The Path of the Wicked and of the Righteous
The Path of the Wicked and of the Righteous
Psalm 37. This is a Psalm of David, and it presents the comfort to the faithful that the government of God is, in considering the contrasting paths of the wicked and the righteous. If the saints did not apprehend the government of God, it would be easy in the moment to envy the wicked. But knowing the character of God, and therefore the character of His government, the righteous can commit their cause to Him. This is an acrostic Psalm, in which each verse of Hebrew poetry begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We have one in Psalm 25, another in Psalm 34, but here the verses are longer, often represented by two English verses. The verses below are displayed according to the Hebrew verses, with 22 in all. This Psalm has an exhortative character, suggesting that it may be something taught to the remnant by those better instructed.
A Psalm of David.
1 Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, and be not envious of them that work unrighteousness; 2 for they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and fade as the green herb.
3 Confide in Jehovah, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on faithfulness; 4 and delight thyself in Jehovah, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart.
5 Commit thy way unto Jehovah, and rely upon him: he will bring it to pass; 6 and he will bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
7 Rest in Jehovah, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him that prospereth in his way, because of the man that bringeth mischievous devices to pass.
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; fret not thyself: it would be only to do evil. 9 For evil-doers shall be cut off; but those that wait on Jehovah, they shall possess the land.
10 For yet a little while, and the wicked is not; and thou considerest his place, but he is not. 11 “But the meek shall possess the land,” [quoted in Matt. 5:5] and shall delight themselves in the abundance of prosperity.
vv.1-11 Rest in Jehovah, Counting on His Righteous Government. The remnant are encouraged to not fret about the evil doers, nor to be envious of them. They may appear to prosper for a time, but “they shall soon be cut down like the grass”. The secret to having rest of soul is to “confide in Jehovah… delight thyself in Jehovah … commit thy way to Jehovah, rely upon Him”, and finally “rest in Jehovah”. Rather than be troubled about it, the saints should leave the matter with Him. The danger of not doing this is that is could lead to fleshy anger (v.8). The latter part of v.7 may refer to Antichrist personally; “him that prospereth in his way, because of the man that bringeth mischievous devices to pass.” One thing that makes it difficult to have peace is that things are turned upside down morally. The remnant can have confidence in the Lord that “he will bring it to pass; and he will bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday”. The remnant can rely on the righteous government of God. There is much in these verses about possessing the land. The remnant seems to be in the land, but the wicked are having the upper hand. Perhaps like Ahab with Nabboth, the wicked have seized the choicest portions for themselves, and the faithful are dispossessed. The comfort is that this state will not continue forever. “For yet a little while, and the wicked is not; and thou considerest his place, but he is not.” The faithful remnant, the “meek”, will inherit what the wicked have usurped! “But the meek shall possess the land, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of prosperity.” Note that v.11 is referenced by the Lord Himself in Matthew 5:5 in speaking to the disciples, who were themselves a faithful remnant. This help us to see the character of the disciples in the gospels, and why Jesus would address them as the Jewish remnant, rather than the Church.1
12 The wicked plotteth against the righteous, and gnasheth his teeth against him. 13 The Lord laugheth at him; for he seeth that his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the afflicted and needy, to slay those that are upright in the way: 15 their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
16 The little that the righteous hath is better than the abundance of many wicked; 17 for the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but Jehovah upholdeth the righteous.
18 Jehovah knoweth the days of the perfect; and their inheritance shall be for ever: 19 they shall not be ashamed in the time of evil, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
20 For the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of Jehovah shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume, like smoke shall they consume away.
21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again; but the righteous is gracious and giveth: 22 for those blessed of him shall possess the land, and they that are cursed of him shall be cut off.
vv.12-22 The End of the Wicked and the Righteous. In these verses the faithful consider the end of two paths, as an encouragement to their own hearts. We had the Lord laughing in Psalm 2 when the wicked plot against Jehovah and His Anointed. Here we have the Lord laughing at the wicked when they plot against “the righteous”; i.e. the faithful remnant in association with Christ. In vv.14-15 the tragedy of the wicked is pictured as one who draws a sword to use it on the righteous, but then that very sword is taken and plunged into their own heart, or one who bends a bow only to have it broken! Again, in v.16 contentment is urged on the righteous in lieu of the government of God. While the wicked seem to prosper, the Lord still provides for His saints in a time of famine. But in the end, “the wicked shall perish”. In vv.21-22 we have another contrast: the wicked are characterized by taking (dishonestly), but the righteous are characterized by giving (graciously). The end result is that the wicked (who were takers) will be cut off, and the righteous will be given the possession of the land!
23 The steps of a man are established by Jehovah, and he delighteth in his way: 24 though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for Jehovah upholdeth his hand.
25 I have been young, and now am old, and I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed seeking bread: 26 all the day he is gracious and lendeth, and his seed shall be a blessing.
27 Depart from evil, and do good, and dwell for evermore; 28a for Jehovah loveth judgment, and will not forsake his saints:
28b They are preserved for ever; but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. 29 The righteous shall possess the land, and dwell therein for ever.
vv.23-29 Jehovah’s Faithfulness to His Saints. These verses are an encouragement to the righteous that Jehovah is faithful to uphold His saints, however dark it may get (v.24). In vv.25-26 the vast range of human experience is reasoned from, that Jehovah does not forsake the righteous. Why can the righteous have confidence? It is because of the righteous character of God; “Jehovah loveth judgment, and will not forsake his saints”. Again, as in the previous paragraph, the psalmist looks on the end. Not only the wicked but their “seed” will be cut off, and the righteous will not only possess the land, but “dwell therein for ever”.
30 The mouth of the righteous proffereth wisdom, and his tongue speaketh judgment; 31 the law of his God is in his heart; his goings shall not slide.
32 The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him: 33 Jehovah will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.
34 Wait for Jehovah, and keep his way, and he will exalt thee to possess the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.
vv.30-34 The righteous delivered from the hand of the wicked. In these verses we have first of all the character of the righteous, that they speak right, they think right, and therefore they act right. The wicked on the other hand are absorbed with one thing: catching and slaying the righteous. But Jehovah, in His righteous government, will not allow the righteous to meet that fate. The call is to “wait for Jehovah”. Again, this paragraph concludes with the end of the path, when the wicked are cut off and the righteous are exalted and possess the land!
35 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading like a green tree in its native soil: 36 but he passed away, and behold, he was not; and I sought him, but he was not found.
37 Mark the perfect, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace; 38 but the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
39 But the salvation of the righteous is of Jehovah: he is their strength in the time of trouble. 40 And Jehovah will help them and deliver them: he will deliver them from the wicked, and save them; for they trust in him.
vv.35-39 The end of the path. Once again, in conclusion, the psalmist looks on to the end. Although the wicked seem now to flourish “like a green tree in its native soil”, in the end they will be nothing (v.36), destroyed, and cut off (v.38). But the righteous will be saved by Jehovah Himself; “the end of that man is peace”. This Psalm really looks at the end of the path in light of the righteous government of Jehovah as encouragement to them in the presence of growing evil.