Don’t Overheat, Trust the Lord (Psalm 37)
Money is made by people who can manipulate your emotions. Therefore, your emotions are manipulated often. News organizations thrive on the anger of their political base. CNN’s ratings plummeted after Donald Trump left office because the business model is based upon rage. I can’t help but think that the recent uptick in Fox News viewership while the other news networks decline isn’t because of this very thing.
Even if news outlets were not there to get a rise out of you, it is very likely that you would find yourself getting worked up. There is plenty to get worked up about in our day. When 47 Republicans join all the Democrats in the House of Representatives to define marriage in the way that it did last week, then we see that the entirety of society is moving away from the Christian position on the family. If conservatives come out as against conserving the natural family then is there anything that conservatives wish to conserve. This serves to help us see that we have been right all along. Liberals wish to plunge our society over a cliff at 100 miles per hour and conservatives wish to do the same thing at 50 mph. And the whole thing causes us to begin boiling a bit. To make matters worse, report after report has been coming out concerning both Republicans and Democrats having been involved in insider trading, getting rich off the very bills that they are passing in Congress. It’s enough to make us a bit angry.
I oftentimes think that we should move things a bit closer to home and when we do so there is possibly less to be worked up about. For the most part that helps, but there is still plenty to get worked up about here in Central Arkansas. But even if we get beyond crime rates and other issues, we can see a growing hatred of Christianity among our families and an unwillingness to care about the things that God’s Word says we ought to care about.
And here in Psalm 37, we find that rather than getting worked up over the things that are taking place around us, we are to entrust ourselves to the Lord. We are to have self-control, not out of some sort of ignorant bliss, but because se understand that God cares for His people and will make all things right. Don’t overheat, entrust yourself to the Lord.
Don’t Overheat: Commit Yourself To Righteousness (Psalm 37:1-8)
The phrase “fret not” is found throughout this psalm. The literal meaning of the word is “heat up” or “be kindled”. It is a command not to be kindled with anger because of the wicked. And this sets the stage for the entire psalm. The whole point of this psalm is that we are not to be enraged by the wicked. But why?
As motivation, we are given a picture of the destruction of the wicked (Psalm 37:2). We are not to become enraged by the wickedness of the wicked because we know that God will one day destroy them. It is not always an immediate smiting of the wicked. There are times when that is the case, Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind. But there are times when God allows the sinful decisions to simply run their course, such as when Sodomites can’t reproduce or have a heritage when they die. They simply, “wither like the green herb” (Psalm 37:2).
So rather than be worked up by the wickedness that is all around us, we are to “trust in the Lord and do good” (Psalm 37:3). This is interesting because we could be hindered by our disgust at what others are doing. But if our delight is in the Lord, then we will be rewarded with Him and His benefits (Psalm 37:4). Why would we spend all our time worrying about what the wicked are doing?
This is admittedly difficult because the wicked seem to be doing quite well in our day. But there is coming a day when they will be acted upon by the Judge of the Earth (Psalm 37:6). God will bring forth justice on our behalf. He will act (Psalm 37:5-6).
All of this is supposed to lead us to “wait patiently for” the Lord rather than getting overheated about the wicked who seem to be prospering today (Psalm 37:7). So we “refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!”, which are things that tend to get us in trouble. They tend to cause us to be people who act wickedly ourselves (Psalm 37:8). So, we act righteously and leave the rest to the Lord.
Because of the way our society currently works, it sometimes seems difficult to remain levelheaded. We have been trained to be outraged repeatedly. But that is not what God calls us to do when there is so much wickedness around us. God calls us to entrust our selves to Him and do what is right.
Another way of saying this is to concern yourself with those things you are supposed to be concerned with and leave the outcome to the Lord.
What good does it do you and your family if you spend hours watching the news and don’t read the Bible and pray with your family? Does knowing about the President’s hedonistic son help your family to be faithful before the Lord? Concern yourself with the righteousness that you are supposed to be concerned with.
Men, lead your families well. Train up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Don’t get worked up about how wealthy wicked people are getting as they trade stock based on bills they’re about to pass.
Love each other. Care for one another. Work hard at your jobs. Build your homes. Build wealth. Live quiet lives. And, let God deal with what is happening elsewhere.
“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-11 ESV)
Don’t Overheat: The Righteous Will Inherit The Earth And The Wicked Will Perish (Psalm 37:8-34)
As I consider this portion of text, it really seems to run with two different ideas that are intimately acquainted with one another. The first is that the righteous will inherit the Earth and the second is that the Lord cares for His people. Both of these have the destruction of the ungodly in their sights. Interestingly, these two ideas are separated in a sort of a sandwich with the bread being the inheritance of the righteous and the meat being the care of the Lord for the righteous in Psalm 37:18-26. David seems to move between both ideas in a way that helps us to see the relationship between the two.
The righteous will inherit the Earth (Psalm 37:9-17). The evildoers will one day be cut off and those who entrust their selves to the Lord will inherit the land (Psalm 37:9). There really is coming a day when evil will be destroyed completely, and the righteous will receive the promises of God.
