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Psalm 37 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 49 secs

Faith Rest Drill and Prayer; Psalm 37

Psalm 37:4, 5 "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. [5] Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it."

Exactly what does it mean when it says God is going to give us the desires of our heart? In fact this is a very rich promise, one that believers should claim and understand, but unfortunately to do so we can't just go in and cut this passage out, memorise it and claim it. There is a context surrounding this particular promise and once we understand the context and the rationales that surround it we will realise that this is a promise that has much broader significance and it more profound in its application than perhaps we understood before.

In these verses we have commands. They are all imperatives in the Hebrew: "Delight yourself in the LORD … Trust also in Him." The consequences are: a) God will give you the desires of your heart; b) He will bring it to pass. There is a parallelism here but in order to understand what is really happening in these two verses we have to pick up the context, we have to look at the overall psalm.

This is an acrostic psalm. That is, a literary structure where each element begins with a different letter of the alphabet. Here is Psalm 37 the verses are grouped. For example, verses one and two are grouped together and verse one begins with the Hebrew letter aleph, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Then the second stanza, verses 3 & 4, begins with the word batach, the Hebrew letter beth which is the word for trust; and so on down through this psalm. The reason they did that was because it provided an easy way to memorise the psalm. Under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit some of these psalms were written in ways that would ease memory.

Why does the psalmist say "Delight yourself in the Lord," and "Commit your way to the Lord"? To answer that question we have to go back to the first verse. It begins with a less than accurate translation: "Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers." The beginning of this verse is the strongest form of prohibition in the Hebrew. It is the strongest way you can state a negative. All of the ten commandments are stated that way. When God told Adam in the garden not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil this same construction was used. The imperfect of charah means in its basic root form to be angry, to be upset. It had the idea of something that is being kindled. When taken in the hithpael stem in the Hebrew it has the idea of being excited or agitated, worked up, overwrought. It is not really the idea of fretting, which is more the idea of worrying, to brood about something. What is meant here is more the idea of being incensed or overwrought about some kind of injustice. It is not that you are worried about it, it is that you are getting angry and worked up about living in a fallen world and are having to deal with some level of unrighteousness or injustice. Usually it is because you or I are the victim of some kind of injustice from someone.

Whenever we think about a promise and are working through it in our thinking we need to go back and look at the contexts of these promises and try to identify the historical problem or situation. We don't know precisely what it was here; all we know is that David was the author of this psalm. This is David's meditation and reflection on something that had happened in his own life. The application is that this is how we are to think through a situation when we face some real or perceived unfair or unjust situation.

When we face injustice in life, unfair situations or assaults or attacks, they come in two categories: either overt of covert. They are either overt where somebody makes it clear that they don't like us and are hostile to us, or in other situations it is covert such as the person who is always nice to us, very poised, seems to be friendly; yet they are twisting the knife as they are stabbing it in your back and you never know what is really going on in the situation. Perhaps we are dealing with just a general situation. Because we live in the devil's world there is going to be injustice, unrighteousness, unfairness, and we are going to reap the benefits of that. We live under a fallen government, fallen economic systems where at times we may work hard, be diligent, and do everything that we can possibly do to be successful, and something happens at a macro level, something like a depression, and we lose our job and go through economic collapse for a while. There are all kinds of things that can happen and one of the things that really bothers us as believers is that when we are working hard and are diligent and consistent, and the lazy no-good slob living next door doesn't lose his job, but we do. So what underlies the problem is Psalm 37 isn't simply matter of something real or perceived injustice, it is the problem of the unbeliever who is successful while we are going through some kind of adversity. Why is it that the unrighteous is successful and the godly man, the believer who is positive to doctrine, seems to lose everything and to be unsuccessful. This kind of thing really puts pressure on people at different times and it is amazing how if you go through enough pressure and adversity how many times you see people who ought to know better cave in and compromise, and they will start picking up various procedures and policies just in the hope that they can discover some level of success.

