Focus on God

Psalm 37

Because we’re creatures, we’re bound by time and space, intimately connected by virtue of senses with circumstances. We see, hear, touch, taste, smell; are influenced for either good or ill by those inputs. Add to that our thought life – how we process and rationalize and categorize, trying to make sense of our senses and what they tell us.

There’s another whole dimension of reality, for the most part outside the limits of our sense perception capability. We can detect evidence and effects of its presence, cannot presently observe it directly. Referring, of course, to spiritual dimension. Bible makes it clear that is arena where truly big stuff, important stuff, eternally significant stuff is happening. Material world has its place, but… it’s only the stage where cosmic conflict of God’s redemptive plan is being conducted (see Eph. 6:12).

Challenge facing the believer: live pleasing to God in both dimensions, material and spiritual. Give necessary attention to each without neglecting the other. Invest wisely in what has true and lasting value. Recognize that “we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12) and it takes constant perspective corrections to do so. Present Psalm is one of those correctives, reminding us that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

Especially in material world,

Things are seldom what they seem, / Skim milk masquerades as cream; / Highlows pass as patent leathers; / Jackdaws strut in peacock’s feathers.

Very true, / So they do.

Black sheep dwell in every fold; / All that glitters is not gold; / Storks turn out to be but logs; / Bulls are but inflated frogs.

So they be, / Frequentlee. Gilbert & Sullivan, HMS Pinafore

So what’s connection between G & S and this Psalm? In part a reminder that people are often not what they appear. Those who have achieved what world views as success but apart from God are rarely satisfied, content. Appearance of happiness, pleasure is at most temporary; probe into areas of values, ultimate questions, state of soul – facade crumbles if individual is honest.

Psalmist, David, perhaps in note to self, calls a timeout – pause to re-think priorities: if this is true, how should he re-direct attention and energy toward what is pleasing to God.

A. don’t fret – do this instead v.3-5, 7-9, 34

don’t get heated up (1, 7, 8)

hot under the collar, fired up, steamed, a slow burn – expressions used for anger

agitation more the idea than anxiety; frustrated anger over perceived injustice

don’t start the fire and, if it’s already started, don’t stoke it

in either circumstance, requires purposeful act of will to do right thing

trust in the Lord (3)

trust God to do what’s right on his part, you do what’s right on yours

that means: have faith and don’t grumble

remember Hebrew children – golden calf, fussing about food, etc. – forbidden to dwell in land

delight in the Lord (4)

seek joy and satisfaction and contentment in God; meditate on his perfections, on his character

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. WSC, Q4

God has infinite store of riches from which to satisfy his childrens’ desires

commit your way to the Lord (5)

roll the burden of your journey onto God – depend on him for both direction and results

rest in the Lord (7)

fretfulness over wicked often because of difference of opinion between us and God – time & way of taking action

be quiet, give God space to be God: “This is the hardest precept that is given to man” Jerome

wait on the Lord (9, 34)

confident, expectant waiting for God to provide right thing in right way at right time

“Passion, according to Bunyan’s parable, has his good things first, and they are soon over; Patience has his good things last, and they last for ever.” CHS

confidence that God will properly deal with wicked and wickedness – not simply contest between good / evil, impersonal forces, yin-yang

it’s conflict between God and his enemies; we all know who wins, we’ve read the final chapter

B. here’s why v.2, 9-10, 13, 15, 20, 36, 38

not just mind over matter, there are real reasons to “fret not”

some practical and temporal, others spiritual and eternal

their prosperity is temporary (2, 9-10)

cut down, cut off, be no more

be stripped of prosperity, exiled from community, erased from memory

is a “book of life”, containing names of redeemed; no “book of death”, with names of reprobate

the Lord is opposed to them (13)

mocking laughter, knowing best efforts will be futile

God isn’t cosmic cop, keeping rebels inside the boundaries, satisfied with some measure of damage control; he is an absolute sovereign committed to perfect justice

that the wicked live another day is indication of God’s longsuffering, not a sign of impotence

their path is self-destructive (15)

the hedge is around the righteous: see Job 1:10

“Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.”

sometimes simply absorbs attacks of wicked including Satan; other times, repels attack so they are “hoist by their own petard”

their efforts are without substance (20)

their empire-building may appear really impressive, but… only what is built on enduring principles has enduring quality – think wise man / foolish man (Matt. 7:24-27)

appearance of substance is simply that, appearance, mirage; will disappear without trace at God’s appointed time

they have no future (36, 38)

even all wicked seem to possess at most is portion of whole; God owns whole (Psa. 24:1), is God who ultimately decides who “owns” what, has what for inheritance

will hold nothing back that is good from his children; means we shouldn’t begrudge the wicked what they have now

this life is the best it gets for the reprobate; best is (by far) yet to come for redeemed

C. and the reward v.9, 11, 18, 22, 29, 34

inherit the land (9, 11, 22, 29, 34)

“technical” term – used 50+ times in Pentateuch and Joshua; referring to promise and possession of Canaan

but, important concept communicated in Heb. 11:8-16, 39 – real estate in Palestine not the ultimate promise

that was tangible down-payment, foreshadowing of eternal reality of heaven

delightful peace (11)

shâlôm – “The general meaning behind the root s-l-m is of completion and fulfillment—of entering into a state of wholeness and unity, a restored relationship.” TWOT

peace is reality for believer regardless of circumstances – at peace with God, have peace of God

that kind of peace never a part of unbeliever’s experience

permanent inheritance, not forgotten memory (18)

remember where the land is!!

“when they die, their inheritance is not lost, but exchanged for one infinitely better.” Poole

1 Peter 1:4 “and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” NLT

blessed by God (22)

special treatment for special people – not everyone receives God’s blessing, the wicked receive cursing

put v.11 & v.22 together – Matt. 5:5

exalted by God (34)

again a reminder / exhortation to faithful waiting – be patient, do the right thing, wait for God’s time

self-promotion not recommended or necessary in God’s household

James goes further: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

So what’s the key to all this? Not a what but a who! Reason we’re even talking about it – Lord Jesus and his work of redemption applied to us. Only way we can understand real truths contained in this Psalm – Holy Spirit sent by Lord Jesus’ request. Confidence in the future and our inheritance in heaven – Lord Jesus’ ultimate and final victory over all his enemies, declared in Revelation. Source of strength and wisdom to live rightly now – Lord Jesus as he carries out his priestly office as Mediator. All God’s blessings come to us through Christ, our inheritance is in Christ, none of this is doable or even makes sense apart from Christ. It’s when we rest / trust in Lord Jesus that promises of this Psalm become real to us.

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