Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Psalm 37... Fretting Into Wickedness

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I had three people ask me to look at Psalm 37 of David, and to share my personal study of it. No one has ever asked me to do that before, and I'm not going to hesitate and say 'no'... and I appreciate your confidence in me. I just hope I don't 'blow it'. lol

I have studied this one before, using the KJV, NIV and St. Joseph's editions, and found the NIV version to be the most beneficial for a general study.

Before we launch into the whole thing, we need to consider the basics. The 'wicked' David speaks of are not 'just evil people'. They are not 'just sinners', or perceived sinners. The wicked, in David's time, were those who would not align themselves with God, those who set out to purposely destroy David and his people, those who were vicious in nature, those who were disgustingly unpleasant, and/or those who went beyond responsible limits on things. Let's not forget, Jesus called the Pharisees wicked, as well.

An evil person is one who is morally reprehensible (sinful), and their actions are evil if they arise from actual or imputed bad character or conduct. Even God-fearing Christians can be 'evil' in their actions, when those actions intend to bring harm to others for the benefit of personal glorification of the person doing those actions.

In the first few verses of Psalm 37, David tells us "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away." He is advising us to not get upset when people do things to us... Jesus drives this home when he speaks of loving your neighbor and not returning an eye for an eye. If someone gets away with hurting us, we should not allow ourselves to stoop to their tactics... eventually, the one that harmed us will wither and die away. At the least, we can pray that their attitude itself dies away, to be replaced with a heart for God.

David then speaks of how we can best remain firm in the Lord. He points out that we must "Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture." Again, David drives home the fact that we should not return evil for evil, but remain anchored in God, and in his message. If we strive for this, and, as David says, " Delight yourself in the LORD", "he will give us the the desires of your heart." What should our heart's desire be? Revenge? Pain to our enemies? Healing? Hope? Forgiveness? Or perhaps our heart's desire should be to "trust in the Lord and do good!"

It's hard to allow our ego to calm down and realize that God is there to help! David continues with this next advice to us, which is "Commit your way to the LORD!" If we place our trust in him, he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." This is the classic LET GO AND LET GOD. You can not make yourself appear Holy. That is God's ability to do. If we stand firm in our trust of the Lord, and commit ourselves to him, God will reveal your righteousness in him shine brightly. This small verse is perhaps one that many of the Pharisees of Jesus' day just didn't understand. The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts... he guides us with the right things to say to another who has harmed us. When we 'let go and let God', our words to that person are not ones filled with hatred, bitterness, or evil. We have no need to prove our righteousness to man, because God proves it without us having to do a thing.

It's not an easy thing to do! David fully realized that, having lived through it! We are tempted to throw our hands up and say, "Yeah, David, whatever. How can we even begin to follow your advise?"

David was a clever man. He never gave advise without expanding upon it. He answers our questions in the next few verses with simple, down to earth common spiritual sense.

"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him," advises David. "Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." Step back, allow it to slide off you, and refer back to the 'Trust in God' part.

"Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evil." David mentions several times that we are not to fret... we are not to allow our indignation over the actions of others upset us to the point where we are tempted to avenge ourselves. Remember, God avenges in part by revealing the righteousness within us. Nothing we say or do that is revengeful will allow that righteousness to shine through. Why? Because we will appear just as evil as the ones who attacked us! We become just as evil as they are!

David warns that our falling into that evil mind set is a bad idea. He tell us "For evil men will be cut off," removed from God's presence, and cast aside. However, "those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land."

An interesting thought I have about the next few lines has always stuck with me... was David speaking of the gates of hell, or was he speaking of our actions (through our Trust in God to handle things) helping bring an end to wicked actions? "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." Jesus reminded us over and over that wicked actions do not mean wicked souls. People can change. If we take pains to forgive them, and we don't fret constantly over a past harm, it is possible that this person might come to see the righteousness of God through us. If we don't trade evil for evil, this person might begin to understand the mercy of Christ through us.

David spent time telling us not to fret, and then he begins this lovely rant about wicked people... he goes off on a tangent, and seems to tack a bunch of warnings onto his psalm. The verses above warn us that fretting leads to evil. What happens when evil people do evil things... what happens when we cease to trust in God and take matters into our own hands by replaying harm with harm?

"The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming." Yes, this is true. However, if we have fallen into the trap of fretting, we are no better than the ones who hurt us, and we fall under this biblical reprimand! We all have the ability to be savage towards others, to offend out of a false sense of pride (instead of trusting God and having faith in him to handle things), and to go beyond reasonable limits!

