Psalm 37 — Trust in the Lord and Do Good

37 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.

10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.

11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

12 The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.

13 The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.

14 The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.

15 Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

16 A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.

17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous.

18 The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.

19 They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.

20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.

22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.

24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.

27 Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.

28 For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

29 The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.

30 The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.

31 The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

32 The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.

33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.

34 Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

35 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.

36 Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.

40 And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.

When the wicked do evil there is an invitation for others to join or support the schemes, which appear to prosper the ungodly in this world. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, the pressure was there for conformity. When Daniel openly prayed to YHWH three times a day, he was resisting emperor worship. When David had Saul in his clutches, twice he resisted the encouragement of his men to kill the Lord’s anointed. Satan offered the world to Jesus if he would simply bow and worship him.

Psalm 37 is an instructional wisdom Psalm. King David was an old man (v. 25), who had something to teach the younger generations of Israel. He had lived seventy years in a world plagued by evil and wrongdoers. He knew the temptations of his people to forsake the way of God for the way of evil (repeated often during the period of the Judges). Jesus said that dark way of evil was wide and many traveled it. An acrostic, a teaching device is used in this Psalm. About every fourth Hebrew line displays a letter in the Hebrew alphabet in succession. This is the fourth and final acrostic and second longest Psalm in Book I (Psalms 1–41).

Psalm 37 is filled with proverbs. These are pithy statements of general wisdom. Many of them are reflected in the book of Proverbs. Jesus, Paul, and Peter all draw from this Psalm. For our purposes, the structure will follow this pattern: I. (vv. 1–11) Imperative for God’s people to trust YHWH; II. (vv. 12–20) Problem for God’s people from wicked plots; III. (vv. 21–31) Provision for God’s people in the midst of wicked prosperity; IV. (vv. 32–40) Protection for God’s people because YHWH delivers them. The righteous pursuit of the way of God and resistance of temptation to join evil is the subject of the Psalm. The message is for the godly man to take refuge in the land of promise and wait for YHWH’s deliverance. The promise of protection and provision, while waiting, requires faith in the present and hope for the future.

King David of Israel is the author, A Psalm of David. He wrote this Psalm about 970 B.C.

David taught the righteous not to be disturbed by the ungodly (v. 1). Envy is a powerful emotion of temptation to do wrong. When a Christian takes his eyes off Jesus and puts them on the world, he is distracted by the god-less gains of evildoers. The rest of the Psalm offers David’s argument for trusting in the Lord and doing good.

David used two similes to express the temporary state of the wicked (v. 2). Vegetation in the Middle East receives a brief period of rain, it blooms, and then quickly fades. Christians have seen no end to evil throughout history because of the posterity of the wicked, so every generation witnesses its own tyrants. The point is that today’s wrongdoer will soon be gone (and replaced).

David emphasized the covenant idea of Israel remaining in the land of promise (v. 3). Deuteronomy 27–28 taught the law of blessing and curse. Israel would be blessed for obedience and cursed for disobedience. Covenant obedience included remaining in the land of promise. To trust in the Lord meant Israel must dwell in the land. The imperative to stay and cultivate faithfulness was to resist the temptation to depart into pagan lands where worldly prosperity seemed easier to attain (near the Nile or Euphrates rivers). In Christ, our blessing is found. The temptation to gain in the world comes with assimilation to the ways of the world. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but to lose his own soul?

David directed the upright man’s focus to YHWH (v. 4). The pleasures of God should be our chief affection. These are spiritual because God is spirit. God will give you the desires of your heart if those desires are His desires. Desire in the Latin means,“of the Lord.” God gives His people His desires.

David invited dedication of one’s life to YHWH (v. 5). Christians should be the most devoted people in the world; however, Satan works to immobilize believers by deceiving us with self-help. The Gospel is that He will do it. Commit and trust are the imperatives, but the temptation to a life of self-reliance looms large.

David offered hope in the dark despair of injustice (v. 6). Christians suffer as Lot did at Sodom. We hear, see, taste, and feel evil everywhere. Religion allures us to merit righteousness, but David stated, “He will bring forth your righteousness.” YHWH did this when He sent forth Christ, our righteousness. Our right standing before God is imputed to us by the light of the world, Jesus Christ. We are justified, declared “not guilty” by faith in God’s judgment of sin through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross at noonday.