God the Son took on human flesh and dwelt among us. He lived a perfect life and died on the cross. All those who entrust their selves to Him are united to Him by faith. Their sins are paid for by Christ’s death and His perfect righteous life is credited to their account. The response to this message is to repent and believe.
Repentance is turning from ruling our own lives. It is literally a change of mind. And this change of mind leads to a change in direction. Faith, or believing in Christ is entrusting our lives to Him. Those who wait upon the Lord entrust their selves to the Lord.
Those who entrust their selves to the Lord inherit the land. This is part of the promise given in Genesis 12:1 except now we understand that this promise has been expanded to include the whole Earth. We see this expansion in Matthew 5:5, Galatians 3:16-29, Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah 66:22, Micah 4:1-5, Romans 4:13, and Hebrews 11:10. Romans 4:13 is especially enlightening at this point.
“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13 ESV)
Paul’s wording is especially interesting because he states that the promise to Abraham was that he would be “heir of the world”. This tells us that as we look at this promise of a land it should strike us as a promise of the Earth. We will inherit the Earth and the wicked will be destroyed.
The wicked will not be there (Psalm 37:10). As I look to the future of the United States, and much of the Western World, it seems to me that the culture of death that has enthralled the wicked is going to lead to the demise of the wicked. A lack of esteem for children, lack of marriage, and the decision to wait incredibly long for children means that many will not have them. Fully half of all atheists and agnostics do not have children. Sodomites and Lesbians cannot have children except when they undertake incredibly costly means. As I look to the future, it seems to me that the wickedness that surrounds us does have a shelf life. Society can’t poison itself forever.
People like to think of Jesus as meek and mild in part because of the Beatitudes. But he was quoting this text in Matthew 5:5 when He said that he meek will inherit the Earth. That statement is not as meek as it is made out to be when we consider that it came from this Psalm which is stating that the wicked will be destroyed and the meek will inherit the land (Psalm 37:11). The meek look beyond today’s troubles and ultimately find peace on the inherited Earth.
Gears seem to shift a bit and they shift a bit into an area that we find a bit too familiar today. When the wicked assault God’s people, God takes it as a personal assault and will deliver justice to His people. It is currently the case that the wicked plot “against the righteous” (Psalm 37:12), but this does not affect the Lord. His response is to laugh at the wicked because He knows how this game is going to play out. He knows their end and He knows that their destruction is coming (Psalm 37:13).
We see an assault upon God’s people in our day. Intense persecution does take place across the globe. But we find Christians in America being pushed more and more to the edge of society. Of late, simply having Christian concerns is enough to have you described in almost terroristic language as a “Christian Nationalist”. Parents who are concerned with what is taught in children’s schools were put on watchlists.
And we get really worked up about these things, but God laughs because He knows what is coming. The wicked who pursue the destruction of the righteous will destroy their selves. They will seek to slay but will themselves be slain (Psalm 37:14-15).
It may be that the righteous seem to have little right now and struggle, but the little that they have is better than what is coming to the wicked (Psalm 37:16-17). They may have made life hard for the righteous, but the wicked will perish. And the righteous will inherit the Earth.
The reason that the righteous will inherit the Earth is the Lord’s care for them (Psalm 37:18-26). The Lord is intimately acquainted with the His people. This knowledge of them is not a pure understanding of them, for God knows all thing sin that way. He is intimately acquainted with me. He loves and cares for them (Psalm 37:18). And even in the wicked times, when the darkness is deep, He protects them (Psalm 37:19). Therefore, the destruction that falls upon the wicked does not fall upon the righteous.
Think for a moment about our church. While the world scoffs at the idea of having children and prioritizing family, our little church has decided that it is good and right to multiply. What will happen to others who do not believe God’s Word concerning children? What will happen to us?
It seems obvious, does it not? The wicked will vanish. God will destroy the wicked and it may not be fire from heaven. It may simply be the natural consequences of living outside of the way God designed the world to be lived in. They will vanish like the flowers of the field and smoke (Psalm 37:20).
Have you ever watched wildflowers disappear in the Fall? It does seem to happen suddenly even though it took some time. And I am certain that you have watched the speed at which smoke disappears.
This idea flows over the course of the next few verses. The wicked and the righteous are compared. The wicked is a taker and the righteous is generous (Psalm 37:21-22). And again, because of God’s care the righteous inherit the Earth while the wicked are destroyed. The great peace and kindness of the promised inheritance will not fall upon the wicked.
And this all takes place because of God’s care for His people. Man prepares his way, but God disposes. Because God is caring for His people, they will inherit the land.
The church went swimming on Wednesday. All the parents were watching their kids as much as they needed to be watched. And because of that, the children would be okay. They would live to play and fight with each other another day. That is how it is with God’s people. He loves and cares for us, therefore we will be kept safe.
This section of the psalm is given an illustration. It’s a personal anecdote from David. David stated that he had never seen the “righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread”. In act, David had seen quite the opposite. He had seen generosity springing from the righteous and their children (Psalm 37:25-26). This is not to say that a faithful believer won’t end up impoverished, but David had never seen it. Over and over, he had seen the opposite.
