Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
(Psalm 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40)
37:1–11. These verses contain advice and arguments from a wise man who has that wisdom which has been recommended from Psalm 1 onwards (cf. Ps 1; 19; 32), and which comes from reflecting on life—personal experience and the experience of God’s people down the years. This wisdom leads him to trust in the Lord and his justice and not to react angrily or violently to the doings of the wicked. Hence the insistence on not “fretting”, on “being still” and “waiting patiently” … The Lord will see to it that justice triumphs—as sure as day follows night, as sure as the sun will shine (v. 6). It is he who has given his people the promised land and, therefore, he will see to it that those who trust in him will have a share in it and benefit from it (vv. 3, 9, 11).
37:12–26. The wicked want to wrest the land from the poor and the weak by violent and unjust means (vv. 12–14, 21), but the Lord protects the latter, whereas the former will be victims of their own violence (v. 15) and they will soon disappear (v. 20), leaving the land to the righteous (v. 22).
37:27–33. Speaking from experience, the wise teacher repeats his advice—to do good always (v. 27) and keep God’s law (v. 31) so as to possess the land (v. 29).
37:37–40. The third exhortation is to follow the example of those who act in an upright way in order to have posterity (vv. 37–38), for even when things go very badly the Lord helps those who seek refuge in him (vv. 39–40). To the Kingdom of God, we read in the psalm, belong those who trust totally in him and stay true to him, not losing their calm when evil seems to have the upper hand. “Let us have faith, brothers and sisters: let us keep up the fight of the living God and strive in this present life, with our eyes fixed on the crown of the next life. A righteous person does not get instant payment for his efforts; he has to be patient. If God were to reward the just immediately, religious devotion would be a sort of trade; we would give the impression that we desire to be righteous out of love of gain, not love of piety. And so it happens that divine judgments sometimes lead us to have doubts and benumb our spirit, because we still do not see things clearly.”
The psalm addresses a specific spiritual predicament, the contrast and conflict between the wicked and the righteous. The problem people are the wicked. The wickedness of the wicked lies first of all in their enmity toward God, which is evident in their autonomous way of life. They follow a way that is their own and pursue their own schemes.
The teacher’s counsel to the perplexed is based on the belief in God that lies at the foundation of the law and the prophets. The LORD is sovereign. His power is not put in question by those who go their own way; so ways of life that contradict justice and righteousness are founded alone on the finitude of human beings who live for themselves. The LORD is faithful to his faithful; their life is founded in the one whose way is the foundation of the universe.
Righteousness is first of all trust, delighting in the LORD as the prime source of joy and peace in living, committing one’s way to the LORD, making faith a refuge against the threats and problems of life. Faith must “wait on the LORD” who disposes of time and what happens in it. The righteous (those who wait for the LORD, the meek, the blessed) “shall inherit/possess the land.” They will realize the promise to Abraham. It is not the nation Israel but the Israel of faith that has a future in the reign of God. The ground is laid for the teacher of the beatitudes, who will say, “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
– James Mays
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.