Psalm 37

Of David.

1 Do not fret because of the wicked;
   do not be envious of wrongdoers, 
2 for they will soon fade like the grass,
   and wither like the green herb. 

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
   so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 
4 Take delight in the Lord,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
   trust in him, and he will act. 
6 He will make your vindication shine like the light,
   and the justice of your cause like the noonday. 

7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
   do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
   over those who carry out evil devices. 

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
   Do not fret—it leads only to evil. 
9 For the wicked shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. 

10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
   though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. 
11 But the meek shall inherit the land,
   and delight in abundant prosperity. 

12 The wicked plot against the righteous,
   and gnash their teeth at them; 
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
   for he sees that their day is coming. 

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
   to bring down the poor and needy,
   to kill those who walk uprightly; 
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
   and their bows shall be broken. 

16 Better is a little that the righteous person has
   than the abundance of many wicked. 
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
   but the Lord upholds the righteous. 

18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
   and their heritage will abide for ever; 
19 they are not put to shame in evil times,
   in the days of famine they have abundance. 

20 But the wicked perish,
   and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
   they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. 

21 The wicked borrow, and do not pay back,
   but the righteous are generous and keep giving; 
22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
   but those cursed by him shall be cut off. 

23 Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
   when he delights in our way; 
24 though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
   for the Lord holds us by the hand. 

25 I have been young, and now am old,
   yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
   or their children begging bread. 
26 They are ever giving liberally and lending,
   and their children become a blessing. 

27 Depart from evil, and do good;
   so you shall abide for ever. 
28 For the Lord loves justice;
   he will not forsake his faithful ones. 

The righteous shall be kept safe for ever,
   but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. 
29 The righteous shall inherit the land,
   and live in it for ever. 

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
   and their tongues speak justice. 
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
   their steps do not slip. 

32 The wicked watch for the righteous,
   and seek to kill them. 
33 The Lord will not abandon them to their power,
   or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial. 

34 Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,
   and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
   you will look on the destruction of the wicked. 

35 I have seen the wicked oppressing,
   and towering like a cedar of Lebanon. 
36 Again I passed by, and they were no more;
   though I sought them, they could not be found. 

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

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

Why this Psalm?

Daily email from a friend and colleague brings me the latest horror stories about Covid vaccines, empty shelves in grocery stores, the immigration crisis, violence in the streets, the collapsing monetary system. and the Woke Church. He and I keep a close watch on Israel and the Middle East, for sure. I do like to keep well informed.

But God's point of view has a very calming effect. Last week I sent my friend Psalm 39. He liked it immediately. I don't want him to die early from stage fright or stress. This Psalm is not about hiding under the covers at night, nor going bonkers from emotional overload. Yes, we are in the "last days" and the consummation of all things.

I find a calm serenity here in Psalm 37. Psalm 73 has a similar theme,

When I thought how to understand this,
   it seemed to me a wearisome task, 
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
   then I perceived their end. 
Truly you set them in slippery places;
   you make them fall to ruin. 
How they are destroyed in a moment,
   swept away utterly by terrors! 
They are like a dream when one awakes;
   on awaking you despise their phantoms. (Psalm 73:16-20)

Psalm 37 is the 37th psalm of the Book of Psalms. It has the form of an acrostic Hebrew poem, and is thought to have been written by David in his old age. In the slightly different numbering system used in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translations of the Bible, this psalm is Psalm 36.

Psalm 37 is a response to the problem of evil, which the Old Testament often expresses as a question: why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer? In the New American Bible, Revised Edition, published by the Catholic Church in the USA, the psalm answers that this situation is only temporary: God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth. This interpretation is shared by Protestants. Matthew Henry calls it David's call to patience and confidence in God by the state of the godly and the wicked. Charles Spurgeon calls it "the great riddle of the prosperity of the wicked and the affliction of the righteous".

It is written as an acrostic and divided into discrete sections. Each section ends with God's resolution of the question/

The psalm has also been understood as a prayer of the persecuted who has taken refuge in the temple or figuratively of refuge in God. The psalm concludes with a plea to God for those who honor him, to bless them with his justice and to protect them from the snares of the wicked.

