Reader: “Commit everything you do to the Lord.”
Response: “Trust him, and he will help you.”
Scripture: Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40
Don’t worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
Soon the wicked will disappear.
Though you look for them, they will be gone.
The lowly will possess the land
and will live in peace and prosperity.
The Lord rescues the godly;
he is their fortress in times of trouble.
The Lord helps them,
rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
and they find shelter in him.
You may be wondering what this psalm has to do with Epiphany. If you recall an epiphany is a new realization of a particular situation. Psalm 37 is one of some eighteen “wisdom” psalms, psalms that give instruction (insight) in dealing with issues, unique circumstances, doubts, and day to day problems that arise in real life. What is a godly response to evil? When will the Lord bring justice? Why doesn’t God act sooner? In this particular psalm we are dealing with a person who has been wronged and besmirched. I would venture to say that has been the case at some point for everyone reading this passage! The words of David are most valuable when considering how King Saul sought to kill him.
He has given us a specific pattern for how to respond in such situations. 1) Don’t envy those who appear to be “getting away with it.” Don’t let them get you off center or under your skin. After all, it is God who says they will fade away. Go with God’s perspective. 2) Trust in the Lord and do the right thing which is growing in wisdom by cultivating and feeding your relationship with the Lord (Prov.3:5,6). He further enlarges on this idea in the second half of this poetic verse.
[Hebrew poetry often works with parallel structures rather than in rhyming words. In this case an idea is stated and the parallel response adds commentary or further explanation of the original statement. This entire psalm is also arranged as an acrostic with each stanza beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.]
This latter portion is frequently quoted but sometimes misunderstood. There is a sequence here. “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Too often our reading of the verse is backwards. “Tell the Lord your heart’s desires and he will give them to you!” Nope! When we delight first in the Lord, he is the one who then shapes our heart’s desires. He gives us what he has shaped and in doing so, he fulfills his will for us.
3) The next little section elaborates the above idea further with the phrase “commit everything you do to the Lord.” God desires to be actively involved in your day to day life! I’m afraid we spend very little time even thinking about this truth, let alone living it. Do you see how conscious this is in David’s mind? He’s writing out of first hand experience. Read some of his other psalms and see how openly conversant he is with the Lord. (E.g. Psalm 28, 30,31)
4) The next stanza harkens back to the beginning of the psalm with the best advice ever―be still in the presence of the Lord. Notice where it is that you are to be still and wait for him to act. Do you realize how often that pattern occurred for people in the Scriptures? Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Ruth, David, Mary, Jesus, and on and on . . . all the way to you and me! More advice from David. 5) Losing your temper is never helpful. The Lord will take care of the wicked. They will disappear by the Lord’s hand. Be humble. The Lord will take of his own.
In a world where there is much political and social vitriol, loss of morality, grabs for power and control of others under the guise of concern for people, the temptation is to be sucked into the fray. God is well aware of people’s hearts and he will deal accordingly in his time. The bottom line of this psalm is that our God is sovereign. He shepherds his people. The wicked do not win in the end for it is not about winning and losing, it’s about committing your life to the Lord and being still. He saves those that find shelter in him, then and now.
Music: “We Are God’s People” Lake Avenue Congregational Church
Prayer:O God, give us patience when the wicked hurt us. O how impatient and angry we are when we think ourselves unjustly slandered, reviled, and hurt! Christ suffers strokes upon his cheek, the innocent for the guilty; yet we may not abide one rough word for his sake. O Lord, grant us virtue and patience, power and strength, that we may take all adversity with good will, and with a gentle mind overcome it. And if necessity and your honour require us to speak, grant that we may do so with meekness and patience, that the truth and your glory may be defended, and our patience and steadfast continuance perceived. In Jesus’ name, Amen. ―Miles Coverdale, 1488-1568, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayer, p.44