Notes on Psalm 37: Trust, Delight, Commit, Wait

1/4/15

“Of David”

This psalm addresses particular emotions in terms of the emotional trouble we encounter as the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. David was a man who suffered much at the hands of “evildoers.” He knew what it was to be cursed, hated, lied to, humiliated. When he saved the town of Keilah from Philistine raiders, the townspeople were ready to betray him to Saul. (1 Sam. 23). Afraid for his life, he feigned madness before Abimelech. Members of his own family criticized (Michal), plotted against him and wished him dead (Absalom). His extended family suffered at the hands of Moabites and Amalekites. King Saul brought the military might of Israel to bear on finding and killing him. Like Moses and Elijah and Jesus, his life was subjected to the rage of a deadly king. On the run, he expressed homesickness and the simplicity of childhood as he longed for a drink from the well in Bethlehem. In short, David fully understood the consequences of trouble at the hands of “evildoers,” and his first reaction to it was often anger. (e.g., Nabal, Nathan’s story of the stolen lamb).

V 1. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
Evildoers are any persons, spirits, or forces that oppose the plans and purposes of God. “Fret not” means don’t get angry. Envy occurs when we wish for someone else’s life or possessions. Don’t be angry or envious of those who spoil, who break things to pieces, who commit injustice and unrighteousness. Don’t allow yourself to be agitated because of them.

This command is not natural. The natural state of man is to be restless, agitated and fretting. The natural man is disturbed when wrongdoing seems to lead to success. Many believers spend enormous amounts of time and energy engaged in a reactionary lifestyle, where they are never at rest or peace because of all the injustice and wrongdoing that exists in the world. (Worrying over politics, when the rapture will happen, who the antichrist is, how the Muslims will be stopped, etc.) It is also a common question among people of faith as to why the Lord often seems to allow the wicked to prosper. Others who struggled: Job, Asaph (Psalm 73), Elijah, Jonah, Habbakuk, the Jews in Jesus’ day (disciples in ACTS 1:6.)

V 2. The brevity of existence. This is something we often forget.

V 3. “Trust.” We don’t always have the perspective or answers to our questions, but God does. The first action on our part is to believe. We can’t observe belief – faith – but God can.

“…and do good.” Here is what’s observable. Don’t be reactive to evil, be proactive with righteousness. Faith without works is dead. But don’t separate the two things – that is the way of worldly religion.

“Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. (NASB)” [First mention of “the land, the earth.”] Bloom where you’re planted. Don’t wait for perfect situations or circumstances. Don’t escape into entertainment or hermitic lifestyle. Engage. Be steadfast, habitual, disciplined. Sow the seed that you may reap.

V 4. “Delight thyself.” Heb. Fem. V’hitanag: to be soft, delicate, dainty, pliable, effeminate or luxurious, to have delight.

“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom. For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.” Is. 66:10-13

The picture here is of a hungry young child satisfied by his mother’s care.
Also: we can create an inner atmosphere where the Lord feels welcomed. (Jessica’s knick-knacks.)

“And He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Ask yourself: what are my heart’s desires? What is the aim or direction of my life?

* * *

1/11/15

“Dwelling in the land.”

Reactive vs. proactive living. The Church of today seems almost entirely reactive to trends and problems, rather than proactive with whole-hearted pursuit of truth in the inward parts.

The people around us need to see us living. They need the opportunity to experience the conflict of facing the truth, and they cannot do so if God’s people don’t “dwell in the land.”

To gray-haired believers: no “retirement.”

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Mt 5:16

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:12
“Delighting thyself in the Lord.” Recognizing our dependence on Him as the source of life.

“…the desires of thine heart.” Mt. 6:33: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Desire is the essential root of life. Buddhism: life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, and forsaking desire is the path to peace. The Word: you suffer because you desire the wrong things, or because you attempt to meet your needs met through illegitimate, unrighteous means.

When there is a lack of desire, pray: “Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers.” (SS 1:4)

V 5. “Commit thy way.” Roll thy way upon… The “way” is your road, your direction, your manner of living.
Early Christians didn’t call their belief “Christianity,” but “the Way.” Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Mt 7:13-14

Four ways:
V 5: Your way as it right now, this instant, your present, your problems, your strengths and weaknesses, the aim of your life TODAY
V 7: The way of the wicked
V 23: The way of the righteous, in which the Lord takes delight
V 34: The way of the Lord

David compares the ways of the wicked and the righteous throughout the psalm. The “ways” (plural).

“And He shall bring to pass…” He will do it. He will act on your behalf in accordance with all He has promised. (Biblical phrase, “And it came to pass.” The timing of God is perfect.)

V 6. To bring forth your righteousness and justice. To set things straight after patience has had its “perfect work.” To put you on display for all, to show that you belong to Him.

Romans 12:19: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

V 7. “Rest” and “wait patiently.” Heb “rest,” to be or grow dumb, silent, still. Wait patiently, longingly, expectantly.

Keep in mind that this psalm addresses injustice, slights, woundings, unfairness. The natural man does not want to “rest:” he wants to wrestle and correct whatever is wrong.

How do we react at being told to wait? How do we feel about situations where we must wait?

TRUST, DELIGHT THYSELF, COMMIT THY WAY, REST, WAIT…THESE ARE ACTIONS, not passive.

V 8. “Cease from anger, forsake wrath (rage).” This is the lack of action. These things lead to evildoing.