David taught the way to resist temptation was to wait for YHWH to act (v. 7). Having been justified by faith, receiving Christ’s righteousness, we must enter His rest (Heb. 4:3). Trust demands the discipline to wait upon the Lord to act on our behalf. While we wait, it is tempting to look at the wicked prospering in his way. Wicked schemes are planned upon his bed (36:4). Frustration is a natural, carnal response. Do not fret, instead, consider the end of the ungodly.

David prohibited passions (v. 8). Do not fret is repeated for the third time. David knew the frustration of conducting himself upright in the conflict with Saul. Wisdom says “wait” and “trust” so to avoid anger and wrath. Joining evil is not an option, but neither is resisting evil to the point of bitterness. The man who murders the abortion doctor has answered sin with his own sin. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.

David reasoned with imperatives because of the logical end to the righteous and wicked (v. 9). For evildoers will be cut off is the negative anticipation of Psalm 37. To be cut off means to be severed or separated permanently. Here is a good reason to wait patiently without anger. The antithesis of being cut off is to inherit the land. The seed in the land comes with blessing (Gen. 12:1–3). These are the repeated themes throughout the Psalm. They produce two contrasting groups of people, the righteous in the land and the wicked cut off from grace.

David encouraged the righteous to observe the disappearance of the wicked (v. 10). Yet in a little while offers hope. The wicked believes time is on his side, but like the rich fool (Lk 12), his soul will be required sooner than he thinks, and the wicked man will be no more. Christians should observe and remember the removal of the wicked. They came into the world with nothing and they leave without their ill-gotten gains to arrive at the judgment throne of God.

David noted the state of meekness required by God’s people in waiting on the Lord (v. 11). Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 5:5. The Greek illumines the Hebrew by expanding “inherit the land” to “inherit the earth.” The humble/gentle/meek will someday delight themselves in abundant prosperity. Delight yourself in the Lord today, and you will delight in Him, forever.

David affirmed his knowledge of evil schemes (v. 12). There are three clear things the wicked do (vv. 12, 21, 32). First, the wicked plots against the righteous. The righteous, as the light of the world (Mt 5:14), exposes evil (Eph 5:11). Therefore, the evildoer gnashes at him with his teeth. The temptation is to hide the light to avoid the conflict with the world, but Jesus warned that the world hates you because it hates Him. The world is hostile to Christians. When a church goes liberal and assimilates the way of the world, it too, can be hostile to born again believers. True Gospel preachers will tell you they have received more resistance to their ministries from within the church than from outside. The Devil is in the house!

David recorded YHWH’s reaction to evildoers (v. 13). As in Psalm 2:4, the Lord laughs/scoffs at him. The futility of evil is found in its temporal nature, for He sees his day coming. This is the day of judgment for vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22). Judgment day is denied by those who mock God because He is slow to anger and slow to wrath. His judgment is sure, however (ie. Noah; Lot; Korah; Achan; Babylon; the Cross; Second Coming; Bema Seat)

David noted the violence by which the wicked oppress the righteous (v. 14). The wicked man acts on the plots he planned (v. 12). The wicked are militant in picking up weapons of warfare. The objects of their sinful wrath are the needy and afflicted, who are upright in conduct. Man fights man in the flesh, but our warfare is spiritual, the tearing down of spiritual strongholds. The battlefield of the mind is where Christians engage principalities and powers to capture the souls of the elect. Believers do not fear men who destroy the flesh, but God, who destroys the body and soul in hell.

David assured his readers that violence would be returned to the violent (v. 15). He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. Military campaigns, like the Crusades, will never achieve their desired ends. The bows of the violent will be broken. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the humble. Blessed are you when they persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you. Repay evil with kindness and do good to those who hate you. Love your enemies. Now that’s warfare!

David turned his focus to the economic disparity between the righteous and wicked (v. 16). Christians are often lacking in finances. Materialism is a nasty idol that believers are graciously spared from worshiping. Some are granted resources, but they are held to account as stewards. Everyone is tempted, but spiritual men are set apart by the suppression of their carnal appetites. Better is little than much. Be content with what you have. Do not covet your neighbor’s goods nor practice greed in the idolatrous quest for more because money is the root of all kinds of evil. Christians sometimes rationalize that they could accomplish more “for” Jesus if they had more money, but history proves that more money usually means more consumption upon one’s lusts.

