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Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 37

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-12

Psalms 37:1-12

Fret not thyself because of evil-doers.

Fret not

There are many who suppose that it is well-nigh impossible to pass the time of our sojourning here without some degree of anxiety and depression of spirit. I grant you these feelings will come to us, but we are not obliged to welcome them. Luther quaintly said that, whereas we cannot prevent the birds from hovering over and flying round about our heads, we can prevent them from building their nests in our hair. The Lord will net hold us accountable for the suggestions that the devil makes, or our own evil hearts produce, but He does hold us responsible for yielding to those suggestions, and nourishing them.

A description of the complaint. Worrying, murmuring, or fretting, is certainly a malady. It must not be regarded as a mere circumstance that afflicts us from without. It is a deep-seated complaint that reigns within. One of the old Puritans says, of one who was always complaining, that he was “sick of the frets.” He recognized that it was an inward ailment, affecting both soul and body. The root of the mischief was in the rebellious heart.

1. What is the nature of this complaint? It is of the nature of a fever. “Fret not thyself,” or as it might be read, “Do not grow hot, inflame net thyself, because of evil-doers.” Leave to the sea to fret, and fume, and rage, and roar. Leave to the wicked, of whom the troubled sea is so apt an emblem, to toss to and fro, and cast up mire and dirt. Leave to the caged bird, that has no wisdom, to beat itself against the bars and make its incarceration still more unendurable; but for you who are already God’s, who have such a Father and Friend, and such a home, to which you are each moment coming nearer, for you to fret is clean contrary to the spirit of the Gospel; and to the grace which is in Christ Jesus.

2. What are the causes of this complaint?

(1) The prosperity of the wicked. I do not know of anything more likely to contribute to envy--which is nearly always an accompaniment of fretting--than a view of the prosperity of the wicked, that is if that view is a one-sided and short-sided one, as it generally is. The wicked spreads himself like a green bay tree, everything seems to go well with him. But he is a stranger to the one thing needful. He is altogether unacquainted with the joys we know, and what shall his end be? Have you ever found it in your heart to envy the apparent riches of the stage king, who struts his little hour behind the footlights with crown, and robes, and sceptre, and I know not what?

(2) The care that seems inseparable from daily life. So long as we dwell in the land there must be the question of being fed and clothed. I had almost said that religion is a farce and a fraud unless it stoops with me to such matters as these. It does so.

(3) There is another matter that mightily troubles some people, viz. the safeguarding of their reputation. Well, but let not this give rise to fretting and to distrust of God (Psalms 37:5-6). What reputation we have is due to God’s grace. If He has made it, He will keep it. Your reputation is not of half so much account as are God’s cause, etc.

3. What are the symptoms of this disease.

(1) It is generally accompanied by envy--“neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” Be on the look-out against that green-eyed monster jealousy, for it works havoc in the heart, and havoc everywhere.

(2) It is accompanied also by loss of appetite that is, for the things of God. If we give way to repining, we shall not care for God’s Word, prayer will become almost impossible, the Gospel itself will lose its zest.

(3) Accompanying this fever there is, of course, a very high temperature. It is very easy, when you are in this state of mind, to get angry, and very difficult to cease from wrath.

(4) There is a consuming thirst with this fretting fever, a longing for something one has not got, a parching of the tongue and a drying of the lip, almost unbearable.

(5) The vision is impaired; we do not see things clearly.

(6) There is loss of memory, for we forget the mercies which have gone before, a recollection of which would help us to bear the troubles of the present.

The prescription.

1. The first item is trust in the Lord. Faith cures fretting. I believe in the “faith cure”--not as some administer it, but as God administers it. It is the only cure for worrying. If thou trustest all shall be well.

2. Do good. This is the second ingredient in the prescription. Do not give up, do not yield to fear. Do good; get to some practical work for God; continue in the path of daily duty, take spiritual exercise.

8. Diet is a very important matter in fever cases. It reads in the original, “Thou shelf be fed with truth.” Oh, the patient begins to get better at once, if he is fed on faithfulness. If you eat God’s truth and live on His Word, and drink in His promises, recovery is sure.

4. “Delight thyself also in the Lord.” Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. “God writes straight on crooked lines;” delight in Him if you cannot delight in anybody else; delight in Him if you find no joy in yourself.

5. “Commit thy way unto the Lord.” Not merely petition the King and then go on worrying, but roll the burden upon the Lord. Then the matter becomes His rather than yours; He accepts the responsibility which is too heavy for you. Too often we shoulder the load again.

6. “Rest in the Lord.” Any doctor will prescribe rest in a case of fever; without it the patient is not likely to pull through. You must have rest; be still and see the salvation of the Lord, sit silent before God. Rubbing the eye is not likely to bring the mote out. Even if it does it will only inflame the optic more, and fretting is something like rubbing the eyes--it only increases the inflammation. Do not strive and struggle.

7. “Wait patiently for Him.” The buds of His purposes must not be torn rudely open. They will unfold of themselves if you will let them. If you try to expedite matters you will spoil the whole business. God’s time is the best time.

8. “Cease from anger and forsake wrath.” Ah, I have heard of some people down with the fever who have been foolish enough to do things and to take things which are only calculated to add fuel to the fire. You cannot give up fretting until you begin to forgive. (T. Spurgeon.)


1. Fretting in many cases supposes envy. “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious,” etc. Asaph did this, and ha forcibly describes this painful and injurious process in the seventy-third psalm. It became too painful for him. He questioned the rectitude of Providence and the wisdom of God. Just then he was stopped; like Job, he said, “Once have I spoken, but I will proceed no further”; he fell on his face, confessing, “I am foolish,” “I was envious!” and soon the scene changed from darkness to light, from complaining to communion, from fretting to rest in God.

2. While the fretting mood lasts, while we are troubled because God withholds certain things from us which He gives so abundantly to others, expectation from God is excluded. Hope pines when the heart frets, and peace flutters outside that soul which care corrodes, and which complainings fill with discord.

3. Yet many excuses are often made for this line of conduct; and the more it is indulged in, the more it is justified. “Wherefore should a living man complain? If a sinner, he has no right to do so; if a saint, no reason:” for a sinner deserves hell at any moment, and a saint, though most unworthy, is on his way to a glorious heaven; and his very trials and deprivations are a means of preparing and training him for that better world. (John Cox.)


The sin. Fretfulness is a sin against,--

1. Ourselves. Destroys peace of mind; the mother of bitterness, harshness, fault-finding.

2. Others. Robs homes of their happiness.

3. God. John Wesley once said, “I dare no more fret than curse and swear.” To have persons at my ears murmuring and fretting at everything, is like tearing the flesh from my bones. By the grace of God I am discontented at nothing. I see God sitting on His throne, and ruling all things.”

The causes.

1. Envy.

2. Covetousness.

3. Want of faith in God. I have read that one of Cromwell’s friends was a fretting Christian, to whom everything went wrong. On a certain occasion, when unusually fretful, his sensible servant said, “Master, don’t you think that God governed the world very well before you came into it? Yes; but why do you ask? Master, don’t you think God will govern the world very well after you go out of it?” “Of course I do.” “Well, then, can’t you trust Him to govern it for the little time you are in it?”

The cure.

1. Look on the bright side of things.

2. Look not merely at the present, but think of the future.

3. Have faith in God. Then you will welcome whatever comes, knowing that He can help, even by adverse circumstances. (J. Scilley.)

The cure for care

1. “Fret not thyself.” Do not get into a perilous heat about things. Keep cool! Even in a good cause fretfulness is not a wise helpmeet. Fretting only heats the bearings, it does not generate the steam. It is no help to a train for the axles to get hot; their heat is only a hindrance; the best contributions which the axles can make to the progress of the train is to keep cool.

2. How, then, is fretfulness to be cured? The psalmist brings in the heavenly to correct the earthly. “The Lord” is the refrain of almost every verse, as though it were only in the power of the heavenly that this dangerous fire could be subdued.

(1) “Trust in the Lord.” “Trust!” It is, perhaps, helpful to remember that the word which is here translated “trust” is elsewhere in the Old Testament translated “careless.” “Be careless in the Lord!” Instead of carrying a load of care let care be absent t It is the carelessness of little children running about the house in the assurance of their father’s providence and love.

(2) “Delight thyself in the Lord.” How beautiful the phrase! The literal significance is this, “Seek for delicacies in the Lord.” Yes, and if we only set about with ardent purpose to discover the delicacies of the Lord’s table, we should have no time and no inclination to fret. But this is just what the majority of us do not do. The delicacies of music are not found in the first half-dozen lessons; it is only in the later stages that we come to the exquisite. And so it is in art, and so it is in literature, and so it is with the “things of the Lord.” “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Let us be ambitious for the excellent! God has not yet given to us of His best. He always keeps the best wine until the last. When we sit at the table of the Lord, tasting of His delicacies, fretfulness will be unable to breathe.

(3) “Commit thy way unto the Lord.” “Thy way!” What is that? Any pure purpose, any worthy ambition, any duty, anything we have got to do, any road we have got to tread, all our outgoings. “Commit thy way unto the Lord.” Let us commit our beginnings unto Him, before we have gone wrong., let us have His companionship from the very outset of the journey. If I am going out alone, fretfulness will encounter me before I have gone many steps in the way; if I go out in the company of Jesus I shall have the peace that passeth understanding, and the heat of my life will be the ardour of an intense devotion:

(4) “Rest in the Lord.” Having done all this, and doing it all, trusting in the Lord, delighting in the Lord, committing my way unto the Lord, let me now just “rest.” Don’t worry. Whatever happens, just refer it to the Lord! If it be anything injurious he will suppress it. If it be anything containing helpful ministry He will adapt it to our need. This is the cure for care. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)


David was peculiarly qualified to admonish the righteous as to their demeanour in relation to the ungodly. Never, perhaps, had man hotter conflicts with “evil-doers” and “workers of iniquity,” and never were more signal triumphs gained over malignant hosts. 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.

That there has ever been a generation of evil-doers. All ages have been blackened with the shadow of evil-doers. Not a single century has been permitted to complete its revolution without being marred by their deadly presence! I ask you to mark 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. As the merchantman is industrious in commerce, as the philosopher is assiduous in study, as the artist is indefatigable in elaboration, so those slaves of iniquity toil in their diabolic pursuits with an ardour which the most powerful remonstrance seldom abates! They are always ready to serve their master.

That the servants of God are not to be moved from their course by the generation of the unrighteous. “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers,” etc. This language does not sanction carelessness as to the moral condition and destiny of the parties indicated. We need to mourn over it. But we are not to “fret” over evil-doers, though it be natural to do so, when we think of the terrible harm they do. You punish such men more severely by taking no notice of their malignity--they would rejoice in provoking retaliation. And these “evil-doers” are often prosperous in their way, whilst the good are often exposed to social hardships. Imagine not that secular prosperity is a pledge of Divine favour.

That a terrible doom awaits the generation of evildoers. “For they shall soon be cut down,” etc. Know ye of any such miserable spectacle as that of a human being “cut down”? As travellers have wandered over the ruins of classic temples, they have mourned their departed glory, but what are such ruins compared to the ruins of manhood? The heart that might have expanded with holiest emotion--wasted! The image of God an irrecoverable wreck! Imagination can paint no horrors so appalling. Though God uses not our chronometers in the measurement of time, yet the wicked themselves will have occasion to exclaim, “We are soon cut down!” You wrong your own souls in reasoning that “to-morrow shall be as this day and more abundant.” The hour of your fullest joy is the hour of highest danger. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.--

Fretful envy

A painful passion. There may be fretfulness where there is no envy. One may fret because of the tardy advancement of a cause dear to his heart, or because of the troubles of those in whom he is interested. There is a great deal of fretfulness that is almost constitutional, and therefore innocent and free from all “envy”; but there can be no envy where there is not fretfulness. What is envy? It is not merely a desire to possess that good which another has: that is emulation. To crave after that which gives power, and worth, and happiness is a laudable ambition. We are commanded to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” But “envy” is a malicious desire to possess what others have: it means their deprivation. Jealousy is a dread lest another shall possess what we wish for ourselves; envy is a dislike for another because he actually possesses the good desired; and because it is so impregnated with the malign it is always fretful. It is a grudging, growling passion; it is never at rest.

It is a foolish passion. It is directed against the most unenviable of characters. “The workers of iniquity will be cut down like the grass.”

Envying the wicked. Shall the imperial eagle, whose undazzled eye drinks in the splendours of a cloudless sun, envy the worm that never rose an inch beyond its native dust? Shall the sun itself envy the flickering rush-light which the feeblest breeze can extinguish? Shall the heaving ocean, bearing on its bosom the richest merchandise, and reflecting from its deep blue eye the glories of the firmament, envy the little summer pool, which a passing cloud has poured into a foot-print? Sooner shall such envy be called into existence than the true child of God envy the “workers of iniquity.” (Homilist.)

Verses 3-8

Psalms 37:3-8

Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

The Remedy for Hard Times

That is good, sound advice; no metaphysics in that: it is good common sense, even if it be three thousand years old. To-day is a time of a good deal of trouble in the world and all over the world. The troubles are political, commercial, social. Everywhere is distress and misery, and chiefly upon the heads of men that least can bear it. Now, what has our religion to say to us under these circumstances? Much. Our text itself is a whole sermon, and I could add nothing to it. It is only for me to rub it in; for it is all there: “Trust in the Lord and do good; so . . . thou shalt be fed.” Dwelling in the land was promised to those who were not unused to see whole populations carried off to Assyria or Babylon, or to Rome, according to the will of their conquerors. And in a land liable to famines as Palestine was, “verily thou shall be fed” was a very precious promise. And the New Testament echoes the Old, only carrying the thought higher, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God . . . and all . . . shall be added unto you.” Two capital elements for consideration are given us in our text.

Trust. That is, have faith in God and in His care for you. And how wrong and foolish it is not to trust--for what father or mother ever loved their children as God loves us? But we trust God when things go well; when they do not, we fully doubt. We do not live by faith, but by sight--more’s the pity. But we are bidden trust, and--

Note the conditions are “do good.” Trust inspires activity. Do not sit down in despair. You may be old, or verging toward it, and suddenly ruin comes. You say, “It is foe late to build again,” and you are filled with despair. Nay! While age brings with it less energy and hopefulness, it brings with it, also, experience. You may not go on in the same scale and way as before, but accept the altered position, make the most of it, and be of good courage and trust in God. There is no disgrace in your having ceased to be the possessor of large wealth. I think some of the noblest examples of womanhood that I have ever met anywhere have been those noble souls who, cast out into poverty, never appeared so wise, so noble, so reverend, as in their poverty. The light of a candle does not depend on the candlestick in which it burns. How lovely is a beautiful flower amid barren surroundings! When fortune lowers on you in the form of loss of means of living, circumscribe your wants. A man can live on wondrously little when he sets about it. And retrench at the right end--the end where luxuries come in, not that of your church gifts and charities. Many reverse this order, and pamper the body whilst they starve the soul. And do not give up moral activity in the church, the schools, or elsewhere. The real man comes out in times of trial and loss, when he has nothing but his manhood to depend upon. Try when troubles come to you to lighten the troubles of others. That is a golden remedy. Why should you complain or faint? Stand in your place and smile. Remember the eternal is yours. (H. Ward Beecher.)

Christian waiting

When you have nothing to do, and there is nothing to produce anxiety, it is easy to wait--for it is laziness; and all men are apt by nature to be lazy. But when there is anything that you have set your heart upon, it is very hard to wait, especially if the thing does not come as soon as you expect it to. Waiting is easy when it is sinful, and hard when it is a duty. You tell your child that this pine-tree out here in the sandy field is one day going to be as large as that great sonorous pine that sings to every wind in the wood. The child, incredulous, determines to watch and see whether the field pine really does grow and become as large as you say it will. So, the next morning, he goes out and takes a look at it, and comes back and says, “It has not grown a particle.” At night he goes and looks at it again, and comes back and says, “It has not grown a bit.” The next week he goes out, and looks at it again, and comes back and says, “It has not grown any yet. Father said it would be as large as the pine-tree in the wood, but I do not see any likelihood of its becoming so.” How long did it take that pine-free in the wood to grow? Two hundred years. And do you suppose that God’s kingdom is going to grow so that you can look at it and see that it has grown during any particular day? You cannot see it grow. It has been rising all the time, only you could not see it rise.” When, therefore, God says, “Wait patiently,” there is good reason in it. Now, apply these general truths.

1. To the men who laugh and jeer at the whole idea. They believe only in the selfishness of men, and that nothing good can be made out of them. But they are shallow men, and have no faith in the overruling providence of God. Because progress is so slow, and many professed Christians are traitors, and because God works in plans too vast for them to understand, they say, “It is folly to be talking about advancing the world. It is a poor, mean world, and we must make the best of it. Eat, drink, and be merry, O soul, for to-morrow you shall die.” Yes, and perish! For God sits in judgment, and though the day of His coming seems to be long delayed, yet we, with strong assurance of faith, resting on the pledged word of God, do look for the “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

2. 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. In the army the soldier learns to put up with things that are worse than those which he has been accustomed to. No soldier, when he is on a raid, thinks of having a parlour like his mother’s, or sitting down in a kitchen before a fire when he is wet and cold, as he has often done in his father’s house. He is contented if he can find a dry spot under a tree to lie down on. He makes up his mind that he must adapt himself to his circumstances. But many men go down into states of society very different from those to which they have been used, and because they are not men enough to do the work; because some men are clumsy and rude; because some are deceitful and dishonest; because men are just what they always have been, they are disgusted. They cannot wait for a better condition of things to come about through the processes of time and Divine power. To such men the word is, “Wait on the Lord; wait patiently; and by and by He shall give you the desire of your heart.”

3. 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. This is the very thing that the psalmist says you must not do. “Fret not thyself in anywise to do evil, neither be thou envious against workers of iniquity.” Their prosperity, says the psalm, in effect, is at the beginning, and not at the end. When men eat opium, they at first experience feelings of ecstasy, and they see visions, and dream dreams, and have a glorious hour or two; but when they have gone through these pleasant experiences, then what have they? Purgatory on earth! The after part is hideous to them in the proportion in which the fore part was agreeable. Pray on, then. Trust in God! Do not listen to any one who would make you discontented. I beseech of you, have faith, not in man, but in Him that loved you, that redeemed you with His precious blood, that sitteth on high, and that hath decreed that every yoke shall be broken, and that the oppressed shall go free. (H. Ward Beecher.)

Genuine piety the antidote to envy

The development of genuine piety. Here it is represented as operating-1. In a practical trust in the Lord. Not a passive, but an active state of mind. True philanthropy is piety in daily life.

2. In a personal delight in the Lord. Thin is infinitely more than to delight in our theology or our church.

3. In a settled reliance upon the Lord. This is a righteous, a necessary and a blessed work.

4. In a patient waiting upon the Lord. Be silent, and devoutly active.

Its blessedness.

1. Settledness. Piety makes a man feel at home in the world wherever he is, everywhere he feels that he is in his father’s house, and though legally he cannot claim a foot of land, morally he inherits all.

2. Sustenance. “Verily thou shalt be fed,”--fed not merely by bodily provisions, but by the higher provisions of soul--fed on truth. Nothing but truth can satisfy the cravings of the soul; nothing but truth can invigorate its powers. Man’s spiritual nature grows in the atmosphere of genuine piety, but in all other climates it sickens and decays.

3. Realization. “He shall give thee the desires of thine heart,” and “He shall bring it to pass.” What do these expressions mean but this: Thou shalt realize both the cravings of thine heart and the objects of thine hope, the ideals thou art struggling after shall become grand realities in thy life?

4. Vindication. “He shall bring forth thy righteousness,” etc. Whilst good men are unknown to most, and misunderstood by many, they are misrepresented by not a few. But one day they shall be revealed to all, they shall blaze as orbs on the vision of mankind. (Homilist.)

A simple Gospel

This little, familiar text covers everything essential; it expresses the sum and substance of religion, and the great secret of right living. The God with whom we have to do is not an austere taskmaster, seeking to reap where He has not sown; He gives us grounds and reasons for trust before lie solicits trust. In the world of nature and man, in the best thoughts of our own minds, in the best affections of our own hearts, in the best experiences of our own lives, in the witness of saintly and prophetic souls, in the life and work of Jesus Christ--God has revealed enough of His character and will to quicken and sustain trust in His righteousness and love, when clouds and darkness are round about Him, and mystery besets us behind and before, and we cannot walk any more by sight.

We may trust the universe. The confidence that the universe is essentially beneficent in all its operations, though it transcends actual knowledge, is yet based upon it. The more we study the relation of each part to the whole, and of the whole to each, the more do we see that what we call evil is but good in the making. Everywhere we see wisdom and goodness--one purpose, one law, one power, one God, throughout the universe. At the root of all the seeming severity of nature, there is the everlasting faithfulness and love of God.

We may trust life. We cannot hide from ourselves the dark side of human life, and we do not want a faith which does not fully recognize it; but when we study the tendency of things God becomes His own interpreter. God and good are perceived to be one, and our human world is seen to be moving through such processes as moral growth requires toward harmony with good. The week of creation is a long week. Wait! The end will explain and vindicate both the length and severity of the process. A careful study of the past affords sufficient justification for our largest expectations as to the coming years. The movement is ever towards good. The centuries grow juster, more merciful, more peaceful.

We may trust God as our father and Saviour. What Christ was finitely, God is infinitely.

We may trust God for all the future. Not alone for these brief and troubled mortal years is He our Father and Saviour, but for ever. His laws will never play false with us; His mercy will never fail us. In all and through all the Father is redeeming and educating His children. From His love no soul is ever outcast; to His love no soul is ever lost.

Trust in the Lord and do good.

1. Trust in the Lord--there is our attitude toward the unknown and the unknowable. The unknown and the unknowable may be, and ought to be, trusted. With one of our modern seers we surely can say: “All I have seen bids me trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

2. Do good--there is our duty in the region of the known, in the realm of human relation and circumstance, in the realm of daily life. We cannot choose our life, but we can choose the way we shall live it. We can resolve and strive, whatever betides, to be good and to do good; ever to be loyal to the truest and best we know, and thus to compel the rapidly vanishing days to leave a blessing behind. (John Hunter, D. D.)

Trust in the Lord and do good

This psalm is a vivid expression of the belief that God is very plainly on the side of the righteous, and will make the wrong-doers understand it in a very decisive way. Surely a fundamental belief of man, without which religion is impossible.

The order of the thought in our text. The trust comes before the doing good. Trust is the living root out of which all living goodness springs. But nothing can be more false than the idea that there is no goodness possible as the fruit of the natural action of the human powers. Augustine’s principle, The virtues of the heathen are splendid vices, is false to the heart’s core. There is natural goodness; man is so made that the freest and happiest play of his powers is in speaking truth and doing good. So far the heathen and deistical moralists are right. But man is made for a higher, a diviner goodness than the mere self-sustained play of his faculties can realize, a goodness whose life is the inspiration of God. Rob a plant of the air and sunlight, if there is some moisture about its roots, the sap within will produce some dim likeness of the flower, which under benigner conditions would flaunt its splendour and breathe its fragrance in the sun. So man, cut off from God, can produce some dim, dry image of the goodness which, when the life of God flows through it, will rise to godlike beauty and proportion. Good deeds will be fully and really such when their root is the grace and love of God.