The theme of inheriting the land reoccurs five times in this Psalm (in verses 9, 11, 22, 29 and 34). Prior to this in Psalm 25:13 the rich as also said to inherit the land as well. Albert Barnes also compares the wicked being cut off in psalm 37:2 and 10 with the wicked being cut off in Psalm 73:27. (Wikipedia)

From Thomas Constable

This psalm is simply titled A Psalm of DavidPsalm 37:25 tells us that it is David in his older years, giving wisdom in the pattern of a song. This psalm is roughly acrostic in arrangement, with the lines arranged with Hebrew sentences that begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In style this is a wisdom psalm, directed not to God but to man, teaching after the manner of the Book of Proverbs.

A. Counsel for the afflicted people of God.

1. (1-2) Don’t worry about the ungodly.

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

a. Do not fret because of evildoers: It is a common thing for the righteous to fret or be envious of the wicked. Asaph was bothered by this problem in Psalm 73, wondering why the wicked often experienced so much prosperity.

i. “The words ‘do not fret’ literally mean ‘do not get heated,’ which is also how we might express it. Or we might say, ‘Don’t get all worked up.’ Or even, ‘Be cool.’” (Boice)

ii. “To fret is to worry, to have the heart-burn, to fume, to become vexed. Nature is very apt to kindle a fire of jealousy when it sees law-breakers riding on horses, and obedient subjects walking in the mire.” (Spurgeon)

iii. Morgan wrote of this worry, this fret: “It is wrong; it is harmful; it is needless. Let the trusting wait. Events will justify the action.”

iv. “It is as foolish as it is wicked to repine or be envious at the prosperity of others. Whether they are godly or ungodly, it is God who is the dispenser of the bounty they enjoy; and, most assuredly, he has a right to do what he will with his own. To be envious in such a case, is to arraign the providence of God.” (Clarke)

b. They shall soon be cut down like the grass: David gives the same answer Asaph came to in Psalm 73, understanding that any prosperity experienced by the workers of iniquity was only temporary. Grass is green for a season, and so is the herb – but they both wither quickly.

i. “In the Middle East the lush spring vegetation may lose its beauty in a few days after a hot, dry desert wind (hamsin) has parched the land.” (VanGemeren)

ii. We think of a wicked man eating a magnificent dinner while a godly man goes hungry. The wicked man eats anything and everything he wants, and his table is loaded as he enjoys his meal. Then we see the bigger picture: he eats his last meal on death row and in a moment will face terrible judgment. Now, with larger perspective, the godly man doesn’t envy or worry about the wicked man. “Evil men instead of being envied, are to be viewed with horror and aversion; yet their loaded tables, and gilded trappings, are too apt to fascinate our poor half-opened eyes.” (Spurgeon)

iii. “The test is found in Time. All the apparent prosperity of the wicked is transient; it passes and perishes, as do the wicked themselves.” (Morgan)

2. (3-4) Put your trust and delight in the LORD.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

a. Trust in the LORD, and do good: Instead of worrying and envying, David counseled the man or woman of God to simply trust God and do good for His glory. It is remarkable how quickly we can get distracted from the simple work of trusting God and doing good. Looking at the seeming prosperity of the wicked is one way we are often distracted.

i. “Faith cures fretting. Sight is cross-eyed, and views things only as they seem, hence her envy; faith has clearer optics to behold things as they really are, hence her peace.” (Spurgeon)

b. Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness: David also counseled the man or woman of God to leave aside worry and envy by simply enjoying the blessings God gives. He provided Israel a land to enjoy, and His faithfulness was like food for them every day.

c. Delight yourself also in the LORD: David advised the man or woman of God to replace worry and envy with a conscious delight in the LORD. This means to cheer one’s heart and mind by considering and by faith receiving the multiple blessings of God.

i. Delight yourself: Several writers explain and apply this idea.