* * *

1/25/15

David was not a man who often “took matters into his own hands.” It was within his power to kill king Saul, slay Absalom, and stop Shimei’s cursing. He could have used force to right these wrongs within his “rights” as the anointed of God; indeed, there were strong men around him who encouraged him to do so. (The sons of Zeruiah, David’s sister: Joab, Abishai, Asahel.) In the same way, Jesus had the blessing of the Father and the affirmation of the Holy Spirit (as at His baptism), yet:

…when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed [entrusted] himself to him that judgeth righteously. 1 Peter 2:23

“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

David’s foremost concern was not “correcting the issue,” alleviating his suffering, defending himself or seeking justice. He waited on the Lord to “bring it to pass.” (V 5) “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” – David in Psalm 40:1

Divine Process: Trust, Delight, Commit, Wait…verbs

“The land.” The thought of “inheriting the land” is repeated (or implied) seven times, in Vs 3, 9, 11, 18, 22, 27, 29 & 34. The promise of God is always tied to “the land.” Without land there is no kingdom.

WAITING ON THE LORD:

I. Why is “waiting” important?
1. Because of the natural agitation and restlessness of man.
Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless till it finds its rest in You.”
2. For our transformation into a complete righteousness. (Integrity of the vessel.)
The LORD knoweth the days of the upright [or, whole-hearted, blameless, complete, without blemish, undefiled]: and their inheritance shall be for ever. (V 18)
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:4
3. If God places so much importance on waiting, it means there are things we learn in waiting that cannot be learned any other way.
The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. Isaiah 50:4
4. Because human initiative and strength does not please God.
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:5
He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord favors those who fear Him,Those who wait for His lovingkindness. Psalm 147:10-11
ISAIAH 30:15-18
5. Because we love God. (Action & Motivation).
For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. Isaiah 64:4
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
We cannot imagine where the waiting will lead, or what God has in store for those who wait.

II. What is it?
Heb “rest,” to be or grow dumb, silent, still. Wait patiently, longingly, expectantly. [Divine hush…Shhhh.]

1. An attitude of the heart
2. An attitude in prayer
3. A practice/spiritual discipline (contemplation, “centralizing prayer”)

III. Where should we wait?
1. In our current environment. Psalm 37 mentions proliferation of evil, success of the wicked, plots, rage, violence, war, famine & theft. Ps 23: “…in the presence of mine enemies.”
2. In “stillness:” a quiet, undisturbed place with a quiet, undisturbed heart.

IV. How should we wait?
1. Forsaking anger & envy (V 8) and departing from evil (V 27)
2. Seeking His government (V 31)
3. Quietly. Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10) But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. (Hab. 2:20) Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation. (Zech. 2:13).
3. Expectantly. My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. Psalm 62.5. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He is gracious to us. Psalm 123.2
4. With an open mind & heart. And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. Acts 1:4
Don’t limit God’s way: He may speak with a still, small voice or a mighty, rushing wind.

V. When?
Daily. Proverbs 8:34-35: Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change, He faithful will remain.

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Straining at the Oars

When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. Mark 6:47-48

Here are the disciples smack dab in the middle of Christ’s will, following His specific Word and – make no mistake – they are professionals out there in the middle of the sea. They know how to handle a boat: several of them have spent lifetimes on the water, pulling nets under the stars in the early morning, moving around to find the “hot spots” where the schools of fish are feeding. They’d experienced high winds and knew how to lower the sail and man the oars to sweat and grunt and power through to the destination. When they got into the boat that evening at His instruction they thought, Yeah, no problem, Lord.

Have you ever encountered “contrary winds” as you gave your absolute best to follow God’s leading? Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Do we really believe we can do nothing apart from His life? Everyone has natural strengths and specific knowledge. Are we aware that in those things which we do “second-nature,” without thought, in the realm of our physical and mental skill and expertise, the life of Christ needs to be invited for it to be of any value in the Kingdom of God? It is possible to hammer a nail, make toast, operate a computer, drive along Stone Chimney Road and even conduct a church service apart from Him. But the kingdom of God is not built within us or in the Church by human skill, strength or wisdom. John 6:63: the flesh profits nothing.

The answer to all the straining and huffing-puffing winds is to stop rowing around in circles and invite Him into our boat.

So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:21

Gratitude on a Wednesday Night

Just came from a prayer meeting at the church. I usually sit in the back when I go to church. As the prayer closed I was looking at the backs of everyone’s heads. I realized how grateful I felt to be in a room with other believers who were taking an hour out of their lives to pray on a Wednesday night. It was enough to make me smile. I so appreciate being with people who are hungry for God.

For the past two Sundays I’ve taught on Sunday morning — some insights from Psalm 37, which the Lord opened up to me quite a bit these past couple of months. I’m supposed to finish up this coming Sunday, when I’ll be speaking about waiting on the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord is what I’m doing as our finances and my job situation are unchanged.

Dropping Shells

When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.” Ruth 2:15-16 (NASB)

Since moving to Brunswick County, I have walked down to the east end of Holden Beach on several occasions to search for shells. I always feel a sense of wonder when looking at shells and cannot help but consider the Creator as I turn them over and over to admire their lines and curves and color. But I quickly realized my amateur status as a sheller when I encountered some folks who take shelling very, VERY seriously. They carry rakes and nets and even get mad if you happen to find a shell before they can get to it. But they find gorgeous shells without number.

A couple of times I’ve watched one of these “professionals” drop a few of their treasures onto the beach so that a child playing nearby can “find” them. As the sheller strolls away smiling, the kid locates the gifts and runs to his momma yelling excitedly, “Look what I found!”

When King David’s great-grandma Ruth traveled from Moab with Naomi into the land of Israel, she encountered a man named Boaz who took a special interest in her welfare. He commanded the servants in his fields to purposely drop grain for her to find. Boaz is an Old Testament type of “Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3).

In much the same way the Holy Spirit seeks to use His people. He uses us to dig and search in His Word. We rake for the truth and capture it in our experience, not so we will hoard the things we find, but so we can make those truths plain and easy for someone else in this hurting world to find and treasure.

May we seek occasion both to search and to give.

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10