But what is good? What are good deeds? “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” How many would be thankful for a list of good deeds with the countersign of Heaven. And God gives no catalogue of good deeds in His Word. The Churches are ready enough with their Do this and thou shalt live. But it is not the method of God. He goes at once to the root of the matter. Be good, if you would do good. Good, beautiful, Christ-like deeds are the affluence of a good, beautiful, Christ-like life. And there is but one way to be good. Begin at the beginning. Enter the training school of duty. Do the good thing which now lies nearest to your hand. Master your besetting sins. Look out daily for means to help and bless others.

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. And this would be the normal condition of things if the world were not so terribly jarred and jangled. Men and things would be in their right places. The wisest the teachers, the most prudent the managers, the ablest the rulers, the most liberal the almoners, the bravest the captains, the noblest the kings. But all is dislocated and confused. Yet through the whole there runs the law which finds expression in the text. “Trust in the Lord, and do good,” and your home among your brethren is sure. They know the well-doers, they love them, they make room for them. “Come in and abide with us, O thou blessed of the Lord.” (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

On trust in God

The nature and grounds of trust in God. To trust in the Lord signifies, in general, to be free from anxiety concerning any events, present or future, under a firm persuasion that God careth for us, and will direct all events for our real happiness. Many persons are ingenious in tormenting themselves, and possess the unfortunate art of destroying their own happiness. If they have no real causes of affliction, they will imagine some. Their ill-boding foresight discerns, in what is future, a multitude of evils. But trust in God is directly opposed to this. He speaks not of rash, presumptuous confidence, but of that which rests on solid grounds; trust that is joined with practical piety. “And do good,” says our text: and that employs all lawful means. As an illustration, see the conduct of Nehemiah.

The necessity and advantage of such trust.

1. It is right.

2. It is blessed.

3. Demands an obedient life. (S. Partridge, M. A.)

Work and wages

Real as the causes of our anxieties may be, there is too much of what is called “Crossing the bridge, before we come to it!” The true secret of being useful, and free from needless fears, is to cultivate sunshine. The text is one of those comforting promises, on which the desponding would be wise to meditate. The conditions on which our Heavenly Father agrees to protect and provide for His people, are distinctly stated in this verse.

That we trust in him. God’s power to bless is not more boundless than His willingness to do so. Aye, He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly,” etc. (Ephesians 3:20). There must be confidence in the heart towards God; indeed, the beginning and the end of true religion is confidence.

Doing good. How much more we might do to make others happy than we ever try to do. One made happy each day, what a contribution to the general stock of joy that would be I And poor people can do this as well as rich. One is enabled to set an example of thankfulness and trust in God, which will be an encouragement to others who are careful and troubled about many things. Another exerts an influence for good, by showing a forgiving spirit. (John W. Norton.)

So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.--

Temporal prosperity

Most thoughtful Christians will admit that as intelligent and believing Christianity tends to prosperity and success. The Christian nations, and the Christian communities among the nations, are the only thriving portions of the world. Where heathenism or infidelity prevail, there are poverty, squalor and vice. So invariably united are the two things that we cannot but see that the connection is that of cause and effect. But what about individuals? All the virtues necessary for success in life are inculcated by the Gospel, and not only inculcated, but imparted in that measure in which the man-yields himself to Christ. Diligence, uprightness, sobriety, and such like, are, or ought to be, qualities of the Christian; and these are the virtues which lead to success. But we have other reasons. God is with them (Genesis 39:2; 1 Samuel 18:14; 1 Samuel 18:28; Deuteronomy 20:1; Deuteronomy 31:6-8; 1 Chronicles 5:20; Jeremiah 39:18; Psalms 37:40). President Garfield’s mother was left a widow when he was a little boy, but she taught him this lesson in his very early years, and it became the principle upon which all his life-work was carried on. Whether as a boy he proposed to “run” a farm, or as a man to “run” the State, it was always in this fellowship with God that he prosecuted his tasks. And how marvellous the successes he achieved! Here, then, is plainly the one great secret of success.

“Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” These promises do not certainly mean that God will make all His children rich, in the sense of being possessors of thousands. They mean only that each in his measure shall have enough. They promise the suitable and natural rewards of honest industry and well-doing. That is all we need, and all any wise man will desire. (Evangelical Advocate.)

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.--

Delight in God the origin and perfection of human pleasure

Pleasure, or the enjoyment of our heart’s desire, being the chief spring of action in man, the due regulation of our pursuits of it must always be of great moment; and whoever addresseth us with an offer of this kind can scarce fail of engaging our attention. Consider, then, how all our pleasures point out to us, and are improved by, a delight in God.

Those of the senses. How wrong are they who take their daily food without thankfulness or desire for God’s blessing. See our Lord’s example of thanksgiving, and that of St. Paul. But because the example of Confucius may weigh more with some men than that of St. Paul, let me add what is observed of him: that he never ate anything but he first prostrated himself, and offered it to the supreme Lord of heaven. In like manner, Whether we cat or drink, let us do all to the glory of God. This will ennoble and improve our carnal gratifications, and exalt them into religious acts of gratitude and love.

Those of the imagination. These are chiefly--

1. Beauty. Think of the beauty of the world and who has poured it out upon the creation, Himself, infinitely more beautiful. When we see the sun shine forth in its lustre, and nature appearing in its most advantageous dress, how can we avoid turning our thoughts upwards toward that Being, whose handiwork that sun shows, every field, every flower, contains the most edifying rhetoric to excite in us the love of that Being, who hath clothed the lilies of the field with that elegant simplicity, which was superior to Solomon’s pomp, when arrayed in all his glory. But the Christian man must think of Him who has enriched the world with such a profusion of good; has beautified it with such order and harmony, and has ennobled it with such astonishing magnificence.

2. Greatness. We love to behold that which is great, solemn and majestic, and this desire was stamped upon our nature for this very purpose, that we might take delight in contemplating Him, of whose greatness there is no end. Everybody knows we hate nothing more than confinement in a prospect: the soul loves to have a free and unlimited range.

3. Novelty. This excites pleasure. How comes it that we are generally in pursuit of something new; and yet, when we are possessed of it, and the object becomes familiar to us, we cease to care for it. Does not the unsatisfactoriness of things here below admonish us to fix our rest upon Him, who alone can satisfy, and even exceed our wishes? Whom the more we know, the more amiable we shall find Him, and find no end of His perfections.

Those of a moral and intellectual nature. No doubt, our highest affection, in the reason of the thing, is a tribute due to God considered as the highest good. Yet it must also be granted, that dry and abstracted reasons of love operate very faintly, unless we take into the account those affecting considerations of His being our Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and universal Benefactor. For this cause the Scripture tells us, we love God because He first loved us.

Those of hope and expectation. Now, present hope is present good; and a certain expectation of future blessings is in some measure a blessing in hand. Hope is the great cordial that must sweeten life, and make the nauseous draught go down. Recreations and pastimes, properly so called (for they serve for no other end but to pass away our time), may soothe the mind into a pleasing forgetfulness of its misery. But nothing can give us an exquisite relish and enjoyment of this life but the hopes of a better through the merits of Jesus Christ. (J. Seed, M. A.)

Sunshine in the heart

1. We have here, first, the life of a believer described as a delight in God; and thus we are certified of the great truth that true religion overflows with happiness and joy. Ask ye the worldlings what they think of religion,--and even when they practise its outward rites they snuff at it as a dull and dreary thing. They who love God with all their hearts, find that His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all His paths are peace. Delight and true religion are as allied as root and flower, as indivisible as truth and certainty. But there is another wonder in our text to worldly men, though it is a Tender well understood by Christians.

2. The text says, “He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” “Why,” the worldly man says, “I thought religion was all self-denial; I never imagined that in loving God we could have our desires.” Christian men have two selves; there is the old self, and therein they do deny the flesh with its affections and lusts; but there is a new self; the new man in Christ Jesus; and our religion does not consist in any self-denial of that. No, let it have the full swing of its desires; for all that it can long to enjoy, it may most safely obtain. So it is with the believer; his religion is a matter of delight; and that which he avoids is very little self-denial to him.:His tastes are changed, his wishes are altered. He delights himself in his God, and joyously receives the desire of his heart.

A precept written upon sparkling jewels.

1. What is this delight? A delightful word--I cannot use anything but its own self to describe it. If you look at it--it is flashing with light, it sparkles like a star, nay, like a bright constellation, radiant with sweet influences like the Pleiades. Delight! it is mirth without its froth. Delight I it is peace, yet it is more than that: it is peace celebrated with festivity, with all the streamers hanging in the streets and all the music playing in the soul. Matthew Henry says, “desire is love in action, like a bird on the wing; delight is love in rest, like a bird on its nest.”

2. Whence comes this delight? “Delight thyself in the Lord.”

(1) Delight thyself in Jehovah, in His very existence. This alone is enough to be a well-spring of joy for ever and ever to all true believers.

(2) Delight also in His dominion. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.” Jehovah is King! Come what may of it, He sits upon the throne and ruleth all things well.

(3) Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in this sunlight of delight. That He is wise should make us glad who know our folly. That He is mighty should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our own weakness. That He is everlasting should always be a theme for our music, when we know that we are grass and wither as the green herb. That He is unchanging should always give us a song, since we change every hour and are never long the same. That tie is full of grace, and that this grace in the covenant He has given to us, that it is ours to cleanse us, ours to keep us, ours to sanctify us, ours to perfect us, ours to bring us to glory--all this should tend to make us delight ourselves in Him.

3. When is this delight to be practised? My text does not say, “Delight thyself in the Lord occasionally, and now and then,” but at all times.

(1) It is hard to delight in God when everything goes well with us. “Oh,” I hear you say, “I cannot understand that; that is the time when I do delight in God most.” I am afraid it is the time when you delight in God least. Is it not likely that often you are delighting in His mercies rather than in Him? delighting in the creature rather than in the Creator?

(2) Another time when it is hard to delight in God is when everything goes in with us. Then we are apt to say with Jacob, “All these things are against us.”

4. Why is this delighting in God so rare? Because there is so little on the one hand of genuine religion, and so little on the other of deep-toned religion where the little that there is is genuine.

A promise priceless beyond rubies. Those who delight in God are qualified to have the promise fulfilled. When a man’s delight is in God, then His desires are of such a sort that God may be glorified in the granting of them, and the man himself profited by the receiving of them. Again, delighting in God qualifies the believer not only for desiring aright, but for spending aright: for some men, if they had their heart’s desire, and it were a good desire, would nevertheless make a wrong use of it; but he that delights in God, whatever he gets, knows how to use it well. “Still,” says one, “what are those desires which we are sure to receive?” Now, we must single out those who delight themselves in God, and I believe the range of their desires will be found in a very short compass. But if the Apostle Paul were here, who had nothing, who was often naked and poor and miserable, I am persuaded if he had his wish, he would say, “I have nothing to wish for, nothing upon earth, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” But if I must have a wish, I know what I would wish for. I would wish to be perfect, to be free from every sin, from all self, from all temptation, from all love of the world, from all care for everything or anything that is contrary to God’s Word. “Well,” says another, “if I might have my desire I would have all these things, but I would desire to be useful always.” Ah, to be useful! Delight thyself in the Lord, thou shalt have thy desire. Perhaps not exactly as you would like to word it. You may not be useful in the sphere you aspire to, but you shall be useful as God would have you useful in His own way and in His own measure. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Delighting in the Lord

Every man delights in something We possess affections, and they must have an object.

Every man desires that which he delights in.

1. The object of our delight is a loadstone which draws us toward itself. Wealth, honour, virtue.

2. In proportion to the intensity of our delight is the strength of our desire.

3. Our desire will control our thoughts, and aims, and actions. What the spring is to the watch, and the sun is to the solar system, desire is to the life. How important is it, then, that the objects we desire should be worthy of our aspirations.

The godly man delights in God, and consequently does not desire anything which is opposed to his will.

1. But his desire is not only negative; it is strongly and intelligently positive.

(1) He delights in God’s Word, and studies it, that He may know God’s will.

(2) He delights in God’s purposes, and is anxious to further them.

(3) He delights in God’s character, and lives to reflect it.

2. Such a desire is more than a desire. It is a determination--a determination to be as God is, and to do His will as it is done in heaven.

God is always ready to give what he approves, and what we delight in and desire. He cannot refuse anything which He has promised; He must and will give Himself to those who delight in and desire Him.

He who makes God his chief good, desires god, and receives God, has in himself the secret of real satisfaction. What more can we have than God? Possessing Him, we possess all things. (J. Baker Norton.)

A sacred duty and a gracious reward

The sacred duty. “Delight thyself in the Lord.” The sacred satisfaction here recommended is to be realized--

1. By contemplating God in the glories of His nature, both in their unmingled and combined beauties.

2. By studying the discoveries of His infinite mind: the exhibition of these in redemption is the study and highest joy of heaven, and should be the source of rapturous joy to the Christian on earth.

3. By meditating the manifestations of His mercy, and tracing up to this source all our welfare, temporal and eternal.

4. By reflecting on His moral empire over the souls of men, and especially the hearts of His people.

5. By confiding in the wisdom and goodness of His providence.

6. By rejoicing in God’s special relation to His people--“This God is our God for ever and ever, and will be our guide even unto death.”

The gracious promise. The desires of the righteous will always correspond with the objects of their delight. The Christian will desire--

1. To comprehend more of the eternal mind: thus David, when he said, “None upon earth I desire beside Thee.”

2. To feel a deeper impression of interest in His mercy, and this to realize is his highest felicity.

3. To enjoy more communion with God, and be filled with all His communicable fulness.

4. To live more to God in the world and be completely prepared for future glory. (T. Yockney.)

Delight in the Lord

It would be most calamitous for the world did God give to all men the desires of their hearts: that human wishes should thus become the measure of the Divine mercies. God’s great laws could not be modified to our desires without deranging the harmony of the universe. Thus, for example, the ignorance of a traveller might desire the quenching of a volcano, or the arrest of some torrent of lava; but the fulfilment of such a desire might cause a terrible earthquake in some crowded city, and substitute the misery of thousands for the inconvenience and alarm of one individual. The stormy wind hushed here, might breed and then dispense the dire breath of pestilence on every side; and even the war and bloodshed which the strivings of philanthropic desire would righteously avert, may in God’s grace bring untold blessings on successive generations. But mere ignorance of the mysterious and inscrutable reasons which guide the Divine government would be the least of the evils at work, for human desires are so deplorably selfish in their operation, that the moment of their gratification would be that which should give the signal for the outbreak of fearful passion and widespread misery. If it were allowed to us to choose for ourselves what we would have, there are perhaps few moments when the most sanguine of us would dare to make the choice. He must be a bold man, or a fool, who would dare to take his lot into his own government, and be the master of his own destiny. But is there no paradox in this, that though “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” “The prayer of the upright is His delight”? Is there no delusion in the command, “Ask, and ye shall receive”? or in the assurance of the apostle, “Ye have not, because ye ask not”? If we still hear these words with delight, it is because we have been forced back on the other mode of explaining this blessed fact; namely, that God hears the prayers which He has Himself prompted, that He hears certain prayers, and grants to certain men the desires of their hearts, because He has inspired those desires. He gives to certain long-ings of the heart the fullest satisfaction, because He has by Ills Spirit suggested those longings. The question now arises, How are we to know whether the desires of our hearts are divinely implanted, and are such as God will hear? The child may cry for a knife, for fire, for food, which it would be cruel to grant. It is better that the child should be unhappy, vexed, angry because its request is denied, than that the gift should be bestowed and instantly abused. When Paul was pierced by the “thorn in the flesh,” he thrice besought the Lord to remove it from him; but God had a greater blessing in store, and gave him instead of such deliverance, the assurance, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Does the Holy Scripture, and will the Holy Spirit, help us to solve this great problem, or guide us to the class of desires which will foreshadow the Divine purpose? Have we any magnet that will point out to us the eternal pole of the will of God? The text gives us abundant help here; “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart;” or, as it might be paraphrased, “Delight in the Lord, and then thou mayest trust thy desires; they will be the forerunner of blessings, the beginning of their own realization.” “Blessed are riley that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Delight thyself in the Lord, and thou wilt desire strongly only what is in harmony with His will, and best for thyself. All thy wishes will be brought into subjection to His will, and thou wilt crave only those things which He is ready and anxious to bestow upon thee. (H. Reynolds, D. D.)

Delighting in God

The duty required.

1. What is necessary in order to the performance of it?

(1) The first thing required is evidently an acquaintance with God. We must, to some extent, be acquainted with His character, His works, and His disposition and intentions towards ourselves.

(2) We must be possessed of conformity to Him, and have some degree of likeness to Him ourselves; otherwise, we may know the truth about Him, but it will afford us no delight whatever. From Ephesians 4:22-24, and Colossians 3:9-10, we learn that the likeness must consist in two things--holiness and knowledge. Holiness includes two things--justice and goodness. We cannot conceive of a holy being in the character of a malignant one, or suppose any, with a deep love for what is right, to be filled with malevolence. We must have a love for justice, then, before we can delight ourselves in God. And the only way by which we can come to have it, is by faith in Christ. Then, in conjunction with this, our character itself is changed; we have no longer the love of sin, but a true regard for everything in which there is any “virtue or any praise”--and therefore a supreme admiration of Him who is the “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” If we would be able to delight ourselves in God, we must likewise be conformed to Him in His knowledge. God knows what is the chief end of man’s life, what is right and what is wrong. The Christian, by believing God’s revelation, knows this too, and is conformed to Jehovah in respect to knowledge.

2. The way in which we should show our delight in Him.

(1) By meditating upon Him.

(2) By taking an interest in creation and created things as His work, and by observing the course of events as His providence working out the great end of His own glory and blessing His creatures.

(3) By reading His Word, attending on His ordinances, and observing His sacraments.

The blessing promised to those who perform the duty. This would be a dangerous promise to make to those who were to retain their corrupt heart; for were the wicked man to obtain “the desires of his heart,” he would destroy at one stroke all whom he thought his enemies, annihilate hell, make heaven a place of sensual enjoyment, and dethrone the Lord of all Himself. Happily, however, all who “delight themselves in God” will have very different wishes from these.

1. Those who delight in Him will desire to have a greater acquaintance with Him; and they will not fail to be gratified.

2. If we delight in God we shall desire a greater love to Him, and shall obtain it.

3. If we delight in God we shall wish to have closer communion with Him, and shall obtain our desire while we remain on earth.

4. Those who delight themselves in God will desire and obtain a greater degree of likeness to God; and what a noble thing it must be to resemble in the slightest extent the Lord of all! Their likeness will perhaps be best seen in regard to “God manifest in the flesh.” “Because he lives, we shall live also.” We shall partake of His glory, resemble His character, and sit down upon His throne. (W. Dickson.)

Rest to the aching heart

When we look out upon the world, what an amount of suffering do we see! Desires which never meet with accomplishment, hopes entertained which are blighted. I have seen little creepers in my garden throwing out tendrils in search of a support, and finding none; at last the life of the poor plants seems exhausted by their efforts, they give up straining, and lie numb on their bed of earth and die away. O what clusters of beautiful bells would they have put forth, what a burden of fruit would they have borne, had they grasped their support, and climbed and lifted themselves into the air! Now they produce but a few cankered blossoms, and ripen no seed. Is not this the picture of many a human life? Is there a human heart that has not suffered? Human hearts are human hearts, and they must have their struggles and sufferings. We ignore them too much, we have not sympathy enough for them. How varied, also, are the sorrows of heart and mind.

1. I suppose there are many now past the middle age to whom the fact that the chapter of life is closing, the romance of life is concluding, causes many an ache. The primroses and bluebells of youth have died away, and now the leaves are falling round them. What faculties there were in the young mind never developed, because circumstances were adverse, how its joyousness was blighted by incessant toil, how its energies were marred by some fatal mistake, or some irretrievable choice. Without resurrection of the dead, now 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. But the joyousness of the new birth[ childhood’s innocence and mirth restored t faculties of receiving pleasure from sight and sound refreshed and enlarged f To this we must stretch, for this pray, and in this yearning and in thus praying we shall find-comfort as our day declines.

2. Passionate love is felt by some hearts which will, which can never be known by the object of affection, or which, if known, is never returned. Is there a more painful wound? Yet is there no balm in Gilead? Has He, the healer of every human misery, no touch for the heart stricken with such an arrow? Surely yes. The bruised and bleeding soul will find its only solace in prayer, in prayer for the object of affection. It may be that there is a separation on earth, but there will be a reunion in heaven. (S. Baring Gould, M. A.)

A sure method of obtaining our desires

The psalmist’s advice.

1. Delight thyself in the favour, approbation, friendship of the Lord.

(1) Prize it.

(2) Seek it.

(3) Keep it.

2. Delight thyself in the service of the Lord.

(1) It is excellent in itself.

(2) It brings an excellent reward.

3. Delight thyself in the doctrine of the Lord.

The psalmist’s encouragement. He must be understood to speak of--

1. Innocent desires.

2. Spiritual desires.

3. Scriptural desires.

4. Earnest desires.

5. Expressed desires (Luke 11:9; Philippians 4:6). (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

Delight in the Lord

Boundless resources, it is manifest, could not be safely at the disposal of less than boundless wisdom. Only on one condition would it be a certain benefit to be assured of getting everything that we desired--the condition, namely, that we should always desire that which is best. Well, that and nothing else is what God undertakes to do for us if only we will let Him. The great aim and object of all His dealings with us--specially of the mission of His Son and the mission of the Holy Ghost--is twofold: first, to get us to desire what is best and then to give it to us. There is one desire that ought to be central in every human heart--the desire for God, the love of our Father in heaven. In a large family there may be great diversities of taste and disposition, without their interfering at all with the love which each of the children bears to the father and mother; and it certainly would be no excuse for an ungrateful son when charged with his unfilial spirit if he were to say, “Our family are not all alike; we are quite different from one another in our tastes. One is fond of reading, another of music, another of painting, and a fourth of athletic sports; and if there be some of my sisters who are fend of their father and mother, I have no objection. Every one to his taste, but I do not care anything about them.” Would any one allow that to be a reasonable and proper way of getting rid of the filial obligation to love and honour our father and mother? Certainly not. Why, then, should it ever be thought a sufficient excuse for not caring for the Father of our spirits? God has created us with a great variety of lower desires, but there is one desire which ought to be in every human heart as its dominant ruling desire--the desire for God. If any one has not that desire as a controlling desire his whole nature is in chaos, and unless that is rectified his end must be destruction. But is it indeed true that when this condition is fulfilled the other always follows? Who is there, even among the best people, who gets everything that his heart is set on? But here we must, in all fairness, bear in mind that it is not said, either here or anywhere else, that every desire of the child of God shall be immediately gratified. On the contrary, it is very clearly intimated that faith and patience will be needed (Psalms 37:5; Psalms 37:7). This, of course, modifies the promise, but it does not diminish its value. Rather it increases its value. We may be sure that if God keeps us waiting it is for some very good purpose. We may be sure that the blessing, when it comes, will be richer than if it had come at the same moment that we first desired it. Making all allowance for this, let us now look at the immense advantages which those enjoy who delight themselves in the Lord.

1. In the first place, their chief desire is one which can be always gratified. Now, is not that a great thing? But not only is the chief desire of those who delight themselves in the Lord one that can be always gratified; but all the desires that spring up around it are of the same nature. When a man delights himself in the Lord the merely selfish desires die out of his heart, and far better things take their place. Oh, do not think that the heart is left empty when the old desires go out. It is stocked with far better and nobler ones. Then the will becomes parallel to God’s, and hence it does not need to be checked or thwarted as before.