David again contrasted the ongoing reality for the evil and the upright (v. 17). A broken arm inhibits the continuation of evil activity. The Lord sustains the righteous is one of the most simple and beautiful statements in the Bible. Jesus upholds all things by the Word of His power (Heb 1:3). He gives us His righteousness and then sustains us in the world and for eternity.

David assured his audience that YHWH knew their days and their eternity (v. 18). YHWH is omniscient, and Jesus taught that YHWH knows every day of our lives and the place of each hair on our heads. This attention to detail is meant to comfort God’s people. The blessed assurance of eternal salvation is also revealed for our hope into the future. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and He knows those who are His people. Who can separate us from the love of God in Christ?

David offered YHWH’s guaranteed provision for those whose conduct is upright (v. 19). The time of evil is past, present, and future. The day of famine can be physical or spiritual (Amos 8:11). The declension of a society’s circumstances (ie. Haiti, Cuba, North Korea, etc.) does not prohibit YHWH from giving ample provision to His people.

David issued a warning of judgment coming against the temporal prosperity of the wicked (v. 20). Demise, doom, death, and destruction are the rewards for doers of iniquity, who are referred to as, “the enemies of the Lord.” Twisted theology today balks at anyone being an enemy of God because God is love and loves everyone. The Bible reveals how wrong this interpretation of texts taken out of context is today. We are born at enmity with God. We remain enemies unless He chooses to convert us (ie. Saul in Acts 9). The unregenerate perish and vanish. The world soon forgets them. According to Jesus, there is no report of them from hell, either.

David contrasted the financial dealings of the righteous and the wicked (v. 21). One borrows and one gives. Blessing provides the resources for generosity. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). A curse brings deficit spending and the accumulation of debt. Debt is a slave master, and death awaits debtors. Therefore, give and it shall be given unto you.

David contrasted the state of the righteous and wicked in relationship to YHWH (v. 22). The source of blessing is YHWH. All the spiritual blessings of heaven are ours in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3). Blessed are those who do not work (Rom 4:5), but who inherit the blessings of God in the land, in the earth, in Christ, and in eternity. YHWH is the source of the curse, too. Just judgments reveal transgressions, iniquities, sin, evil and deceit. The cursed are cut off.

David explained YHWH’s providence in the life of a righteous man (v. 23). In all your ways acknowledge God and He will direct your steps (Prov. 3:6). A man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps (Prov. 16:9). The steps of a person are ordained by the Lord — so how can anyone understand his own way (Prov. 20:24)? God delights in his way. We might say, “God delights in making me delight in Him.” The wise man understands there is nothing so precious in his life than the providential working of God in him. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

David expressed YHWH’s protection of the upright (v. 24). Like a child who stumbles while holding his father’s hand, he stumbles, but he does not fall over. We are safe in His grip. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone (Ps. 91:11–12).

David uttered a reflection on YHWH’s faithfulness (v. 25). “I will never leave you nor forsake you for I am with you,” are statements producing great confidence in YHWH. The old man has seen it all, and the provision of God for His people caught his attention. His provision may be manna requiring daily hand to mouth consumption, but manna comes from a reliable source.

David reviewed the gracious financial conduct and legacy of the righteous (v. 26). Christians should be generous because they know that God owns everything they have at every moment in their lives. To give to someone else is to distribute God’s resources as a steward. He lends expecting nothing in return. He gives from an unquenchable storehouse. He is gracious, and his children follow his example. By faith, he rejects scarcity consciousness.

David issued a brief proverb; which offered simple, yet profound wisdom (v. 27). Depart from evil, flee from immorality, expose evil, resist the devil all echo the righteous man’s quest to avoid the way of the wicked. His lone objective: do good. His reward is to abide in the house of the Lord, forever. Dwell in the land, abide in Me.

David emphasized the end of both the righteous and the wicked (v. 28). If the Lord loves justice, then He will ensure justice. Just judgments are bad news for the wicked and their posterity. Justice redeems the righteous, and they are preserved forever. The preservation of the saints is a precious doctrine of the church. God guarantees the salvation of His chosen people. The elect are called and converted. Their sanctification is a work of the Word and the Spirit. The promise of their glorification is as sure as His Word.

