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Summary: The first eleven verses look at things from the point of view of the righteous man. The theological foundation for the psalm is the covenant God made with Israel, recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-30.

Tom Lowe

Title: PSALM 37: WHEN WICKEDNESS TRIUMPHS ON EARTH

A psalm of David.

Part 1 Prospects That Are Foreign to the Wicked (verses 1-11)

Part 2 Pursuits That Are Favored by the Wicked (verses 12-22)

Part 3 Paths That Are Forsaken by the Wicked (verses 23-31)

Part 4 Points that are Forgotten by the Wicked (verses 32-40)

Psalm 37 (KJV)

(Part 1: verses 1-11)

1 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.

Introduction to Psalm 37

David was an old man when he wrote this psalm. It deals with a question that has puzzled people through all the ages, a question that is still being asked. How can we account for the fact that the wicked (lawless) are often prosperous and the godly (believers) often face hardships, disappointment, and even persecution? Honest atheists and agnostics don’t have to wrestle with this problem because their philosophy of relativeness forbids them from using words like good, bad, righteous, and wicked.

The theological foundation for the psalm is the covenant God made with Israel, recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-30. God owned the land, and if the nation obeyed Him, they could live in the land and enjoy its blessings. But if Israel disobeyed the Lord, He would first chasten them in the land (invasion, drought, famine), but if they continued to rebel, He would then take them out of the land (captivity). (see Deuteronomy 11 and 33:28, and Leviticus 26:3-10) The righteous could fret over the problem (vs. 1, 7, 8), leave the land (v. 3), or go on being faithful, trusting the Lord to keep His Word (vs. 3, 5, 7, 34, 39). David encouraged Solomon and the people to believe God’s promises and wait on Him.

David could have had the book of Job before him as he pondered the problem and wrote the psalm. Job shows that there are factors at work in God’s government which men cannot see and that in the end things turn out right and proper and as God wills it. But the end is sometimes long in coming—sometimes it doesn’t seem to come at all in this life. The problem hardly ever goes away easily. No wave of a wand, no matter how magic, can dissolve the problem; why does wickedness seemly triumph and goodness so often seems to go unrewarded?

David divides his subject into four parts, explaining each; one with considerable detail. To some the subject of this psalm may be an interesting exercise in philosophy, but to anyone who has found himself in the clutches of an unscrupulous man this psalm deals with pertinent issues.

Introduction to Psalm 37, Part 1

The first eleven verses look at things from the point of view of the righteous man. David immediately strikes the right note, for the righteous man has certain prospects that are absolutely outside of the realm of experience of the wicked man. These prospects are rooted both in the character and continuance of God’s throne, things which are spiritual and unseen rather than seen and temporal. The righteous man has a depth of life altogether different from that of the sinner. David begins with that.

Commentary

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

The prosperity of evildoers troubled David a great deal. It is a subject that is dealt with in Psalm 73 and one that is presented elsewhere in the Old Testament. Why do the godless people seem to prosper? In the Old Testament, God promised people earthly and material prosperity. He has not promised that to believers today. Our hope is in heaven, not on earth. But the hope of Israel was on the earth. The man of that day looked about and saw the ungodly prosper. He could see the fields of the ungodly being watered by the rain and flourishing, while down the road a poor righteous man was having a hard time. It was difficult to understand the reason for this.

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