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THIS is another of the alphabetical psalms (see above, Psalms 9:1-20; Psalms 25:1-22; and 34.), and, though more free from irregularities than the previous ones, is not altogether without them. While, generally, each letter heads a stanza consisting of two verses, there are three occasions on which the stanza assigned to a letter is formed of only one verse (see Psalms 37:7, Psalms 37:20, and Psalms 37:34). Further, there are two occasions when the stanza begins with a wrong letter, לtaking the place of ,ע and וof .ת These anomalies it has been proposed to get rid of by altering the text; but, to judge by the previous alphabetical psalms, absolute exactness was not at first aimed at in this form of composition.
The psalm is wholly didactic. It begins with exhortation, which is carried on through five stanzas to the end of Psalms 37:9. Exhortation then gives place to calm and unimpassioned instruction, of a character resembling that which makes up the bulk of the Book of Proverbs. This tone continues to the end of verse 33, when there is a return to exhortation, but exhortation (verses 34, 37) mingled with instruction (verses 35, 36, 38-40). The whole poem is grave, quiet, equable, devoid of excitement or lyric fervour. It is unlike David's other compositions, but may be his, as asserted in the title, and may be the only composition which we possess of his belonging to his old age (verse 25).
The object of the poem is to reassure men whose minds are disturbed by the fact of the frequent prosperity of the wicked, to convince them that in every case retribution will overtake the ungodly man at the last, and to impress upon them that the condition of the righteous, even when they suffer, is far preferable to that of the wicked, whatever prosperity they may enjoy.
Fret not thyself because of evildoers. According to Aristotle, we have a special emotion implanted in our nature—νέμεσις—which causes us to "fret" when we witness undeserved prosperity ('Rhet.,' 2.9, § 1). Certainly the feeling is very common and very strong; it is also characteristic of the best natures (see Psalms 73:3-14; Job 21:7-15; Jeremiah 12:1, Jeremiah 12:2; Malachi 3:15). The feeling does not need to be eradicated, but only to be held in check. Faith in God's retributive justice will enable us calmly to await "the end" (Psalms 73:17), in full assurance that ultimately God's vengeance will overtake the wicked man, and he will receive condign punishment. Neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. Envy is not a natural passion. To envy the evil-doers on account of their prosperity is at once a folly and a danger. Their position is really not enviable; and, if we allow ourselves to envy them, we shall be tempted to follow their example (see Proverbs 24:1).
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass. So Zophar, in the Book of Job (Job 20:5), "The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment." And, no doubt, if we compare time with eternity, the longest triumph that the wicked ever enjoy is but for a brief space, is soon gone, endures "but for a moment." It has a continuance, however, which to men in this life seems long, often intolerably long; and hence the disturbance which men's minds suffer on account of it (Job 21:7, Job 21:13; Psalms 73:3-16). And wither as the green herb (comp. Psalms 90:5, Psalms 90:6; Psalms 103:15; Isaiah 40:6, Isaiah 40:7; James 1:10, James 1:11; 1 Peter 1:24).
Trust in the Lord, and do good. Notwithstanding any difficulty which the prosperity of the wicked causes thee, trust thou still in the Lord; be sure that his providence watches over thee, and endeavour still to serve him by "doing good." So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed; rather, dwell in the land, and feed on faithfulness (Kay); i.e. remain where thou art, and be satisfied with the thought of God's faithfulness. Feed on this.
Delight thyself also in the Lord. Draw from communion with God all that inward intensity of joy which it is capable of giving. And he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. God will then grant thee all thy desires, and make thee perfectly happy.
Commit thy way unto the Lord (comp. Proverbs 16:3; Psalms 22:8). The meaning is, "Cast thyself and thy life unreservedly upon God—yield thyself wholly to him—look to him for support and guidance." Trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. "He will accomplish all that thy faith has laid upon him" (Kay).
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. If the prosperity of the wicked frets thee, because it seems to obscure thy righteousness, since while he appears to bask in the sunshine of God's favour, thy life is possibly overshadowed by clouds and darkness, be sure that, in the end, this seeming injustice will be remedied. God will not frown on thee always; one day he will turn on thee the light of his countenance, and make thy righteousness to shine forth like the sun in its noonday splendour.
