Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.
Psalm 37 highlights three notable topics: land, moral logic, and the heart. Let’s look at these three.
First, the land. Five times, God promises that those who trust him will inherit the land. Jesus borrowed verse 11, “The meek will inherit the land” (v. 11) for his beatitudes, widening it to “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” The land is both local to Israel, and also a picture of God’s gift of the whole earth to the human race. I like this promise, I’d like to inherit some land, but I’m not expecting God to deliver a title deed to me any time soon.
A second striking feature in Psalm 37 is the confidence with which the poet states his moral logic: God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked. Of the righteous he says,
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread (v. 25).
And of the wicked he says,
But the wicked will perish:
though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke (v.
John Calvin commented his reservations about this moral logic, saying, “It is certain that many righteous men have been reduced to beggary.” He cites Jesus’ story in Luke (Luke 16:20) about the righteous Lazarus begging at the rich man’s door (Calvin, John. Commentary on the Psalms–Volume 2 (Christian Classics Ethereal Library: http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin/calcom09/cache/calcom09.pdf, p. 32)). Calvin’s opinion was that life isn’t as logical as the poet describes it: Sometimes God blesses the righteous with health and wealth, sometimes he doesn’t.
To the poet’s credit, he also recognizes shades of grey. In the first verse he says:
Don’t fret because of those who are evil,
Don’t be envious of wrongdoers (v. 1).
When evil succeeds, we are tempted to think, “Life isn’t working out right. God is supposed to reward good, and punish evil.” But the poet reminds us that God is in charge and we can afford to wait patiently because,
The Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming (v. 13).
A third topic in this psalm is the heart. God’s promise of land, his moral logic, and his laws are not simply promoting good behavior. The poet looks beyond behavior to the heart. “Trust in the Lord,” he says (v. 3). Don’t just obey God or submit to him. Open your heart to him. “Delight yourself in the Lord,” he says (v. 4). Our posture toward God is
– not just to believe right doctrine,
– not just to keep his laws,
– not just to be afraid of judgement.
No, our posture is to love him and delight in him.
Our father, once again we feel the smallness of our religion. We like the simple formula of moral logic: Obey and be blessed, disobey and be punished. We want our right behavior to earn an inheritance. We want a guarantee that we will never become beggars.
But under the poet’s formula, he describes a heart turned to you. Whether our life is comfortable and well-behaved, or miserable and stumbling, you continue to care for us, God. When we stumble, you help us up (v. 24). When circumstances overwhelm us, you lead us to a future and an inheritance (vv. 6, 11. 37). When we envy the wealthy and comfortable, you offer us lasting delight and riches.
Our father, with the poet we look to you in the present where you are our refuge and strength (v. 39) and we look to you in the future where you will give us the desires of our heart (v. 4).
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.