Dear Grace Church Family,
Wisdom can sometimes sound like platitudes. But, when those “pithy” sayings of our elders are based on a life well-lived, then they are worth paying attention. Such is the case with our Psalmist this day, as he shares with us his life’s collected wisdom.
Psalm 37: A wisdom gained over a lifetime. “Give it time, this too shall pass.” “Don’t fret; trust instead.” “Don’t envy the wicked.” “Don’t worry when they succeed.” “In time they’ll lose it all, and what they treasured will add up to nothing.” Instead, “Do good and you will have lasting blessing.” “Desire God, and your heart will have its desire.”
Now, if all these sentiments above sound to you like small proverbs, or a life-time’s collection of wise sayings, then you have nailed this Psalm’s context. But these are more than just folk sayings and popular maxims. This Psalm is the collection of an older person’s wisdom; a wisdom that has been gained from a lifetime of close observation of life and people, and which the Psalmist wishes now to impart to those who will follow.
This older Psalmist is speaking to you and me right now as we worry for our health, the designs of our leaders, the recovery of our economy, and yes, the ever present “Wicked:” those who without conscience or fear of God, try every way to profit at the expense of, and to the hurt of, others.
But, there is a risk here of missing the help he is seeking to give us; especially if we’re looking for the “how” to fix everything, or the “why” it is happening. This Psalmist isn’t attempting to explain any of these things to us. There is no grand answer to the “How and Why?” we so often ask when faced with suffering and injustice. The Psalmist isn’t even particularly bothered about that himself. He is concerned, though, for how our focus on it all could sicken us physically and injure us spiritually. That’s why his statements are couched more in the vein of a command to stop worrying.
So, he starts out with the command, “Fret not!” Then he repeats those words two more times in the first seven verses just to make sure we heard it. By fretting, much more is meant here than just thoughtful concern or careful consideration. To Fret means to focus on something so fully as to become consumed by anxiety and foreboding; focused to the point that our bodies are stressed with tension, and our spirits crippled with dread and fear.
So where does this Psalmist’s life experience lead him to focus? He tells us:
“Trust in the LORD, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; “
No, the Psalmist is not saying that if we focus on God and God’s will for our lives, all will be well, and nothing will go wrong; that God will “fix” everything for us. If anything, focusing on the desires of God’s heart will lead us into a life that confronts injustice and seeks the well-being of all. Indeed, he says in verse 30,” The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak justice. The law of their God is in their hearts.”
The difference here is not the external action of our lives, it’s the internal attitude. The difference is the “why” of our lives. If our driving force, our central purpose is that our lives bring delight to God, then God will give us everything we need to accomplish that purpose. We will succeed in doing good, without becoming crippled by fear in the process. This is what the Psalmist is imparting to us: the wisdom to live a well-lived life, focused on God.