This Psalm is a sermon written not for our devotion, but for our conversation. There is nothing in it of prayer or praise, but it is all instruction. It is an exposition of the advancement of the wicked and the humiliation of the righteous. It offers a solution for the difficulties that arise and an exhortation to conduct ourselves as becomes us under such dark times. Man’s Wickedness and God’s Perfections
Psalm 37 – Part 1 – A Psalm of David
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
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! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain for ever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
Let us not be tempted to worry
Henry says – The instructions here given are very plain. But there is a great deal to be done in applying them. We are cautioned against being aggrieved at the prosperity and success of evil-doers (Ps. 37:1, 2): Do not fret, neither be envious. David may well have been speaking to himself first and then for the instruction to others that might be in similar temptation.
When we look and see the world full of evil-doers and workers of iniquity. They flourish and prosper and do what they will. They live in ease and pomp and have power in their hands to do trouble to those about them. So it was in David’s time. When we look within, we find ourselves tempted to worry about this, and to be suspicious against the scandals, burdens and nuisances of this earth. We are apt to fret at God, as if He were unkind to the world and unkind to His church in permitting such men to live and prevail as they do. Let us never be tempted to envy their liberties and so wish that we could shake off the restraints of conscience and do so too.
Whilst we may be tempted to think that they are the only happy people and so incline to imitate them, yet we are warned against it: Do not fret, neither be envious. Fretfulness and envy are sins that have their own punishments. They bring uneasiness of spirit and rottenness of the bones. It is therefore in kindness to ourselves that we are warned against them.
We shall be like a fruitful tree
When we look forward with an eye of faith we shall see no reason to envy wicked people their prosperity, for their ruin is at the door Ps. 37:2. They flourish, but as the grass, and as the green herb, which nobody envies. The flourishing of a godly man is like that of a fruitful tree (Ps. 1:3), but that of the wicked man is like grass and herbs, which are very short-lived. They will soon wither. Outward prosperity is a fading thing, and so is the life itself to which it is confined. They will be soon be cut down by the judgments of God. Their triumphing is short, but their weeping and wailing will be everlasting.
We are counselled to live a life of confidence and satisfaction in God, and that will keep us from fretting at the prosperity of evil-doers. If we nurture our own souls, we shall see little reason to envy those who do so ill for theirs. Here are three excellent precepts, which we are to be ruled by, and, to enforce them, three precious promises, which we may rely upon.
We must make God our hope in the way of duty and then we shall have a comfortable subsistence in this world, Ps. 37:3. It is required that we trust in the Lord and do good, that we confide in God and conform to Him. The life of faith lies much in a believing reliance on God, His favour, His providence, His promise, His grace, and a diligent care to serve Him and our generation, according to His will. We must not think we can trust in God and then live as we wish. It is not trusting God, but tempting Him, if we do not make conscience of our duty to Him.
Trust in the Lord and do good
Nor must we think that by doing good, we can then trust in ourselves, and our own righteousness and strength. No, we must trust in the Lord and do good. It is then promised that we shall be well provided for in this world: So you shall dwell in the land and be fed. He does not say, “So shall you get preferment, dwell in a palace, and feast.” For this is not necessary. A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of these things. But, “You shall have a place to live in, in the valley of vision, and shall have food enough for you.”
This is more than we deserve. It is as much as a good man will impose for (Gen. 28:20) and it is enough for one that is going to heaven. “You shall have a quiet place to be and a comfortable maintenance: Truly you shall be fed”, as Elijah was in the famine, with what is needful.” God Himself is a shepherd, a feeder, to all those who trust in Him, Ps. 23:1.
We must make God our heart’s delight and then we shall have our heart’s desire, Ps. 37:4. We must not only depend upon God, but comfort ourselves in Him. To be well pleased that there is a God, that He is as He has revealed Himself to be, and that He is our God in covenant. We must delight ourselves in His beauty, bounty, and goodness. Our souls must return to Him, and repose in Him, as their rest, and their portion for ever. Being satisfied in His loving-kindness, we must be satisfied with it, and make that my exceeding joy, Ps. 43:4.
He shall give us the desires of our hearts
We are commanded (Ps. 37:3) to do good, and then follows this command, ‘to delight in God’, which as much a privilege as a duty. If we make a conscious decision to obey God, we may then take the comfort of satisfaction in Him. And even this pleasant duty of delighting in God has a promise annexed to it, which is very full and precious, enough to recompense the hardest services: He shall give you the desires of your heart. He has not promised to gratify all the appetites of the body but to grant all the desires of the heart, all the cravings of the renewed sanctified soul. What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, love and live to God, to please Him and to be pleased in Him.