· “Expect all thy happiness from him, and seek it in him.” (Clarke)

· “It includes a deliberate redirection of one’s emotions…[such as] Paul and Silas in prison, singing as well as praying.” (Kidner)

· “We cannot delight thus without effort. We must withdraw our eager desires from the things of earth, fastening and fixing them on Him.” (Meyer)

· “In a certain sense imitate the wicked; they delight in their portion – take care to delight in yours, and so far from envying you will pity them.” (Spurgeon)

· “The reason many apparent Christians do not delight in God is that they do not know him very well, and the reason they do not know him very well is that they do not spend time with him.” (Boice)

ii. “Do not think first of the desires of thy heart, but think first of delighting thyself in thy God. If thou hast accepted him as thy Lord, he is thine; so delight in him, and then he will give thee the desires of thy heart.” (Spurgeon)

iii. We notice that David wrote delight yourself also in the LORD. The word also is important, reminding us that there are legitimate joys and pleasures in life outside the life of the spirit. The believer who truly trusts God has the capability to also find true delight in the LORD.

iv. “Again, he delights in you; I speak to such of whom this may be supposed. And it is indefinitely said, ‘His delights were with the sons of men,’ Proverbs 8:31. Think what he is, and what you are; and at once, both wonder and yield.” (Howe, cited in Spurgeon)

d. And He shall give you the desires of your heart: This is a wonderful and even safe promise. The one who truly delights in the LORD will find his heart and desires changed, steadily aligning with God’s own good desires for his life. Thus we see that finding delight in God is a key to a happy, satisfied life.

i. This shows that God intends to fulfill the heart desires of the redeemed man or woman of God. To be sure, it is possible for such desires to be clouded by sin or selfishness; yet even when so clouded there is almost always a godly root to the desire that is entirely in the will of God. The man or woman of God should find his or her rest in this, and leave aside worry and envy.

ii. “They said of Martin Luther as he walked the streets, ‘There comes a man that can have anything of God he likes.’ You ask the reason of it. Because Luther delighted himself in his God.” (Spurgeon)

iii. The principle of Psalm 37:4 is the foundation for a principle sometimes called Christian Hedonism. Normally, we think of hedonism as the idolatry of pleasure. The term Christian Hedonism has been used to describe a righteous pursuit of satisfaction and pleasure, one that is rooted in a delighted focus upon God.

iv. Most of all, it shows that when we delight ourselves in the LORD, He gives us our delight. If He is our delight, He gives us more of Himself. “Longings fixed on Him fulfill themselves.” (Maclaren)

3. (5-6) Trust God to protect and promote you.

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.

a. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him: Here David explained what it means to delight one’s self in the LORD, as described in the previous verse. It means to commit one’s way to Him and to truly trust in the LORD. It means to find peace, protection, and satisfaction in a surrendered focus upon God.

i. Commit your way: “The Hebrew for commit is literally ‘roll’, as though getting rid of a burden (cf. Joshua 5:9). But it comes to be used simply as a synonym for ‘entrust’ (Proverbs 16:3) or ‘trust’; cf. Psalm 22:8.” (Kidner)

b. And He shall bring it to pass: The one who has this delighted focus upon God will see Him bring these promises to pass. Fame and fortune are not promised, but the true and deep desires of the heart find their fulfillment.

i. “The more we fret in this case, the worse for us. Our strength is to sit still. The Lord will clear the slandered. If we look to his honour, he will see to ours.” (Spurgeon)

c. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light: As God fulfills these desires of heart, the righteousness of the man or woman of God is revealed, shining forth in light like the noonday sun.

i. He shall bring forth your righteousness: “To the view of the world; from which it hath hitherto seemed to be hid or eclipsed by reproaches, and by grievous calamities.” (Poole)

ii. As the light: “It shall be as visible to men as the light of the sun, and that at noon-day.” (Poole)

iii. “As God said in the beginning, ‘Let there be light, and there was light;’ so he shall say, Let thy innocence appear, and it will appear as suddenly and as evident as the light was at the beginning.” (Clarke)

4. (7-8) Find rest in the God who deals with the wicked.