This is what the psalmist is crying out in this psalm: How is it that the righteous suffer but the wicked appears to be successful? When we are in that situation that is the adversity that is putting pressure on us and there are various ways that we try to respond in human viewpoint. Remember, human viewpoint is always tantamount to sin nature control of the soul; it is the thought system of the arrogant soul that thinks that it can solve the problems in life apart from God. It is called autonomy, self-law. Arrogance is the orientation of the sin nature and the thought that it conforms to is always human viewpoint, what we sometimes call paganism. The human viewpoint pagan response that we all have can fall under several categories. First, when we face injustice what we are tempted to do is to solve the problem or alleviate the pressure by compromising some doctrine or philosophy of life rooted in doctrine. A second response to injustice is to compromise on moral or ethical issues; we change the way we do things in order to alleviate the pressure. Third, is to cave in to the outside pressure of adversity and to give in to mental attitude sins. We get angry, we worry, and we develop resentment and bitterness toward somebody. Fourth, we look at the short-term solution instead of a long-term solution. We put blinders on and look at this right-now situation and we forget about the overall plan and purpose of God in the Christian life and what He is doing in human history.

So the psalmist says, "Do not fret because of evildoers," and this is the noun from the root ra, which is evil. This is talking about those who do evil. It may be those who are criminal, it may involve those who simply perform some injustice. The righteous in the Old Testament should not be understood in the New Testament sense of imputed righteousness because Christ had not died yet. The spiritual life in the Old Testament was based on the faith-rest drill and obedience to the principles of the Mosaic Law. If a person was disobedient it didn't mean he wasn't saved but he was considered unrighteous, and whether a person was a believer or an unbeliever he was classified as wicked or unrighteous. So the contrast here is between the believer who is positive, who is trying to walk with God, apply promises and divine viewpoint thinking to his life, live consistently with the Mosaic Law, versus the person who is leaving God out of his life, the person who really isn't positive, the person who has just a superficial connection or relationship to God. "…Be not envious toward wrongdoers." Just because they seem to be successful at what they do and seem to be getting all of the blessings and all of the reward, don't become envious. The reminder is in verse 2 NASB "For they will wither quickly like the grass And fade like the green herb." They will not last. This boils down to the fact that we look at the short-term solution and not the long-term solution. This is a reminder of Isaiah 40:8 NASB "The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." We have to keep our perspective on the long-term perspective, the eternal perspective. This reminds us of the sixth problem-solving device, a personal sense of our eternal destiny. That means what we have to do is put aside living in terms of the short-term and start living in terms of the long-term and recognising both God's plan for our life and what He is doing in bringing us to spiritual maturity, and what God is doing in human history.

Our application is going to be a little different from that which was in the original context of the Old Testament. We have to apply this in terms of what God is doing for the individual believer in the church age in terms of conforming us to the character of Jesus Christ so that we are prepared to rule and reign with Him in the Millennial kingdom. So we are reminded not to become distracted by the fact that there are those who re becoming successful and who are getting all of the rewards of this temporal age, because it is temporary. In the eternal perspective it isn't going to last. The advancing believer is the one who is going to receive eternal rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.

The next section in this acrostic is verses 3 and 4, the beth. Here we have in contrast a positive command. NASB "Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness." The word here for trust is one of the key words in Hebrew for trusting God, the word batach. It means to rely on, to trust in something, the key word for trust and reliance and confidence in the Lord. It means to feel secure, to put confidence in something and a result of that security. It is used many times in the Old Testament. We see two things here. Trust in the Lord is resting. The idea of relying upon God brings in the passive idea. There is also an active idea: "and do good," i.e. do what is right. In other words, trust in the Lord and don't cave in to the pressure to solve the problem, the injustice, with some sort of human viewpoint solution that rejects the grace of God. "Dwell in the land" means stay in the position you are in. You may be in a difficult situation and one of the ways you can solve that situation is to leave. It may not be wrong to leave in every situation but in some situations it may be. This psalm may be a reflection of the mistake that David made when rather than trusting God and living in injustice under Saul he decided to leave the land. So there is an active things to do and that is being right where God wants us, doing what God wants us to do, and the passive thing is to rest in Him to handle the situation.

Then he takes it is the next level. "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart." The word for delight is the Hebrew word anag, hithpael stem. It has the root meaning of being soft, delicate or dainty, something that you would take pleasure in, to take exclusive delight in. So in the hithpael, the reflexive stem, it intensifies the meaning of the word and it came to mean to take pleasure in, to take delight in, to become excited and stimulated about something. In other words, make God the number one priority in your life. It is making doctrine the number one priority, which isn't just learning it but also applying it. The result is, "He will give you the desires of your heart." This isn't saying that He is going to give you what you want, it is that He will provide the requests that you ask when you are asking in His will. Because you are trusting in Him and delighting in Him that which you want changes. You don't want the things that are stimulated by the desires of the sin nature, you want the things that are stimulated from a mature spiritual life. The word translated "desires" is the feminine construct plural of mishalah which means to ask or to enquire. It is talking about giving the requests of our thinking. In other words, thought goes into prayer and you have been praying and making petitions to God. This is a promise that God is going to answer your prayer. Because you have made doctrine the number one priority, you are walking in fellowship with Him, you will be asking things according to His will and He will do it. We have the same kind of promises in the New Testament. This reminds us that we need to make our relationship with God the highest priority.