"The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken." If we judge someone as a sinner, and they do evil unto us, wouldn't it be a fair statement that they are needy? That they need the strength of a spiritual walk with God? They ways may not currently be upright, but the POTENTUAL is there. I'm sure this is not what David meant in these verses, but it is an interesting thought, when applied to the teachings of our Lord Jesus. I also look at it as, well... you wouldn't have a wicked person doing evil things to you to the point that you fret if you just kept your mouth shut and didn't judge them in the first place. God knows who the wicked are. Just because we think we know does not mean that we really know. Had you stood in the temple commons on the day Jesus drove the animals away, would you have mistakenly judged his anger as unrighteous because you didn't stick around to hear him speak afterwards? Would you have stoned the women before you saw what Jesus wrote in the dirt? Would you have clapped at the suffering of the thief on the cross if you had not heard what he whispered to Christ as they both hung there that day? Quick judgement is evil itself, in that it only serves to boost up your own sense of personal righteousness and pride.

David continues with "Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous." So what if an wicked person is popular, or has good clothes, or lives in a nice house? Who cares if they eat at banquets daily? It doesn't matter. The Lord is the Lord, and those who trust in the Lord do not want for anything. He provides a bounty that the wicked will never understand, and the first glorious course is peace... and freedom from fretting over wicked people!

"The days of the blameless are known to the LORD, and their inheritance will endure forever."... an early taste of Salvation there. "In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: The LORD's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish; vanish like smoke." This pretty much speaks for itself.

David tosses in "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off." Borrow what? To borrow and not repay is stealing. An old priest once told me the answer was 'glory'. The wicked borrow the glory from God, and do not repay it to him, while a Godly man give glory to God so generously that the Lord blesses him on a constant basis.

"If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand." We don't have a one-sided walk with God. When we strive to walk with him, he walks beside us and keeps us going. It doesn't say we will never stumble... but when we do stumble, God is there. It goes back to the 'trust in God' part, yet again.

And now we come to blessings: "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever."

David then explains how we will know the revealed righteousness, by saying "The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip." Can any of us honestly say we have not fretted over the deeds of another? To fret is human, but to pursue that desire to fret is wrong. Anyone who allows words of hate, anger, viciousness or revenge to come out of their mouths is not righteous, but wicked.

The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives; but the LORD will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial." In other words, and I have seen this many times in daily life, don't sit there waiting for someone to come into a room, just to attack them with an onslaught of bible verses, condemnation, or gossip. It is in God's hands. You are meddling in God's affairs. It's up to God to punish them, to bring them down, not you. The wicked are there, and if you trust in God, they can not harm you. Do not seek to harm them. Simply carry out your daily actions, and allow the righteousness to shine through you. You don't have to preach at them, hurl stones at them, or do anything to them... because God is in charge, and only God knows in what ways he is moving their hearts towards him. If you must give in to the urge to fret over them, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. It is possible that God intends to use you to minister to them, even if it is only planting a tiny seed and moving on, but unless you are totally unified with the Holy Spirit, all you do is behave like the Pharisees of old, which may hinder the work God is trying to have done in their lives.

"Wait for the LORD and keep his way," command David, "He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it. I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found." Again, David is simply reaffirming what he has said earlier in this chapter.

"Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off." Don't allow your fretting to cause you to be one of those sinners!

"The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him." David ends with yet another reminder to trust in the Lord.

In a nutshell: you become wicked when you take righteousness into your own hands. Don't fret when wrongs are done to you, because your trust in God will get you through it. Allow God to take control... let go and let God do his business.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Thane, this one was for me. Love, Biddy

Thane said...

Hi Biddy!

Fretting doesn't get us anywhere. :) When the cruel folks start to attack you, just put them on ignore... and pray for them, so they can find peace.

Anonymous said...

That's what I'm doing now. It seems I'm losing the battle, but I will keep trying or get on another path. Biddy

Anonymous said...

This post made a tremendous impact on me. For instance, that Jesus reminded us over and over that wicked actions do not mean wicked souls and if we take pains to forgive them they might come to see the righteousness of God through us. IF we don't trade evil for evil!!

What happens when we cease to trust in God and take matters into our own hands by repaying harm with harm?

You also covered forgiveness and I know forgiveness is imperative to bring peace to our souls.

Also anyone who allows words of hate, anger, visciousness or revenge to come out of our mouths is not righteous, but wicked.

This is a post I will meditate on and come back and read again.
Thank You!