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.

a. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him: Because God has promised to faithfully take care of those who put their trust in Him, we can rest in the LORD. We can wait patiently for Him instead of fretting and fearing that God has forgotten us or intends evil for us.

i. Rest in the LORD speaks of a particular kind of rest – the rest of silence, ceasing from words of self-defense. The idea is that we will not speak to vindicate ourselves; we will trust in God to protect us.

ii. “Do not murmur or repine at his dealings, but silently and quietly submit to his will, and adore his judgments, and, as follows, wait for his help.” (Poole)

iii. “If the spotless Lamb of God was silent, before those who were divesting him of his honours, and robbing him of his life, ‘silent’ resignation cannot but become one who suffers for his sins.” (Horne)

b. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm: David wisely advised the man or woman of God to give up angerwrath, and worry (fret). They accomplish nothing except harm. They are the opposite of delighting oneself in the LORD and patiently waiting upon Him.

i. Cease from anger: “Especially anger against the arrangements of Providence, and jealousies of the temporary pleasures of those who are so soon to be banished from all comfort. Anger anywhere is madness, here it is aggravated insanity.” (Spurgeon)

5. (9-11) Trust that God will punish evildoers and reward the meek.

For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.
But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

a. Those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth: This is another reason for our delight in and rest upon the LORD. We can trust His promise that He will take care of His own not only in this world, but in the world to come. In contrast, evildoers shall be cut off.

i. “I have frequently remarked to you that, although the wolf is very strong and fierce, and the sheep is very weak and timid, yet there are more sheep in the world than there are wolves; and the day will come when the last wolf will be dead, and then the sheep shall cover the plains and feed upon the hills. Weak as the righteous often are, they ‘shall inherit the land’ when the wicked shall have been cut off from the earth.” (Spurgeon)

b. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more: The evildoers have their day of prosperity, but it is short-lived. Soon the wicked who are the famous and praised in this world will be of no notice or standing at all (you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more).

i. “The shortness of life makes us see that the glitter of the wicked great [ones] is not true gold.” (Spurgeon)

ii. “The whole duration of the world itself is but ‘a little while’ in the sight of him whose hope is full of immortality.” (Horne)

c. But the meek shall inherit the earth: For emphasis, David repeated the idea of God’s care for and reward to the meek. They, not the evildoers of this world, shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

i. “The ‘meek’ are they who bear their own adversities, and the prosperity of their enemies, without envy, anger, or complaint.” (Horne)

ii. “The context gives the best possible definition of the meek: they are those who choose the way of patient faith instead of self-assertion.” (Kidner)

iii. The meek shall inherit the earth: Jesus quoted this line in the Sermon on the Mount, in the third beatitude (Matthew 5:5). “It is right to say that Psalm 37 is an exposition of the third beatitude, even though it was written a thousand years before Jesus began his public ministry. It unfolds the character of the meek or trusting person in the face of the apparent prosperity of the wicked.” (Boice)

B. The triumph of the godly and the passing of the wicked.

1. (12-15) With a laugh, God defeats the wicked.

The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.
The wicked have drawn the sword
And have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
Their sword shall enter their own heart,
And their bows shall be broken.

a. The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth: Earlier in this psalm, David contrasted the fate of the righteous with the fate of the wicked. Now he considered the inevitable conflict between the righteous and the wicked – how, without reason, the wicked plots against the just. Their gnashing of teeth shows the depth of their anger and hatred.

i. “The wicked show by their gestures what they would do if they could; if they cannot gnaw they will gnash: if they may not bite they will at least bark.” (Spurgeon)

b. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming: For all the plotting and gnashing of teeth of the wicked, they accomplish nothing against the Lord and His people. God simply laughs at them, knowing their end.

i. “If God can laugh at the wicked, shouldn’t we be able at least to refrain from being agitated by them?” (Boice)

ii. For He sees that his day is coming: “The evil man does not see how close his destruction is upon his heels; he boasts of crushing others when the foot of justice is already uplifted to trample him as the mire of the streets.” (Spurgeon)

c. The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow: The wicked plot and gnash their teeth, but they do not stop there. They work to carry out their plots and their fierce anger against God’s people. Even so, God shall protect His own and their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

i. “Like Haman they shall be hanged upon the gallows built by themselves for Mordecai. Hundreds of times has this been the case. Saul, who sought to slay David, fell on his own sword.” (Spurgeon)

2. (16-17) God’s blessing upon the humble righteous.

