Theme: Two Ways and Two Destinies
In this week’s lessons we see how the wicked and righteous are contrasted, and learn how the mature Christian approaches all of life to the glory of Christ.
Scripture: Psalm 37:21-40
At the beginning of the last chapter I pointed out that Psalm 37 is a good exposition of the third of Jesus’ eight beatitudes, from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Jesus does not explain the meaning of meekness in that sermon, but Psalm 37 does.
This does not mean that the idea of meekness is neglected in the New Testament, of course. On the contrary, it is found in several places, though in the New International Version the word “meekness” is usually translated by the words “gentleness” or “humility.” Paul lists meekness as one of the fruits of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [meekness] and self-control” (Gal. 5:22, 23). Likewise in Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness [meekness] and patience” (Col. 3:12). Peter writes that Christians are to witness to others in a spirit of meekness: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness [meekness] and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). James says, “Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly [meekly] accept the word planted in you” (James 1:21).
These verses say that meekness comes into our lives by the work of the Holy Spirit and is intended to bring blessing, not only to us but to others. Still, not one of these texts really explains what meekness is or elaborates the steps by which we may attain it. In all the Bible the place where that is best done is Psalm 37, which is where Jesus found the third beatitude since he seems to quote it from verse 11: “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace (cf. Matt. 5:5).
In the last chapter I also acknowledged how difficult it is to outline this psalm, probably because it is an acrostic psalm and the flow of thought merely follows the alphabetical structure. My outline (or any other outline) will therefore be somewhat arbitrary. Still, there is some development of thought in the psalm, and I have highlighted it by the following five sections: 1) the quiet spirit (vv. 1-11); 2) the way of the wicked (vv. 12-20); 3) the ways of the righteous and the wicked contrasted (vv. 21-26); 4) an old man’s counsel to the young (vv. 27-33); and 5) taking the long view (vv. 34-40).
We looked at the first two of those sections in last week’s study. We need to look at the last three sections in this one.
The third part of the psalm contrasts the ways of the righteous and the wicked (vv. 21-26), but we had already begun to move in this direction in the preceding section. I called that section “the way of the wicked” (vv. 12-20). It expressed four contrasts showing how the wicked plan one thing but that God causes the opposite to happen. However, the last two of those contrasts also brought the righteous into the picture, showing how 1) the wealth of the wicked will be taken away and their power will be broken, but that God will sustain the righteous (vv. 16, 17); and 2) the righteous will survive days of deprivation, but the wicked will perish (vv. 18-20).
What does the Bible teach about meekness?
Read through Psalm 37 and note how the wicked and righteous are contrasted, and what the Lord will do for those who trust in him.