Sunday, July 12, 2009

Psummer Psalm Pseries: Psalm 37 - Wisdom


1Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
7Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
9For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.
10Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
11But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

When it comes to poetry there are many popular ones. Sometimes in the seasons of life we are called to love and poetry expresses some of those feelings like this one:

Sonnet XLIII (Elizabeth Barret Browning)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Other poetry is good for every day, and some of my favorites are limericks

A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, "let us flee!"
"Let us fly!" said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

There was a farmer from Leeds,
Who ate six packets of seeds,
It soon came to pass,
He was covered with grass,
And he couldn't sit down for the weeds!

There was a young man from Japan
Whose limericks never would scan.
When asked why this was,
He replied "It's because
I always try to fit as many syllables into the last line as ever possibly I can.

Psalm 37 is an Alphabetic acrostic. Every second verse starts with the following letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It has themes of righteous and wicked running through it. It seems to be written to those who follow God going through a rough time. Let’s have a look at the theme David develops.

Righteous verses Wicked
First, let’s get the basics right. This is not an “us” verses “them” Psalm. The “wicked” are not our enemies. They don’t look different from us. They have as much money and stuff as us. The difference between the wicked and the righteous is that the righteous trust in God, have a world view that includes the Creator of the ends of the earth, and the wicked don’t. It doesn’t describe their attitudes or bent to sin anymore than the righteous. The righteous, sadly, seem to struggle with sin as much as the wicked. Maybe we don’t run to certain sins in the same way, but we still struggle with pride and judging and selfishness within the church. How many churches have been guilty of splitting over issues not related to loving Jesus with your heart and soul and mind? This Psalm is reflective of the book of Proverbs where you see
the foolish man compared to the wise man. There we find the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and that the fool has said in his heart, “There is no God!” Don’t let the term “wicked” throw you - in our culture today it has a lot more connotations than this Psalm intends.

The righteous are simply the ones who trust in God. Trust is a little word with big connotations. When you look at the verbs used: dwell, delight, commit, rest and more you get a better sense of the word trust. When you have a good friend who is there with you through both good times and bad times; who sees you when you are cleaned up and made up as well as at your worst first thing in the morning or sick as a dog; who is with you when you are the good guy and doesn’t give up on you when you blow it - then you begin to understand what it means to trust in God. You can go to Him as you are and find love. That love will invariably change you, but God died for you while you were at your most depraved. Understand this, though: you have to go to Him. He is offering so much love and forgiveness and grace and help, but if you don’t reach out and take it with a measure of commitment, you remain far from God.

The wicked are the ones who trust in themselves. It’s not that they are necessarily mean, but more that they have the belief that they are the center of the universe. Their purpose in life is to get what they want, to do what they want, to be what they want. All their decisions are focused on who they are. When we look at it that way we understand that we are in many ways wicked ourselves. We want safety for our family. We want stuff for us and our comfort. Living life in the Kingdom of God is about balance. We are called to be selfless and at the same time to be good stewards of what is entrusted to us. As a parent then, I do want safety and health for my family which is in my trust; and for myself so I can continue on to care for my family. The real issue is, “What are you doing with Jesus in the midst of your responsibilities?” The primary call to become a Christian is not to escape hell and gain eternal life. The primary call to become a Christian is so that you can live a fuller and more complete life in relationship with your Creator. You may have a lot of money, you may have great health and a large family; but if you haven’t got Jesus you are missing the most important component.