A little that a righteous man has
Is better than the riches of many wicked.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But the LORD upholds the righteous.

a. A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked: Since whatever the wicked has cannot last, the little that the righteous man has is better than all that the wicked possess. A God-trusting, righteous life is the best long-term investment strategy.

i. “His blessing can multiply a mite into a talent, but his curse will shrink a talent to a mite.” (Horne)

ii. “A little blest is better than a great deal curst; a little blest is better than a world enjoyed; a pound blest is better than a thousand curst; a black crust blest is better than a feast curst; the gleanings blest are better than the whole harvest curst; a drop of mercy blest is better than a sea of mercy curst.” (Brooks, cited in Spurgeon)

b. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous: The reward of the wicked is to have their own arms broken. The reward of the righteous is to be upheld by God’s own arms.

3. (18-20) The lasting good of the upright.

The LORD knows the days of the upright,
And their inheritance shall be forever.
They shall not be ashamed in the evil time,
And in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
But the wicked shall perish;
And the enemies of the LORD,
Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish.
Into smoke they shall vanish away.

a. The LORD knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever: The apparent reward of the wicked is temporary and fleeting. The inheritance of the upright is eternal. All this is more reason to avoid worry or envy of the wicked in their seeming (yet temporary) prosperity.

i. For the LORD knows the days of the upright: “He is acquainted with all his circumstances, severings, and ability to bear them; and he will either shorten his trials or increase his power.” (Clarke)

b. In the days of famine they shall be satisfied: God can even find a way to provide for His own when others have nothing.

c. Into smoke they shall vanish away: The success, fame, and prosperity of the wicked is as temporary as smoke. It never has any real substance and soon vanishes completely.

i. Into smoke they shall vanish away: Adam Clarke noted that some ancient manuscripts render this line differently. “If we follow the Hebrew, it intimates that they shall consume as the fat of lambs. That is, as the fat is wholly consumed in sacrifices by the fire on the altar, so shall they consume away in the fire of God’s wrath.”

4. (21-22) Blessing and cursing.

The wicked borrows and does not repay,
But the righteous shows mercy and gives.
For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth,
But those cursed by Him shall be cut off.

a. The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives: David knew that the difference between the wicked and the righteous was not only found in what they believed and in whom they trusted. The difference was also often seen in their conduct. The wicked are takers, borrowing and not repaying. The righteous are givers, full of mercy.

i. Does not repay: “May refuse to do it, because he is a wicked man; or be unable to do it, because he is reduced to beggary.” (Clarke)

b. Those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth: The promise of earth-inheritance is repeated a third time. This is a blessing for the righteous, while the wicked find themselves cursed by the LORD and cut off.

5. (23-24) God’s guidance and support for the good man.

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.

a. The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: The reward for the righteous is not only in the age to come. In the present day, God guides the steps of a good man. As he seeks the LORD and delights in Him, he finds his life proves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).

i. The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: “There is nothing for good in the text. Geber is the original word, and it properly signifies a strong man, a conqueror or hero; and it appears to be used here to show, that even the most powerful must be supported by the Lord, otherwise their strength and courage will be of little avail.” (Clarke)

ii. “This was emphatically true of the man Christ, whose steps Jehovah established, and in whose way he delighted.” (Horne)

b. And He delights in his way: Another great and present benefit for the righteous man or woman is the knowledge that God delights in him. This is especially clear for the believer under the New Covenant who knows and experiences a standing in grace, having been justified by faith (Romans 5:1-2).

c. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand: David described a third great benefit for the righteous man or woman who trusts in the LORD. Though he may at times fall (in the sense of stumbling), he will not fall away – that is, shall not be utterly cast down. This is not because of his own internal strength or goodness, but because the LORD upholds him.

C. Wisdom from a man after God’s heart.

1. (25-26) A testimony of God’s blessing and care for the righteous.