And as I consider our own day, I believe it is the same with me. I can think of some godly people that were poor. But it has been rare to see a godly person who is having to beg for their daily meal.
And the other side of this sandwich, the other piece of bread comes in Psalm 37:27-34. Because of God’s care the righteous will inherit the Earth. This should cause us to do good (Psalm 37:27). God will not allow the wicked to trample His precious people. God will cut off the wicked and God’s people will receive eternal life (Psalm 37:28-29). They will inherit God’s promises toward them, for He will ensure it.
God has saved His people through the finished work of Christ. He has brought them to Himself. He loves them. He cares for them. And He will ensure that they receive the promised inheritance. Therefore, when the wicked seek to destroy God’s people, the Lord Himself will put them to a trial with Him as judge. God will ensure that the wicked are judged and His people who love wisdom and justice because of His Word will be cared for (Psalm 37:30-34).
How do we keep from overheating when the wicked seem to be everywhere, getting away with everything, and living the high life? Well, we consider the end of all things. We consider their end and we consider our end.
Over and over there is a discussion here of our inheritance. And we see that David sees it as never ending (29). This is what we have to look forward to. The wicked will be “brought to trial” (33). That is what they must look forward to. I can face these things without losing my mind because I know what God is going to do. I know that God will deliver His glorious promises to me and that I will be with Him for eternity. I also know that those people that live wickedly upon the Earth have judgment to face for their actions.
I also know that God loves and cares for His people. I know that God has not abandoned me in this world to face hardship alone. He loves me, cares for me, and has ordered the Universe in such a way that everything is moving for my ultimate good. It is not so for the wicked.
How do we keep from overheating? Well, we consider our glorious future and the end of the unrighteous.
Don’t Overheat: God’s People Have Peace And Longevity (Psalm 37:35-40)
Just as David had never seen the righteous forsaken or their children “begging for bread”, he had seen a wicked man whose influence and wealth seems to have spread “like a green laurel tree”. But this man suddenly vanished (Psalm 37:36). But the opposite is true of the righteous, they have longevity (Psalm 37:36).
I believe we are witnessing this sort of thing in America right now. Birth rates are on the decline for most Americans and there is simply not a serious concern toward the type of people children will become. On the flip side of this there is a growing group of believes that are taking the raising of children more seriously. They care about what is being taught in their children’s schools. And many of them decided to pull their children out of public schools and enter homeschooling and private education. And there is also a growing understanding of the stupidity of rejecting Christian principles. And I believe that, as things get dumber, that will happen more often. The wicked will be destroyed and will not have a future.
Why will this be the case? Because the Lord is the fortress of His people. He helps them because they take refuge in Him (Psalm 37:39-40).
When we take a long view of matters, we begin to understand something about the wicked. They don’t have a future. They simply do not have a future. God’s judgment will fall upon them. But there is a real sense in which God’s judgment is already falling upon them.
Social trends have caused a lack of children to be born. Half of all atheists and agnostics don’t even have children. They don’t have a future.
Social trends have caused an uptick in the number of people that identify as LGBTQ +. Most of them can’t have children and their lifespan is incredibly short in comparison with the rest of the population. One study from the 1990’s stated that the lifespan of a homosexual was 20-30 years shorter than the average American. And a more recent study on this topic is written about here.
We live in a culture of death that does not uphold and value life. God has created a world in which, if we live in it according to His Word and His ways, will produce longevity. Do we really expect that a culture so bent on destroying itself is going to survive?
Right now Christians have a hard time. Our views are not valued in the public square. But we, the people of peace have longevity. We are still having children. And we have an opportunity to raise those children in the fear and admonition of the Lord to face a future that probably looks much different than our own.
The pandemic is an odd thing for me to think through. The loss of life, especially in some of our larger cities was horrific. The death tolls were huge and many of you listening to what I am saying felt that with the loss of a loved one. At the same time, it also did a good deal to wake people up from their stupor.
Who would have thought that parents would suddenly be forced to think about what their children were learning in school? How many years would it have been before parents caught on to the curriculum used around the country? How long would it have taken for them to become concerned with public education as they have been of late? Parents woke up and began thinking through these things, something they hadn’t done in years.
Who would have though that the number of people seeking a college education would plummet? With a little time to think through what was being taught and the affects of a college education, many people opted out. Colleges were the institutions where the culture of death first gained prominence. Would this have happened without the pandemic?
As I read through this text, I can’t help but think through all the ways that the culture of death has been revealed to us over the course of the past few years.
We have a lot that we could get worked up about. But we shouldn’t. And I think Covid helped me a bit in this way. Suddenly I saw in this brand-new illness that made it around the world, that God was using this virus to shake up the whole world. And the covers are still falling off. And as they fall off we see clearly that the wickedness that is running rampant within our society will not survive. All of a sudden, we have a longer view of what is taking place in the world.
We are to have self-control, not out of some sort of ignorant bliss, but because se understand that God cares for His people and will make all things right. Don’t overheat, entrust yourself to the Lord.
R. Dwain Minor