2. Then, again, whatever is denied now is denied only for a time. We have already acknowledged that there are some of our desires that we must be content to wait for, but the time is certainly coming when they shall all be fulfilled. If only we give our hearts unreservedly to the Lord, we may rest assured that He will not allow any desire to remain in them which He does not intend to gratify to the full. (J. Monro Gibson, D. D.)

The secret of tranquillity

“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 by what ceases so soon. Life with its changes has not soured but quieted him. The secret of tranquillity is seen--

In freedom from eager, earthly desires. “Delight thyself in the Lord,” etc. The great reason why life is troubled lies not without but within. It is not our changing circumstances, but our unregulated desires, that rob us of peace. We are feverish, not because of the external temperature, but because of the state of our own blood. One desire unfulfilled is enough to banish tranquillity; but how can it survive a dozen dragging different ways? And, still further, they destroy tranquillity by putting us at the mercy of externals. Do not venture the rich freightage of your happiness in crazy vessels. If your life twines round any prop but God your strength, be sure that, some time or other, the stay to which its tendrils cling will be plucked up, and the poor vine will be lacerated, its clusters crushed, and its sap bleeding out of it. “Delight thyself in the Lord”--that is the cure for all the feverish unrest of desires. Rest must come from delighting in God, for it is no longer distracted by many desires, but has come under the one master-attraction. Such a soul is still as the great river above the falls, when all the side currents and dimpling eddies and backwaters are effaced by the attraction that draws every drop in the one direction. Let the current of your being set towards God, then your life will be filled and calmed by one master-passion which unites and stills the soul. And for another reason there will be peace: because in such a case desire and fruition go together. “He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Only do not vulgarize that great promise by making it out to mean that, if we will be good, He will give us the earthly blessings which we wish. Sometimes we shall get them, and sometimes not; but the real desire of the man who delights in God will be God Himself, and this desire is ever fulfilled. And again, desire after God brings peace by putting all other wishes in their right place. The counsel in the text does not enjoin the extinction, but the subordination of all other desires. The presence of the king awes the crowd into silence.

In freedom from the perplexity of choosing our path. This is a word for all life, not only for its great occasions. Twice or thrice, perhaps, in a man’s life his road leads him up to a high dividing point, a watershed, as it were, whence the rain runs from, the one side of the ridge to the Pacific, and from the other to the Atlantic. His whole future may depend on his bearing the least bit to the right hand or to the left, and all the slopes below, on either side, are wreathed in mist. Powerless as he is to see before him, he has yet to choose, and his choice determines the rest of his days. Certainly he needs some guidance then. But he needs it not less in the small decisions of every hour. Our histories are made up of a series of trifles, in each of which a separate act of will and choice is involved. Depend upon it that, if we have not learned the habit of committing the daily-recurring monotonous steps to Him, we shall find it very, very hard to seek His help when we come to a fork in the road. So this is a command for all life, not only for its turning-points. Thus, 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; where all the roar of the busy world dies upon the ear, and the still small voice of the present God deepens the silence, and hushes the heart. Be quiet, and you will hear Him speak-delight in Him, that you may be quiet.

The secret of tranquillity is found, thirdly, in freedom from the anxiety of an unknown future. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Such an addition to these previous counsels is needful, if all the sources of our disquiet are to be dealt with. The future is dim, after all our straining to see into its depths. Confidence that the future will but evolve God’s purposes, and that all these are enlisted on our side, will give peace and power. Rut remember that the peaceful confidence of this final counsel is legitimate only when we have obeyed the other two. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Delighting in the Lord

(with Psalms 37:7):--What desires of the heart are there which we may be quite sure that God will grant if we rest on Him and wait patiently for Him? I think the first of the two verses which I took for my text enables us to see the right answer. “Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee thy heart’s desire.” Delighting in the Lord opens out an entirely new field for the desires of the heart. In plain and brief words, it is to desire to be and to do instead of desiring to have. Delighting in the Lord does not mean the ceasing to be human, ceasing to have wants and natural lawful desires for success and happiness, but it means that all these native and lawful wishes become subordinate to a higher desire still, so that for its sake we are willing to forego all the rest. We may be hungry and thirsty, yet our meat and drink will be to do the will of Him who sent us here and to finish His work. We may be poor and needy, but we shall esteem the words of God and obedience to His law better than thousands of gold and silver. We may be hungering for a love which is out of our reach, or sorrowing for the loss of a love that can never be ours and yet find in God a love passing the love of women. We may be toiling all day, and our very sleep may be broken by festering care and by even a holy anxiety to bring our work to completion, and yet shall find something better and higher than success in the knowledge that we are working for God and doing our best and earning His approval. If the greatest and supreme of all our delights is in being and in doing what God wills, nothing can frustrate His purpose to give us our heart’s desire. Extinction of desire is impossible. To gain happiness by its means, one must simply change its direction, fixing it upon that which cannot be denied, and which when obtained cannot perish or fade. Thus it is we learn, in theory at least, that to secure happiness we must seek it in those paths only which our Creator has ordained for us; in longing after Himself who is eternal, unchangeable and infinite in attractiveness and loveliness, in longing to be all that He desires us to be and to do all that He bids us do. At least, to make these wishes uppermost and foremost beyond all other wishes--not to extinguish those or to mortify them wantonly--but to prevent them effectually from ever reaching the highest place in our hearts or supplanting the supreme desire to love and to please our God. (C. Voysey, B. A.)

Delight in God

Delight is a general idea, and all the various powers of the mind, and feelings of the heart minister to its production in different ways. Think of any of these, and say whether you do not find that it can meet nowhere with such rich and abundant supplies, as in the attributes of the Almighty.

1. One of those powers of the mind, in which man finds a very copious spring of delight, is the capacity of looking onward into futurity, and indulging in the fair visions of hope. Anticipation has been called the better-half of pleasure. If this be so, where could you look for such full and safe indulgence of this faculty, as in the contemplation of what the Giver of all good can and will do for those who look to Him as the source of their happiness (Psalms 36:8).

2. The memory is another faculty of the mind, which is highly conducive to its happiness. Many sources of delight are richer even in the recollection than in the immediate enjoyment; as the tints that appear in the western heaven are frequently most beautiful, some time after the bright orb, from which they are reflected, has itself vanished from our sight. Now, if we were more addicted to marking the ways of God, and His gracious dealings towards us, we should find this to be eminently the case in respect to them. It is in the calmer moments of recollection, in the retrospect which the soul, at all habituated to self-examination, takes of the mercies for which it is indebted to God, that the instances of His loving-kindness and fatherly care break out upon it in their full proportions, and almost melt and overcome it with sensations of gratitude and delight. In this respect, how little will any earthly joy bear a comparison with delight in the Lord!

3. Another distinguished source of human delight is the growth of the intellectual powers, the acquisition of knowledge. And what knowledge can bear a comparison with the knowledge of the Lord? If it be a delightful sensation to perceive that our mind has made some progress; that it knows that of which it was formerly ignorant; that it can form clear and distinct ideas about that which seemed to it formerly clouded and obscure; how must that delight be increased when the object of our newly acquired information is the highest on which the mind of man can dwell; and when the things which we learn are things which accompany salvation!

4. But the excitement of the affections is a much commoner source of delight than the acquisition of knowledge, and here we may boldly challenge any one to find an object that has so many and so powerful claims on the heart of man, as belong to God. If the most astonishing mercy, the most inestimable benefits, the tenderest care, the largest and most liberal bounty, are calculated to excite feelings of complacency and attachment in the human breast, then may we well delight in God, as an object of affection, and feel our hearts expand with indescribable pleasure, and with the most solid satisfaction, in meditating on His character and attributes. (J. Marriott, M. A.)

Delight in prayer

Without cheerful prayer we cannot have gracious answers. Note--

What this delight is. Delight properly is an affection of the mind that springs from the possession of a good which hath been ardently desired. Delight properly is a silencing of desire, and the banquet of the soul on the presence of its desired object. But there is a delight of a lower stamp.

1. In desires. There is a delight in desire as well as in fruition.

2. In hopes (Romans 5:2).

3. In contemplation. The consideration and serious thoughts of heaven do affect a gracious heart and fill it with pleasure, though itself be as if in a wilderness. As the union with the object is nearer, so the delight is stronger. Now, this delight the soul hath in duty is not a delight of fruition, but of desire, hope or contemplation. Now, delight is active or passive, as Isaiah 64:5. When we delightfully clasp the throne of grace God doth often cast His arms about our necks.

Whence this delight springs.

1. From the Spirit of God. Not a spark of fire upon our own hearth that is able to kindle this spiritual delight. It is the Holy Ghost (Psalms 138:8; Isaiah 56:7).

2. From grace. Dead men cannot perform a duty (Psalms 115:17).

3. From a good conscience (Proverbs 15:15). He that hath a good conscience must needs be cheerful in his religious and civil duties. Guilt will come trembling, and with a sad countenance, into the presence of God’s majesty. A guilty child cannot with cheerfulness come into a displeased father’s presence.

4. From a holy familiarity with God. Hence there is delight in one another’s company.

5. From hopes of speeding (Romans 12:12).

6. From a sense of former mercies and acceptation. These quicken our desire for and expectation of more (Psalms 116:2).

The reasons of this doctrine, that without cheerful seeking, we cannot have a gracious answer. For--

1. A fiat and dumpish temper is not for His honour; and prayers in such temper do not reach Him, and they speak an unwillingness that God should hear us.

2. And without delight we are not fit to receive a mercy. Delight in a mercy wanted makes room for desire, and large desires make room for mercy. If no delight in begging, there will be no delight in enjoying; if there be no cheerfulness to quicken our prayers when we need a blessing, there will be little joy to quicken our praise when we receive a blessing. Had not Zaccheus had a great joy at the news of Christ’s coming by his door, he had not so readily entertained and welcomed Him.


1. Of information.

(1) There is a great pleasure in the ways of God, if rightly understood. Prayer, which is a duty wherein we express our wants, is delightful. There is more sweetness in a Christian’s asking, than in a wicked man’s enjoying, blessings.

(2) What delight will there be in heaven! If there be such sweetness in desire, what will there he in full fruition! There is joy in seeking; what is there then in finding! Duty hath its sweets, its thousands, but glory its ten thousands.

(3) The miserable condition of those that can delight in anything but prayer. It is an aggravation of our enmity to God, when we can sin cheerfully and pray dully, when duty is more loathsome than iniquity.

2. Of examination. We pray, but how are our hearts? (S. Charnock.)

Delight in God

In what way are we to comply with the condition Delight thyself in the Lord”? What does this mean? The idea of delighting in God is just one of those great, inclusive religious ideas, that by their very vastness almost disable remark. When a man has attained to this, that he supremely delights in the blessed God, his religious life is well nigh perfect. To delight in God is the possibility only of a spiritual, a religious being. The distinction is clearly made between God and His gifts. We might delight in any of the things that God has given, in any of the material and intellectual blessings of life, the manifold provisions and gifts of God’s providence, but this would not be to delight in God Himself. We have to do here with the highest religious elements of our nature, and with the highest exercise of them. The emotion expressed is both a high and a rare one. Even among pious men there is, I fear, very little genuine joy in God. They feel there ought to be, and they pray for it; but their actual feeling is rarely that of passion; it is calm, measured, almost cold. Sometimes they can say, “As the hart panteth after,” etc.; but not often. And there may be much satisfaction in prayer, and yet no delight. For prayer may be a relief, a vent to feeling long suppressed; or it may be a cry of urgent necessity, or disguised self-flattery, like that of the Pharisee. But all this is not delight.

True delight in god will have respect, first, to what God is, as a spiritual being of supreme excellency and glory--the Author of all other beings and of all things. We are capable of so contemplating God. The Bible is full of this feeling: how eloquent, how rapturous are its recognitions of God. How David delighted in this. And so was it in the early Church. See the Te Deum, etc.

1. Now, 1 do not ask whether you delight in other things rather than in God; in your business or books, in science or social festivities, in amusements or sensual gratifications. In such a ease, your delight is dearly irreligious. But I ask you to distinguish between your religious delights--between the religious feelings that have your own soul for their object, and the religious feelings that have God for their object. The one is simply religious selfishness; the other is religious worship and sacrifice. I need not add, that our supreme delight in God is when God is manifested in Jesus Christ; when, in the Incarnate, redeeming Son, He expresses all the wondrous riches of His great wisdom and love--when we see the Eternal light in the Eternal love. No man can delight in God until he attains the perfect love which casteth out fear.

2. A religious soul will also delight in what God does; in all the movements of His providence; in all the arrangements of His grace. Our religious life is largely affected by the way in which we look at God’s doings--by the feelings which we cherish towards them. It is easy, of course, to delight in God’s doings when His providential ways are pleasant to us and His gifts affluent. And this is really the chief experience of most lives. Privation and sorrow are more exceptional than we think. A great sorrow fills a large space in our thoughts, but a small one in our lives. We think more of the one black cloud than of the blue sky across which it is driven. We cannot, of course, delight in pain, but we may delight in God who inflicts pain, delight in Him although He inflicts pain; have such strong assurance of His wise love, that we cling to Him in the stedfast love of our troubled hearts.

Is what sense will the Lord give the man who delights in him the desires of his heart? It is a daring phrase, for even good men may desire hurtful and wrong things. Our desires are no safe law no measure of blessing. But if God cannot change at our caprice, may not our caprice itself change? And is not this the way in which this daring assurance is really fulfilled? Delight thyself in the Lord, and then thy desires will be right: thou wilt be happy in the perfect gratification of thy instructed and pious desires. “The prayer of the upright is His delight.” Our first and out great solicitude, then, should be about the delights of our souls. What are our supreme delights? God’s gifts Of Himself? Our wealth, pleasures, borne, or our spiritual privileges? Our delights will always create and shape our desires. If we desire God and holiness, and the salvation of men, no desires of ours for these things can be so deep as God desires. A nurture, a culture, an urgency of the spiritual soul is possible to us. Delight in God will grow by that which it feeds upon--its satisfaction enlarges its desires. And when we do really delight in God, holiness will be easy and natural as common life; duty will be turned into a joy, and self-sacrifice will rejoice in love. (H. Allon, D. D.)

Our heart’s desire

In the course of conversation with a brother minister, I was told that a layman had put to him this question: “What is the meaning of the seemingly unqualified promise, ‘He shall give thee the desires of thine heart’? Surely it is somewhat difficult to believe that promise as it stands.” Undoubtedly, as our text stands, or I should say, on the face of it, it is obviously untrue. Most people would be prepared to say that they do not get, or very seldom get, the desires of their heart. The woman who has to battle with odds against a world with which she is very little fitted to deal. If you were to ask her whether she has had, or is likely to have, her heart’s desire, you would receive a flat denial. Her heart’s desire is that these dear ones, against whom she wilt not hear a word spoken, should be placed above the reach of the world’s criticism, or censure, or persecution. What do you think, you older men, as you look back upon life, concerning God’s dealings with you? When you were young you had great hopes for your own future; unlike a woman’s, they were very largely desires of personal ambition. But very few of us ever come to the experience after which we strive. The successful man--successful as the world would call it, or, to be nearer the mark, as he himself would acknowledge it--is in a very small minority in this place. If you look back, you can see how you have taken the wrong turn; where you uttered a word which did you disservice--you had better have been silent--or where you were silent when it had been better you had seized the chance and risen. Inferior men have passed you on the road, less scrupulous men have climbed to positions of honour and respect which you do not occupy to-day. Then there are other experiences which a preacher must touch with a still more delicate hand. Here is a man of whom his neighbours say that he has never looked up since his boy died. All his heart’s desire was centred upon that lad. These are such common, everyday experiences that one hardly needs to indicate them in your presence. How do they look alongside of the psalmist’s prayer: “He shall give thee the desires of thine heart”? I will tell you how to approach the text now. Remember, he who penned this statement was a living, breathing man. For he knew life then as really and truly in its heights and depths as you and I know it now. So when he wrote down: “He shall give thee thine heart’s desire,” he must have meant something in all seriousness, and I think the context will help us to understand what it is. “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” He is writing for himself; he had been fretting against the evil-doers, and he had been declaiming against the workers of iniquity. Listen further. “Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” Understand, this man is on the very borderland of a temptation: he is going to repay evil with evil; he is going to fight the world with the world’s weapons, and his utterance is one of warning directed to his own conscience. But at his best he rises to a new height: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him . . . Delight thyself in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” This man evidently has not been receiving the desires of his heart, he has been seeing the less worthy prosper, and it is out of his own experience that he writes. He has seen something; it is that the pure in heart, the noble in character, are on the side of God, and the best that they have is drawn from the heart of God: therefore God will give them their deepest desire if only because it is also His own. For now we bare struck the very point. The heart’s desire is the deepest desire, and it may be, and often is, that a man’s heart’s desire is hidden from himself, and known only to God. Here is a man who wants something intensely. What do you want it for? It may be a good desire, as well as a bad one. Most people assume at once that when a man is in quest of money he wants it that he may do some mischief with it or indulge himself by its possession. This man may want money that he may liberate his own soul from its present prison-house, that he may enlarge his borders, be good, do good, get good. Or here again is a man who has a holy purpose, in which himself is hardly concerned; it is for another’s good he wants the power that money can give. So now, if you pray for £500 a year--I will put the request as simply as I can state it--if you are praying in any such terms, whether God answers the prayer or whether He denies it, your heart’s desire is not for the thing called money, it is for the moral and spiritual result the money can bring. Here is a man asking for fame. He may be utterly wrong in the praying of this prayer, most likely he is: “Ambition, that last infirmity of noble minds.” Well, what does he want? He thinks he wants fame. If he gets it, he will say, like Merlin:

“Sweet were the days when I was all unknown, But when my name was lifted up, the storm Brake on the mountain and I cared not for it. Right well know I that fame is half disfame, Yet needs must work my work.”

Ofttimes the thing you think you want is not the thing you really want. The man wants what he supposes fame brings, but which fame never brings. There is a satisfaction that goodness and goodness only can give, and it is the satisfaction that comes from achieving his best of which he is really in search. You may not get either the money or the fame, but you shall get the thing you suppose they will bring. Yet a man may put his prayer into such a form that he supposes himself to be seeking the good when he is seeking nothing of the kind. The heart’s desire is that oftentimes which lies beneath desire; it is the best of which a man is capable. His prayer is a symbol, the true reality is the heart’s desire. There are not a few here who have not understood up to the present that the heart’s desire may best be gratified when the surface petition is denied. God turned you back, it may be, long, long ago, when you bought you saw your road plain before you, because He understood better than you did your heart’s desire. God shut a door in your face; if you had gone through that door, I do not say it would have been to material ruin, but, you would not have been the man you are to-day, the man of serious purpose and high character. God denied you your brief worldly success, and you are a bigger and better man because it never came; and God gave you what you never anticipated when you rebelled against the way that He chose for you long ago, but you may yet live to praise Him with a full heart fervently because He understood so clearly your heart’s desire. Now, one thing more, my brethren, hard as it may seem to say it. Even now, when you have come to the valley of humiliation and to the shadow of death, God is giving you a great opportunity. He believes in your nature too much to lead you always through green pastures and by still waters, so he has given you the chance of being a hero, and some day you will say, “Right was the pathway leading to this.” How well God understands the heart’s desire! Now one or two observations upon the principle. The first is this. Every great capacity assumes an equally great satisfaction. Sir J. Burden-Sanderson, of Oxford, once said in a lecture before a scientific assembly, that if in any nature you found a great capacity, a vessel to be filled, there was that wherewith to satisfy, that wherewith it should be filled. It is so undoubtedly in spiritual things, lie shall satisfy that which He Himself has fashioned. Many of you, however, have ceased to affirm consistently and by your life that which you have been trying to gain impulsively or spasmodically. The other day I was watching at the seaside a boy fishing by the side of a grown man. The man knew what he was about, the boy was only beginning. The little fellow did not catch anything, he did not allow the fly to stay down long enough; every few minutes up came the hook, that he might see Whether anything had taken place in the deep waters. His eider companion sat stolidly there, and fished perseveringly on. He gained something, where the little fellow did not. So many of our lives are so inconsistently adjusted that we deny with our act what we affirm with our lips. We pray to God to do what we do not live ourselves; we seem as if we are always pulling up and beginning again. Yet a prayer, to be consistent and fruitful, should be the utterance of a man’s whole life and character; we stand at our highest, or ought to stand at our highest, when we pray. A great capacity presumes a great satisfaction--give it a chance in your own life. For it is not merely what a man’s lips utter, but what his whole life affirms, that is his real prayer. Secondly, there are some seemingly impossible things which I would bring within the range of answered prayer. There are not a few here, it may be, who are accustomed to pray half-despairingly for the sake of those whom God has given them to love and care for. How impossible it seems that you should prevail over an evil will, if it be the will of another, in your intercessory appeals to the heart of God. And then is not God Himself helpless before the citadel of the human will? I do not care to go into metaphysics on that subject, but I would have you remember that you are encouraged in the highest of all prayers, Christ-like intercession, to act as though there were no barrier before the will of God. Where does your personality leave off and another’s personality begin? It is in a sense true this morning that I, who address you am you, and you who sit answering silently back are me; we are one for the time being, or there would be no communion. Believe then that, as we are linked together by invisible bonds, love could draw some tighter still. I would never believe, I would never care to assert at any rate, that there is any point where the will of man can exalt itself determinedly and lastingly against the will of God. May those who feel that they have to carry a heart’s desire not for their own sake but for another as the great Heart Eternal, take courage from that thought; pray as though there were no barrier which God cannot overcome, and through which the Christ, the Redeemer, cannot pass. Lastly, there is only one thing more I would leave with you. Though the psalmist is speaking here of the righteous man, the principle to an extent holds good of the prayer of an evil man. All evil desire has its appropriate recoil. No man whose life is a curse ever manages to blight the career of those against whom he has sinned as he blights himself. God shall give you some of your hideous desires, and they will come back to you in bane where they might have come back to you in blessing. If you are in quest of something that is unhealthy and degraded, be sure it will recoil upon you--that very desire. God may gratify it, and by gratifying it punish you for entertaining it. A man who has given himself to evil becomes the victim of evil. But if, on the other hand, every one of us here has clarified his desire. He who knoweth our heart’s desire will not fail us in the day of its accomplishment. “You shall see of the travail of your soul and shall be satisfied. For eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him, but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (R. J. Campbell, M. A.)

Desires answered

Compare this text with one from the Buddhist scriptures, which some writers are endeavouring to exalt to an equal rank with the Bible: “He who fosters no desires for this world or for the next, has no inclination; him I call a Brahmin” (the perfect man). The Buddhist heaven is Nirvana, a condition in which the soul has lost all interest and all sensitiveness, a dead life, a spiritual petrifaction, in which, as the stone is not hurt by the avalanche that crushes it, the soul can endure the crash of the universe. How different this to the Bible declaration, “We shall be satisfied with the fatness of Thy house!” Or, make the contrast between our text and the best practical philosophy of the ancients--that of the Stoics: Care for nobody, and you will not be bereaved; want nothing, and you cannot be robbed; have re hopes, and you will have no regrets. The Bible puts a light in the dead eye, and a fire in the cold heart. Descartes taught that wisdom was in limiting one’s desires to the actual conditions of life. The Bible promises to expand the good to meet the utmost longings of the mind. Man’s best expedient is to collapse the great voids in the heart as soon as possible; Christ’s proposal is to enlarge and then fill them. Take this as an evidence that He who gave us the Bible is He who gave us being. (Homiletic Review.)

The Desires of the heart

It would be good to know how many of us assembled here for Christian worship this morning really believe that saying of the psalmist to be true; and how many of us shrug invisible shoulders, and regard it merely as a pious sentiment entirely unsupported by the facts of life I In every considerable assembly of men and women there must be many disappointed hearts. For the most part they are silent as well as disappointed. “The heart knoweth its own bitterness,” and when it is kindly it has no temptation to spill its gall into the sweetness of another life. Well, you are not going to break out into any violent form of revolt. You are not built like that. You have no intention of labelling yourself an agnostic. You don’t mean to sneer at religion, or openly renounce belief in Christ! It is absurd to talk about the unbelief of the outside world, while there is such a lack of vital faith in the hearts of so many spiritually-minded Christian worshippers! The calm, confident Master of our life bids us--by all His life and teaching He bids us--“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and follow after faithfulness; delight ourselves also in the Lord”; and all this with unshakable assurance that He shall give us the desires of our hearts. The true Christian experience makes all the coldness of stoicism an impossibility. Standing on the vantage-ground of love in the present, the believer in Christ is able, like his Master, to survey the past with hope and the future with faith. And now, seeing that we are all sharers more or less in the experience of failure and disappointment, and are thus all liable to moods of cynicism and lack of faith, let me ask you to consider about the Christian attitude towards the past--the present--and the future.

The Christian attitude towards the past. It is the attitude of hope. Hope for the past? Yes. It is an attitude taken up in full response to the psalmist’s words, “Trust in the Lord,” but with reasons and impulses behind it greater than the psalmist ever knew[ All cynicism is rooted in past failure and disappointment, is it not? The young, with life and the world all before them where to choose, are never cynical. At least, never at first hand: they learn a second-hand language of cynicism sometimes I No; it is the Adam-experience in every man which begets a cynical disbelief in the godly meaning of life; the experience of the hatefulness of a tiling that has happened--a deed that is done, and its inevitable consequences. It was Milton, you remember, who put into Adam’s mouth the apparently hopeless words,

“The past who can recall, or done undo?
Not God omnipotent nor fate.”

And it is surely well that we should early recognize the awful responsibility that attaches to every action of our complex human life. Yet, according to the old Genesis story, the glorious promise of redemption was mingled with the pronouncement of man’s punishment! Sin, failure, disappointment bulk so largely in the past that it is not surprising they should cast their shadows over the present. Friends, it is these shadows of the past which must be subdued and driven away by hope. Maeterlinck has written a wonderful essay on “The Past,” which contains the very essence of the hope of Christian Gospel. Here is a paragraph of it, “‘The past is past,’ we say, and it is false; the past is always present . . . ‘Nothing can wipe out the past,’ we say, and it is false; the least effort of will sends present and future travelling over the past to efface whatever we bid them efface . . . ‘My past is wicked, it is sorrowful, empty,’ we say again, ‘as I look back I can see no moment of beauty, of happiness or love; I see nothing but wretched ruins . . . ’ And that is false; for you see precisely what you yourself place there at the moment your eyes rest upon it. Our past depends entirely upon our present, and is constantly changing with it . . . Our chief concern with the past, that which truly remains and forms part of us, is not what we have done, or the adventures we have met with, but the moral reactions bygone events are producing within us at this very moment, the inward being they have helped to form.” Now, the events of life constantly happening around us assure us that this is so. Look at those definite acts of sin committed in moments of sudden impulse by young people who seem to have been afflicted by an almost incurable lightness and frivolity of mind and heart. Well, they are done, beyond recall--they are of the past. Are they, therefore, changeless? Has the sinner who has committed them no control over them? True, they must go on working out some consequences which he cannot control; but he can still make of them for himself what he will. By his present attitude towards them they become either stones to roll upon the tomb of his own moral and spiritual life, or stones--like Jacob’s pillow--whereon, lying down in repentance, he shall have visions of the angels of God ascending and descending upon the still possible upward-sloping stairway whose top reaches to heaven. Many a moral defeat has been the first awakening of a soul to the possibility of a moral victory. And as it is with past sin, so it may be with past sorrow, past failure, past disappointment. The Christian attitude of hope has power to transfigure and change them all! There is no sorrow which cannot be turned into joy. “Trust in the Lord.” That grave you dug in the past was not so much a place of burial for earth’s joy, as a sowing-ground for heaven’s spiritual fellowship. You are better, if you have not allowed yourself to become worse, for being compelled to face the grimmest reality of earth’s experience; and your dear one is worthier to be loved, having passed that holy way! That good thing you tried but failed to do is not the symbol of your weakness and ineffectiveness. Never think it. It is the indelible mark of your divine doom to future achievement! Every statue, every picture, every poem in the world is some artist’s failure! Do you imagine that the painter found the sunset his spirit had seen in the sky, when he spread the colours of his palette on the canvas? Never. We can afford to fail in learning the way to succeed! That disappointment of yours, I care not what it was, was no proof that the best good is a delusion. The mirage of the desert is not a proof that there is no water anywhere. “Trust in the Lord,” and regard your past--whatever it may contain--in the attitude of hope.

The Christian attitude towards the present. It is an attitude of love! “Do good,” says the psalmist. “Dwell in the land . . . Delight thyself also in the Lord.” That is what you have to do now. The attitude of hope towards the past is strictly conditional upon the attitude of love towards the present. You and I are not likely to “trust in the Lord” about that strangely mysterious past of ours, if we feel no impulse to love Him to-day. “Dwell in the land!” Well, we must. Here we are. In some fashion or other we are occupying the land of our inheritance. “Dwell in the land,” is not so much an invitation as a command. We cannot help ourselves. Well, then, “Do good Delight thyself in the Lord.” There is one command there, not two. The man who does good because it is good, and because he loves the good when he sees it, does delight himself in the Lord, whether he knows it or not. There are not two opinions in this church this morning about doing good. When the good and the evil course of action lie clearly before us we all know we ought to do the good, and in our heart of hearts we all desire to do it, and feel convicted of sin if we refuse. And the harder it is to do the good in the face of temptation to do the evil, the deeper and more abiding is that mysterious glow of gladness with which our hearts are so strangely warmed. That glow of gladness just means that, at such times, whether we recognize it or not, in doing good we are delighting ourselves in the Lord. “Delight thyself also in the Lord!” Ah, well, that was easy a week ago, in the time of our sunshine, but not how! Then be very sure that you were not delighting yourself in the Lord a week ago, if you cannot do it now. You may have been delighting yourself in something pleasant He had given you. That is something very different from delighting yourself in Him.

The Christian attitude towards the future. It is the attitude of faith. “Follow after faithfulness And He shall give thee the desire of thine heart.” “Feed upon faithfulness,” the margin says, that is, nourish your inner life with this spiritual food--“Faithfulness.” What is exactly this attitude of faith towards the future? Let me answer you by quoting a beautiful passage I read the other day. A party of travellers was driving through lovely scenery within sight of the blue waters of the Mediterranean; one of them writes: “A short distance away, as we looked under the olive trees, across the ruddy clods and accidental wild flowers, were the innumerable dimples of the amiable sea . . . ‘Is it always like this?’ asked Lamia. ‘Far from it,’ I was going to reply; but the Poet anticipated me. ‘Yes, always, Lamia; always, always, always!’ “No one deserves to travel who anticipates anything less agreeable than he is enjoying at the moment. Ah, then, this faith is self-delusion, after all, some of you will say. No, faith is the belief that the good and the beautiful must find issue in the best and the perfect! It is the assurance of the old poet Walt Whitman, who, looking back over a long life’s work, set down as his last words,

“The strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung.”

The desires of our hearts are better than we know; and it is only as we “trust in God and follow after faithfulness” that God can interpret to us the meaning of our own prayers, our own desires, and give us those better things which are hidden in all His promises. “And He shall give thee”--not merely the petitions of thy lips, for that is a little thing and often not good for us, but He shall give thee a far deeper and purer gift--even “the petitions of thy heart.” (A. E. Hooper.)

Verse 5

Psalms 37:5

Commit thy way unto the Lord.

Commit thy way

What more appropriate motto can we select for a new year? Counsel such as this is in itself a kind of revelation. It reveals us to ourselves! Is our way such that we can commit it to the Lord? Now, such committing of our way to God means--

Meditation before prayer. “Meditation,” says St. Ambrose, “is the eye wherewith we see God, and prayer is the wing wherewith we flee to Him.” Prayer is not an accidental expression that comes suddenly to the mind; it is the soul’s recognition of its need. And to pray aright we must have been alone with ourselves before we are alone with God. Bunyan said, “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.”

Consciousness of ignorance. We say to God, “Thou and Thou only knowest the true path of life.” Our ignorance is at times very humbling to us. We want to know all, and in reality we know so little. How terrible it would be if we could not commit our way unto God. How glad, then, should we be that God invites us at all times to come to Him. As Quarles says, “Heaven’s never deaf but when man’s heart is dark.”

Conscious obedience and cheerful acquiescence in his will. Dependence must end in obedience. Owen says, “He who prays as he ought will endeavour to live as he prays.” Can there be a more miserable man on earth than he who knows the hypocrisy of his prayers, who is inwardly conscious of his wrong state, who knows that he is living without God, and yet feels tremulous and sad about it all? He has not really returned to God. He has not realized again the value of the Saviour’s friendship; he cannot forsake the indulgence of some secret sin; he cannot quite quit fellowships that are risking his immortal weal. The reverences of religion still touch him with awe, the piety of the early child-home is still a memory in his manhood; he despises men who have no religion. But his will is not obedient: it cannot be said of him that he is a follower of the Lamb. Let us not slight this aspect of the subject--committing our way means conscious obedience unto God. And not merely endurance, nor passive submission, but cheerful acquiescence. This lights the smile on the sufferer’s face; this gives sunlight to the gloomy Catacombs. When the soul comes away from communion with God in this spirit, the ravens of anxiety and care forsake the heart. The world may know how to provoke mirth; it may amuse with sallies of wit; it may excite with sensuous joys; but all through the ages cheerfulness has been the child of faith, and has seldom forsaken the sufferer even in life’s last hours.

Committing the end to God. When and where belong to Him. Life has been quite other than most of us thought it, and so probably will death be. It would be a mean thing to wish to commit the end to God and not all that leads to it,-to rely on some mere death-bed repentance. So to live as to feel sure that when the evening comes we shall have nothing to do but to die, this is the Christian’s heritage. And then let the curtains be rent suddenly, or taken down gently; let the light go out in a sharp gust, or burn down in the socket slowly; this surely is what we all wish to be able to say, “Father, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (W. M. Statham.)

Confidence in God

The case supposed. This psalm represents the case, to wit, the flourishing condition of the wicked to the great prejudice and hazard of God’s people. He persuades us, in such instances, to confidence in God and patience in well-doing; and discovers the estate of pious and ungodly men to be as different, not only in the world to come, but through God’s just judgment many times even in this life, as their principles and practices have been.

The direction, or counsel.

1. Committing our way unto the Lord, though it may be taken to signify the same as casting our burden upon Him (Psalms 55:22), and casting our care upon Him (1 Peter 5:7), yet, as “way “doth in Scripture use denote the course of life, the method and order of our conversation, I take it to comprehend these three things.

(1) An entire obedience to the Word of God, as the rule of our actions.

(2) A meek submission to the will of God, which governs human affairs.

(3) A regular walking in the duties of our particular calling; leaving the rest, as things which we are not immediately concerned in, to God Almighty’s disposal.

2. Trusting in God imports--

(1) A fiducial reliance upon His wisdom and goodness in the care and conduct of our persons, and of all our concerns.

(2) A declaration of that our dependence upon Him in earnest and frequent prayer.

(3) And withal honest endeavours of our own for our preservation, in the use of all lawful means; holding ourselves still in that station wherein God hath placed us, and leaving the event to Him. (A. Littleton, D. D.)

The believer’s present and future

The believer’s present state. It is one of--

1. Acceptance in the Beloved (Psalms 89:33). He may distress, but He will not disown.

2. Imperfection. He is, indeed, under the Holy Spirit’s transforming hand. While justification is complete, sanctification is progressive, and therefore at every stage but the last, imperfect.

3. Sorrow (Romans 7:21; Galatians 5:17). The time for unmingled joy is not yet. Besides this, the refinement of the feelings which the Gospel produces frequently prepares the heart to feel, more acutely than many others, the usual crosses, losses, trials or bereavements which are the common lot of all.

4. Obscurity. The same unbelief which rejected the Saviour, with all the evidence He produced of His divine mission, serves the disciples as it served their Lord. Besides, the Christian is a mixture of opposites, and therefore we wonder not that he should appear in a doubtful light even to himself and his fellow-believers.

5. Eager expectancy (Heb 9:28; 2 Peter 3:12; Luke 21:28; Php 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:2-4; Romans 8:28).

The expectation of the church of Christ. We live between the two advents of our Lord, and the Bible teaches us to look back to the first to know how salvation was wrought, and forward to the second to know what salvation is. The first gives the title to it, the second will give possession of it. Faith looks back to the one, hope looks forward to the other. The Church of Christ will appear in its--

1. Unity.

2. Holiness.

3. Resurrection glory. (R. J. Rowton, M. A.)

Quiet trust

After the fearful defeat of Jena in 1806, when Prussia went down before the cruel and reckless ambition of Napoleon, on no one did the throe of a nation’s fall come with a more agonizing sense of ruin than on the young and beautiful Queen Louise. When she heard the news of the battle of Jena, and that she must leave her beloved home, she burst into uncontrollable weeping. How did she calm her anguish? It was the pious custom in Germany, when a pupil left school, to accompany the boy singing the thirty-seventh Psalm, of which the fifth verse is, “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers. Commit thy way unto the Lord, and He will bring it to pass.” The young queen sat down to her piano and softly sang the psalm. When she rose her eye was clear, her spirit was tranquil. That same verse was also the comfort of David Livingstone during all his perils and fevers and lastings in scorching Africa and its desert wastes. (Dean Farrar.)

Verses 7-11

Psalms 37:7-11

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: fret not thyself.

The good man in trouble

Note the man contemplated. He is a man of real piety, and he is contrasted with the wicked. The wicked are spoken of, but he is spoken to. He is understood to be of a different class altogether. But he is at present in circumstances of trial, and the battle is rather going against him. He sees that which he knows not how to reconcile with the idea that “there is a God who judgeth in the earth.” A great cloud is upon his spirits.

The advice given to him.

1. As to that which he is not to do. He is not to fret himself because of the prosperity of the wicked. It does not mean merely that he is not to be envious, not to indulge in that dark, malignant spirit. I think you must regard him as looking upon some of the great perplexing events of God’s providence. There are a set of wicked men, whose diabolical skill and device are crowned with success. They are bound, perhaps, in a vigorous crusade against God, and against God’s Church, and apparently are successful in their wicked endeavours. You are not to let such thoughts get down into your soul to weaken and destroy your faith in God. “Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in the way.” Then there is a second piece of advice, which I should say goes farther because things are getting worse--“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” It is not merely now a man looking upon that which is objective, and being rather disturbed by it; but things are coming near and touching him personally; the successful device has entangled him, and now passion is rising; he is getting excited; he has began to imagine an opposite device, and thinks to overcome strength by strength. Now, he must guard against that, for if affliction have this effect the devil will have the victory then, and not God, in regard to his soul. After these two pieces of advice, which may both be considered negative, though they are put in positive forms--we come to that which is positive. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Do this by a filial trust, with an entire faith. Believe that the Lord lives, acts, governs. Simple advice, but easier to understand than to practise: for our tendency is, under such circumstances, to let go our hold on God. A man has an idea that he can do things better for himself, faith fails, and corruption gets the advantage.

Why a man should rest in the Lord. The first thing suggested is, that in spite of all appearances a man must hold to the great fact that there is a great, Divine, presiding personality, an observer, governor, judge--he must keep to that, and hold to that great truth. You, a religious man, having a religious faith in you! but what is your religion and faith good for, if it will not hold you to the primary truths of religion? The second thing suggested is, that the good man should understand that the laws and constitution of things are upon his side, that in the long run they will turn up to be on the side of righteousness, goodness, and virtue, that the working out of things will ultimately be against the bad. Whatever may be the primary prospect of the success of wickedness--evil-doers shall be cut off. Why, some of you have seen that fifty times over. “Dear me, I wonder what has become of so and so! I remember twenty years ago he was the most-talked-of man in London; but there was something very dark and suspicious about him. I wonder what has become of him. I have lost sight of him for many years.” Another says, “I can tell you. All gone to nothing. He sunk, and sunk; all his splendour disappeared, and he gradually came down to poverty and his children too, and the very house in which he lived is in ruins.” It is thus that things work out. Sometimes you do not observe the process, but presently, unexpectedly, you see the result of the working out of the law, “Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be.” And sometimes it is done otherwise, in a more palpable manner. “Into smoke shall they consume away.”

God’s providence and care shall watch over his own. The little that a righteous man hath,” etc. A religious life is favourable to life. This is the natural law. Those that wait upon the Lord may have sorrow for a night, but light is sown in the darkness, and joy will spring up with the day. “Yet a little time and the wicked shall not be. Thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be;” yes, even though he should call his lands after his own name. I remember the circumstance of a man cutting his name into the stone upon his house, eight inches deep, because he was determined to go down to a remote posterity, upon the house which he had built for himself. I have seen the house, with the letters cut into the stone, almost a foot deep; and it is let now for a school, This may seem a simple matter. Aye, but simple matters illustrate great principles. It is in simple matters that God is most seen. Conclusion.

1. These principles apply to the milder afflictions which we at times are called on to suffer.

2. Whilst remembering the judgment that is coming upon the wicked if they do not repent, we are to pray for them that they may.

3. Lay to heart the truth that God, as surely as He lives, is oil the side of right. You are not in the devil’s world, He neither made nor governs it. Therefore keep to the right and the true to religious faith and the side of God. (T. Binnecy.)

Rest for the troubled

The confident repose. Best in the Lord. Let us do so--

1. In his all-sufficiency for reasonable and sufficient supplies.

2. In His wisdom for counsel and guidance.

3. In His power for protection.

4. In His truth and faithfulness for the fulfilment of Ills promises.

5. In His gracious love for all.

The prayerful endurance and expectation.

1. “Wait patiently for” the Lord, for this is the only way of keeping our minds calm.

2. For His arrangements concerning our afflictions. (M. Wilcox.)

Christian resting and uniting

One of our hardest lessons is to find out the wisdom of our hindrances; how we are to be put forward and upward by being put back and put down. When the company in the “Pilgrim’s Progress” had to sit up watching all night at, the house of Gains, Greatheart kept them awake with this riddle, “He that would kill must first be overcome.” And the truth in it has been practically dug out by trials that broke sleep through many a hard fortune in every Christian experience since. Yes, defeats help progress; a compulsory standing still helps us on. The Cross of Christ solves the riddle, and, gradually, to believing eyes the fact comes out. The precept, “Best in the Lord,” etc., seems at first too tame for a spiritual ambition. We ask for some positive doctrine, for a task worthy of our energies. “Sound a bugle note that calls to close contests and we will follow; but this is a poor, spiritless tiling, this resting and waiting!” We must see, if we can, what force there is in this answer. Possibly, if we search deep enough, we shall flied that where some of us fancy our religion ends, it is only feebly begun.

Goodness is not so much specific deeds as a faithful heart: it is being, rather than doing, though sure to lead to right doing. If the principle is true, what is often called passive goodness is the necessary condition, nay, the interior fountain of active goodness. A man, that is, must, be a silent believer in his heart before he can be a powerful Christian worker with his arms, or speaker with his lips. He must pray in his closet before he can honour his Maker in the multitude or shop, in pulpit or street.

Compare active and passive virtues, and see what each requires to restrain it.

1. Submission--if there be any distinction between these virtues--would fall on the side of the passive graces. But in all the compass of human achievements there is not one that more tasks the stoutest energies of the soul, not one that demands a more resolute gathering up of all the resolution left. And yet men speak of it, of this resting in the Lord, as one of your passive, secondary, ignoble virtues.

2. So, too, with gentleness of temper and of speech. There is natural amiability, but that has cost no struggle. But do we not know some persons that need all the weapons in the Christian armoury, and all the watchfulness of the camp, to reach that plain achievement, the “soft answer” that “turneth away wrath”? So, then, the passive virtues, as they are called, are those that require the greatest effort, and, according to Christ, are therefore of the greatest worth. All the nine beatitudes, with, perhaps, one exception, pronounce their blessing on what the world would call tame and passive traits. So does Christianity turn upside down the vulgar vanity of our ambition, and empty our worldliness of blessedness. But the subject reaches on to wider applications yet. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him,” is--

A counsel addressed to the habit and tendency of these times; and no time perhaps ever needed to listen to it more; a time more eager to conquer the world by putting girdles of intelligence and bonds of travel about it, than to feel its dependence on Heaven; readier to run, to work, to build, to ask questions, to yoke the elements, than to kneel, to believe, to have patience and to pray. But the strength of a community is not in its enterprising, self-confident, profane or prayer-less great men, but in the men, be they few or many, who while they are “diligent in business,” and faithful in public spirit, “rest” secretly “in the Lord,” and “wait patiently” every day “for Him.”

See again, what besides righteous labour such a stillness supposes. To wait patiently for God is to hold the heart open for what God gives. Subjection, then, it implies. It is to expect His love; and so it implies file penitence that goes before pardon. It is to believe He will give and guide; and so it implies faith. And it implies, too, self-restraint, self-renunciation, prayer, thanksgiving; and these are not the elements of man’s infirmity. We must not be surprised that men are so slow to learn this lesson. When it is learnt, then will Christ’s kingdom have come. Let us help it forward as we best can. Meanwhile, we must rest and wait. So, too, in regard to the manifold sins and sorrows of human life: the slowness of our own growth in goodness; the secret sorrows of our homes--in regard to all them, and every other like to them, take the precept of our text. Let one subject regulate our judgments of one another: save us from morbid discontents, and cause to abide ever “in the Lord,” that we may rest in Him. (S. T. Huntingdon, D. D.)

Resting in the Lord

Rest and security are sought universally, but seldom found. The want of interior quiet is felt by every one; it is the deepest desire of our being, but it is pursued wisely only by a few. That the Lord intended man to enjoy rest may be known by these three considerations; first, He has made it the inmost affection of every human being; secondly, restlessness is destructive to the health of both mind and body; thirdly, God has assured us in His Word, and provided in His works, that we may come into a state of rest.

1. It may not appear at first sight evident that the demand for rest is an interior feeling in every one. Yet very little reflection will make it plain.

(1) Under the restless garb of the busiest of mankind abides the constant desire to procure a sufficiency. Look at the energetic tradesman; he seems incessantly active; he labours early and late; nothing seems so foreign to him as rest. Yet let him unbosom himself, and you will find all this activity arises from a wish to secure the means of attain ins a secure rest in his declining years. He believes he can only be satisfied in the gratification of his desires, and when he has won all that his wishes require, he will recline in peace and enjoy rest.

(2) The rest, which is the inward aim of the soul, and to which every man may attain, is foreshadowed by the contentment of little children, though theirs is the peace of ignorance, not the peace of wisdom. They find their wants supplied, and they have no cares. They have full confidence in the love of their parents, and no doubt as to their power.

2. We may be assured that rest is intended to be enjoyed by us in this world from the circumstance that restlessness disturbs and destroys the health of both mind and body, and is therefore in contrariety to the laws which build up both. Opposites cannot come from God.

3. We are invited, by frequent calls in the Word, to rest on the Divine love and wisdom. (J. Bailey, Ph. D.)

Waiting upon God

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalms 37:7). This is not a call to indolence, but to action enveloped in repose. In all probability the writer was one of the leading men of action of his age. Our deeds should have their origin and their completion in patient waiting.

(1) Restfulness is the preparation for service; it is the interior fountain of active goodness. The man that would give must first receive.

(2) Restfulness should be the spirit in which action is concluded. The fretful anxiety which looks back upon faithful work is a denial of God and a weakening of the soul. This is a call to service with the fret taken away. There is no true rest for man save in the thought of God. Aubrey de Vere relates a conversation he had with Wordsworth in Lakeland. The poet remarked that travellers boasted much of Swiss mountains because they were two or three times as high as the English, but he added, “I reply that the clouds gather so low on them that half of them remain commonly out of sight.” His visitor did not wish to contradict him, and so the poet went on declaiming. “You cannot see those boasted Swiss mountains when the clouds hang low.” “Certainly not,” replied the prudent visitor. Then, after a pause, his veracity prevailed, and he added, “But I must admit you know that they are there.” “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my strength.” Sometimes the clouds gather, but it makes all the difference to life to know that “the hills” are there. “We rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

This spirit of patient waiting is in itself a high achievement of the christian Character. In religion all means are ends, and all ends only means to some larger end. Repentance is not only a condition of salvation, but also a part of the work; it is an indication of a deep change which God works within the heart. To wait patiently upon the Lord is a means of grace, but it is also a feature of a lofty spirit. Our God is the “God of patience.” How patiently He waits as Creator--not at once, but slowly have order and beauty emerged from chaos; how patiently He stands as the World Redeemer, while men scourge and revile and spit at Him, and crown Him with thorns, and smite Him with their hands! He waits patiently “to see of the travail of His soul,” and is able to breathe the spirit of calm, fearless, hopeful endurance into all His people.

This spirit of milder afflictions which we at times are called on to suffer.

2. Whilst remembering the judgment that is coming upon the wicked if they do not repent, we are to pray for them that they may.

3. Lay to heart the truth that God, as surely as lie lives, is on the side of right. You are not in the devil’s world. He neither made nor governs it. Therefore keep to the right and the true, to religious faith and the side of God. (T. Binney.)

Rest for the troubled

The confident repose. Rest in the Lord. Let us do so--

1. In His all-sufficiency for reasonable and sufficient supplies.

2. In His wisdom for counsel and guidance.

3. In His power for protection.

4. In His truth and faithfulness for the fulfilment of His promises.

5. In His gracious love for all.

The prayerful endurance and expectation.

1. “Wait patiently for” the Lord, for this is the only way of keeping our minds calm.

2. For His arrangements concerning our afflictions. (R. M. Wilcox.)

Christian resting and uniting

One of our hardest lessons is to find out the wisdom of our hindrances; how we are to be put forward and upward by being put back and put down. When the company in the “Pilgrim’s Progress” had to sit up watching all night at the house of Gains, Greatheart kept them awake with this riddle, “He that would kill must first be overcome.” And the truth in it has been practically dug out by trials that broke sleep through many a hard fortune in every Christian experience since. Yes, defeats help progress; a compulsory standing still helps us on. The Cross of Christ solves the riddle, and, gradually, to believing eyes the fact comes out. The precept, “Rest in the Lord,” etc., seems at first too tame for a spiritual ambition. We ask for some positive doctrine, for a task worthy of our energies. “Sound a bugle note that calls to close contests and we will follow; but this is a poor, spiritless thing, this resting and waiting!” We must see, if we can, what force there is in this answer. Possibly, if we search deep enough, we shall find that where some of us fancy our religion ends, it is only feebly begun.

Goodness is not so much specific deeds as a faithful heart: it is being, rather than doing, though sure to lead to right doing. If the principle is true, what is often called passive goodness is the necessary condition, nay, the interior fountain of active goodness. A man, that is, must be a silent believer in his heart before he call be a powerful Christian worker with his arms, or speaker with his lips. He, must pray in his closet before he can honour his Maker in the multitude or shop, in pulpit or street,

Compare active and passive virtues, and see what each requires to restrain it.

1. Submission--if there be any distinction between these virtues--would fall on the side of the passive graces. But in all the compass of human achievements there is not one that more tasks the stoutest energies of the soul, not one that demands a more resolute gathering up of all the resolution left. And yet men speak of it, of this resting in the Lord, as one of your passive, secondary, ignoble virtues.

2. So, too, with gentleness of temper and of speech. There is natural amiability, but that has cost no struggle. But do we not know some persons that need all the weapons in the Christian armoury, and all the watchfulness of the camp, to reach that plain achievement, the “soft answer” that “turneth away wrath”? So, then, the passive virtues, as they are called, are those that require the greatest effort, and, according to Christ, are therefore of the greatest worth. All the nine beatitudes, with, perhaps, one exception, pronounce their blessing on what the world would call tame and passive traits. So does Christianity turn upside down the vulgar vanity of our ambition, and empty our worldliness of blessedness. But the subject reaches on to wider applications yet. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him,” is--

A counsel addressed to the habit and tendency of these times; and no time perhaps ever needed to listen to it more; a time more eager to conquer the world by putting girdles of intelligence and bonds of travel about it, than to feel its dependence on Heaven; readier to run, to work, to build, to ask questions, to yoke the elements, than to kneel, to believe, to have patience and to pray. But the strength of a community is not in its enterprising, self-confident, profane or prayer-less great men, but in the men, be they few or many, who while they are “diligent in business,” and faithful in public spirit, “rest” secretly “in the Lord,” and “wait patiently” every day “for Him.”

See again, what besides righteous labour such a stillness supposes. To wait patiently for God is to hold the heart open for what God gives. Subjection, then, it implies. It is to expect His love; and so it implies the penitence that goes before pardon. It is to believe He will give and guide; and so it implies faith. And it implies, too, self-restraint, self-renunciation, prayer, thanksgiving; and these are not the elements of man’s infirmity. We must not be surprised that men are so slow to learn this lesson. When it is learnt, then will Christ’s kingdom have come. Let us help it forward as we best can. Meanwhile, we must rest and wait. So, too, in regard to the manifold sins and sorrows of human life: the slowness of our own growth in goodness; the secret sorrows of our homes--in regard to all them, and every other like to them, take the precept of our text. Let one subject regulate our judgments of one another: save us from morbid discontents, and cause to abide ever “in the Lord,” that we may rest in Him. (S. T. Huntingdon, D. D.)

Resting in the Lord

Rest and security are sought universally, but seldom found. The want of interior quiet is felt by every one; it is the deepest desire of our being, but it is pursued wisely only by a few. That the Lord intended man to enjoy rest may be known by these three considerations; first, He has made it the inmost affection of every human being; secondly, restlessness is destructive to the health of both mind and body; thirdly, God has assured us in His Word, and provided in His works, that we may come into a state of rest.

1. It may not appear at first sight evident that the demand for rest is an interior feeling in every one. Yet very little reflection will make it plain.

(1) Under the restless garb of the busiest of mankind abides the constant desire to procure a sufficiency. Look at the energetic tradesman; he seems incessantly active; he labours early and late; nothing seems so foreign to him as rest. Yet let him unbosom himself, and you will find all this activity arises from a wish to secure the means of attaining a secure rest’ in his declining years. He believes he can only be satisfied in the gratification of his desires, and when he has won all that his wishes require, he will recline in peace and enjoy rest.

(2) The rest, which is the inward aim of the soul, and to which every man may attain, is foreshadowed by the contentment of little children, though theirs is the peace of ignorance, not the peace of wisdom. They find their wants supplied, and they have no cares. They have full confidence in the love of their parents, and no doubt as to their power.

2. We may be assured that rest is intended to be enjoyed by us in this world from the circumstance that restlessness disturbs and destroys the health of both mind and body, and is therefore in contrariety to the laws which build up both. Opposites cannot come from God.

3. We are invited, by frequent calls in the Word, to rest on the Divine love and wisdom. (J. Bailey, Ph. D.)

Waiting upon God

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalms 37:7). This is not a call to indolence, but to action enveloped in repose. In all probability the writer was one of the leading men of action of his age. Our deeds should have their origin and their completion in patient waiting.

(1) Restfulness is the preparation for service; it is the interior fountain of active goodness. The man that would give must first receive.

(2) Restfulness should be the spirit in which action is concluded. The fretful anxiety which looks back upon faithful work is a denial of God and a weakening of the soul. This is a call to service with the fret taken away. There is no true rest for man save in the thought of God. Aubrey de Vere relates a conversation he had with Wordsworth in Lakeland. The poet remarked that travellers boasted much of Swiss mountains because they wore two or three times as high as the English, but he added, “I reply that the clouds gather so low on them that half of them remain commonly out of sight.” His visitor did not wish to contradict him, and so the poet went on declaiming. “You cannot see those boasted Swiss mountains when the clouds hang low.” “Certainly not,” replied the prudent visitor. Then, after a pause, his veracity prevailed, and he added,”:But I must admit you know that they are there.” “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my strength.” Sometimes the clouds gather, but it makes all the difference to life to know that “the hills” are there. “We rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

This spirit of patient waiting is in itself a high achievement of the Christian character. In religion all means are ends, and all ends only means to some larger end. Repentance is not only a condition of salvation, but also a part of the work; it is an indication of a deep change which God works within the heart. To wait patiently upon the Lord is a means of grace, but it is also a feature of a lofty spirit. Our God is the “God of patience.” How patiently He waits as Creator--not at once, but slowly have order and beauty emerged from chaos; how patiently He stands as the World Redeemer, while men scourge and revile and spit at Him, and crown Him with thorns, and smite Him with their hands! He waits patiently “to see of the travail of His soul,” and is able to breathe the spirit of calm, fearless, hopeful endurance into all His people.

This spirit of patient waiting is necessary for the highest and most permanent service. In Mr. Winston Churchill’s Life of his father we have the story of one who had it in him to be one of the most influential workers of his age, but who failed because he was all impulse, impatience, restlessness, and left little behind save the memory of a most pathetic career. After his conspicuous blunder he wrote to his wife from Mafeking: “Well, I have had quite enough of it all. I have waited with patience for the tide to turn, but it has not turned, and will not now turn in time. All confirms me in my decision to have done with politics and try to make a little money for the boys and ourselves.” That is the secret of impermanent service--“the tide has not turned, and will not turn now in time.” In whose time? Man has no right to fix the time. Of the hour knoweth no man, but only the Father. Our times are in His hand. How patiently Christ waited; for thirty years He waited in obscurity for the ministry to begin. He remained hopeful in the presence of the cross, the symbol, it would seem, to others, of everlasting defeat and shame.

This should be a message of comfort to us amid life’s painful perplexities, One night Henry Drummond sat up with a young man who had lost himself in philosophical speculations. “I seem to be walking round and round and arriving nowhere,” he said sadly, “and I am thoroughly tired of it all.” “True,” said Drummond, “but you are not too tired to lie down.” The psalmist had been wandering in the same bewildering way. He had fretted himself because of the prosperity of evildoers; all his theological ideas had been disturbed by the “little that the righteous hath and the abundance of many wicked.” But he was not too tired to lie down, and to the weary in every age he proclaims the glad restfulness of the soul in God. There are times when reason fails us. (Trevor H. Davies.)

Rest in the Lord

It was more difficult for David to do this, than for us to do it. He had more at stake, and less to help him; he bad all the mysteries which beset us, and many more peculiar to his age and to the dispensation under which he lived. He found it harder than we do, to sever temporal disasters from Divine inflictions; and yet he could use this inspiring language, and summon his brothers to rest in Jehovah, and wait patiently for Him. But men now seem only too disposed not to trouble themselves: fatalism, and indifference to unseen things, are so common that advice very different from David’s is often imperatively needed. But the world’s rest and quietness is only an apparent one, not real.

Thy rest of weariness. The body rests; it is this rest which “knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,” which is “sore labour’s bath,” “balm of hurt minds,” “great nature’s second course,” “chief nourisher in life’s feast.” All life is submitted to this law. The leafless winter, the hushed songsters of the forest, the infant slumbering on its mother’s breast, the sealed eyes of the shipboy cradled on the surge, and all the “magic of night as she moves from land to land and touches all with her opiate wand,” tell the same story. Work demands rest, and rest is the stimulus of work. The intellect itself must have its quiet places and still retreats, where holy calm, and unconscious growth, and secret renovation, repairs its losses. Further, weariness comes at times even to the relief of the spiritual faculty, and gives the half-awakened spirit its first lessons in the mighty art of faith,. Perhaps we have been eagerly seeking to reconcile God’s truth to our own standards; to adjust Jehovah’s attributes for Him; to enter the kingdom of heaven like a man, with violence, and not as “a little child.” Perhaps we have been striving to fill up the bottomless abyss of need in our hearts with our own merits, and we find the undertaking impossible. Now, at length, beaten with the struggle, and ceasing our efforts, we may be taking an enforced rest; we may just lie quiet for a time, and this may seem to be “a rest in God”; while, on the contrary, it is only an inevitable pause in our fruitless endeavour, a hall of energy by which the mind recovers its power of self-infliction. But if, on the other hand, we will go simply, humbly, trustingly to God as our Father, then rest may be found. Better far to learn the lesson of faith, and so be filled with peace, resting in the Lord.

The rest of strength. This is a far higher thing than that we have now considered. It is a voluntary rest, which is to some extent within our own power; it is a sign of vigour rather than weakness, of strong will rather than of over-taxed effort. This rest of conscious strength is closely associated with every Christian grace, and is as necessary to our success in the conflicts of the divine life, as it is to the culture of our higher nature. Neither faith, nor hope, nor love can be maintained within us without the rest of faith, the rest of hope, and the rest of love. Faith fights a good fight, which requires, however, that it rest in God. And hope, too, needs to rest in the fruition of that which God has given. And love is quickened by quiet hours of patient waiting for the Lord. Prayer, also, and work depend on resting in the Lord. It often requires all our strength “to sit still” and believe in the love of God, and even to augment our confidence in that love, when what we think to be our proper interests are disregarded, and apparently trifled with, and perhaps in our view utterly sacrificed. The philosopher maunders to us about “general laws,” and “the good of the whole”; the unafflicted Christian does what is little better, he suggests a few of the commonplaces of consolation. “Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust!”

I have now briefly to allude to a third form of this great duty and privilege--the rest of victory which flows out of deep faith; that peace with God which Jesus gives, which passes all understanding. Here patience has her perfect work, and is entire, wanting nothing. “The Lord is my Shepherd,” says the holy psalmist, “I shall want nothing.” (H. Reynolds, D. D.)

Stillness in God

The trial for which this precept is intended to strengthen us is the irritation to which all are tempted by the sight of successful wickedness. But there shall be a setting right of all such seeming injustice. But the precept has a wider application than this.

What is implied in holding ourselves still in God. The word “still” means “hold thee in stillness upon God.” It is the quality of mind which is the opposite of restlessness. And we are to “hold still in God” in reference both to things temporal and things spiritual. Restlessness has a twofold sort of bitterness which trust in God must extirpate.

1. It springs from dissatisfaction with the present, or from anxiety about the future. There is a deep melancholy in the heart of every man, bound up in the very bundle of his life, which, like the breath of myrrh, is ever ready to spread itself over all his being; and in spirits of the deepest tone there is most of this: it is the yearning after our true portion, but it will make all life restless unless we learn to lean upon God, believing that He is Truth and Love, and is ours through Christ Jesus. In common life this must be our rest; and in great sorrow too. Then we must learn to be at rest, not indeed by striving unnaturally not to feel sorrow, but by our taking the sorrow from God. It is not being sanguine, but being trustful, that is required of us.

2. And in things spiritual the precept is just the same. Stillness the very opposite of self-trust, which is the common root of these two false schemes--seemingly so opposite--of the spiritual life--the life of the mere formalist, and that of him who is engaged in a heart-eating searching into his own frame and feelings. For both are building on self, not on God. It is not that silence of spirit, that meditation and stillness, that uniting upon God which are so closely connected with true religion. And this stillness is, perhaps, that feature of religion which is most seldom to be met with in our day. It is a busy age, and we love activity. We need to be silent before God in order to realize our personal reconciliation with Him through the blood of Atonement, to walk in His Spirit, to spend our lives as His obedient, trusting children. Now, this is the essence of Christianity.

It is most blessed, both in regard to our temporal life and that which is spiritual. For in it we become transformed and bear God’s impress. All growth is silent. It is not in the lordly storm, or in the over-mastering hurricane that Nature puts forth her powers of growth and increase. It is amidst the drenching dews, in the still dawning of the spring-time, that the leaf unfolds itself, and the tender shoot steals upwards. And these works of nature are all symbols of the inner growth. In times of quietness the heart unfolds itself before God. If you would grow in grace, enter into thy closet and shut to thy door upon the world; shut it most of all upon thy busy unresting self, and then God shall speak to thee. How silent, surely, is an angel’s heart when God is nigh; how is self hushed there; how, as some earthly vapour by the sun, is every power of His mighty being drawn up into adoration! And this truly is to know Him.

How are we to grow in this great grace? And, first, need I say, that such growth must be the work of His grace. That it is not natural to us; that nothing is, indeed, less natural. Only the Spirit brooding over our hearts can secure this. He renews, calms, cools, purifies them. He who said to the waves, “Peace, be still,” must create this great calm. Therefore must we draw near to God if we would win so great a blessing. This must be our rule. Draw near to Him in the covenant of His Son’s blood: to Him as the Loving, the True, the Great: as Love, as Truth, as Holiness, as Power, gathered into one adorable Person; one real Being; and that Being your portion, your friend, your rest: for “this is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” (Bishop S. Wilberforce.)

Rest in the Lord

Our text being where it is in this psalm is an instance of the great rule that the Lord does nothing by halves. In Psalms 37:1 the Lord found His servant liable to fretfulness and envy, and exhorted him to cease from fretting; and He did not stay the operation of His grace till He had perfected that which concerned him, and brought him up to the elevated point of our text, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Rest is a blessing which properly belongs to the people of God, although they do not enjoy one tithe so much of it as they might. So let us consider--

The steps to this royal chamber of repose. They are shown in this psalm--

1. “Fret not thyself.” You are not in the fields among the wild beasts; cease to hunt them: Come within doors into your Father’s house. Come away from contact with worldlings. The griefs which make the ungodly pine are not for you. Then--

2. When you have thus come out of the field into the palace of love, the first staircase is described as “trust and do.” “Trust in the Lord and do good.” Not a dead faith which will not serve you at all, but one which will “do” as well as receive. It is through the exercise of faith that comfort comes to the heart. When thou hast learned this lesson, thou wilt have ascended a noble staircase of the royal palace, and it will land thee in the King’s dining-room, where it is written, “Verily thou shalt be fed.” If thou hast a living, active faith, thou shalt be provided for. Leave the fields, and thy brethren sowing there, who are complaining that their Father never gave them a kid to make merry with their friends--leave them and come up this first staircase of active faith, and sit down where a feast is spread. Then--

3. Ascend higher, and climb the next staircase, which is marked “Delight and desire.” “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Think what a good God thou hast; yea, what a blessed God He is. We have mounted now to the royal treasury, the King’s almonry. Here He bids you open all your heart, and pour forth your desires, for He will satisfy them. But you are not up to the royal rest-chamber yet.

4. Climb another stair, marked, “Commit thy way and trust.” All the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. What hast thou to do in ordering thine own way? Now, this brings us into the undressing-room, which stands side by side with the royal bedchamber. Take off the dusty garments of thy cares and commit them to the Lord. Strip thyself of all thy anxieties, and leave thy worn and travel-stained raiment. Then enter the quiet chamber and take your rest; “Rest in the Lord.”

The rest.

1. It is a rest of mind, a sense of security and fixedness;

2. Contentment.

3. Immovable confidence.

4. Submission to all God’s will. The Hebrew is, “Be silent to God.” One of the old versions reads it, “Hold thou still before God.”

5. Patient waiting. Feel that you can waive your desires, and tarry the Lord’s leisure.

6. Peace, unmixed calm.

7. Expectation, especially in regard to the Kingdom of God. Do not fret about that.

The royal chamber. “Rest in the Lord,” in Himself.

1. As your covenant God.

2. As your Father.

3. In His attributes.

4. His word.

5. His will. So that, we can say, “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Resting and waiting

The meaning of the words. There are many passages which breathe a similar spirit.

1. The meaning here is implied by contrast--see the beginning of the psalm, as to fretting; anxious, worldly care; the unrest of the wicked, of which sin is the great cause.

2. Then think of the Lord Himself, and we see that to rest in Him is to trust in Him, and to be still and silent in our trust: resting, we wait in patient hope and in the assurance of love.

Their application. This fitting when--

1. We are troubled about the slow progress of the Gospel. Or, 2, about the general dispensations of God’s providence. The wicked prosper. Our own personal trials, temporal and spiritual. But resting in the Lord is the secret of the highest life, the truest strength and the richest blessedness. (G. L. Jarman.)

Rest in the Lord

1. It may need to be a quiet waiting. The word “rest” literally means that--“Be silent to the Lord.” The best thing may be, at times, to wait quietly. There once was an alarm of fire in a crowded hall, and a general rush was made to the door. The alarm proved to be a false one, and by and by the people got back to their seats. It was noticed, however, that one little girl had not moved, and on being asked why, it turned out that her father was a member of the fire brigade, and that he had often impressed upon her that if ever she found herself in a situation of that kind, she was to sit still. That is what God often told His servants of old, and what He tells us yet through His Word, with regard to trying experiences; but how hard to learn the lesson, and obey! “Their strength is to sit still.”

2. But, assuredly, it should be a hopeful waiting. Let not the stillness be mere torpor. Let not the dumbness be numbness. “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,” says the psalmist; and that word “yet” is the keynote of the whole psalm. Perhaps the highest and most difficult thing of all, however, is that it be a patient waiting. Hope may be deferred, the dawn may seem never to be coming, and yet be patient--patient. “All will come right,” are the words put on the tombstone of President Brand, a late President of the Orange Free State. It was a remark he was in the habit of making in his lifetime. If our trust be in God, may we not take them up too? (J. S. Maver, M. A.)

The believer’s rest

Rest from wandering. O my heart, how thou didst wander, like a weary pilgrim, through the Egypt of thy bondage! Thou didst wander to Sinai, where thou didst hear the law that made thee tremble. Thou didst wander across the wilderness of Sin, where thy good works vexed and tired thee, and thine evil works, like fiery serpents, bit thee; but that is all over now. My soul, thou hast crossed the Jordan, and having found Christ thou hast no inclination to wander more.

Rest from all our foes.

Rest in the sense of confidence. In this meaning of the word we do really “rest in the Lord.” We are not Christians if we do not, for the very first mark of a believer is that he rests in Christ for everything. Whatever need thou hast, rest thou on the bare arm of God to supply it.

Rest in the sense of safety.

Perfect rest from weariness. We read in Isaiah’s prophecy, “This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest;” and I know there are some weary ones here. You are not weary of God’s work, but you are weary of bearing Christ’s cross, you have had so much shame and so much sorrow; well, “rest in the Lord.”

The rest of accomplishment. Either Christ completed all that was necessary for your salvation, or He did not. If He did finish it, then rest in Him, and be glad.

The rest of complete satisfaction. Having Christ, we want nothing more. If we go up or down, to the right or to the left, we can find nothing beyond our Lord.

The rest of conscious enjoyment. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Silent and patient waiting for the Lord

Rest in the lord.

1. This implies that we are the Lord’s people.

(1) By the enlightenment of our minds, the forgiveness of our sins, the regeneration of our nature, and adoption into the family of God.

(2) By separation from the unclean, by self-dedication to God, and by solemn covenant engagements.

2. Being the Lord’s, we should rest in Him.

3. To rest in the Lord is to be silent in the Lord. Be still; and think not hard thoughts of God, because He permits thee to suffer. Be still; and murmur not against the Lord, because He does not deliver thee at once out of thy distresses.

Wait patiently for him.

1. “Wait” signifies to be strong, firm, stable; to wait, stay, delay: to wait for, to await, from the notion of enduring, holding out, which is kindred with that of strength. It signifies to wait upon God in prayer, with faith and patience.

2. “Wait patiently”--however long.

3. “For Him.” To wait for the Lord is to wait for His promised help, and to hope in Him for deliverance out of all our troubles. Hope in God maketh not ashamed. His help will come, if we wait; His help will be sufficient when it does come. (H. O. Crofts, D. D.)

The gate to the waiting-place

When a man has once come into right relations with God, has begun to live for others rather than for self, when his desires are summed up in the prayer--“Thy kingdom come,” he is apt to grow uneasy as he sees how slow the Divine kingdom is in coming, and how many indications there are of the presence and tremendous power of another and hostile kingdom in society. This psalm is addressed to a soul which is confused and alarmed by this aspect of the world. Over against it all it sets the great truth--“God reigns,” and the consequent precept--“Trust in Him.” “Yes,” is the reply, “but He is so long in bringing it to pass: He makes me wait so long.” So He does, and probably will; and it is this side of the lesson of faith in God which I want to bring out of this psalm--the lesson of waiting.

1. We are to wait unwaveringly (verse 84). God brings men to His consummations only by His own road. And this is often a severe trial of faith. It is as when one has been travelling for long hours over a rough road, amid storm and mist, with night drawing on, looking, as he gains the top of every successive hill, for the spires of the city to which he is going, and seeing instead only a new stretch of dreary road, and a new hill to be climbed--he is tempted to think his guide has lost the way, and to take matters into his own hands. To the man who waits on God it is indispensable that he trust his guide.

2. To wait on the Lord rightly is to wait cheerfully. “Fret not thyself,” says the psalmist (Psalms 37:1), “because of evil-doers;” and again (verse8), “fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” You have seen two children bidden by their parent to wait in a certain place for an hour, until he should return, or until some promised pleasure should be prepared: and you have seen the one cheerfully occupy himself with a book or with some object at hand, while the other, though he obeyed the command to remain, fretted, and watched the clock, and wondered when father would return, and was angry because he did not come sooner, and began to fear that he would not come at all, and so made himself generally miserable until the hour had expired. Thus, obedience is not always cheerful; and just in proportion to its lack of this element, it is defective. For obedience is of the very nature of faith.

3. We may wait confidently. The psalm backs its exhortations by numerous promises (Psalms 37:8; Psalms 37:4; Psalms 37:6; Psalms 37:29). Look especially at Psalms 37:23. We have been watching the course of a man in God’s way--a traveller who is long in coming to the end--on whom God’s providence imposes various and trying delays. To the eye of reason it seems as though the man were walking aimlessly; as though his life, with its continual interruption, and confusion, and stumbling, and baffling, were an utter, irredeemable failure. And so it seems not only to reason, but to weak faith. There have come times to most of us when we have lost out of our lives all sense of plan or order, and have just gone on from day to day, doing and taking what the day brought with it. We have thought, I say, that those were disordered periods. They were not. Did you ever study the waves of the ocean? If so, you have noticed that each wave was full of little, irregular swirlings and eddies, moving in all possible directions. And if you could fasten your eyes upon a square foot of that water and shut out all the rest, you might say that it was a mere watery chaos; but when your eye takes in the whole wave, you see that a common movement propels its whole mass, and takes up into itself all these minor movements, and bears them on with the regularity of a marching host. So these spaces of apparent confusion in our lives are not out of order. They are carried on in the larger order of God’s plan. Perhaps we cannot see the whole movement, but it bears steadily and continuously onward, every incident, every crossing and confusion of incidents swept on at God’s own rate, and in nice adjustment with God’s own plan. Mark, too, that the “steps” are ordered. The whole way is ordered, it is true, but ordered through the steps. Just as gravitation acts upon each separate particle of the stone which rolls down the mountain-side, so God’s general providence reaches its result through the special providences. The philosopher sneers at the marking of the sparrow’s fall; but it is in the ordering of just such details that God fulfils Himself in history. So our lives are what their details are. The only thing we are to be careful about is that we step each time in God’s track. (March: R. Vincent, D. D.)

Patient waiting upon God

There are many who may wait, but they do not wait patiently upon God. They soon lose heart and lose expectation. They think that everything is against them, because in the little space that they can cover, and the little vision that they possess, they cannot discern that for which they wait. This is especially the case with Christian men in their Christian work. They want the reaper to tread upon the very heels of him that sows the seed. They wish to gather in the harvest almost as scan as they have ploughed the soil or cast in the grain. They forget that they are fellow-workers with God, and that God’s working-day is all time and all eternity. They lose heart and lose faith, and then very speedily they cease to work altogether. It is still more difficult to bear suffering patiently than to serve and to do duty patiently. It is much more easy to bear a heavy affliction, if it be short, than to bear a long affliction, though it be light. In the one case the stroke may stun us, but we may speedily recover and gain new strength and fresh hope. In the other case, the long, weary, exhausting affliction seems to wear out all elasticity, all strength, and all hope in the soul. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and when that hope is long deferred it often breaks the heart altogether. Hope is the grace of the young; patience is the grace of the mature. Hope is the flush of the morning-dawn, bright and gladsome, indeed; patience is the seeing sun in its golden softness and beauty, gilding and crowning the last hours of the day. Hope enters into the battle full of expectation, and confidence, and strength; patience is the virtue of the veteran who has gained it in many a struggle, in many a march, and in many a triumph. It is much more easy to work energetically if the day of service be short, than to work patiently, faithfully unto the long day’s end; and it is much more easy to bear the shower that drenches you than to bear the drizzling mist that comes down and wraps you in coldness and chili, (J. Jenkyn Brown.)

Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way.--

The prosperity of the wicked considered

With regard to God. Though prejudice is too apt to whisper that God’s ways are not equal, yet a very little serious reflection on His wisdom and justice, and the ends of His various dispensations, together with our own undeservings, would effectually calm all anxious concern or repining on this account. And to any one that shall be so impertinent as to require satisfaction as to God’s distributions, our Saviour’s answer to St. Peter may be a sufficient reply: “If I will” that it be thus or thus, “what is that to thee?”

With regard to the persons said to be thus prosperous. Would we allow ourselves leisure to view the precipice which the most exalted sinner stands upon, how unsure his footing, how liable to be shaken by opposition from below, or the hand of vengeance from above, and how much more fatal a fall may be from so dangerous an height; we should find nothing so tempting in it as to raise our discontent, or provoke one wish to change an innocent inglorious safety for so hazardous an eminence.

With regard to ourselves. We come all into the world alike naked and defenceless; and it is to the same bountiful hand, which clothes the lilies of the field, we owe our food and raiment. Now, if these are sufficient for our support and even well-being, and all beyond what is requisite for our comfort and convenience, be allowed to be more than what is strictly necessary; why should we quarrel with Providence for not loading us with what, by our own confession, is superfluous, and therefore insignificant to any useful purpose? Do we do well to be angry, if, having a proper competency, we want only what would be a clog and incumbrance? Nay, even though the Almighty should reduce, instead of exalting us, and assign us trouble and disgrace, where perhaps we might hope for a better lot; yet will it not be difficult to find a lenitive for this grievance. Add to this, that a contented deportment, under adversity or distress, is the most probable means of engaging the Almighty to withdraw His scourge. (J. Roe, M. A.)

The folly of fretful envy of the wicked

The passion rankling in the heart has an evil tendency.

1. It inflicts an injury on the soul of its possessor. Malign passions are to the soul what the legions of locusts are to the vegetation of the East--they eat up the life. Aye, worse than locusts, they are fiends, kindling fires that burn down to the very centre of being, and reduce to ashes the better parts of human nature.

2. It stimulates to the infliction of injury upon others. “Anger stirreth up strife.” Men, under the influence of anger, are ever disposed to mischief; their tongues deal out slander, their hands are lifted in battle, and their feet are “swift to shed blood.”

The connection of the wicked with the earth is not enviable.

1. It is exposed to a violent termination. “Evil-doers shall be cut off.” It is said the “wicked shall be driven away in his wickedness.” He does not leave the world with a free will. All his sympathies, interests, hopes, are rooted in the earth, and he will hold on to the last with the energy of desperation; still he must go.

2. It is utterly unsatisfying,

Their opposition brings on them terrible misery.

1. The seed of the serpent has from the beginning had a venomous animosity to the good. This animosity is here represented

(1) As cunning, it “plotteth against the just”; it is fertile in schemes of ruin.

(2) As raging. It “gnasheth upon him.” Like the hidden fire of the volcano, it reveals itself by terrible vibrations.

(3) As practical. Plan and passion will not satisfy it, it must work, and work with more implements than one--“sword and bow.” In how many ways the wicked labour to beat down the ideas, thwart the plans, and wound the feelings of the righteous!

2. But all this opposition only brings ruin on themselves. The ruin involves

(1) The contempt of Jehovah. Can the boldest imagination create a figure to give a more terrible representation of misery than this--the “laugh” of the Infinite? Sooner let Him hurl His thunders at me, and rain down His fires on my spirit than laugh at me.

(2) The recoil of their own purposes. “Their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.” A remarkable instance of the kind may be found in Esther (chaps. 5-7.) in the case of Haman. A straightforward course is easy, and men are safe in it; but it requires more skill than most men are endowed with to manage a crooked and crafty policy safely, or so as to be safe themselves in pursuing such a course. (Homilist.)

Verse 8

Psalms 37:8

Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.


It is a sin against God. Caesar having prepared a sumptuous feast for his nobles and friends, the day appointed for it proved so inclement, that all went wrong. He was so much out of temper on this account, that he commanded all who had bows to shoot their arrows upward toward Jupiter, their chief god, as being the cause of their disappointment. The silly order was obeyed, but the arrows, instead of striking the mark aimed at, fell back with violence on their own heads. Thus, also, the inconsiderate complaints of the fretful are, in fact, arrows shot in defiance against the majesty of God, but certain to hurt none but those who send them.

It is sure to destroy affection, and is the bane of domestic happiness. Husbands, wives, children, relatives, or servants have little real love for the fretful and the fault-finding.

It oftentimes encourages and cultivates a spirit of hypocrisy in those who are brought under its baneful influence. Everybody is afraid of arousing the unhappy disposition and calling down the tempest on their own heads. Hence children and servants get into the habit of concealing all they possibly can from those who are so little disposed to make allowance and go forgive. They cannot get up their courage to be frank and open-hearted, and deceit and falsehood are the consequence. Fretfulness is always foolish; always a thing to be sorry for and ashamed of. Bitterness, harshness, and fault-finding are the offspring of it--and these are no agreeable inmates of the soul. However uncomfortable and hard our lot may be, it certainly will not make matters better to be sour with the world, and crusty and crabbed to those about us. (John W. Norton.)

Verses 10-11

Psalms 37:10-11

For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.

But the meek shall inherit the earth.

The character and blessedness of the meek

The nature of christian meekness. It stands opposed to--

1. Hastiness and violence of temper.

2. That of the haughty and vindictive.

3. That which is positive, dogmatical and unteachable.

What is declared concerning such characters. Whatever opinion the world may form of them, they are highly privileged and blessed. They “shall possess the earth, and be refreshed,” nay, even “delight themselves in the multitude or abundance, of peace.” They may not have the largest share of earthly good things; but they are the men who will ever have the purest and most proper enjoyment of what God has allotted them. In this view, “better is a little that the righteous hath, than great riches of the ungodly.” But the meek-spirited are here represented as not only possessing tranquillity or peace, but the multitude, the abundance thereof; and as being not only refreshed, but delighted therein. Gracious tempers, the fruits of the Spirit, are conducive to present felicity as well as preparatives for future glory: there is both peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. (S. Knight, M. A.)

Christian meekness

Is it to the future only, or also to the present, that such a promise as this may be said to have respect? We believe assuredly that it relates to both. There is a large and beautiful sense in which the meek do already inherit the earth. But there is something too expansive in the words to allow of our supposing the present to be their perfect fulfilment. From the very character which they hear, the meek for the most part are trampled on and oppressed; so that in place of being given over to their sway, the earth is most commonly wrenched from their possession. But if the promise mark out to us a season when the rebellious shall have been swept from the globe, when the saints of every generation shall assemble from the sepulchres, and shall reign with their Lord over a renovated world, then indeed, we may literally maintain--“Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.” First of all, who are the “meek”? We go to Christ for a description of meekness, and we gather that we should be forbearing, forgiving, patient under injuries and contradiction. But distinguish between that meekness which may be only the effect of constitution, and another which is the clear produce of grace. Natural virtues belong only to man’s animal soul, and must not be confounded with the properties and virtues over which death has no power. With many men there is so much amiableness of temper that though strangers altogether to religion, they deserve to be called “meek” in the common acceptation of the term. In many cases, this constitutional meekness, if rigidly examined, will be found to spring from a love of ease; at all events, it is a mere quality of the animal soul, and ought not to be substituted for that holy meekness which Jesus exhibited. Christian meekness is in the largest sense compatible with Christian boldness, so that he who will submit to taunts and injuries, and give only prayers in return for revilings and wrongs, may yet in the hour of a nation’s danger, or the Church’s peril, rise up as a hero with the fire in his eye, and nerve in his arm, to stand against a host for his country and his God. 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 from all overbearing; and he who is zealous for the well-being of others will forbear and forgive, and keep down resentment, however injurious the conduct of others. Thus, without asserting that meekness is composed of no other ingredients, we think humility and love are amongst its chief. Imagine the case of a man who is all alive to the conviction that he is wholly unworthy the favour of his Maker; and that the blessing cannot be mentioned which he is entitled to claim. Not indeed that every believer is fraught as he ought to be with a conviction like this. But the feeling ought to be paramount, so far as meekness is made up of a sense of unworthiness; and he alone is a meek man to whom every day mercies wear the character of wonders. And inasmuch as the meek man possesses this consciousness, he may justly be said to inherit the earth. He traces a Father’s hand; he reads a Father’s tenderness in the daily allotments of food and clothing and habitation. The earth sends not up the blade of corn which seems not a wonder in his eye, because given to transgressors. The drop of water leaps not from the fountain which sparkles not with prodigy, because intended for the refreshment of those who have sinned against God. A ray of light falls on no human habitation which does not appear as a miracle, because illuminating the dwelling-place of the friendless and the prodigal. Thus the earth will be to the Christian a very different scene from what it is to others. Others possess the earth--the meek inherit the earth. Others move upon its provinces, gather in its productions, and delight in its riches, but they cannot survey it with the feelings of an heir. Glance at the second characteristic or ingredient into which we resolved the meekness of the Christian--earnest love for his fellow-men. And surely in proportion as a man acquires this love he may clearly be said to inherit the earth. In place of being broken into tribes and kindreds, each separated from the rest by its own interests and concerns, the millions of our race become as one vast household, every individual of which is a brother. What then? The spot cannot be found where the meek man being placed shall be quite a stranger. I say you cannot place him where there is no object of his love, none in whose welfare he has no interest. Wherever he journeys he may still be said to be at home. Thus the meek man possesses the earth; nay, rather, inherits the earth. He possesses it by family compact--by the claims and the rights of relationship; and the possession thus obtained is possession by heirship. Only then allow that the meek man must be animated with the love of all men, and you also allow that he turns the whole human population into one household, and that household his own. 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. And assuredly that must be a blessed thing; so that the promise of our text should animate us to the cultivation of Christian meekness. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Verses 12-15

Psalms 37:12-15

The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.

The plottings of the wicked against the good

That the wicked plot against the just is matter of history, and of everyday experience. They envy the moral character of the good, with the respect it wins and the influence it wields. They are also rebuked by the quiet dignity of the Christian character, and hence, through sheer hatred, seek to persecute and remove it out of their sight.

The plottings of the wicked against the good are wrathful. “And gnasheth upon him,” etc. The wicked show by their gestures the rage they indulge against, and injury they would inflict upon, the good if it were in their power.

The plottings of the wicked against the good are cruel. “The wicked have drawn out the sword.” They have drawn the weapon out of the sheath and await the time to use it.

The plottings of the wicked against the good are determined. “And have bent their bow.” They take steady aim that they may wound a vital part. And thus the wicked, in their plottings against the just, make use of all the instrumentalities they can command, exercise all the talents they possess, and are strong in their determination to achieve the end they contemplate.

The plottings of the wicked against the good are cowardly. They attack the feeble who are too meek in spirit to suspect their mischief, or to defend themselves from it; they attack the poor who have not wherewith to protect themselves from the assaults of their imperious enemies. Wicked men are generally cowardly. They have not the courage of their rage, or the valour of their determination.

The plottings of the wicked against the good are self-destructive. The very weapon intended for the destruction of the good, under the mysterious but retributive arrangements of Divine providence, shall be employed in the defeat of the wicked. The wicked are often hung upon gallows built by themselves. Lessons:--

1. It is foolish for the wicked to plot against the good.

2. Such plottings are intelligible to the good, being explained by the enmity of the world to Christ.

3. Such plottings are not to be feared, but are to be outlived by trust in God. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)

Verses 16-20

Psalms 37:16-20

A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.

The folly of fretful envy

The good in comparative poverty are better off than the wicked with plenty, “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.” Better for two reasons.

1. His condition would be a more enjoyable one. He would have higher happiness, tits happiness would spring from within, that of the other from without. The happiness of the one selfish, the other generous; the one decreasing, the other heightening.

2. His condition would be a more honourable one. The one is honoured for what he has, the other for what he is. The one is honoured only here by the depraved, the other is honoured yonder by angels and by God.

The good are divinely supported, but the wicked shall lose their power, “The arms of the wicked shall be broken; but the Lord upholdeth the righteous.”

1. The power of the wicked to execute their purpose is to be destroyed. They have often a great deal of power, the arm of literature, commerce, law, war, and with these they work out their iniquitous plans; but the “arms” are not imperishable.

2. The power of the good to prosecute their mission will he Divinely sustained.

(1) The power to do good is Divine.

(2) Divine power is indestructible. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

The good shall have a permanent inheritance, but ruin is the doom of the wicked. “The Lord knoweth the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be for ever.” What is the “inheritance” of the righteous? The Lord Himself. “The Lord is my portion.”

1. This “inheritance” will preclude all disappointment. “They shall not be ashamed in the evil time.” Whatever comes, whatever the wrecks of life, and the riot of confusion, with this “inheritance” there will he calm courage. “I am persuaded that neither life nor death,” etc.

2. This “inheritance” will yield satisfaction under the most unfavourable circumstances. (Homilist.)

The righteous and his little, better than the wicked with his much

The little may be better than the much This is Heaven’s arithmetic. Why is the little better?

Because it is honestly gained. Either the product of healthy labour, of commendable skill, or of lawful inheritance.

Because it may be safely retained. Prayer and benevolence are a great preservative to wealth.

Because it may be truly enjoyed.

Because it will be carefully spent.

Because it will be benevolently used. The righteous gain by giving. A running stream inherits the most territory.

Because it will be divinely blessed. Lessons:--

1. To be satisfied with little.

2. To make little sufficient.

3. To use little well. (Joseph Exell, M. A.)

The advantages of the virtuous for the enjoyment of external good

A good man has greater enjoyment, purer and more solid satisfaction, from a little, than the wicked can have from the largest fortune.

1. Vice produces a temper which is very unfavourable to our enjoyment. It destroys the constitution, and breaks the vigour of the soul. It subjects it to the most uneasy feelings and the most painful passions (Isaiah 1:5-6). The fiercest shocks of thunder, winds, and rains cannot produce more dreadful convulsions in the frame of nature, than those into which tumultuous, exorbitant, and jarring passions throw the soul: they ravage all its enjoyments.

2. On the other hand, virtue establishes a temper in the soul, which fits us for taking pleasure in whatever we possess. It dispels the black clouds which overcast the vicious heart, and intercept the comfort which might arise from outward things: they are scattered by its brightness; they fly away before it as the shadows of the night before the rising sun. A virtuous temper lays the mind open to every satisfaction that comes in its way, prepares it for embracing and enjoying it; and it renders the man so well disposed, so happy in himself, that almost every object throws some satisfaction in his way.

His enjoyment is more durable.

1. As bodily distemper, from small beginnings, increases till it prove mortal, as one disease neglected is the cause of many others; so the vices of the depraved heart daily acquire new strength by indulgence; they propagate many more; they infect the temper and disorder the constitution with a growing multitude of tormenting passions; they root guilt, remorse, and terror deeper in the soul. Whatever good qualities he once possessed, they will be gradually choked by his spreading vices; they will wither and decay; his capacity of enjoyment will be blasted in the same proportion. The man who never thinks of rectifying the depravities of his temper, but goes on to indulge them without control, must at last become abandoned, and insusceptible of genuine satisfaction.

2. The enjoyment of the good man is in every respect the reverse. Like his practice, it is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. His virtue does not merely secure the continuance of that relish which he has for true pleasure; it improves his relish in proportion as itself is, by careful practice, strengthened and refined. By daily progress in holiness, he will be more and more possessed of that heavenly serenity of soul, which, by giving him the full enjoyment of himself, prepares him for deriving high and solid satisfaction from every agreeable circumstance in his worldly condition.

But a strong objection seems to arise from experience: the wicked, it may be urged, have actually a greater, and the righteous a less degree of enjoyment than we have asserted. We admit the fact; if the wicked were so totally destitute of enjoyment as we have represented them to be, their life would be insupportable: but we maintain that, when this fact is examined, instead of weakening our argument, it will confirm it. We have hitherto supposed the character to be purely virtuous, or purely vicious, that by viewing virtue and vice separately, we might the better discover the genuine tendency of both: but every human character is mixed, composed of some virtues and some vices; and the actual enjoyment of every human creature is affected by each of the ingredients which enter into the composition. Every abatement to which the good man’s enjoyment is liable in this mixed state, is to be placed to the account of vice and whatever degree of enjoyment the world can convey to the wicked, is to be ascribed to their imperfect virtues.

1. If these things be so, need we be surprised that so few are really happy? Is it not rather surprising that so many find life tolerable?

2. Need we be concerned that outward things are distributed so promiscuously, or so unequally? It is in the power of every man, by the assistance of God’s grace, to cultivate a virtuous and holy temper: and this is infinitely more important to his enjoyment than the gaudiest distinctions of external state.

3. Would we be truly happy? Let us be virtuous. It is not more our duty than it is our interest. (A. Gerard, D. D.)

How to make much of a little

1. See, in any poor cottage, where true devotion and honest industry abide, how far even very scant wages will go towards providing the real comforts of life. It is not only that Christian patience makes them content with a little, but somehow Christian prudence teaches them to make the most of that little, so that it seems to grow in their hands, and to reach further in the way of making them comfortable than any one would have thought possible.

2. Nor is it less surprising, on the other hand, to see how irreligion wears out and destroys, if not the riches themselves of worldly men, at least all the enjoyment and pleasure that might be looked for in them. How often do we hear of great fortunes dissipated unexpectedly, and nothing, people say, to show for it all I

3. This becomes still plainer when we come down to more particulars--to the things wherein people are supposed particularly to enjoy their wealth. “Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a stalled ox, and barred therewith.” Who would not rather be St. John in the wilderness, with the leathern girdle about his loins, and his meat locusts and wild honey, than such a wealthy king as Herod, “making a feast to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee”?

4. It is the same in the matter of health and strength. A saint on a sick-bed--Hezekiah turning his face to the wall and praying--shall do more, shall really exert more power to change the face of the world, than a mighty conqueror, such as Sennacherib, at the head of his army.

5. One chief supposed advantage of wealth is, that it enables men to choose their company, and to abound in all social enjoyment; but 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 long, solitary hours, which quite prevented them from being tedious? Did he ever wish himself, think you, in Ahab’s place, with his many friends and allies, and his seventy children?

6. Nay, and the same rule holds, not only in respect of outward things, but of knowledge also, and scholarship, and acquaintance even with divine matters. Thus a little drop of knowledge, touched by Divine grace, may swell into a sea: as the wise son of Sirach describes God’s dealings with himself: “I came out,” he says, “as a brook from a river, and as a conduit into a garden: I said, I will water my best garden, and will water abundantly my garden bed; and lo, my brook became a river, and my river became a sea.” Because he applied himself to his immediate and nearest duty with all [ is heart, God blessed him with large and high knowledge, beyond all the ungodly wisdom of the world.

7. 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--far better--than the highest spiritual privileges, when God, in His unsearchable judgments, has vouchsafed them to unworthy persons. Here is comfort for those who seem to be placed in less favourable circumstances than others; less within reach of the means of grace; farther from churches, or with rarer opportunities of receiving the Sacraments. I do not deny that their loss is great: yet our Lord not doubtfully gives us to understand that it may be made up, though they themselves know not how, by increased and most earnest prayers and endeavours on their part. They may be like the woman of Canaan, who, although she was in the place of the dogs, yet was allowed a portion of the children’s bread, because of her great faith, her persevering and humble prayer. (Plain Sermons by Contributors to the “Tracts for the Times. ”)

Gladness under constrained conditions

As I was writing these words there broke upon my ears the song of a canary bird hanging in the room overhead. Its thrilling notes were not a whir less joyous than those which I have often heard rained down from the infinite expanse of heaven by the little skylark of my native land. In spite of its cage that tiny warbler sings, and when its young mistress goes to speak to it, there is a flutter of joy in its wings as with ruffled neck and chattering gladness it leaps to bid her welcome. So let us accept our bonds, whether of poverty, or weakness, or duty, as the bird accepts its cage. You may cage the bird, but you cannot cage its song. No more can you confine or restrain the joy of the heart which, accepting its condition, sees God in it and greets Him from it. (W. M. Taylor.)

Verse 18

Psalms 37:18

The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.

The portion of the upright

The persons spoken of--the upright, a character equally rare and excellent.

The period--their days. These are known of God. He knows them kindly and graciously, and will make them all work together for good. How varied are their days: days of affliction, of danger, etc. But He knows them all.

The portion--their inheritance shall be for ever. So was not the inheritance of many of the angels in heaven; nor of Adam in Paradise; nor of the Jews in Canaan; nor of the man of this world. But the Christian inheritance is for ever. In the world we may have many losses, but they cannot affect our state. (W. Jay.)

Verses 21-26

Psalms 37:21-26

The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth.

The superiority of the righteous to the wicked

In relation to society.

1. The righteous man here is put in social contrast to the wicked, which “borroweth” and doth not pay. David means to say that the wicked are often in society needy and dishonest.

2. In contrast with this, look at the righteous, “The righteous showeth mercy and giveth.”

(1) He has the means of helping. Moral goodness is favourable to secular prosperity. As a rule the genuinely religious are not too indigent to render some help to their fellow-men.

(2) He has always the disposition to help. “The righteous showeth mercy and giveth.” The instinct of generous communication is the law of his life. Why should such a man, then, envy the wicked?

In relation to God.

1. He blesses the righteous, but not the wicked. “Such as be blessed of Him.”

2. He establishes the righteous, but not the wicked. “The steps of a good man,” etc. As God has put every planet into its separate orbit, and each to move around the sun, so He has put every good man in his particular course of life, and on that course he pursues his way with a vigour and a wisdom derived from heaven.

3. He is pleased with the righteous, but not with the wicked. “He delighteth in his way.”

In relation to the world.

1. They will be kept from utter destitution. “Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down.” Moral goodness, though highly favourable to secular prosperity, is not an infallible guarantee against reverses in fortune and adversity. Albeit, they are not “utterly cast down.” “The Lord upholdeth him with His hand.” They may be persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.

2. Neither they nor their children shall be utterly neglected. “I have been young,” etc. (Homilist.)

Verse 23

Psalms 37:23

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He deligteth in his way.

The ordered steps

That first step of your little child--what an event it is! Never again will single steps have such interest for you. And yet why not? In manhood, no less than in infancy, single steps are significant. You find it out sometimes in disagreeable ways. One step in the dark carries you off firm footing into an open trap, or down a bank. The first step down a wrong road is the beginning of troublesome, and possibly dangerous, wanderings. The first step to honour or fortune-how much meaning!

God orders and establishes the details of his children’s lives. Details are of immense importance everywhere. Step by step is the law of all progress. God moves masses through details. A man is what the details of his life are. In the Bible we see God busied not alone with great things, but He is constantly dealing with details. He is explaining a servant’s dream; He is providing for a little castaway babe in a bulrush basket. And so it was in the life of Christ. His work was full of detail, of small incidents of little duties daily done. The same thing appears in Christ’s preaching. He tells men how to live; but He says nothing about great, far-reaching plans of life. His talk is rather of living by the day, and letting the morrow take thought for the things of itself. He comes to reveal God to us: but His speech is not about the God of vast designs and transcendent power; rather of one who paints each lily of the fields, and feeds the birds, and marks the sparrow’s fall, and numbers the hairs of our head. Thus you see one law--the law of the steps--running through physical and moral nature alike. Gravitation and Providence observe the same principle. God regulates the mass through the particles; society, through the individual; the individual, through the details of his life.

And there is design and plan in all though we often fail to perceive this. Our little daily duties appear to have so slight relation to each other. But as one illustration that the truth is other than it seems, look at the familiar history of the life of Joseph. The steps of a good man, then, are ordered. He does not walk at random. And really you and I, in our measure, are familiar with the same fact, and act it out. You see in a son of yours promise of intellectual and moral power; and you set yourself to shape that boy’s career, and you do shape it, and that by attending to its successive steps. Is there, then, anything strange in our heavenly Father’s ordering the steps of His children? For a free will may choose to obey another will. If God has prepared tracks for my life, surely my very freedom of choice empowers me to keep to those tracks: and, to the obedient, loving soul, it is an immense comfort and relief to know that his life moves on prepared lines. I sat one evening in a window looking out on Charing Cross railway-station, with its trains arriving, and departing every few minutes, and its cross-tides of thronging people. A train stood on the track, and the bell rang for starting. In front, through the great archways, I looked out into the misty night. A few stray gleams of light revealed a labyrinth of rails, curving and crossing: above was a signal-stand--a great hieroglyph of green, red, and white lights, shifting every moment; and into this darkness and confusion the engine moved. What was it that made that engineer so quiet and confident? Why was he not disturbed and anxious at the chaos of rails and lights and the thick night beyond? Simply because everything was laid down for him. He had only to obey the signals, and drive his engine: the track was laid. Other minds had the care and responsibility of the switches and signal-lights: he had only to go forward, and to stop when bidden. “I do not like the picture,” some one will perhaps say. “It leaves me little to say about my life.” Well, change the picture if you will. Let the engineer go forth from the station on an engine not fitted to a track. Let him move out into the night, in the consciousness of independence and free choice, to avoid collision and wreck as he can. Have you bettered the matter any? Our own way means ruin; God’s way is, and alone is, salvation.

God is pleased with him who lets his steps be ordered. Literally the words read, “From Jehovah is it that a man’s steps are established, so that He hath pleasure in his way. We do God a great wrong when we picture Him as a creditor whose interest in his debtors begins and ends with their paying their debts. God merges the relation of debtor and creditor in that of father and child. It is a very small part of your interest in your child, that he should repay you for your care of him. In fact, payment is impossible. On the contrary, everything the child does or says is interesting to you because he is your child. Now, possibly, we find it hard to transfer just that feeling to God; and yet that is the true view of his feeling towards His children. But we find it difficult to believe, though we would like to, that we are God’s children. We are so faulty and wrong: it seems a cruel satire to tell me that the Lord delighteth in my way. Here, then, the third truth of the text comes in.

Infirmity is recognized as an element of the good man’s walk. “Though he fall”--then it is looked upon as more than possible that he may fall. We may go back to the picture of the babe’s first walk. There is none which better suits the case. You do not despise that baby’s attempts at walking, because he falls over now and then. You would rather have him fall a hundred times--yes, and hurt himself too--than not have him walk at all. Let us face the fact squarely. There is falling along the path by which God orders a man’s steps. It is not that God ordains sin. He does not. But the path which God ordains for a good man lies through this world: and sin is in the world, no matter why or how; and a good man’s walk with God consists very largely in a fight with sin. What God pledges is not that he shall walk to heaved a perfect, sinless man all the way. The psalmist prays, “Order my steps in Thy Word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me”; and, when we turn from the psalmist to Paul, we find the answer to that prayer: “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” The promise is for victory in the fight, but not for escape from the fight. Establishment does not exclude conflict or fall. One has said of David after his moral fall, “He is not what he was before, but he is far nobler and greater than many a just man who never fell and never repented. Let us beware of thinking repentance a sentiment of a lower grade, or degrading to the man who drops its bitter tears. There is something heroic in the man who looks up to God’s ideal of manhood far, far above him, and at himself, lamed and wounded by his fall, and says, “By God’s grace I will mount to it.” Learn then--

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, as we have seen, orders our ways step by step, it becomes us to take heed to the details of our lives.

3. And ought we not to get great comfort out of this Divine ordering of each step? When a traveller in the Alps is ascending an ice-slope where he has to cut steps as he mounts, he thinks of little besides the step he is at that moment cutting. He has a point to reach, a space to traverse; but all that is lost sight of in the danger and difficulty which wait on every step he knows he will escape destruction only as each step shall be rightly cut, and his foot firmly planted each time. It is a good deal so in this life. It is not a safe journey by any means; but there is this assurance for a child of God who walks it, that each step shall be sure if he only commits his way unto the Lord. The separate steps! Sometimes each one seems to sink into a quagmire, or to strike a stone. It is hard to walk on in strong faith that they are ordered by the Lord. But they are so. Remember this, and that if He be for me, who can be against me? (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)

The Lord’s ordering of a good man’s steps

The life of a good man is divinely planned.

1. If you will examine this psalm, you will have no difficulty in ascertaining what the writer means by a good man. “He trusts in the Lord and does good; he delights himself also in the Lord; commits his way unto the Lord; trusts also in Him; rests in the Lord; and waits patiently for Him.”

2. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” Many persons never think of this; some deny it altogether; and perhaps most of us often forget it, and thus lose the comfort of it (Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 20:24).

(1) This plan is individual. There is not an item in our daily life which is not comprehended. Our joys, our sorrows, our associates, our connections, our wanderings, our acts, our thoughts; my life, your life, is Divinely ordered.

(2) It is special as it is comprehensive, The good man is Divinely directed in his everyday procedure, in his going out and coming in, his lying down and rising up, his successes and failures, his joys and sorrows, his trials and triumphs, his birth and death.

(3) It is benevolent. God overrules all agents and all events for the well-being of His people. God’s plan is great in its conception, great in the Divine skill by which it is shaped and worked out; above all, great in the momentous issues it prepares. But remember it is good as it is great. What a thought is this for us to cherish! What instigations does it add to send us onward in everything that constitutes our excellence!

The life of a good man is divinely approved. “He delighteth in his way.” This is understood by some to mean that the good man delights in the way of the Lord. I think the words mean that the Lord delights in the way of the good man. The good man delights himself in the Lord, and the Lord delights in him.

1. He delighteth in his way, because it is formed and fashioned according to the will of God, and is directed by His own Spirit.

2. He delighteth in his way, because it manifests His glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” But more of God and His glory may be seen in the life of a good mail than can be seen in the material universe. You see in him all that can be seen in the material creation, but you see in him what cannot be soon in it; and, moreover, you see more clearly what can.

The life of a good man is divinely protected.

1. The possibility implied. “Though he fall.” A good man, in this world of changes and reverse, may get prostrated by misfortune and distress; he may sink very low as to worldly circumstances; he may, like Job, be stripped of everything, or, like Joseph, put in prison. In this life disasters are to be expected, and it forms no part of God’s plan to prevent them. They are intended for the benefit of the good man; they are the refiner’s fire.

2. The truth expressed. “He shall not be utterly cast down.” He may fall; he may be cast down; but he shall not be prostrated wholly, not be thrown down for ever. The good man must expect to suffer, but not perish (verses 9, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20).

3. The reason. “The Lord upholdeth his hand,” or, “is holding him up by his hand,” or, “upholdeth him with His hand.” “Thou hast holden me by my right hand.” God not only sustains the good man in particular emergencies, but He is his constant and habitual upholder (verses 12, 18, 21). He has always a hold on his hand. He never lets it go. (P. Griffiths.)

Human evolution: from the involution of the Divine Spirit

A man’s way is strictly the original Divine-human life more and more rooting and opening itself in him: the glory of God shed abroad in the inner world of his soul, as the solar glory is shed abroad in the earth, developing, transfiguring, and preparing him for his ascension, “God delighteth in the way;” because it is love’s way, and unspeakably delightful. It is life’s way to man’s completeness and complete blessedness; and grander than any man can think or imagine. It is evolution and evolution, not from non-intelligent matter, but from the living incorruptible substance in which God is involved as the working power. The steps which the Infinite Father has ordered for His sons and daughters are a series of surprises. Love delights to surpass expectation, and to have greater and greater surprises in reserve.

1. The whole round of nature is a ceaseless wonder, and ceaselessly changing its aspect. It feasts our affections, gratifies our love of the beautiful, exhilarates and enlarges the mind, cultivates the imagination, and is an endless source of poetic symbolism and illustration. It lives and breathes; and therefore demonstrates the nearness of God. It is never old, for it renews itself, and grows before our eyes. There ere always untrodden districts, and unvisited worlds awaiting our opportunity. Then God’s sons and daughters are themselves all that nature is, and much more. They are the crown of nature: they are nature, plus divinity.

2. Another beautiful surprise comes within the scope of our earthly existence: the home and family-surprise. New spirits from God actually arrive: they come secretly into our very blood, and clothe themselves with our nature; they come to stay with us and grow up in our homes. Their vivacity and novelty add a wonderful charm and enlargement to our life.

3. The stealing on of nature’s great eclipse and midnight is the dawn of God’s new life--full morning for the inner man. Death is new birth; when the sweetest surprise of all breaks into view. Nature’s children die; but God’s never. His children live, and breathe, and hold their being in the bosom of His Almighty Livingness. The way of God is from the first a “living way.” “Thou wilt show me the path of life;” and His path of life becomes more and more living; and most living, in, and through nature’s death. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” The ascent from the cold gloom of the valley is swift, for the guardian angels meet us there, and God is in them. (John Pulsford, D. D.)

Special providence

God exercises a special control over His chosen people.

God has a special design in their preservation and government.

1. He has a plan for the life of each one (Isaiah 30:21).

2. He knows the temperament peculiar to each one (Psalms 139:3).

3. He suits His providence to the temperament of each one so as to accomplish His design (Matthew 12:20; Ephesians 1:5-6).

God employs means to work out his designs. Sin is to be mortified and expelled, whilst character is to be refined and perfected. For this purpose trials and temptations, persecutions and afflictions, calamities and bereavements, are apportioned to each.

1. These are permissive (Job 1:12).

2. They are decretive (Genesis 22:2; 1 Peter 1:3-9).

3. They are afflictive and corrective (Psalms 119:67; Psalms 119:71; Jeremiah 31:18-19; Hebrews 12:6-11).

The nature of these providences.

1. They are minute and exact (Matthew 10:30).

2. They relate to food and raiment (Psalms 37:25; Matthew 6:25-34).

3. They extend to the whole of life (Job 14:5; Psalms 37:23; Psalms 139:14-16).


1. Let us trust God more implicitly in all the events of life.

2. Let us take comfort from this doctrine. “All things work together for good” (Romans 8:28); they do so now. Whatever else may fail us, God will not (Psalms 97:1). (L. O. Thompson.)

Verse 24

Psalms 37:24

The Lord upholdeth him with His hand.

Hand in hand with God

The force of this passage is somewhat lost by the rendering of it here. What David says literally is this, Jehovah is holding his hand. “His hand” is the man’s hand--not God’s hand. Read it thus, “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for Jehovah is holding his hand”--that is what David means. The mental image in this text is just this. A child has to tread a certain path. That child is weak and timid--he may be reduced by sickness--yet he has to tread a certain path. His father knows that he is weak and timid--he goes with him, and takes his hand. That is the image. The reality is this. Life is that path--the distance between our cradle and our tomb--between the hour of our birth and the hour of our death. The man of God is that child. How real God was to David. One looks sometimes for the reason of this--and I think while it is impossible entirely to account for it, that we must attach some importance to such circumstances as these. Mark David’s early piety. He began to trust that God while he was yet in his teens. The advantage of beginning early no words can express. Hence David had acquired the habit of trust in God. I think, also, we must attach some importance to David’s early sorrows. There is one lesson which can be only learnt by affliction--and that is, to use the things of earth without abusing them. Sorrow throws the man upon God, and obliges him, if he have but a germ of religious life in his nature, to get his rest, and his peace, and his blessedness from God. Then his great sensitiveness was, moreover, brought completely under the power of his religious ideas and his religious principles. That comes out marvellously in the 22nd Psalm: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? why art Thou so far from helping me?” Now, the man who could write that must have lived very near to God. But who is he that lives in such a habit of fellowship with God, that if that fellowship be interrupted--if God in the course of a day say less to the man than He has been accustomed to say, would feel such anguish and grief about it as this cry--“My God, my God, why,” etc., indicate? And who would do it on a throne? God was a reality to David’s soul: hence he could write such things as these. He could say with reference to every man trusting in God, and delighting in God, “Jehovah is holding his hand.” David saw it: it was a matter of constant observation to him. Many others did not see it. But he did. Yes, the great Jehovah condescends thus towards us. Thus it is with God. There is real contact. “Jehovah is holding his hand.” And there is real help--not merely contact. Not the displacement of our effort, or substitution for it, but help. The child walks, is not carried, but its hand is held. So is it with God. He will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. And yet we have deep sense all the while of our own personal weakness. We know that our strength is from God. Now, Jesus Christ has come to us fallen creatures, whose hands have parted from God’s hand, to put our hand again into the grasp of the Almighty Father. (S. Martin.)

The Divine hand

It is a strong hand. It balances all worlds, steadies the swinging universe, ordains the march of law, and the succession of events.

It is a redeeming hand. It alone wrought salvation.

It is a tender hand. It can crush. But when did it ever break the reed? (The Study.)

Verse 25

Psalms 37:25

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken.

The voice of age to youth

Between youth and age, in one sense, there is a great gulf fixed. It is impossible that there should be an entire intelligence on the one side; it is rare to find an entire sympathy on the other. And yet surely the old ought to have something to say to the young. Curiosity alone would bid them to find out what they can about that undiscovered country from which a voice comes to them, saying, “When you reach it, you will find” this and this--its feeling, its experience, its memory, its regrets, and its aspirations. If, in addition to this, anything could be said as to the best way of making the journey--anything as to the secret of “a good old age,” what has to be done, and what has to be avoided in the start; what companions would be congenial, and what insufferable, as the long future unfolds itself and the terminus is at last discernible in the distance--there would be no lack of listeners to such discourse. If in one sense there is a wide and deep chasm between youth and age, in another there is no break and no disruption at all between the two. We are all very ready to suppose that we shall have some notice, that we shall not pass quite unconsciously from young men into old. The very putting of the thought into words shows its futility. It is not so; one age of life shades off into another. Each particular day is of the same piece and colour with its yesterday and its to-morrow. The only notice given comes too late. The continuity is never snapped in twain; the tenor of the life is one and but one. “The child is father of the man,” and the man of the old man, and the old man of the everlasting being who lifts up the eyes for bliss or woe in Hades. No sin dies a natural death; it cannot be conquered without a battle. It can be a battle in which, in some sense, Satan casts out Satan, that is when pride, or ambition, or fear of the world, or dread of consequences, prevails against some particular evil tendency, and so to say, the body of sin cuts off from itself one member. Such is the history of many reforms and many amendments. Heaven keeps no register of them. They are neither here nor there as to the everlasting life of the man. This is one battle. Many men never fight even this battle. Many go on in their sins weakly, helplessly, till they are found out far on, or till they die in them, late or early, and go hence to be no more seen. But there is another battle with sin quite different in history and character, in course and end from this. This is when a man knowing that there is no gulf fixed by age or the lapse of time between him and sinning, knowing that no man sleeps off, or sleeping loses or outlives his sin, and knowing that he must not risk eternity in the chance of truth, whether taught by experience or taught by revelation, turning out after all a lie, tries upon himself the Gospel remedy, watches and prays, prays and watches, on the faith of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and with many failures and many defeats, yet withstands and is found standing, conquering, one by one, the sins of youth and the sins of age, till he may cast his crown before the Throne, and ascribe his salvation to God and the Lamb. To recommend this course, to press its reasonableness, its necessity, its urgency upon such as have ears to hear, this is why age speaks to youth, and this is what it is saying: “Keep innocency, and take heed unto the thing that is right,” etc. (Dean Vaughan.)

Testimony from an aged saint

The aged Christian is able, from his own experience, to testify to the protecting care of a Divine Father’s love. The difference between the testimony of an old man and a very young man is the difference between knowledge and supposition, between fact and surmise; it is the difference between the words of a veteran who carries the scars, the sword-cuts, and the bullet-wounds of many battlefields, and the words of the ruddy-faced youth who has not yet won his shoulder-straps.

Verse 27

Psalms 37:27

Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.

Man’s grand concern

Eschewing evil and doing good. “Depart from evil and do good.” Evil and good are correlative and coextensive terms. They are antagonistic principles, they are both in the world, and both incessantly working. Both are incarnate. Good in its perfect form is in Christ. “Depart from evil.” You are in it, as in a poisonous atmosphere, as in a foul disease, as in a miserable captivity; struggle to get out of it, leave the moral district, and strive after a more salubrious air. “Do good.” Good is a practical thing, not a thing for mere poetry or discussion, but a thing for practice. What is it to do good? Not the performance of any particular thing, for we have a thousand things to accomplish, but to do everything from a good motive--supreme love to God.

Speaking wisdom and judgment. “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.” It is the characteristic of a righteous man that his speech is wise and just. He allows “no corrupt communication to proceed out of his mouth.” Man’s speech has always a moral quality, it is always wise or foolish, just or unjust, good or bad.

Rectitude in heart and life. “The law of his God is in his heart, none of his steps shall slide.” It is one thing to have the law of his God in the book or the brain, and another thing to have it in the heart; to have it in the heart implies that it is cherished with love and obeyed with loyalty. It is in the heart as the moral monarch, holding empire over all the faculties of being and activities of life. Being in the heart, it directs the life. “None of his steps” (or “goings “) “shall slide.” There will be an unswerving adherence to the path of right.

Waiting on the lord and keeping his commandments. “Wait on the Lord and keep His way.”

1. Waiting on the Lord implies

(1) Realization of His presence;

(2) Expectation of His commands, and

(3) Readiness to obey.

The special favour of heaven.

1. The special guardianship of God. “The Lord loveth judgment and forsaketh not His saints, they are preserved for ever.”

2. Deliverance from the power of the wicked. “The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.” The truth of this is realized in the experience of all good men after death.

3. Exaltation and long life. (Homilist.)

Verse 28

Psalms 37:28

The Lord forsaketh not His saints: they are preserved for ever.

Secure property

A religion of contingencies and uncertainties deserve not the name of Christianity, and it is perfectly a misnomer to call it Christianity.

The property of jehovah is his saints. Not the angels, the heavens, or the earth, but His saints. I mean real, not hypocritical saints. Let me describe them a little.

1. They were once vile and full of sin: but they are transformed and they know it. They are created anew in Christ.

2. Moreover, they are consecrated, or they could not be saints, and God claims such as His own.

3. They have been eternally set apart as such: and for God Himself, as His sons, His servants, and His especial treasure. You must be a son before you can be a servant of God.

4. And they are manifestly God’s saints both in creed and in conduct.

The Lord’s unchanging love for them. “He forsaketh not His saints.”

The triumphs of his grace in them. “They are preserved for ever.” (Joseph Irons.)

Verse 31

Psalms 37:31

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.


The law of God in the heart

The inward principle which actuates a good man.

1. An acquaintance with the law, considered as the standard of holiness, as the rule of action.

2. An habitual reference to God’s mind and will.

3. A deep sense of the obligation of the law of God, accompanied with a sincere resolution of implicit and unreserved obedience.

4. A love to the law of God after “the inner man.”

5. In a good man this attachment to the law of God, and to the rules of duty, is progressive, and, with every accession of religious experience, becomes more vigorous and confirmed.

Its effects on the character and conduct. “None of his steps shall slide.” His steps shall not fatally slide; he shall maintain a uniform and consistent deportment.

1. The violence of temptation shall not overpower him.

2. The suddenness of it shall not surprise him.

3. The deceitfulness of it shall not seduce him.

4. The example of the multitude shall not prevail. (Robert Hall, M. A.)

The Divine law in the heart

There is a divine law for the regulation of mankind.

1. Its source is love.

2. Its requirement is love.

This divine law should become the ruling power within men.

1. The law of peace.

2. The law of life.

3. The law of liberty.

This divine law, as a ruling power within men, is a guarantee against errors “None of his steps shall slide.”

1. This law of love will guard him from theological errors. A God-loving heart is the best interpreter of Scripture.

2. This law of love will guard him from moral errors. He who loves God supremely will delight in doing His will. (Homilist.)

The Divine law in the heart

1. One marked characteristic of this is that it inspires him with the power of an unlimited ideal. A high ideal is the spring of social progress and public enterprise. Who can calculate the soul’s capabilities, and the mighty sweep of its orbit? It sees in Christ the highest example of excellence, and it goes on becoming more and more like Him, without ever arriving at a point beyond which it cannot pass. The man under the influence of this ideal is the truly practical man, his course of conduct being according to the laws of his being and adapted to the desired end. Christ is formed in him the hope of glory.

2. This develops the individuality of a man. Sensualism destroys individuality. The drunkard, in more senses than one, throws himself away, he unmans himself. But the man described in the text acts under a constant sense of responsibility. He feels that he must act himself and must stand or fall for himself. He knows that an act can only be performed by an individual, and that he must obey the law himself, or there will be no obedience so far as he is concerned.

3. The life of such a man is positive. He does not try to see how near he can go to the edge of the precipice of wrong without falling over. But he goes on. He has a filial love that inclines him in a positive way to his heavenly Father.

4. Harmony of thought and word. The words are the direct expressions of the thoughts, because these are vivified by the heart’s warm emotion. The law in the life is not a mere matter of memory. Paul truly says: “The law of the spirit of life hath saved me from the law of sin and death.” The heart in an important sense in the man--it is the mainspring of action, and gives nob only efficiency, but harmony. (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

Slippery places

(with Psalms 73:18; Psalms 94:18):--The slipping or sliding of the foot is used in the Bible as an emblem, chiefly, of three dangers.

The danger of falling into sin through temptation. If once you fall into the sin, you may, doubtless, rise again; but ah! you may rise sadly bruised, and perchance you may carry the mark of the bruise all your days! Even though we slip, it is well for us if we do not fall. But it is better still not even to slip, if we can help it. The spirit and the habits of godliness will lessen for us the dangers of temptation.

The danger of falling into ruin through sin (Psalms 73:18). God has many methods of dealing with sinners. Sometimes He appeals to them by His “goodness”; at other times by His “severity.” But if the sinner will not listen, then God lets the man have his own way--for a time! Oh, terrible punishment!

The danger of falling into unbelief through adversity (Psalms 94:18). There are those who, when they come into these dark and troublous experiences, and their foot is slipping into unbelief, will not lay hold of the supporting arm of God; they nurse a morbid gloom. Is it not enough to lose earthly wealth, without losing also, through our unbelief, the heavenly treasure? Is it not enough to lose by death the conscious companionship of some dear friend, without losing also, through our unbelief, the conscious friendship of Him who is the best of all friends? Let us, then, whenever we come into the slippery places of adversity, seek to grasp by faith the Cross of Calvary, that the mercy of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, may “hold us up.” (T. C. Finlayson.)

Verses 32-33

Psalms 37:32-33

The wicked watcheth the righteous, and waiteth to slay him.

The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.

The foes of the righteous and how to escape them

We have seen a dog run after a bird when it was upon the ground, and nearly catch it; but, as soon as it mounted into its native element, all the dog could do was to look and bark. Christian, bird of Paradise, if thou settle upon earthly things, the great hell dog will stand some chance of injuring thee; but if thou keep in the heavenlies thou art safe. (W. Luff.)

Verse 34

Psalms 37:34

Wait on the Lord and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

A twofold admonition and promise.

The admonition.

1. Wait on the Lord. Do you thus wait? Now, in the present time, and at all times?

2. Keep His way. This is beautifully connected with the former. Wait--and work. Wait--and walk. Get grace--and exercise it.

The promise.

1. “He shall exalt thee to inherit the land.” God is the source of all elevation and honour.

2. “When the wicked are cut off, thou,” etc. And they will be cut off from all they enjoy here, and from all hope hereafter. And as the saint will see the destruction of the sinner, so the sinner will see the salvation of the righteous, and not partake of it. This must be a source to him of the keenest anguish, for it might have been his own. (W. Jay.)

Obedience the remedy for religious perplexity

To some persons it may sound strange to speak of difficulties in religion, for they find none at all. But this arises, in many cases, from ignorance of religion itself. They observe forms, but their heart is not in the work. But when they are awakened, and earnestly seek the right way, then, from time to time, they are troubled with doubts and misgivings, and oppressed with gloom. To all those who are perplexed, one precept must be given--obey. It is obedience which brings a man into the right path; it is obedience keeps him there and strengthens him in it. Under all circumstances, whatever be the cause of his distress--obey. Apply this exhortation to those who have but lately taken up the subject of religion at all. Every science has its difficulties at first; why, then, should the science of living well be without them? And others are impatient with themselves, forgetting that a Christian spirit is the growth of time, and that we cannot force it upon our minds, however desirable and necessary it may be to possess it; that by giving utterance to religious sentiments we do not become religious--rather the reverse; whereas if we strove to obey God’s will in all things, we actually should be gradually training our hearts into the fulness of a Christian spirit. But, not understanding this, men are led to speak much upon sacred subjects, in the hope of its making them better: and they measure their advance in faith and holiness, not by their power of obeying God in practice, but by the warmth and energy of their religious feelings. And then, when these fail, and when, as sometimes is the case, their old sins revive, they are discouraged, and tempted to despair. But let them “wait on the Lord,” this is the rule; “keep His way,” this is the manner of waiting. Go about your duty; mind little things as well as great. Do not pause, and say, “I am as I was; day after day passes, and still no light”; go on. (J. H. Newman.)

Verses 35-37

Psalms 37:35-37

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree.

Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not.

The two characters

The word “perfect” in the Old Testament is generally used in the same sense as the word “godly” in the New. This “perfect” man is he “He feareth God and escheweth evil.” His perfection is that of an earthly saint, not that of a heavenly saint. The “wicked” of the text are the same as the “evildoers,” “the workers of iniquity,” and the “ungodly” of the preceding verses. There is no need to trace out the character of these people, for do they not work it out in the sight of all in their ungodly conversation and conduct? And yet, forsooth, they dream of heaven. But what sort of a heaven?

The wicked as set forth in the text.

1. He is strong in health--“like a green bay-tree.”

2. In riches. His fields have cropped heavily; he has much goods laid up for many years. Pharaoh-like, he defies all authority, and contemptuously asks, “Who is the Lord?”

3. In pride and selfishness. Haman is a correct representation of this class; and Nebuchadnezzar.

4. “Spreading himself out”--ostentatious, pompous, showy. What a contrast with the life of Christ, or with the idea of the Bible concerning the celestial state.

5. “Till he pass away.” He disappears in darkness. “The name of the wicked shall rot.”

The perfect, the upright man:

1. Mark him in the virtuousness of his life.

2. In his patience under trials.

3. In the secret comfort he enjoys. He has strong consolations. Where? The natural man cannot understand it.

4. In his departure from this life. Oh yes, mark him, behold him, follow him with the eye; he is drawing towards the close, it is true, but he will not be lost; it is growing light--lighter the deeper he goes. “Christ shall give thee light.” “The end of that man is peace.”

5. “Mark the perfect, behold the upright” once more--to see him entering on his eternal state. If the religion of the Bible lead to and produce such an end, is it not worth our while to seek it? (Anon.)

The wicked in three aspects

As favoured with great secular prosperity.

1. Material nature, from which man draws all his secular good, pays no regard to moral character.

2. Greed for gain is one of the strongest passions in the heart of the wicked.

3. The efforts of the wicked are not restricted by moral considerations.

As swept unexpectedly from the earth.

1. Though he appeared, the last time he was seen, strong, he is gone.

2. Though he appeared the most important object in the scene, he is gone.

As standing in striking contrast to the righteous (Psalms 37:37-40).

1. In relation to character. The good are in these verses called “perfect,” “upright,” “righteous.” All these terms stand for the same thing--moral excellence. The wicked are spoken of as “transgressors”: they outrage the everlasting principles of virtue, truth, and happiness; they are violators of the moral laws of the universe.

2. In relation to their end. Tholuck renders this sentence, “It shall go well with such a man.” Peace is evermore the end of a good man--peace of conscience, peace with God, peace that passeth all understanding. What said Luther in dying? “God is the Lord by whom we escape death.” What said Baxter? “I have pain, there is no arguing against sense; but I have peace, peace.”

3. In relation to God. He is the destroyer of the wicked. (Homilist.)

Why wicked men are spared

That the long-suffering and goodness of god may lead them to repentance. The avenues to the heart are accessible in different persons by different ways. While some are naturally led to thought and reflection, by the fear of danger, or the sufferings of distress, others are more sensibly affected by instances of kindness and benevolence. Where there is a strong sensibility, and a sufficient generosity of natural disposition, the blessings of prosperity will be even more effectual than the arrows of adversity to awaken men to the consideration of their ways, to lead them by the pleasing ties of gratitude, to the most affectionate love of God, to the most sincere respect for religion and virtue.

For the sake of those with whom they are connected in society.

1. Perhaps this wicked man is the head of a numerous family, and you cannot inflict on him the penalty he deserves, without at the same time entailing misery on his wife, his children, and, probably, a great number of dependants, all of whom may be entirely innocent of the crimes he has committed.

2. Suppose a wicked man to be placed in a public station, a station for which, perhaps, you will imagine he is very unfit, as his bad example, when his influence is thus extended, may be still more contagious in corrupting the morals of others; yet, notwithstanding of this circumstance, which is in itself of great weight, he may still be possessed of several good qualities, which enable him, with superior advantage, to discharge the duties of the distinguished office; he may, perhaps, be possessed of great talents, or great industry, which render him more useful upon the whole, in that particular situation, than another man of more virtue, but of less ability.

That they may be the means of administering rebuke and chastisement to others, who, perhaps, are not so wicked as themselves, but who probably are not sufficiently sensible of the advantages they enjoy, or who do not improve these advantages in all respects as they ought. (W. Shiels.)

Verse 37

Psalms 37:37.

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.

The perfect man

The description given.

1. It cannot imply positive perfection--that is impossible. True, there is the seed of all grace in the heart of every child of God, and it is an incorruptible seed, but it has to grow, and this takes long time, and, meanwhile, imperfection is often and sadly manifest. The cases, referred to in parallel passages, of Noah and Job, prove this. See also Asa, 2 Chronicles 15:2. The child of God is perfect

(1) In Christ. “By one offering He hath perfected for ever them,” etc. And

(2) Because he is sincere. He is “upright,” sincere in all his dealings, and sincerity is the reality of all other graces.

The end of such a man--“peace.” His present condition is blessed, and the end--however chequered the way--is peace.

The call given. “Mark the perfect man,” behold him. He is well worth looking at. You will not have many to mark. They are a blessing wherever they are. He is a trophy of the Redeemer’s blood, a monument of God’s sovereign grace and mercy. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

The peaceful death of the righteous man

If we were about to enter upon a journey to a remote part of the earth, we should consider what was necessary for an undertaking of such importance, as to clothing and other commodities, and make provision accordingly. It were well for us to act upon the same principle, and in the same manner, with respect to the matters which concern the soul, and our journey to an eternal world. “What do I need for this journey? what do I need for that eternal state, to which I am advancing with rapidity? I need an interest in Divine love; to have God reconciled to me, and myself reconciled to God. Our text tells of one who had these things.

His character. He is described as “perfect.” This word must be taken in a limited sense, as no man on earth is “perfect.” Neither in body, nor in soul.

His end--peace. He dies in peace: with God; in his mind and animated with bright hope.

The duty--we are to “mark,” etc.

1. Observe him.

2. Lament over his departure.

3. Imitate him. (A. Fletcher, M. A.)


This psalm has been called a sermon on this theme.

The character placed before. Us--the perfect, upright man. But are we not all sinful? Yes, but grace creates us anew. The infant is a perfect child, though far removed from the strength, stature and intelligence of a man. But the beginning of the perfect life is then. And so in regard to the life of grace.

1. It is a perfection of sincerity, as opposed to all dissimulation and hypocrisy.

2. Of completeness in reference to the whole will of God.

3. It denotes a firmness in which temptations make no impression. For God will not leave him to himself.

4. It is descriptive of those who have made great proficiency and eminent attainments in religion. So the word “perfect” is often used. Let us strive after this.

The end of such a man--peace. But he has not to wait till the end ere he experiences peace. He has it now, when he heartily believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. “There is no peace to the wicked,” but to him who has dropped his rebellion, and submitted himself to God, there is given peace. His is the peace of forgiveness and of sanctification. Sometimes disease and pain and weakness deprive the believer at the last of the comfort of the promises of God. But though, from these causes, their minds may be darkened, yet do they as certainly die in the Lord as if they had departed amidst the greatest triumphs of faith. And very often it is amid such triumphs that they are permitted to depart.

The improvement we are to make of this subject. We are to “mark the perfect,” etc.

1. He may be easily singled out and separated from the crowd. We are at a loss to know to what class some persons belong; but a Christian of eminent piety is a living epistle of Christ, to be seen and read of all men. Behold his “patient continuance in well doing,” his humility, his piety.

2. Mark him, that you may know how to be like him.

3. How to obtain the same happy end of life. (T. Craig.)

Peace at the last

Like boats or other objects borne down on a mighty river, unable to stop in their course, unable to return upon it,--we, too, are gliding on with the race of a stream, and will in a short period arrive at the point of its disemboguement into the vast ocean of eternity, Not only is death inevitable, but it is usually a most appalling event. One element of good there is, with which we may mitigate the cup we have to drink; and that element is--peace of mind.

One leading and essential element of peace is an acceptance of the terms of the new covenant, by faith in the atoning blood of Christ, We are all too far gone from original righteousness, as well by nature as by practice, to expect salvation, or to rely upon a peace, whether in life or in death, which is independent of the merits of the Redeemer. Yet, though this be the foundation of the Christian’s hope, though peace be preached through Jesus Christ, it is by no means derogatory to that eternal truth to affirm, that the faith which on, braces his atonement must evince by holiness its genuineness and its life.

Among these ingredients of peace in the latter end of life, a man ought to be supported by A consciousness of his having made some provision for those who are to come after him, and who would otherwise suffer, in a temporal sense, by his departure (1 Timothy 5:8).

Another material ingredient in that mental peace to which we look forward in our latter end, must consist in the satisfactory reflection on our having lived to some purpose is the world. The fig-tree, luxuriating in the pride of leaves, was denounced, not because it distilled poison, but because it produced no fruit; and it was not the positively criminal, but the merely unprofitable servant, in the Gospel, who was cast into outer darkness.

A sense of reconciliation with mankind wilt furnish a contribution to the peace with which the disciple of Jesus may expect to cheer his last moments.

A fifth particular contributory towards a latter end of peace is an early and sincere repentance. (J. Grant, M. A.)

The good man and his end

His character.

1. “Perfect.” His holiness is so perfect as to prevail over wilful and habitual sin; his love to God so perfect, as to be the reigning disposition of his soul; his choice so perfect, that he considers and takes God as his chief good; his obedience, that he yields unto God his soul and body to glorify Him, and by the grace of God is able to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.

2. “Upright.” He does not deceive his own heart, but examines himself; is no hypocrite, but serves God in spirit and in truth; and as he would that others should do unto him, so he does unto them.

His conduct.

1. In the world. Single and uncorrupted.

2. In the family. He walks before his house with a perfect heart; instructs them in the knowledge of God and divine things; travails in birth for their salvation; sets them an example of piety and devotedness to God.

3. In the church. He loves the brethren with a pure heart fervently--he helps to bear their burdens--sympathizes with them in their sorrows--joins them in their labours--assembles with them for pious fellowship, and the public worship of their God and Saviour.

4. In private. He seeks and enjoys retirement for meditation and prayer.

5. In the different states of life. In prosperity his heart is not lifted up within him, but he remembers the God of all his mercies, and acknowledges his indebtedness to Him. In adversity he considers, reflects, seeks to gather the lessons intended to be taught, submits to the rod, and Him who appointed it.

His end. “Peace.”

1. Mark him as an example to be followed.

2. Mark him as having his end assuredly peace.

3. Mark him as an encouragement to Christians in all times of their affliction and sufferings. (J. Walker, D. D.)

Mark the perfect man

The terms in which the psalmist speaks of him. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright;” the man whose perfection, though conspicuous enough to be observed with admiration, is no deceitful cover, or mere superficial gilding, but an inward reality; and the genuine, consistent effect of a principle which dictates an habitual respect unto all God’s commandments. Behold him living from Him, living upon Him, living to Him, a life of faith in an invisible God and Redeemer; and a life of love slid devotedness to Him both in public and in private; invariably faithful in his adherence to His revealed will; zealous in his attachment to His cause; contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; but with a spirit of meekness, and a constant disposition to hold the truth in love; affectionate in his good wishes and prayers, and active in his services to promote the temporal and eternal welfare of all around him.

His end. A final period, at least here, to every interview of friendship, to every exercise of social devotion, and to every service for God and his fellow-creatures. His instructions, cautions, counsels, consolations, prayers, all ended. The place that once knew him, that knew him often and intimately, now knows him no more. All he was doing or thinking to do in the house of God, or in his own, for the Redeemer’s interest, and to extend his happiness and usefulness in his several connections here, at an end.

Peace. This may be intended as a representation both of his state on this side, and beyond the grave.

1. Peace is valuable at all times, and in every connection: peace in nations and neighbourhoods, in churches and in families: above all, “the peace of God which passeth all understanding, keeping the heart and mind through Christ Jesus.”

2. Peace with God, as his God and Father in Christ.

3. Peace in a review of past engagements with the Lord, and for Him (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

4. Peace in the expectation of a removal.

5. Peace in prospect of an hereafter.

The attention which we ought to pay to the important character, and to the delightful end which the text specifies.

1. Mark it, in order to form a right judgment of yourselves.

2. Mark it, sinners and hypocrites, for admonition and caution.

3. Mark it for imitation, all of you that desire his end. (S. Addington.)

Verse 38

Psalms 37:38

The end of the wicked shall be cut off.

The end of the wicked

The condition of the sinner is an awful one notwithstanding things may seem lovely and fair to him now. He resembles the man who lives in a magnificent mansion on the brow of a volcano, the situation is beautiful, the scenery is beautiful, the sky is beautiful, the air is beautiful, but there are fires that work beneath. These will one day rive the mountain, blacken the sky, and engulf the mansion and its proprietor. (R. Venting.)

Verses 39-40

Psalms 37:39-40

The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord.

A testimony to free and Sovereign grace

“The salvation of the righteous “in the broadest sense of the word” is of the Lord”; and the more breadth of meaning we give to it, the more completely we shall see that it must be divine. At the same time, our life is made up of a series of salvations, and each of these is of the Lord. We are constantly being saved, saved from this and that form of danger and evil. As each daily trouble threatens to engulf us, we are saved from it. As each temptation, like a dragon, threatens to swallow us up, we are saved from it. Our God is the God of salvations.

This is the essence of sound doctrine. The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord, even of the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in--

1. The planning.

2. The providing.

3. The beginning.

4. The carrying on.

5. The completion.

This is a necessary fact. The saints recognize it; for--

1. Their inward conflicts make them know that God alone must work salvation. They are too fickle and feeble to save themselves.

2. Their outward temptations drive them to the same conclusion. They are well kept whom God keeps, but none else.

3. The world’s hate drives them away from all hope in that quarter. God is greater than a world in arms.

4. Their daily trials and afflictions would crush them if Omnipotence did not sustain them. Only God’s grace can be all-sufficient.

5. The perishing of hypocrites is a sad proof of how little man can do. Temporary believers perish like blossoms which never knit to fruit, and therefore fail from the tree.

This is a sweet consolation. This truth, that unto God the Lord belongeth the salvation of His saints, acts graciously--

1. Leading them to solid trust.

2. Exciting them to believing prayer.

3. Urging them to look out of self.

4. Inspiring them with great thoughts of God, and--

5. Leading them to offer adoring praise unto their Redeemer.

This is a reason for humility.

1. It strips the righteous of all pride in the fact of their being saved.

2. Of all exaltation of self because they continue in their integrity.

3. Of all undue censure of the fallen; for they, themselves, would have failed had not the Lord upheld them.

4. Of all self-confidence as to the future, since their weakness is inherent and abiding.

5. Of all self-glorying, even in heaven, since in all things they are debtors to sovereign grace.

This is a fruitful ground of hope.

1. In reference to our own difficulties: God can give us deliverance.

2. In reference to our tried brethren: the Lord can sustain, sanctify, and deliver them.

3. In reference to seeking souls: we may leave their cases in the Saviour’s hands. He is able to save to the uttermost.

4. In reference to sinners: they cannot be too degraded, obstinate, ignorant, or false; God can work salvation even in the worst. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Psalms 38:1-22

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 37". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/psalms-37.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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