I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread.
He is ever merciful, and lends;
And his descendants are blessed.

a. I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread: David gave a testimony from his own experience. He noted that God cared for those who trusted in Him and walked in His righteousness. They were not forsaken and their descendants were also blessed.

i. This was David’s testimony after many years (I have been young, and now am old). Seeing God’s faithfulness to His people, David wanted a younger generation to also trust in Him, learning from his wisdom.

ii. David knew that among his ancestors were some who left Israel, fearful in a time of famine (Ruth 1). When they returned after several disastrous years in Moab, they found the people of Bethlehem had been provided for. God knew how to take care of those who trusted in Him in times of famine, and has done so since then.

iii. One way that God provides for the righteous and their descendants is through the ethic of hard work that belongs to the redeemed, who know that all things should be done heartily, as unto the LORD – including working for a living.

b. I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread: This statement is troublesome to some, because they have seen or experienced instances where godly men or women – or their offspring – have been in famine, extreme poverty, or reduced to begging.

i. We first note that this psalm is a wisdom psalm, very much like Proverbs. In the Bible’s wisdom literature, general principles are often presented in the absolute when they are intended to be understood as general or even overwhelming principles – understanding that there can be exceptions.

ii. We also note that David simply wrote of his experience. He did not write that this was an absolute principle, but his own observation.

iii. Some, like Adam Clarke, had the same experience and observation: “I believe this to be literally true in all cases. I am now grey-headed myself; I have traveled in different countries, and have had many opportunities of seeing and conversing with religious people in all situations in life; and I have not, to my knowledge, seen one instance to the contrary. I have seen no righteous man forsaken, nor any children of the righteous begging their bread. God puts this honour upon all that fear him; and thus careful is he of them, and of their posterity.”

iv. Others, like Charles Spurgeon, did not have the same experience and observation: “It is not my observation just as it stands, for I have relieved the children of undoubtedly good men, who have appealed to me as common [beggars]. But this does not cast a doubt upon the observation of David.”

v. “And it has been my unhappy lot, within these very walls, to have to minister relief to the unworthy and reprobate sons of Christian ministers, about whose piety I could entertain no doubt, and some of whom, are now in heaven. These good men’s children have walked contrary to God, so God has walked contrary to them. I have often hoped that the poverty I saw might be the means of bringing them to seek the God of their fathers!” (Spurgeon)

vi. “With the more complex civilization in the midst of which we live, perhaps sometimes the righteous have been driven to beg, but even now such cases are surely rare, and after some varied experience I would want to subject him who begs to somewhat severe cross-examination before accepting his testimony against the psalmist.” (Morgan)

c. He is ever merciful, and lends: In times of scarcity, the righteous one not only receives God’s provision, but with a generous and merciful heart he lends to others in need.

i. “How stingy, covetous professors can hope for salvation is a marvel to those who read such verses as this in the Bible.” (Spurgeon)

2. (27-29) The promised reward for obedience.

Depart from evil, and do good;
And dwell forevermore.
For the LORD loves justice,
And does not forsake His saints;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land,
And dwell in it forever.

a. Depart from evil, and do good: The righteous man or woman trusts in God, but also receives and values moral instruction. God’s care for him does not make him careless, but careful in pleasing Him.

i. This line also speaks to the righteous man or woman in the heat of difficulty. “A conflict with evil too often tempts one to fight the enemy with his own weapons.” (Kidner)

ii. “Having therefore these glorious promises and privileges, let no man do any evil or unjust thing to enrich or secure himself, nor abstain from pious and charitable actions for fear of undoing himself by them.” (Poole)

b. For the LORD loves justice, and does not forsake His saints: Since God loves justice, so should His people. He is faithful to them and does not forsake them, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.

i. The descendants of the wicked shall be cut off: “The children who follow the wicked steps of wicked parents shall, like their parents, be cut off. God’s judgments descend to posterity, as well as his mercies.” (Clarke)

c. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever: Once again in this psalm, David described the blessing appointed to the righteous in the coming age. They would find a secure place and inheritance in the world to come.

i. The saints shall one day have power over all things; and meanwhile they are sure of a sufficiency, if not a superfluity.” (Trapp)

3. (30-31) The character of God’s righteous one.