The next couplet, verses 5 & 6, build on this idea. "Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it." One of the problems we have in modern Christianity is we think that the word commit is a synonym for trust. But actually "commit" is not a very good way to translate this Hebrew word galal. It is a qal imperative, which means it is a mandate. It actually means to roll something over, to roll something away. The picture here is rolling our worry, our concerns, and our problems on to the Lord. That is not the idea of commit. This has the idea of rolling or giving something completely to the Lord and galal is a synonym for trust but it does not mean commit. The word "way" is the Hebrew derek which means a road or path, a whole way of life. So we are to entrust our life, our path, everything, to the Lord. This idea is picked up again in v. 34 of this psalm: "Wait for the LORD and keep His way. And He will exalt you to inherit the land…"

What we run into in this psalm is several words for faith. The first is batach which has the idea of having complete confidence in God, to put our security in Him. This is the idea that we have in Isaiah 26:3, 4 KJV "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth [batach] in thee. Trust [batach] ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength." So by having our confidence in God it is not our strength but His strength. The second word is galal which means to entrust, the idea of rolling something on to the Lord. What we are entrusting to the Lord there is our way, and in v. 34 our way becomes His way. We are walking along the path of obedience to God and that expressed with the word qabah, the word we saw in Isaiah 40:31, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." The idea there really isn't wait, it is the idea of hope, of confident expectation. We are looking forward to what God is doing, and this brings in the idea of a personal sense of our eternal destiny. Now we are beginning to move from looking at the promise to looking at the rationale underneath the promise. What really undergirds this promise are two facets, the essence of God and the plan of God, and what we are pointing out so far is the plan of God and thinking in terms of the long-range picture of what our destiny is. When we do this we will notice something else when we read through this psalm. It is that the idea of destiny for the believer is focusing on our future inheritance at the judgment seat of Christ.              

Look at what we find throughout this psalm. Verse 9 NASB "For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait [qabah] for the LORD, they will inherit the land. … [11] But the humble will inherit the land." The humble/meek are those who are authority-oriented to the plan of God. True humility is submission to authority. [18] "The LORD knows the days of the blameless, And their inheritance will be forever." In contrast, v. 20 "But the wicked will perish…" Then again [22] "For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, But those cursed by Him will be cut off… [29] The righteous will inherit the land And dwell in it forever… [34] And He will exalt you to inherit the land…" Six times we have this emphasis on inheritance, so what does that tell us? That to understand the dynamics of our promises we have to understand that the plan of God isn't something restricted to time but is focusing on preparing the believer for eternity.

There is the rationale of the plan of God here but that is not it alone, there is the rationale of the essence of God that undergirds this promise. From verse 25 we start seeing an emphasis on the character of God. Psalm 37:25 NASB "I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread." What he means here is that God doesn't desert us as believers. So the attribute that is emphasised in vv. 25, 26 is His faithfulness. He is not going to desert us in the midst of adversity. In v. 26 we see His grace. "All day long he is gracious [chanan] …" He is a gracious God, He is not going top deal with us on the basis of what we deserve but on the basis of His own character. "… and lends, And his descendants are a blessing." 

Psalm 37:28 NASB "For the LORD loves justice And does not forsake His godly ones...." He doesn't forsake us because of His own integrity. His justice is His righteousness in action. Therefore the integrity of God undergirds this promise.

So we see that in terms of the rationale for delighting in Him and rolling our way over to the Lord is first of all that He is faithful, therefore we can entrust this to Him and He will take care of us. Second, because of His integrity He will deal with us in justice and He will deal with the unrighteous, the wicked who reject us and persecute us, and their injustice, and they will reap retribution from God. We need to turn it over to the Supreme Court of heaven. Third, His grace. He deals with us not on the basis of who and what we are but on the basis of who He is, so therefore He is eminently trustworthy.