Psalm 37: Bible Study and Meditation
Read Full-Psalm Here: bible.usccb.org/bible/psalms/37
Have you ever contemplated the thought, “why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer?”
I often have pondered this question and found that Psalm 37 offers a satisfactory answer in 40 poetic verses.
1 Of David.
Do not be provoked by evildoers.
Do not envy those who do wrong.
The first verse sets you up for the following 39. Simply stating that we should not look to the prosperity of the ‘evildoers’ or those who do not follow in righteous ways.
At times, it looks like our enemies are prosperous in comparison to us.
How many examples throughout history do we see an evil tyrant with their pockets lined with riches?
Or have you experienced a wealthy boss who mistreats their employees? Sometimes it may seem like things really do go well for the evildoers. I remember being a kid in middle school being bullied by others who wore brand clothing in school while I wore the same modest clothing over and over until it had holes. Since I was too busy noticing what they were wearing, I did not show gratitude for the clothes my parents worked hard to provide me.
2 Like grass they wither quickly;
Like green plants they wilt away.
Here is the first promise God makes to us. That what is temporary will fade away. Grass and plants may be green and upright today but sometime in the near future they will wither and wilt. How fast does God promise this will happen? “Quickly.”
Verses 3 – 6:
Trust in the Lord and do good
That you may dwell in the land and live secure
Find your delight in the Lord
Who will give you your heart’s desire
Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in him and he will act
And make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
Your justice like the noonday.
The Lord makes more promises in these few verses – security, delight, and your heart’s desire. God doesn’t leave you alone with your troubles and so you should never stray from doing good. Even if you are dealing with an evildoer the Lord expects you to trust him and he will act according to his justice with your oppressor.
Verses 7 – 9
Be still before the Lord;
Wait for him.
Do not be provoked by the prosperous,
Nor by malicious schemers.
Refrain from anger; abandon wrath;
Do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
Those who do evil will be cut off,
But those who wait for the Lord will inherit the earth
I just need to point out how radical these verses are compared to normal societal standards. It’s normal to want to seek justice especially when you’re being oppressed. It’s normal to be provoked into anger and demonstrate our wrath. But the Lord offers us a warning, “it brings only harm”. However, the Lord shortly follows his warning with good promises like a reward for our patience, “evil will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord will inherit the earth.” How beautiful is that image? A world with no evil and the good, the patient inheriting it all. I could only imagine this peaceful world but it brings me hope.
Verses 10 – 11
Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more;
Look for them and they will not be there.
But the poor will inherit the earth,
Will delight in great prosperity
Again the Lord gently commands that we wait and following it with the same promise, “the wicked will be no more.” Then he follows that same promise with an even greater promise, “the poor will inherit the earth, will delight in great prosperity.” This is a major turning point from the early verses when the prosperous were wicked and the poor were oppressed. At this point, the tables have not only turned but the wicked have been obliterated in God’s justice. Simply, wow.
Verses 12 – 13
The wicked plot against the righteous
And gnash their teeth at them;
Because he sees that their day is coming.
I love this illustration. The Lord offers us his perspective of evil-doers taking advantage, cheating, abusing, and corrupting the oppressed. But we know that because our God is good and just that things will not remain that way forever. Justice is at hand and “their day is coming.”
Verses 14 – 16
The wicked unsheathe their swords;
They string their bows
To fell the poor and oppressed
To slaughter those whose way is upright.
Their swords will pierce their own hearts;
Their bows will be broken.
Better the meagerness of the righteous one
Than the plenty of the wicked
In these verses, a war has been declared between the evildoers and the righteous. It’s a once again beautiful illustration of the wicked drawing their weapons – preparing to kill. Before it is revealed that the righteous are inadequate -most likely lacking in weapons or defences – we are told that the wicked are destroyed by their own weapons.
Verses 17 – 31
The arms of the wicked will be broken,
While the Lord will sustain the righteous
The Lord knows the days of the blameless;
Their heritage lasts forever.
They will not be ashamed when times are bad;
In days of famine they will be satisfied.
The wicked one borrows and does not repay;
The righteous one is generous and gives.
For those blessed by the Lord will inherit the earth,
But those accursed will be cut off.
The valiant one whose steps are guided by the Lord,
Who will delight in his way,
May stumble, but he will never fall,
For the Lord holds his hand.
Neither in my youth, nor now in old age
Have I seen the righteous one abandoned
Or his offspring begging for bread.
All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his offspring become a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good,
That you may be settled forever.
For the Lord loves justice
And does not abandon the faithful
When the unjust are destroyed,
And the offspring of the wicked cut off,
The righteous will inherit the earth
And dwell in it forever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom;
His tongue speaks what is right.
God’s teaching is in his heart;
His steps do not falter.
In these verses, there is a going back and forth like contrast and comparison between the evildoers/wicked and the righteous. The righteous are generous and productive in the sense of having offspring and with their characters, “Their heritage lasts forever… his offspring become a blessing… guided by the Lord… the Lord holds his hand… utters wisdom… gracious and lends… May stumble, but he will never fall… Turn from evil and do good…” The righteous are fruitful in wisdom, good deeds, and have good families. God’s response to these good deeds is security from being abandoned, satisfaction even through famine, a good heritage, and the earth.
The wicked spies on the righteous
And seeks to kill him.
But the Lord does not abandon him in his power,
Nor let him be condemned when tried.
Wait early for the Lord,
And keep his way;
He will raise you up to inherit the earth;
you will see when the wicked are cut off.
I have seen a ruthless scoundrel,
spreading out like a green cedar.
When I passed by again, he was gone;
though I searched, he could not be found.
Observe the person of integrity and mark the upright;
Because there is a future for a man of peace.
Sinners will be destroyed together;
the future of the wicked will be cut off.
The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD,
their refuge in a time of distress.
The LORD helps and rescues them,
rescues and saves them from the wicked,
because they take refuge in him.
I discovered this psalm one evening while listening to the Bible in a Year Podcast. It brought so much peace to my heart that it inspired me to write a blog post about it and share it with others. Thank you for reading.