Theme: Taking the Long View
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
Part five of Psalm 37 encourages us to take the long view (vv. 34-40). This is not a new theme in the psalm. We have seen it earlier, but it seems to dominate this last section. The ground for this teaching is that in the long run the righteous will be exalted and protected, and the wicked will be brought down. Therefore, the psalmist commands us to “wait for the LORD and keep his way” (v. 34).
In Psalm 1 the author used an attractive metaphor for the life of the person who lives by God’s word. He said he will be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season” (v. 3). In Psalm 37 the same metaphor reappears. But here it is used in reverse, the wicked being compared to a green tree which flourishes for a time but soon passes away and is seen no more (vv. 35,36). This is not what we would naturally expect. Earlier in the psalm the wicked were compared to pretty flowers of the field, which do not last long. That seems right. But it is hard to think of a great tree suddenly passing away, unless perhaps it is cut down, which may be what the psalmist is thinking. Still, the flower image seems better.
Nothing in the Bible is a mistake, of course. So in this case I imagine the image of the tree to be teaching that there are times when the wicked do so well that they seem indistinguishable from the righteous. Their security seems equally assured. They flourish. But we are taught not to judge by appearances but by the word of God. Proverbs 3:5, 6 says: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
That is what Psalm 37 has been encouraging us to do and what the child of God will experience if he or she 1) trusts in the Lord; 2) delights in the Lord; 3) commits his or her way to the Lord; 4) is still before the Lord; and 5) refrains from doing evil. The one who does that will end as the psalm itself does, with meek objectivity, reiterating that the Lord helps, delivers and saves those who trust him.
“But I can never become like that,” someone protests. “It is not my nature to be meek.” It is not any of our natures to be meek. But we can become meek if we will commit our way to God and learn from him, as the psalm advises. We are to learn from Jesus, who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle [meek] and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28, 29).
What does Dr. Boice mean by taking “the long view”?
Compare the use of the image of the tree in Psalm 1 and here in Psalm 37. How is the image being used differently?
Application: Are there any specific areas in which you need to take the long view?
For Further Study: To see how the Lord’s will was at work in the changing relationship between Jacob and Laban, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from Genesis 31, “The Long Way Home.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)