We must make God our guide, and submit in everything to His guidance in all our affairs. Even those affairs that seem most intricate and perplexing, shall be made to our satisfaction, Ps. 37:5, 6. The instruction is very easy and if we do it, it will make us at ease: Commit your way to the Lord, Prov. 16:3; Ps. 55:22. Cast your burden on the Lord, the burden of your care, 1 Pet. 5:7. We must roll it off ourselves, so as not to afflict and perplex ourselves with thoughts about future events (Matt. 6:25). We must not trouble ourselves but refer it to God, leave it to Him by His wise and good providence to order and dispose of all our concerns as He pleases.
Retreat your way unto the Lord. “By prayer spread your case, and all your cares before the Lord” (as Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh, Jdg. 11:11), “and then trust in Him to bring it to a good end with a full satisfaction that all is well that God does.” We must make it our duty to cast our care then leave the event with God. Sit still, and see how the matter will turn out, Ruth 3:18. We must follow Providence, and not force it, subscribe to Infinite Wisdom and not prescribe it.
God will clear up our innocence
The promise is very sweet, “He shall bring it to pass, whatever it is, that you have committed to Him. He will find means to extricate you out of your trouble, to prevent your fears, and bring it about to your satisfaction.” “He will take care of your reputation, and bring you out of your difficulties, not only with comfort, but with credit and honour: He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noon-day.” (Ps. 37:6), that is, “He shall make it to appear that you are an honest man, and that is honour enough.”
It is implied that the reputation of good people may, for a time, be clouded by the malicious reproaches of men. They may give them bad names which they do not deserve. It is promised that God will, in due time clear up their innocence and bring forth their righteousness, Matt. 13:43. If we take care to keep a good conscience, we may leave it to God to take care of our good name.
We are so prone to disturb ourselves with fruitless worries, let us compose ourselves by believing in God: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7). We ought to be satisfied that He will make all to work for good for us, though we know not how or which way.” Be silent in the Lord not with a sullen, but in a submissive silence. A patient bearing of what is laid upon us, with a patient expectation of what is further appointed for us. This is in our interest as it is our duty, for it will make us always at ease.
We have no reason to envy the wicked
Let us not bother ourselves at what we see in this world: “Do not fret because of him who prospers in his wicked way, who, though he is a bad man, yet thrives and grows rich in the world. Nor because of him who makes trouble with his power and wealth, and brings wicked plans to pass. If your heart begins to rise at it, stroke down your silliness, and cease from anger (Ps. 37:8). We must keep a check on the first stirrings of discontentment and envy, and not harbour any harsh thoughts of God and His providence to us. Do not be angry at anything that God does, but forsake that wrath for it is the worst kind of wrath that can be.
Good people have no reason to envy the worldly prosperity of wicked people, nor to grieve or be uneasy with it. For the prosperity of the wicked will soon come to an end. (Ps. 37:9): Evil-doers shall be cut off by some sudden stroke of divine justice in the midst of their prosperity. What they have obtained by sin will not only flow away from them (Job 20:28), but they shall be carried away with it. See the end of these men (Ps. 73:17), how much their ill-got gain will cost them. You will be far from envying them or from wanting to embrace their lot. Their ruin is sure, and it is very near. (Ps. 37:10): Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be what they now are; they are brought into desolation in a moment, Ps. 73:19.
Have a little patience, for the Judge stands before the door, Jas. 5:8, 9. Moderate your passion, for the Lord is at hand, Phil. 4:5. And when their ruin comes it will be an utter ruin. (Ps. 37:20), The wicked shall perish; their death is their damnation, because it is the termination of all their joy and a passage to endless misery. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; but undone, forever are the dead who die in their sins. Those who are wicked make themselves an enemy of the Lord. They will not have Him to reign over them, and as such He will reckon with them. They shall be consumed as the fat of lambs, they shall be consumed into smoke.
The wealth of the world is allocated by God
Their prosperity, which gratifies their sensuality, is like the fat of lambs, not solid or substantial, but loose and washy. When their ruin comes, they shall fall as sacrifices to the justice of God and be consumed as the fat of the sacrifices was upon the altar, from where it ascended in smoke. The day of God’s vengeance on the wicked is represented as a sacrifice of the fat of the kidneys of rams (Isa. 34:6). He will be honoured by the ruin of His enemies, as He was by the sacrifices.
Damned sinners are sacrifices, Mark 9:49. This is a good reason why we should not envy their prosperity. While they are fed to the full, they are but being fattened for the day of sacrifice, like a lamb in a broad pasture (Hos. 4:16). The more they prosper the more God will be glorified in their ruin. The condition of the righteous, even in this life, is every way better and more desirable than that of the wicked, Ps. 37:16. In general, a little that a righteous man has of the honour, wealth, and pleasure of this world, is better than the riches of many wicked.
