Today’s reading: Psalms 36-39.
Sometimes the wicked prosper. Job admitted it though his friends denied it. David knew it firsthand, suffering under the wrath of King Saul for years. In our own days, we see the prosperity of those who abuse or disregard the law or ethical behavior. God says, don’t fret about it. I thought that meant not to worry about it, but it actually means don’t get angry. Don’t get riled up. Don’t loose your cool.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Psalm 37:8-11
Let’s compare the wicked and the righteous and see how they fare over time.
Wicked: fade away like the grass – Righteous: they will flourish
Wicked: will be cut off – Righteous: will inherit the land; their children are blessed
Wicked: God laughs at them and prepares to judge them – Righteous: God delights in them
Wicked: their swords will pierce their own heart – Righteous: God protects them
Wicked: may have wealth – Righteous: may only have a little
Wicked: have power – Righteous: have God’s support
Wicked: attack the Righteous – Righteous: find refuge in God
Wicked: take from others – Righteous: give generously
Wicked: have no future – Righteous: future is guaranteed by God
The wicked are on their own. They may prosper briefly in human terms, but they have no eternal staying power. Their days are numbered, and God opposes them. God supports the righteous. Their time on earth will be blessed in spite of trials they may suffer, and they have an eternal reward waiting for them. Since this is true, we can commit our way to the LORD like the psalmist, trusting in him and knowing that he will give us the ultimate victory.
This psalm presents a good opportunity to talk about promises and principles in God’s word. A promise is a guarantee. God will always keep his promise. A principle is an idea that guides behavior or that explains behavior that we observe. Psalm 37 promises that if we delight in the LORD he will give us the desires of our heart (if God is our delight he will also be our desire). Psalm 37 observes that the righteous have not gone begging for bread, illustrating the principle that God provides for his people (but not promising that they will never experience hunger). We will see more promises and principles in the book of Proverbs. For now, let’s thank God for his promise to give us a future that will not be cut off, and for his promise that he will be our support against the wicked.
Image by Denis Dervisevic on Flickr, CC by 2.o.