The Results
Verses 9, 11, 22, 29, 34 “But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land”, “the humble will inherit the land”, “those blessed by Him will inherit the land”, “The righteous will inherit the land”, “He will exalt you to inherit the land”. The Psalmist is quite confident that the righteous will inherit the land. Remember this is David speaking in the Old Testament. The promises given need to be seen in the full understanding of the whole plan of Salvation. Ultimately these promises are spiritual in nature and refer to eternal life. Eternal life, though wrought through the sacrificial death of Jesus, was and is applied to both those in the future of that event as well as those in the past. Salvation is and was always by faith, not works. Works are derived from faith, and from a human point of view (like James) are representative of that faith. You can’t separate the two. There was also the promise to Israel that if they obeyed the Law and followed God in a theocracy He would bless them and cause them to prosper; unfortunately they didn’t and so the events of the exile. They are not so different than us. In our own way we have wandered far from God and so journey back to Him. The Israelites had the pillar of fire and cloud to lead them, we have the presence of God through the holy Spirit who was set as a seal upon our lives as a promise of redemption when we breath our last.

Verses 2, 10, 20, 22, 28, 34, 36, 38 “they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb”, “Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more”, “the wicked will perish”, “those cursed by Him will be cut off”, “the descendants of the wicked will be cut off”, “when the wicked are cut off, you will see it”, “lo, he was no more; I sought for him, but he could not be found”, “transgressors will be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked will be cut off”. The Psalmist is equally assured that the end result of a selfish life will result in being cut off. Again, the application is primarily spiritual in nature. We are in the New Covenant and blessings are all about who we are in Jesus. Along with this understanding is that Israel was judged for turning their back on God and pursuing idolatry and selfish pursuits. In God’s timing, there is much grace. Judgement often came in generations rather than days or even years. When it comes down to it we also recognize that judgement is God’s business, and not ours. That is why we started off by explaining it is not an “us” verses “them” issue. Anyone out there to us is a “pre-believer” that God loves and is trying to reach. We read in the book of Hebrews that it rains on both the righteous and unrighteous. The axiom that good happens to good and bad happens to bad is just not true. Often we do reap what we sow, but that follows from the company we keep and the consequences of lifestyle and day to day choices.

Be Encouraged
So be encouraged. There are several verses I want to highlight in this Psalm.
Verses 4-7 “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him…” Delight, Commit, Trust - as we draw close to God, He places upon us the image of His Son. As we become more like Jesus and understand who we are before God and His love and His grace the desires of our heart will be turned to things of peace, joy and love. It is an interactive relationship we have with the everlasting God, the Creator of our souls; and in these verses is the promise He will see us through to the end - as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow and every morning.
Verse 16 “Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked.” People who pursue life with selfishness will find all their riches and pleasures pours like sand through their fingers, and they are left empty-handed. There is a place in each of us that is God shaped. That place is on the throne of our life. As much as we try to stuff other things and people there we will ultimately be unfulfilled. But when we understand the simplicity of the Gospel, that God is love and grace, the stuff of this world no longer holds sway over us. We won’t need much, because we have God and He looks after us.
Verses 23-24 “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.” What a wonderful promise we cling to when we wake up every morning and pray, “God, go before me and prepare my path. Lead me on.” We serve a living God who walks with us on the mountaintops as well as through “the valley of the shadow of death”. God looks after us.
Verse 25 “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” Another promise to hold dear. The world may be crashing down around us, and there may seem like there is no longer any truth or reason for life, but in Christ we find the answers. Our Heavenly father is a good Daddy, and He loves to bless us. May we have the same testimony as David.
Verses 39-40 “…the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength 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.” Take refuge in God. Run to Him like a child clings to his mommy’s or daddy’s knees. You think of the story of David’s life. As a kid he was the shepherd with courage, taking on bears and lions in the strength of God. We see him anointed as future king, and then victory over the giant Goliath. We see him soothing Saul’s demonic oppression with his music, and rising up in the army of Israel as he trusts in God. We see him on the run from Saul, waiting for God’s timing in His promise of kingship. As king we see him in victory and defeat. We see him in great sin and great misery. We see him humble bfore God. We see his pride and the judgement of God in and on his life. In the end we see God using him to reveal Himself to the world around him. Much was accomplished for the nation under his reign. What I am amazed at is how involved God was. There was never an issue of is God there, but in good and bad, working out his faith in very real ways. May you work out your faith in very tangible and practical ways

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