The wealth of the world is so allocated by divine Providence that it is often the lot of good people to have a little and of wicked people to have an abundance. For in this God shows us that the things of this world are not the best of things. If they were, those who are best and dearest to God would have the most.
We shall inherit the earth
A godly man’s little is really better than a wicked man’s estate. For it comes from a better hand, from a hand of special love. God gives it to them by promise, Gal. 3:18). It is theirs by virtue of their relation to Christ, who is the heir of all things. Those resources are put to better use and are sanctified to them by the blessing of God. Unto the pure all things are pure, Titus 1:15.
If with a little God is served and honoured then it is better than a great deal prepared for Baal or for base lusts. The promises made to the righteous secure them such a happiness that they need not envy the prosperity of evil-doers. Let them know to their comfort, First, that they shall inherit the earth, as much of it as Infinite Wisdom sees good for them. They have the promise of the life that now is, 1 Tim. 4:8. If all the earth were necessary to make them happy, they should have it. All is theirs, even the world, and things present, as well as things to come, 1 Cor. 3:21, 22.
They have it by inheritance, a safe and honourable title, not by permission only and subversion. When evil-doers are cut off, the righteous sometimes inherit what they gathered. The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just, Job 27:17; Prov. 13:22. This promise is here made to those who live a life of faith (Ps. 37:9); Those who wait upon the Lord, as dependents on Him, expectants from Him, and seekers of Him, shall inherit the earth. This as a token of His present favour to them and a promise of better things intended for them in the other world.
He is a good Master
God is a good Master, who provides plentifully and well, not only for His working servants, but for His waiting servants. To those who live a quiet and peaceable life (Ps. 37:11): The meek shall inherit the earth. They are in the least danger of being injured and disturbed in the possessions of what they have. They also have the most satisfaction in themselves and the sweetest relish of their creature-comforts.
Our Saviour has made this a gospel promise, and a confirmation of the blessings He pronounced on the meek, Matt. 5:5. Secondly, that they shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace, Ps. 37:11. Perhaps they do not have abundance of wealth to delight in, but they have that which is better, abundance of peace. An inward peace and tranquillity of mind, peace with God, and then peace in God, that great peace which those who love God’s law have, whom nothing in it shall offend them (Ps. 119:165).
They have that abundance of peace which is in the Kingdom of Christ (Ps. 72:7), that peace which the world cannot give (John 14:27). It is a peace which the wicked cannot have, Isa. 57:21. This they shall delight themselves in, and in it they shall have a continual feast. While those who have abundance of wealth perplex themselves with it and have little delight in it. Thirdly, God knows their days, Ps. 37:18. God takes particular notice of them, of all they do and of all that happens to them. He keeps account of the days of their service, and not one day’s work shall go unrewarded, and of the days of their suffering, that for those also they may receive compensation.
He knows our days
God knows their bright days, and has pleasure in their prosperity. He knows their cloudy and dark days, the days of their affliction, and as the day is so shall the strength be. Fourthly, their inheritance shall be forever; not their inheritance on the earth, but that incorruptible invincible one which is laid up for them in heaven. Those who are sure of an everlasting inheritance in the other world have no reason to envy the wicked with their transitory possessions and pleasures in this world.
Fifthly, In the worst of times it shall go well with them (Ps. 37:19): They shall not be ashamed of their hope and confidence in God, nor of the profession they have made of faith. For the comfort of that will stand them in good stead, and be a real support to them, in evil times. When others droop they shall lift up their heads with joy and confidence.
Even in the days of famine, when others are dying for hunger round about them, they shall be satisfied, as Elijah was. In some way or other God will provide food convenient for them, or give them hearts to be satisfied and content without it. This so that, if they should be hungry, they shall not (as the wicked do) fret themselves and curse their king and their God (Isa. 7:21), but rejoice in God as the God of their salvation even when the fig-tree does not blossom, Hab. 3:17, 18.
The Lord shall laugh at them
Good people have no reason to worry at the occasional success of the designs of the wicked against the just. Let us cease from all anger and worry, for their plots will be their shame, Ps. 37:12, 13. It is true the wicked plots against the just, there is a rooted enmity in the seed of the wicked one against the righteous seed. Their aim is, if they can, to destroy their righteousness, or, if that fail, then to destroy them.
With this end in view they act with a great deal of deceit (they plot and they practice against the just). They gnash upon them with their teeth, so desirous are they, if they could eat them up. They are so full of rage and indignation because they are not able. But by all this they make themselves ridiculous. The Lord shall laugh at them, Ps. 2:4, 5. They are proud and insolent, but God shall pour contempt upon them.