The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom,
And his tongue talks of justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
None of his steps shall slide.

a. The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom: David again turns to the conduct of God’s righteous man or woman, noted for their wise and just words.

b. The law of his God is in his heart: The righteous man (or woman) is also noted by his possession of and love for the word of God. In a way that would be truly fulfilled by the New Covenant, he has the word of God in his heart (Jeremiah 31:33). Because of this knowledge of and reliance upon God’s word, none of his steps shall slide.

i. “He hath a Bible in his head and another in his heart.” (Trapp)

4. (32-33) The character and the response of the wicked.

The wicked watches the righteous,
And seeks to slay him.
The LORD will not leave him in his hand,
Nor condemn him when he is judged.

a. The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him: In considering the remarkable blessings God has appointed to the righteous, David did not think it meant life would be easy. One danger continually faced was from the wicked who hated the righteous without cause.

i. “There want not those still that carry about Cain’s bloody club, hating to the death that goodness in another that they neglect in themselves.” (Trapp)

b. The LORD will not leave him in his hand: Thankfully, the righteous man or woman is not at the mercy of the wicked. God will protect him, particularly in the ultimate judgment (nor condemn him when he is judged).

i. “And the day is coming, when he who hath stood tamely at the bar of men, and hath suffered for truth and righteousness, shall be advanced to a throne among the saints and martyrs, to assist at the trial of his once-insulting judges.” (Horne)

5. (34-36) An exhortation to trust, based on testimony.

Wait on the LORD,
And keep His way,
And He shall exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.
I have seen the wicked in great power,
And spreading himself like a native green tree.
Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.

a. Wait on the LORD, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land: For the fifth time in this psalm, David promised the people of God that they would inherit the land. As king of Israel, David had a concern for their territory, but he could also extend that thought to the age to come. God’s people have their place, even a land of some sort in the coming age.

I, Wait on the LORD: “Wait in obedience as a servant, in hope as an heir, in expectation as a believer.” (Spurgeon)

ii. Wait on the LORD, and keep His way: “While we are waiting let us take heed of wavering.” (Watson, cited in Spurgeon)

b. When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it: For the fifth time in this psalm, David promised that the wicked would be cut off or cut down in some sense. Their coming doom was just as certain as the coming blessing and security of the righteous.

i. David used a green tree as a picture of the wicked in their prosperity. Psalm 1 uses a flourishing tree as a picture of the righteous. “Here it is used in reverse, the wicked being compared to a green tree which flourishes for a time but soon passes away and is seen no more.” (Boice)

c. I have seen the wicked in great power: David once again relied on his personal experience and testimony. He had seen wicked people rise to great security and success, only to have passed away and to have become no more.

i. Behold, he was no more: “What clean sweeps death makes! To the surprise of all men the great man was gone, his estates sold, his business bankrupt, his house alienated, his name forgotten, and all in a few months!” (Spurgeon)

6. (37-38) An invitation to gain the same testimony.

Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright;
For the future of that man is peace.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together;
The future of the wicked shall be cut off.

a. Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright: The righteous men and women of this world get little attention. The culture is more interested in the godless and the wicked. Yet David counseled us to notice the blameless and the upright of this world, because the future of that man is peace.

b. The future of the wicked shall be cut off: For the sixth and final time in this psalm, David reminds us that the future of the wicked is no future to be desired.

i. “There is nothing unworthy in solemn thankfulness when God’s judgments break the teeth of some devouring lion.” (Maclaren)

7. (39-40) The reliable help and deliverance of the LORD.

But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in the time of trouble.
And the LORD shall help them and deliver them;
He shall deliver them from the wicked,
And save them,
Because they trust in Him.

a. The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD: This is a helpful thought at the end of this psalm. In David’s praise and encouragement of righteous men or women, it is possible that one might think those ones are saved by their own righteousness. David reminds us that their salvation is from the LORD, and that He is their strength in the time of trouble.

i. He is their strength in the time of trouble: “While trouble overthrows the wicked, it only drives the righteous to their strong Helper, who rejoices to uphold them.” (Spurgeon)

b. He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him: David brings the thought back to the fundamental trust that the righteous have in God. Their place in Him is secured in their trusting love of the LORD.

(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik –

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January 24, 2022

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