; You are in charge.
Read: Psalm 37:7; 34a; 46:10; Isaiah 30:14; 38:13; Lamentations 3:26; Habakkuk 3:16; Romans 8:25
The imperative of Psalm 37:7 and 34a is to be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. One classic example of failure to wait for the Lord was Abraham and Sarah’s decision to produce the promised child through Sarah’s handmaid Hagar. Another example was Saul’s impatience when Samuel did not come at the appointed time and the troops were scattering; Saul said he “forced himself” and offered sacrifice, which was Samuel’s prerogative.
Think About It: Why was it difficult for Abraham, Sarah, and Saul to wait patiently for the Lord? Do I expect God to meet the requirements of my plans and schedules, or am I willing to adapt myself to His plans and schedules? What am I waiting on right now?
Prayer: Lord, please grant me the wisdom to be still and wait patiently for You.
Read: Psalm 37:27; 34:14; Proverbs 3:7; 13:9; 14:16; 16:6; 1 Peter 3:11
The imperative of Psalm 37:27 is to “turn away from evil and do good.” Job 28:28 defines “understanding” – along with wisdom and knowledge one of the three key virtues in Old Testament wisdom literature – as “turning away from evil.” The Lord Himself twice described righteous Job as a man who “turns away from evil” (Job 1:8, 2:3). Psalm 37:27 repeats the same imperative given in Psalm 34:14, both references adding the positive step of “doing good” to the negative one of “turning away from evil.” This imperative is a paradigm of the beginning and the continuing of life in Christ, which requires repentance, which is turning around from going our way and instead going God’s way. The promise of Psalm 37:27 to those who turn away from evil and do good uses the image of “dwelling” first referenced Psalm 37:3. God will bless those who turn away from evil and do good with the possession of spiritual blessings.
Think About It: Is there any evil in my life, or that I have found in my path, that I need to turn away from? Why is it important to add the positive step of “doing good” to the negative step of “turning away from evil”?
Prayer: For the grace to turn away from evil and do good.
Read: Psalm 37:22 – 40
Psalm 37:22 – 40 contains a catalogue of the blessings that are in store for those who will walk with God. Psalm 37 provides imperatives and rich incentives to follow those imperatives. This same section contains many verses that describe what the righteous person is like.
Think About It: What blessings does God have in store for those who follow His imperatives? What does the righteousness look like, according to Psalm 37:22 – 40? What do I need to do be more like the righteous person described in Psalm 37?
Prayer: Lord, please strengthen me to seize the blessings of obedience.