Summary: We know God wins in the end. But what do we do in the meantime, when evil seems to be winning?
The Worship of Waiting
Good morning! Please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 37.
One of my all-time favorite books is “Children’s Letters to God.” It’s a collection of prayers, observations, questions, and complaints, with the handwriting, grammar, and punctuation of the children that wrote them preserved. Most of the time, whenever I’ve used it as a sermon or teaching illustration, I’ve gone to the section on “Approvals, Confidences, and Thanks, and read things like,
Dear God, I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool.
But this morning, as we look at Psalm 37 and some of the issues its going to raise, I spent some time looking through the chapter of Children’s Letters to God called “Fervent wishes, suggestions, and complaints.” That’s where you find prayers like these:
Dear God, please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year.
Dear God, my brother is a rat. You should give him a tail. Ha ha.
Dear God, If we come back as something please don’t let me be Jennifer Horton because I hate her.
All of these would fit well into a genre of Psalms scholars call the imprecatory Psalms. And I know that’s a mouthful, so let me unpack what that means. The imprecatory psalms are those in which the the author imprecates; (oh, that clears it up!)
that is, he calls down calamity, destruction, and God’s anger and judgment on his enemies.
• “Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked” (Psalm 17:13).
• “O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, Lord! (Psalm 58:6)”
• “Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name; for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland” (Psalm 79:6–7).
And, maybe the most famous (or infamous) one of all was when the Psalmist was reflecting on the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity at the hands of the Babylonians in Psalm 137, when he cried out, “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! …
• “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” (Psalm 137:9).
Now, while (I hope) none of us have gotten to the point of dashing-infants-against-the-rocks anger at those we perceive to be our enemies, you don’t have to look very far to know we live in a culture that seems to be addicted to outrage. Everyone seems to be angry at everyone else. Think about the new phrases that have come into our vocabulary in the past few years: Road Rage. Tweetstorm. Clap Back.
Part of it is when we see so much evil in the world, so much injustice, and we wonder why nothing changes. I heard this from a member of the Prattville Police Department earlier this week. He said, “James, in my job I see so much of the bad side of human nature. I know God wins in the end, but its hard to not become cynical.”
Or this, from a high school student—How come the jerks are the most popular?
Or this, from the parent of a 3rd grader: my daughter tries to be nice to people, and she gets rejected and made fun of by the “cool kids” because of it.
This is why we have the imprecatory Psalms in the first place. I think they exist because God knew he needed to let us know its okay to feel this way sometimes. But I also think that’s why he put Psalm 37 in there as well, as an antidote to the imprecatories. If you are physically able, let’s stand to honor the reading of God’s Word this morning.
Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not 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;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.[b]
4 Delight yourself 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 bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Now, skip down to verse 23:
The steps of a man are established by the Lord,