David re-emphasized the end of the righteous (v. 29). The refrain is voluminous. The blessing of God springs eternal. Christ is our inheritance.

David focused on the words of the righteous (v. 30). Christians wait because they are exercising faith. They trust and you can hear it in their mouth uttering wisdom. Justice is their cry in this world as Christ is preached. It is a Word of salvation to some and condemnation to others.

David linked the words of the righteous with the content of his heart (v. 31). David meditated on the law of the Lord day and night. The law of the Lord, the Word of God, is useless unless it is in his heart. The believer has the Spirit of Christ, manifesting the law of the Lord in his heart as a New Covenant fulfillment (Jer 31:33). Therefore, Christians walk in faith, by the Spirit.

David warned of evil espionage (v. 32). The final section reveals the Christian’s need for God’s protection. The motive of the wicked is to silence God. The believer is filled with the Spirit of God and bears witness of Jesus Christ to the uttermost part of the earth. Thus, to kill a Christian is to silence a trumpet of the King’s herald. Evil resides in dark shadows and sin is crouching at the door. Satan is roaming the earth looking for someone to destroy. The wicked plots, borrows, and the wicked spies upon the righteous.

David reiterated YHWH’s promised protection for His people (v. 33). YHWH protects the blameless. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? Let not the hand of the wicked drive me away (36:11). Satan is notorious for excusing sin and then accusing sinners, but the Lord will not leave him in his hand.

David reiterated the imperative to wait for YHWH to act (v. 34). Wait for the Lord is a discipline. He is the deliverer, not you. Do good and keep His way. Jesus is the way of God (Jn 14:6). Humble yourself before Him, and He will exalt you in His time. The end is again the land; and again, the alternative is to be cut off from God’s presence, provision, protection, and preservation.

David used imagery to describe the expanding fortunes of the wicked (v. 35). The reflection here is personal, “I have seen…” The field imagery continues with the vegetation simile. The luxuriant tree is like a sequoia. It is monstrous in height and width, but shallow roots make it most vulnerable. Contrasted with the tree firmly planted by streams of water (Ps. 1:3, the wicked man is showy without substance. He is comfortable in the soil of his native sin.

David restated the demise and disappearance of the evildoer (v. 36). Christians trust, wait, and observe how the enemies of the Lord and the church are removed by gracious judgment. The domain of darkness is breached by the Light and by Him we see the empty space where evildoers once stood. He passed away. He was no more. He could not be found.

David encouraged his audience to observe the staying power of the righteous (v. 37). He lists three titles to describe the redeemed of the Lord: the blameless; the upright; and the man of peace. The blessed peacemaker leaves his legacy with his posterity, who propagate it through every generation.

David encouraged his audience to contrast the doom of the wicked (v. 38). The wicked, his posterity, and his legacy are cut off from the memory of man and God. The transgressor crossed the plumb line of God’s righteous standard and entered the swamp of sin. There is no salvation for the rebellious angels, nor for wicked man.

David preached that salvation belongs to the Lord (v. 39). Salvation is extended to the righteous. The righteous are those in Christ Jesus, having received imputed righteousness from Him by grace. He is their strength in time of trouble. Jesus Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God, our Deliverer.

David closed with the knowledge of YHWH’s help and deliverance for those who find shelter in Him (v. 40). Jesus is our Helper, sending forth the Holy Spirit, who is our Helper. God, our Savior, has sent forth His Son, our Savior. He delivers us from His enemies and our enemies, from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved Son where we take refuge in Him.

In sum, we have received instruction from a wise old King David. He implores us to demonstrate our trust in YHWH by waiting patiently for Him to act against the wicked. YHWH delivers His people. He promises to bless those in the land with a permanent possession of the land/earth/heaven. The humble, blameless are preserved forever. In contrast, the wicked evildoer is cursed by YHWH. He boasts of himself in the expansion of his territory, gained by plotting, borrowing, and spying against the righteous, who he wishes to kill. The wrongdoer is cut off after temporary glory in this world. He is seen no more. His posterity and legacy follow him into destruction.

In conclusion, Christians are encouraged to heed David’s advice. Trusting Christ means waiting for God to right injustices. Believers suffer the ungodly in every generation. Do not fret, cease from anger, avoid temptation, and keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. For you have been called for this purpose since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…and so let us do the same.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

June 26, 2021

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher