Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Psalms 37

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verse 1

Psalms 37:1

I. None who can honestly say they are trying to serve Christ will make such a mistake as to hold up before their own eyes earthly reward as the fit end of spiritual work, and to look upon it as an unheard-of and monstrous thing that a good man should be less successful in this world than a worldly man. The danger is, not that we shall turn atheists or unbelievers, but that we shall be disheartened, not that we shall lose all faith, but that we shall find our faith weakened.

II. The fact is that even when we have learnt what it is that Christ puts before us, there still remains the hope that He will give more than He promises, and that we shall get the best of both worlds. There are men, no doubt, who utterly fail of success in both worlds, for while their want of faith, and truth, and love makes them no servants of Christ, their want of self-control and of common-sense robs them of all chance in this world. But, on the other hand, the thorough-going servant of this world will succeed in this world better than the Christian. And the Christian cannot learn it too soon.

III. What then follows? This follows: that the service of Christ demands a generous devotion. Christians who wish to serve God shall be rewarded, not by His love no, for that they have always had but by being enabled to love Him, for that is the highest of all blessings.

Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 2nd series, p. 267.

Verses 1-2

Psalms 37:1-2

We need words of soothing such as are breathed in the text. There is enough in society, both profane and professedly religious, to vex the spirit and trouble it with bitterest grief. The slanderer's foul tongue is ever ready to attack a holy character. Envy's cruel hand is continually outstretched to purloin the crown and the sceptre which would never rightfully fall to its lot. The Psalmist teaches us:

I. That there has ever been a generation of evil-doers. He refers to this generation with the utmost familiarity. All ages have been blackened with the shadow of evil-doers. Notice the terrible energy implied in the designation "workers of iniquity." Reference is not made to men who make a pastime of iniquity, or who occasionally commit themselves to its service, but to those who toil at it as a business.

II. That the servants of God are not to be moved from their course by the generation of the unrighteous. The meaning which the Psalmist conveys is this, that however obscure or trying may be the secular position of the godly, they are not to murmur against the social government of God because the unrighteous are surrounded with all the luxuries which the most extravagant ambition can desire.

III. That a terrible doom awaits the generation of evil-doers. There are three facts which call for the attention of Christians: (1) Your fretfulness is an imputation on the Divine government. (2) Your fretfulness falsifies your attachment to Christian principles. (3) Your fretfulness gives society an erroneous idea of the Gospel.

Parker, The Cavendish Pulpit, p. 193.

Verse 3

Psalms 37:3

I. There is something very significant in the order of thought in the text. It is, "Trust in the Lord, and do good," not Do good, and trust in the Lord. The Psalmist had his eye on the living root out of which all living goodness springs. Good deeds will have a living greenness and a boundless fertility when the root out of which they spring is planted by the river of the grace and the love of God.

II. But what is good? What are good deeds? The Churches are ready enough with their "Do this and live." But God goes at once to the root of the matter: Be good if you would do good. Good, beautiful, Christlike deeds are the effluence of a good, beautiful, Christlike life.

III. The promise, "So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." The Psalmist has no ideal meanings here; he means home and bread. Let a man live out fearlessly the Divine rule, and daily his life will grow richer in love, in honour, and in the supply of all his needs.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 344.

Reference: Psalms 37:3-8 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 93.

Verses 3-9

Psalms 37:3-9

God is building up a kingdom that is invisible a kingdom of holy thoughts, of pure feelings, of faith, of hope, of righteousness. God's kingdom is advancing surely, though it advances slowly, and though it is invisible to us. Here then is the foundation of our faith, our hope, our patient waiting. We are to rest on the fact that God is carrying on a work in this world; that He never forgets that work; that He never lets it lag or linger; that it is ever going forward, though we may not see it advance, and though it may seem to be receding.

I. Consider the folly of the discouragement which many feel because men are so imperfect, particularly those who go from a higher to a lower state of society. To such men the word is, Wait on the Lord, wait patiently, and by-and-bye He shall give you the desire of your heart.

II. Consider the folly of envying wicked men when they are in power, and thinking that perhaps it is worth while to be as wicked as they are. Their prosperity, says the Psalm in effect, is at the beginning, and not at the end. Wicked men do prosper for a little while; but in the end they shall have their just reward.

III. There is an application of the subject to those that are in trouble. We have no need to hurry. Wait patiently. Trust in God. Do not give up your faith.

H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1870, p. 334.

Verse 4

Psalms 37:4

There is no bodily pain equal to the pain of the heart. Bodily pains call for sympathy, but the sufferings of the heart are hidden; none know of them; none may know of them; they are a concealed, consuming fire, unsuspected by all around.

I. I suppose there are many now past the middle age to whom the fact that the chapter of life is closing, that the romance of life is concluding, causes many an ache. Without resurrection of the dead, new heavens and a new earth, God, and Christ, and eternity, we are of all men most miserable. There is nothing more hopeless than a declining life, nothing more calculated to fill with despair than the ebbing away of life's forces. "Delight thou in the Lord, and He shall give thee thy heart's desire."

II. There is the anguish of bereavement and of unrequited love. Here again the soul will find its only solace in prayer in prayer for the object of affection. In the kingdom of the resurrection those who have loved hopelessly here will meet with those they loved, and then the loved ones may discover with wonder to whom they owe their place, and who, unseen as an angel, stayed them up when faltering, saved them from falling, by the mighty power of loving, intercessory prayer.

S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii., p. 65.

I. Notice what the text says: "Delight thyself in the Lord;" that is, in everything the Lord loves and commands. Without this delight the Lord's commands will be galling and irksome; but with it the heart will be filled with sunshine. If we cannot bring ourselves to delight in the Lord while we are here, we can hardly expect to be able to delight ourselves in Him hereafter. Heaven is not really desired by sinners. Their delight is not in God, and they would rather flee away from His presence than dwell with Him. The end of that state cannot be otherwise than wretched.

II. The text goes on to tell you that if you delight in the Lord, He shall grant you the desires of your heart. It is not hard to tell what people often do desire in their hearts. Some desire money, and will do anything for it; some poor misguided persons desire strong drink, and will do anything for it. To desire these things and nothing else is very lamentable. But though people desire them, they do not always get them. But if you delight in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart. It is He alone who can do so, for He alone is all-powerful.

III. The next question is what your heart's desires will be. If you delight in the Lord, your desires will be such as will please Him. In that case one of the first desires must be to be like Him. Set your mind greatly on this, and God is sure to give you your desire, and the result will be to fill the heart with such sunshine as other desires can never give. You will also desire to be useful. As you grow up God will furnish you with opportunities. "He shall give thee the desires of thine heart."

G. Litting, Thirty Children's Sermons, p. 174.

References: Psalms 37:4 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 454; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 166; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xv. p. 305; H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. m.

Verses 4-7

Psalms 37:4-7

"I have been young, and now am old," says the writer of this Psalm. Its whole tone speaks the ripened wisdom and autumnal calm of age. The dim eyes have seen and survived so much, that it seems scarcely worth while to be agitated about what ceases so soon. The clauses of the text contain the elements which secure peace even in storms and troubles. If we consider them carefully, we shall see that there is a well-marked progress in them.

I. Here is the secret of tranquillity in freedom from eager earthly desires. "Delight thyself," etc. One desire unfulfilled is enough to banish tranquillity; but how can it survive a dozen dragging different ways? Unbridled and eager wishes destroy tranquillity by putting us at the mercy of externals. Rest comes with delighting in God (1) because that soul must needs be calm which is freed from the distraction of various desires by the one master-attraction; (2) because in such a case desire and fruition go together; (3) desire after God will bring peace by putting all things in their right place.

II. The secret of tranquillity is found in freedom from the perplexity of choosing our path. "Commit thy way unto the Lord," or, as the margin says, roll it upon God. (1) This is a word for all life, not only for its great occasions. (2) It prescribes the subordination not the extinction of our own inclinations. (3) It prescribes the submission of our judgment to God, in the confidence that His wisdom will guide us. These two keys joy in God and trust in His guidance open for us the double doors of the secret place of the Most High.

III. The secret of tranquillity is found in freedom from the anxiety of an unknown future. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." We are sure that in the future are losses, and sorrows, and death. Thank God, we are sure, too, that He is in it. That certainty alone and what comes of it makes it possible for a thoughtful man to face to-morrow without fear or tumult.

A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, 2nd series, p. 245.

Reference: Psalms 37:5 . J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 1st series, p. 18.

Verse 7

Psalms 37:7

Rest is the highest condition of man. It is above work. The maturity of everything is its rest. It is an approach to the Eternal One. For what is rest? The balance of the mind, the equipoise of feeling, a harmony of the inner with the outer life, the peace of desire, and the repose of the consciousness of truth. Consider what is the exact meaning of the expression to "rest in the Lord."

I. Those two words "the Lord" convey to the mind (1) absolute sovereignty, (2) the idea of the work of God. "The Lord" is the essential name of the Second Person in the blessed Trinity. (3) The person of God the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a real presence, a personal Saviour, the truest reality of every day's life "the Lord."

II. What is rest? (1) Satisfaction. The needle points to its pole; I find all I want, and more, in the Lord. (2) Silence. This silence is a blessed, childlike state, the truest worship. "The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him" the still sanctities of rest. (3) Absolute reliance, as one who feels that all things are undertaken for you, who feels, "I have omnipotence on my side; an eternity of faith is underneath me." (4) Perfect peace the shadow of the rock, the chicken under the wing, the babe asleep on its mother's bosom, the loved disciple on his Master's breast. "Rest in the Lord."

III. Notice one or two ways by which you may secure your own soul and glorify God by rest. (1) You must set out with a simple and undoubting sense of your own forgiveness and your safety in Christ. (2) Learn the happy art of quickly passing on everything to God. (3) There is an active and a passive rest. You will find work a great help to rest. It does more than anything else to prevent what is the bane of rest self-inspection and the restlessness of idle fancies. And as you work never forget this rule of life, that you have nothing to do with results; results are with God. Do your duty, and leave all issues. That is the rest of work.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 174.

I. Consider, first, the state of mind here supposed. It is a state of unrest, of a mind ill at ease, a distracted heart going first to this source of relief and then to that, but never satisfied. The text is to remind a man under such circumstances that there is but one way and one strength; that other ways besides that one are but a going about, and other strengths besides that one but a comparison of weaknesses.

II. Consider some classes of persons who are thus laboriously miserable, doing and undoing, like children building up paper houses which are to fall down under their hands. (1) There are the men who have their portion in this present world, not knowing, and perhaps not caring to know, whether they have a portion in any other. (2) The words of the text are addressed to the weary, burdened, conscience-convicted sinner. If we can get no rest in our sins and no rest from them, we are exactly those for whom the proffered relief is prepared, exactly those whom Christ invites to partake of it: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Rest in what Christ is, and wait patiently for what Christ will do.

III. The words of the text may also be addressed to the more established believer under all the disquietudes and trials which he must expect to meet with in his Christian course. Rest and wait, trusting, expecting, like the impotent man at the gate of the Temple, to receive something. He that believeth must not make haste; though the vision tarry, he must wait for it. The general lesson of the text is that we be without carefulness, that we carry our burdens to God and leave them with Him. God in Christ is the soul's refuge and the soul's rest.

D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 2998.

Restlessness and impatience seem to be inseparably connected with humanity. They are manifested by all classes at every stage of their existence, from the child who grows weary of its newest toy to the philosopher who is dissatisfied with the result of his patient, lifelong thought. Rest! Some men know not what it means; they have never in their lives experienced it. And for others it has no sooner come than gone, vanished like some transient dream of bliss. Yet rest cannot be quite impossible for man, for it has been occasionally achieved. The Psalmist, for example, had practised what we find him preaching in the text. "The Lord is my Shepherd," he says; "I shall not want."

I. Observe that the rest to which the Psalmist attained is an intelligent and intelligible rest. There can be no rest for us in circumstances; they are ever changing. There can be no rest in self, for self is too much at the mercy of circumstances. There can be no complete rest for us in other men, for they may play us false or be taken away by death. The only perfect rest conceivable for man is a rest in the Lord.

II. All forms of restlessness and impatience resolve themselves into a want of faith. They amount to practical atheism. (1) Young men probably more than any other class are characterised by a feverish restlessness and a tremendous impatience. It is our eager craving after ease and pleasure, our indisposition to endure hardness and conflict, our longing to enjoy the present moment, however meanly, rather than work out patiently some future good, however glorious it is these things that mar us, that keep us from ever becoming what we might have been. There is no cure for this restlessness but faith. Faith in the future and in the God of the future will alone help us worthily to discharge our present duty. (2) There is another very common form of restlessness, arising not from the mere absence of enjoyment, but from the actual presence of pain. To any one in such a predicament I would say, ( a ) Your present adversity may be the best means, perhaps the only means, to a great prosperity which is in store for you at no distant date. ( b ) It is a great mistake to imagine that happiness is the chief end of life, and that we have a right to as much of it as we like to demand. The end of life is not happiness, but duty. God has a purpose to fulfil in our existence, and surely it must be evident that with this purpose an indefinite amount of happiness might be quite incompatible.

III. Our restlessness and impatience involve a practical disbelief in immortality. We chafe and fret when our wishes are thwarted, as if there were no life but the present, as if the grave were the end of all things for us. Can we not wait wait like men for "the far-off interest of tears"?

A. W. Momerie, Defects of Modern Christianity, and Other Sermons, p. 242.

I. First David speaks to us about rest. All men are craving for rest. In the present day there is a very great danger of many men working too much rather than too little. Where can a man rest? (1) Not in worldly prosperity. How very soon the gourd withers! How often the stream dries up! We are like boys upon the seaside with their sand spades. We dig and dig, but it is all sand, and we cannot build on sand. We are looking to the trees, and we want a tree where we can build our nest; but on every tree there is the woodman's mark, and soon the trees will fall. Not here, not in the world, can we rest. (2) We cannot rest in the sunshine of home. Very often the hardest blows we receive come to us in the home circle, and the deepest wounds the heart ever knows are the wounds inflicted in the home. (3) A man cannot rest in his own religious experience. David found that his experience changed from day to day. Nor is he alone. The experience of all God's people has fluctuated: one day in the mountain and then down in the valley; one day in the arctic regions of death, another day amid the tropics. Not in our own experience can we rest. (4) But where can we rest? "Rest in the Lord." There is an ark upon the troubled billows; O dove with weary pinions, fly there. Rest in the power of God, in the promises of God, in the unchanging goodness of God.

II. Our text speaks also of patience. Many a man waits who does not wait patiently. (1) We have to wait patiently for answers to our prayers. (2) We have to wait patiently for the explanation of many of life's mysteries. (3) We have to wait patiently for God's blessing to come upon our labours. (4) On a bed of death we must exercise patience and wait for the Lord to come.

E. S. Gange, Penny Pulpit, No. 1009.

Waiting is the side of faith which develops most slowly. Working is not always a sign of faith. Diversion and oblivion are not faith. Faith's harder lesson is given in making a man lie still, and not work at all, but simply bear and wait.

I. We are to wait unwaveringly. "Wait on the Lord and keep His way."

II. We are to wait cheerfully. "Fret not thyself because of evil-doers."

III. We may wait confidently. "Thou shalt dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed."

M. R. Vincent, Gates into the Psalm Country, p. 127.

References: Psalms 37:7 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1333; H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. 130; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xx., p. 279; C. Vince, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 81; S. Wilberforce, Sermons, p. 225; J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. i., p. 329. Psalms 37:9 . Congregationalist, vol. vii., p. 409.

Verse 11

Psalms 37:11

Such a promise as this relates both to the future and the present. The text cannot have its perfect fulfilment until Christ shall come a second time in power and great majesty, but there are senses in which it has a present accomplishment.

I. Who are the meek? We go to Christ for a description of meekness, and we gather it from the portrait given by Christ that we should be forbearing, forgiving, patient under injuries and contradictions. We must distinguish between that meekness which may be only the effect of constitution and another which is the clear produce of grace. The man who is only meek from constitution will ordinarily prove to be a timid or irresolute man, wholly unprepared to face an emergency or to master an idolatrous sin; but Christian meekness is in the largest sense compatible with Christian boldness.

II. Christian meekness must chiefly result, first, from a deep sense of our own unworthiness, and, secondly, an earnest love of our fellow-men. He who is humble in the meek consciousness of his own vileness as a sinner will invariably be averse to all overbearing; and he who is jealous for the well-being of others will forbear and forgive, and keep down resentment, however injurious the conduct of others.

III. The promise of our text is to be accomplished in the future; for in this life the heir is nothing more than a man who has not yet reached an age on which to enter into possession. Nevertheless the consciousness of being an heir will bring with it a certain feeling of possession, though the time be yet far distant for taking it as his own. The heir of the earth, though not a possessor, may have such a rich and precious interest in the earth as shall bear out the expression of his being now blessed. The meek, fraught with the persuasion that they deserve nothing but wrath, find in the commonest mercies tokens of their being the children of God.

IV. In proportion as a man acquires love for his fellow-men he may clearly be said to inherit the earth. The spot cannot be found where the meek man being placed shall be quite a stranger. Wherever he journeys he may be said to be still at home. He possesses the earth by family compact, by the claims or rights of relationship, and the possession thus obtained is possession by heirship. And if we have thus a home in the earth in its length and breadth, we contend it is fairly and literally made out that the meek man inherits the earth.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2257.

Verse 16

Psalms 37:16

I. The Divine power given by the Almighty to true faith and devotion of heart takes up, nourishes, and cherishes whatever is good and comfortable in our condition, makes the most of it, spreads, enlarges, ripens it, as the sun in springtime does the little flowers, which would otherwise quite wither away; while, on the other hand, there is in the love of the world, in all kinds of covetousness, a blighting, withering quality, which gradually causes the most abundant growth of prosperity to shrivel, and contract, and sink into nothing. A little circumstance in a good man's life may grow Upon him and cause him more happy thought, even in this world, than the greatest prosperity of a bad man.

II. One sure friend that the righteous hath is worth all the companions of the ungodly. Elijah in the wilderness, with now and then a visit from an angel did he not find that the remembrance of those rare moments cast a light over all his solitary hours which quite prevented them from being tedious?

III. The same rule holds, not only in respect of outward things, but of knowledge also, and scholarship, and acquaintance even with Divine matters. A little drop of knowledge, touched by Divine grace, may swell into a sea.

IV. Such is God's mercy on the one hand, and the perverseness of men on the other, that even in respect of spiritual blessings also the Psalmist's saying holds true. A little measure of grace well employed and received into a heart willing to be made righteous is better than the highest spiritual privileges when God, in His unsearchable judgments, has vouchsafed them to unworthy persons.

Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. vi., p. 159 (see also J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 343).

Verses 23-24

Psalms 37:23-24

I. The first truth of the text is that God orders, arranges, establishes, the details of His children's lives.

II. God is pleased with him who thus lets his steps be ordered.

III. The Psalmist recognises infirmity as an element of the good man's walk. There is a possibility of his falling, which the text provides for: "The Lord upholdeth him with His hand."

IV. From these truths we conclude: (1) If God has ordained a way for men to walk in, it is the height of folly to walk in any other way. (2) If God orders our ways, step by step, it becomes us to take heed to the details of our lives. (3) If God orders each detail of our lives, ought we not to get great and solid comfort from the fact? (4) It becomes us to fall in with God's order, and to attach to the separate steps the same importance that He does.

M. R. Vincent, God and Bread, p. 07.

References: Psalms 37:24 . S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 3rd series, No. 15.Psalms 37:31 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 261.Psalms 37:32-34 . H. Thompson, Concionalia: Outlines for Parochial Use, 2nd series, p. 500.

Verse 34

Psalms 37:34

This Psalm is written with a view of encouraging good men who are in perplexity, and especially perplexity concerning God's designs, providence, and will.

I. The use of difficulties to all of us in our trial in this world is obvious. Our faith is variously assailed by doubts and difficulties, in order to prove its sincerity. To all those who are perplexed in any way soever, who wish for light, but cannot find it, one precept must be given Obey. It is obedience which brings a man into the right path; it is obedience which keeps him there and strengthens him in it.

II. Let us apply this exhortation in the case of those who have but lately taken up the subject of religion. Every science has its difficulties at first; why then should the science of living be without them? When the subject of religion is new to us, it is strange. Let then every beginner make up his mind to suffer disquiet and perplexity. The more he makes up his mind manfully to bear doubt, struggle against it, and meekly to do God's will all through it, the sooner this unsettled state of mind will cease, and order will rise out of confusion.

III. It sometimes happens, from ill-health or other cause, that persons fall into religious despondency. Such afflicted ones must be exhorted to keep a guard upon their feelings and to control their hearts. Supposing their state to be as wretched as is conceivable, can they deny that it is their duty now to serve God? Whatever our difficulty be, this is plain: "Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee."

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i., p. 228.

Reference: Psalms 37:35-37 . E. Matthews, Welsh Pulpit of To-day , p. 102.

Verse 38

Psalms 37:38

I. "Keep innocency." In the strictest sense of all, innocence was a treasure forfeited for ever in Paradise. It is only in a very modified sense that we can speak with truth even of the innocence of childhood. It is but a comparative innocency which belongs to any child of man.

II. "Take heed unto the thing that is right.'' How general the language; at first sight how vague, yet in reality how intelligible and how emphatic! We all know, or may know if we will, what is right: the duty of praying always, of loving God, of trusting in Christ, of seeking and obeying the Holy Spirit. But mark well the words, " Take heed unto the thing that is right." However easy to discover, our duty is not easy to do. If we will not take heed, we shall certainly miss the thing that is right.

III. "That shall bring a man peace at the last" in its widest sense, at the end of life. A life of innocency and of steadfast obedience shall end in a peaceful death, a peaceful eternity. But there are other endings between us and that last end; and, however inferior to that in importance, they may yet be thought and spoken of without irreverence as affording each a minor fulfilment of the promise here expressed.

C. J. Vaughan, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 384.

References: Psalms 37:39 . Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 151.Psalms 38:2 . Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 4th series, p. 162.Psalms 38:4 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 353.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 37". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/psalms-37.html.
Ads FreeProfile