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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Psalms 37

 

 

Verse 1-2

Righteous people should not envy those who practice evil, nor fret because they prosper. Their success will be only temporary. Even though they may prosper all their lives, their success is brief in the light of eternity.


Verses 1-8

1. A call to continuing trust37:1-8


Verses 1-40

Psalm 37

This wisdom psalm advances the thought of Psalm 36. Note the mention of doers of iniquity in Psalm 36:12 and the reference to evildoers in Psalm 37:1. Here David urged the righteous not to let the prosperity of the wicked upset them but to continue to trust in God"s justice. Similar encouragements characterize Psalm 49 , 73. Here the psalmist used several proverbial expressions to convey his exhortation.

"In a moving way the psalmist deals with the issues of life and death, wisdom and folly, and reward and punishment. He is most sensitive to the question of the future and its rewards and sufferings. The psalmist affirms that the Lord will sustain the righteous and that they will fully enjoy the blessings promised to them. The sage sets before the reader or hearer the highway of Wisdom of Solomon , even as our Lord called on his followers to learn from him the way that pleases our Father in heaven ( Matthew 5:2-10)." [Note: VanGemeren, p297.]

This is also an acrostic Psalm , but in this case each strophe (every other verse) begins with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. A strophe is a logical unit determined by either the subject matter or the structure of the poem.

"This is the most obviously sapiential [having, providing, or expounding wisdom] of all the psalms. Indeed it is a collection of sayings that might easily be found in the book of Proverbs. It appears to be a rather random collection of sayings without any order or development. However, there is an important qualification to that statement, for this psalm is acrostic and so is crafted with pedagogical purpose. That carefully ordered arrangement corresponds to the claim made for the substance of the psalm; that Isaiah , the world is exceedingly well ordered, and virtue is indeed rewarded." [Note: Brueggemann, p42.]


Verse 3-4

Positively, we should center our lives on God. We should continue to trust in the Lord to do what is right and persist in doing right ourselves. For the Israelite this meant staying in the Promised Land rather than leaving it for greener pastures elsewhere. Those who take delight in the Lord will receive their hearts" desires. The righteous who delight in the Lord will want to see His will done, and that will happen eventually for them.


Verses 5-7

Committing one"s way to the Lord means submitting one"s life and its daily events to the will of God. If we do this, we will experience what He wants for us. Eventually God will reward our righteousness and show that our confidence was wise.

"An obsession with enemies and rivals cannot be simply switched off, but it can be ousted by a new focus of attention ... It includes a deliberate redirection of one"s emotions (4a, take delight; cf. Paul and Silas in prison, singing as well as praying), and an entrusting of one"s career (your way, 5) and reputation (your vindication, 6) to Him." [Note: Kidner, p149.]

"Creative silence is a rare commodity today, even in church worship services. People cannot tolerate silence. ... But unless we learn to wait silently before God, we will never experience His peace." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p165.]


Verse 7-8

David concluded this opening section of the psalm by returning to the idea with which he began. The righteous should not allow the success of wicked people to distract us to the point where we depart from God"s will.


Verses 9-11

Perhaps the wicked were grabbing land that did not belong to them. David assured the people that the wicked would not succeed long. Those who submitted to God"s authority would eventually possess the land He had promised them (cf. Matthew 5:5). The meek are those who choose the way of patient faith rather than self-assertion, as the preceding verses make clear.


Verses 9-22

2. The assurance of just punishment37:9-22


Verses 12-22

David proceeded to give a basis for confidence in the assurance he had just given in Psalm 37:9-11. Five contrasts provide this security. The Lord, whose strength far exceeds that of the wicked, opposes them ( Psalm 37:12-13). The evil that the wicked do will come back on them ( Psalm 37:14-15). The Lord will sustain the righteous ( Psalm 37:16-17). The righteous are the special objects of God"s careful attention ( Psalm 37:18-20). Finally, God will reward the unselfishness of the righteous but punish the selfishness of the wicked ( Psalm 37:21-22).


Verse 23-24

The Lord delights in how a good person lives, and He blesses his or her activities. Even though such a person may stumble as he goes through life, he will not experience a fatal fall from which he cannot rise.


Verses 23-31

3. The assurance of God"s care for the just37:23-31


Verse 25-26

God is faithful to His promises to provide for His faithful followers. David could testify that he had never seen the Lord forsake the righteous nor had he observed any of their descendants unable to get food. God promised the Israelites that He would bless the descendants of those who obeyed Him ( Deuteronomy 7:9).

It is possible to account for the fact that some believers have starved to death. They may not have followed the Lord faithfully, or they may have been part of a larger group, even all humanity, that did not follow Him faithfully and was under His judgment (cf. Psalm 37:4). David did not say the righteous never starve to death, only that he had never seen any that did. His point was that God takes care of the righteous.


Verses 27-29

The Lord loves justice and does not forsake the godly. He preserves them but cuts off the wicked.


Verse 30-31

The righteous live in the light of God"s law and so advocate wisdom and justice. This trait brings stability to their lives.


Verses 32-34

The wicked really tries to overcome God when he sets himself against the righteous. The wicked will inevitably fail because God"s power is much greater than his own. Consequently, the righteous person only needs to wait for God to act for him.


Verses 32-40

4. The conflict between the wicked and the righteous37:32-40


Verse 35-36

David again gave a personal testimony, this time of a very prosperous wicked person"s destruction (cf. Psalm 37:25).


Verse 37-38

The posterity of the righteous will remain but that of the wicked will pass away. David said we can count on that. Good people leave blessings behind them, but evil individuals leave nothing of real value.


Verse 39-40

In conclusion, David focused again on the Lord. He is the salvation of those who take refuge in Him. He is their strength, help, and deliverer. Therefore the righteous should continue to trust in Him even when the wicked prosper and oppose them.

God"s people should not stop trusting in the Lord because the wicked prosper temporarily, nor should we despair when they seem to prevail against us. Rather, we should continue to trust in the Lord, take refuge in Him, and rely on His faithfulness to His promises. Reviewing His past faithfulness will enable us to do this.

"This poem, more explicitly than the torah Psalm , articulates a close and predictable connection between deed and consequence. The purpose of such instruction (which indirectly attests the authority of the sovereign Creator) is to instill in the young socially acceptable modes of behavior. Such behavior contributes decisively to the well-being of the entire community. Thus the argument refers to God, but the case is made largely on utilitarian grounds-it works!" [Note: Brueggemann, p43.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 37:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/psalms-37.html. 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, January 19th, 2020
Second Sunday after Epiphany
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