Rest in the Lord; literally, be silent; i.e. do not murmur; make no complaint; be silently acquiescent and resigned. And wait patiently for him. Be content to await his time, which is sure to be the right time. Meanwhile possess your soul in patience. Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way (comp. Psalms 37:1, of which this brings out the sense). It is when the ungodly prosper that the righteous are apt to repine. Because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. It is the success of the ungodly in their wicked plots and schemes which especially vexes the righteous (see Job 9:24; Job 12:6; Job 21:7-9 : Job 24:2-12; Psalms 72:5-12, etc.).
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; i.e. such anger and such wrath as the prosperity of the wicked calls forth. Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil; rather, fret not thyself, only to do evil. No result could be looked for from the sort of "fretting" spoken of, but an evil one. If men will dwell unduly on the fact of the prosperity of the wicked, and brood upon it in their hearts, they will be apt, in the first instance, to envy the wicked, which is at once "to do evil;" and from this they will be naturally tempted to go on to an imitation of their wicked practices, which is to assimilate themselves altogether to the enemies of God, and to be guilty of practical apostasy (comp. Psalms 73:2, "But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well-nigh supped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked").
For evil-doers shall be out off. It is foolish to "fret" and rage and storm against the ungodly whom we see prospering, since they will certainly be "cut off" sooner or later—sooner rather than later, according to the belief of the writer (see Psalms 37:2, Psalms 37:10). But those that wait upon the Lord (see Psalms 37:7), they shall inherit the earth. It is doubly foolish, since when the wicked are "cut off," as they will be assuredly some day, the godly will find themselves the inheritors of the earth. This prophecy is partially fulfilled from time to time, and will find its complete fulfilment in the "new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).
For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be (compare the comment on Psalms 37:2). Yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be; or, he shall not be. He shall have been swept away; his "place shall know him no more" (Psalms 103:16).
But the meek shall inherit the earth. This prophecy is endorsed by our Lord (Matthew 5:5). It has only had occasional fulfilment hitherto, notably in Moses, the meekest man of his day (Numbers 12:3); to some extent in St. Louis and other great saints, whose influence has been world-wide, as St. Francis d'Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, St. Carlo Boromeo, and others. And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Being men of peace, the meek, when they "inherit the earth," will establish universal peace (Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 65:25; Ezekiel 34:25) and "delight in the abundance of it" (comp. Psalms 72:7).
The wicked plotteth against the just (comp. Psalms 31:13; Psalms 35:4, Psalms 35:7, etc.). Wicked men commonly lay their plots against the righteous, as being less likely to suspect them, and perhaps as less likely to resist their machinations. And gnasheth upon him with his teeth (comp. Psalms 35:16).
The Lord shall laugh at him (comp. Psalms 2:4; Psalms 59:8; and see the comment on the former passage). For he seeth that his day is coming; i.e. God sees that the day of the wicked man's visitation is approaching.
The wicked have drawn out the sword, and bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy. David is perhaps thinking especially of his own persecutors, Saul and Absalom, who pursued after him with armed men, and sought his life (1 Samuel 23:8,1 Samuel 23:14, 1Sa 23:26; 1 Samuel 24:2; 1 Samuel 26:2; 2 Samuel 17:24-26; 2 Samuel 18:6-8). But he may also have in his mind the raids that powerful chiefs made upon their weak and peaceful neighbours (Job 24:5-12). And to slay such as be of a right conversation; or, such as are upright in way; i.e. such as lead a righteous
Their sword shall enter into their own heart. Such as "take the sword" often "perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). Absalom's rebellion cost him his life. Marauders would sometimes meet with a stout resistance, and be slain by those whom they had intended to plunder. And their bows shall be broken; i.e. they shall meet with failure.
A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked (comp. Proverbs 15:16; Proverbs 16:8).
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken (scrap. Psalms 10:15). The wicked shall be disabled from doing more mischief. If not slain outright, they shall return from the combats that they have provoked with shattered weapons (Psalms 37:15) and damaged persons. But the Lord up-holdeth the righteous. Their adversaries in the encounters.
