Theme: Look Ahead
In this week’s lessons we look at a psalm that contains some of the best-loved verses in the Old Testament, and learn what mature Christian living looks like.
Scripture: Psalm 37:1-20
Yesterday we described the first two things this psalm says are necessary to live a godly life. Today we list the other three.
3. “Commit your way to the LORD” (v. 5). The command to “commit” our ways to God is not a redundancy, something that has already been covered in what it means to trust God (content, assent and commitment), but actually carries us further in showing what it means to live with God whom we trust and in whom we delight. The word actually means “to roll one’s way onto God,” the figure being, as H. C. Leupold says, to “dislodge the burden from your shoulders and lay it on God.”3 This is what the Apostle Peter was thinking about in 1 Peter 5:7—in fact, he was probably referring to Psalm 37:5 explicitly—when he wrote, “Cast all your anxiety upon him because he cares for you.” He meant that we do not need to worry about things, because God cares for us, is equal to all circumstances and will manage anything that can possibly come into our lives.
4. “Be still before the LORD” (v. 7). One of my favorite quotes is from Blaise Pascal who said that the basic thing that is wrong with the world is that man “does not know how to stay quietly in his own room.”4 It is a good thought, expressed in humorous and therefore memorable language. But this fourth step in the life of godly trust in God goes beyond simply sitting quietly since it tells us to be still “before the LORD,” that is, to “wait patiently for him,” as the verse goes on to say. In other words, mere stillness is not enough. What is needed is a quiet waiting upon God. As we go on in our study of this psalm we are going to see how important waiting is, because the psalmist’s ultimate answer to the problem of the prosperity of the wicked is that the end is not yet and that the wicked will be brought down and the godly will be lifted up—in God’s time.
5. “Refrain from anger” (v. 8). Peter C. Craigie says that “almost certainly” this is anger against God.5 But whether it is against God or only against those who are doing wrong, particularly against ourselves, it is a mark of the godly person that he is able to maintain a settled and calm frame of mind because of trusting God.
The second answer to how we are to remain calm when the wicked prosper is part of what we have already been saying. We are to look ahead as well as to look up, because if we do, we will see that those who do evil only flourish for a time and then are thrown down, while the people of God are preserved in the meantime and are rewarded at last. Verses 9-11 develop this second idea, saying, “Evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land” (v. 9), and “A little while, and the wicked will be no more, though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace” (vv. 10, 11).
It is hard for most of us to take the long view, because we are so caught up in the present. But we need to do it if we are to grow in grace and begin to understand something of what God is doing in this world.
Explain what it means to commit one’s way to God.
How does one practice being still before the Lord?
What are we to do, and what are we to remember, when we see the wicked prosper?
Reflection: How is the Lord trying to teach you to wait upon him?
3H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 303.4Blaise Pascal, The Mind on Fire: An Anthology of the writings of Blaise Pascal, Including the Pensées, ed. James M. Houston (Portland: Multnomah, 1989), p. 96.5Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 297.