He is not only displeased with them, but He despises them and all their attempts as vain and ineffectual. Their malice is impotent and in a chain; for He sees that His day is coming. The day of God’s reckoning is coming which now seems clouded and eclipsed. Men have their day now. This is your hour, Luke 22:53. But God will have His day shortly, a day of recompenses, a day which will set all to rights. All that passes now for worldly glory will be rendered ridiculous. It is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment, 1 Cor. 4:3. God’s day will give a decisive judgment. The day of their ruin. The wicked man’s day is the day set for his fall. That day is coming. It has not yet come, but it will certainly come.
She will laugh them to scorn
The believing prospect of that day will enable the daughter of Zion, to despise the rage of her enemies and laugh them to scorn, Isa. 37:22. Their attempts will be their destruction, Ps. 37:14, 15. Their designs against good people are very cruel. They prepare instruments of death, the sword and the bow, to hunt for precious life. That which they design is to cast down and slay. It is the blood of the saints they thirst after. They carry on the design very far, and it is near to be put in execution: They have drawn the sword, and bent the bow.
All these military preparations are made against the helpless, the poor and needy (which proves the enemy to be very cowardly), and against the guiltless, such as are of upright conversation. They have never given them any provocation, nor injured them or any other person, which proves them to be very wicked. Uprightness itself will be no fence against their malice.
The Lord upholds the righteous
But their malice shall recoil upon themselves: Their sword shall turn into their own heart. This implies the preservation of the righteous from their malice. But also the increase of the measure of their own iniquity by it. Sometimes that very thing proves to be their own destruction which they project against their harmless neighbours. However, God’s sword, which their provocations have drawn against them, will give them their death’s wound.
Those who are not suddenly cut off shall be so disabled from doing any further trouble that the interests of the church shall be made secure: Their bows shall be broken (Ps. 37:15). Their arms shall be broken, so that they shall not be able to go on with their enterprises, Ps. 37:17. But the Lord upholds the righteous, so that they neither sink under the weight of their afflictions nor are crushed by the violence of their enemies. He upholds them both in their integrity and in their prosperity. Those who are upheld by the Rock of Ages have no reason to envy the wicked in their prosperity, which shall soon be to their detriment.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
The Goodness of the Lord Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and on His truth feed. Enjoy serving the Lord your God And He will give you all you need. Depend on the Lord And on His Word so true. He will always be by your side. He will take care of you. Your deeds will show to Me That you are truly Mine. So like the glorious sun In you My goodness will shine. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer for the Day
Father, I come to You. When I find myself tempted to worry and be suspicious against the scandals, burdens and nuisances of this earth cause me to look to You. May I trust in You with all my heart and never be tempted to worry. I pray I may never envy the liberty of evil-doers.
Thank You for Your Word that says the flourishing of a godly man is like that of a fruitful tree. We are counselled to live a life of confidence and satisfaction in You, and that will keep us from all fear. I make You my hope that I may live a dutiful life unto You and so have a comfortable subsistence in this world.
I choose to trust in You and do good. May I confide in You and conform to You. Cause me to have a life of faith with a believing reliance on You, Your favour, Your providence, Your promise, Your grace, and a diligent care to serve You and my generation, according to Your will for me.
To never trust in self
May I never think that by doing good, I can then trust in myself, and in my own righteousness and strength. No, I will trust in You and do good for I know then that I shall be well provided for in this world. I shall have a quiet place to be and a comfortable maintenance for You are a Shepherd and a feeder, to all those who trust in You.
Help me make You my heart’s delight and so shall I have my heart’s desire. May I not only depend upon You, but comfort myself in You. I thank You that You have revealed Yourself to me, and that You are my God in covenant. May I delight myself in Your beauty, bounty, and goodness. May my soul return to You, and repose in You, as my rest, and portion forever. Being satisfied in Your loving-kindness, may I be satisfied with it, and make that my exceeding joy.
May I make a conscious decision to obey You, and so take the comfort of satisfaction in You. I know that You will give me the desires of my heart. For all I desire is to know, love, and live to You, to please You and to be pleased in You.
Father I make You my guide, and submit in everything to Your guidance in all my affairs. I roll them off myself and not perplex myself with thoughts about future events. For I trust in You to bring all to a good end with a full satisfaction that all You do is good. For You will make all to work for good for me.
To wait on You
Teach me to wait upon You, as a dependent on You, expectant from You, and as a seeker of You and so shall I inherit the earth. I know this is a token of Your present favour to me and a promise of better things intended for me in the other world. May I live a quiet and peaceable life with an inward peace and tranquility of mind. Cause me to be at peace with You that great peace which those who love Your law have.
Thank You that You keep an account of the days of my service, and not one day’s work shall go unrewarded. You also keep a record of the days of my suffering, that for those also I may be compensated.
Thank You that in You I am satisfied. You promise to provide food or give me a heart to be satisfied and content without it. You uphold me in my integrity and in my prosperity. I know that those who are upheld by the Rock of Ages have no reason to envy the wicked in their prosperity. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.