The Lord knoweth the days of the upright; literally, of the perfect—those who yield him a complete obedience. God takes loving note of their days, knows their number, and the events which each day will bring. He will cause all things to "work together for their good." And their inheritance shall be for ever (comp. Psalms 37:27, Psalms 37:29, and Psalms 37:37; which all, like this verse, point, albeit vaguely, to a future life). The mere continuance of a man's posterity in a prosperous condition cannot exhaust the meaning of such phrases as, "Their inheritance shall be for ever;" "Dwell for evermore;" "The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever." If David himself meant no more than this, yet the Holy Spirit which inspired him may have meant more. At any rate, to the Christian the words will always bring up the thought of that "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, which is reserved for us in heaven" (1 Peter 1:4).
They shall not be ashamed in the evil times. If they fall into adversity, it will not cause them to feel shame. They will know that they are not being punished for evil-doing, but that God is trying them and purifying them (Job 36:8-11). And in the days of famine they shall he satisfied (comp. Psalms 33:19).
But the wicked shall perish (comp. Psalms 37:2, Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:10, Psalms 37:15, Psalms 37:36); literally, for the wicked shall perish. The happiness of the righteous cannot be complete until the wicked are removed out of their way; since, so long as they continue in the world, they will be ever vexing the righteous and troubling them (Psalms 56:1). And the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs. So, many of the old commentators, as Aquila, Kimchi, and others; and among moderns, Rosenmuller, and Professor Alexander. But the bulk of recent critics translate, as the excellency of the pastures (Hupfeld, Kay, Hengstenberg, Canon Cook, Cheyne, Revised Version); i.e. the rich herbage which is burnt up by the heat of summer (comp. Psalms 37:2). Both translations seem to be tenable; but the latter is perhaps preferable, since the consumption of the fat of lambs upon the altar is connected with the idea, not of rejection, but of acceptance. Into smoke shall they consume away (comp. Psalms 102:3).
The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again. The wicked man borrows with a light heart, though he may have no prospect of ever being able to repay. Living under God's curse (Psalms 37:22), he is for the most part not able to repay; when he happens to be able, he is often not willing. But the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth (comp. Psalms 112:5, Psalms 112:9). The righteous has not often need to borrow (see Deuteronomy 15:6; Deuteronomy 28:12, Deuteronomy 28:44). Rather, he lends and gives freely.
For such as be blessed of him (i.e. God) shall inherit the earth (see above, Psalms 37:11). And they that be cursed of him shall be out off (see above, Psalms 37:9).
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; rather, established; i.e. upheld, and made firm. It is not the general superintendence of men's steps and goings by God (Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 20:24) which is here spoken of; but the special strengthening and supporting of the steps of the pious. The wont גבר must be understood, not of the ordinary man, but of the good man. ("גבר, viri, scilicet justi, et Jova benedicti," Roseumuller). And he delighteth in his way. He "knows" it (Psalms 1:6), and looks upon it with favour, and even "has pleasure" in it (Psalms 35:27).
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down. "The difference," as Hengstenberg observes, "is that between misfortune or loss, and absolute ruin." The good man may be afflicted; he may even fall into some fault (Galatians 6:1) or grievous sin (2 Samuel 11:4); but so long as "the root of the matter is in him" (Job 19:28), God will not suffer him to be prostrated. For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand; literally, the Lord supports his hand. If he falls, God (as Luther says) "catches him by the hand, and raises him up again." So David had himself experienced (2 Samuel 12:13).
I have been young, and now am old. It is most natural to understand this literally, and to gather from it that the psalmist, whether David or another, composed this psalm in advanced life. It has certainly all the gravity, calmness, seriousness, and tone of authority which befit a teacher of many years and much experience. Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. The social condition of the Israelites was very unlike that of modem European communities. Though there were rich and poor among them, there could scarcely be any that were very poor. Where there was a general obligation upon all well-disposed persons to lend to such as were in need, and no interest could be asked upon loans, and in the year of jubilee all debts were remitted, and mortgaged lands returned to their original owners or their families, actual begging was scarcely possible, and at any rate could only be brought about by extreme and reckless misconduct. Many philanthropists believe that even at the present time in our own country mendicancy is nearly always the consequence of persistence in evil courses. Still more must this have been the case in Palestine in the time of the monarchy (see Proverbs 20:4).
He is ever merciful, and lendeth (comp. Psalms 37:21). This psalm contains a good deal of repetition, perhaps intended to emphasize certain portions of its teaching (see Psalms 37:1, Psalms 37:7, Psalms 37:8; Psalms 3:1-8, Psalms 27:1-14; Psalms 11:1-7, Psalms 22:1-31, Psalms 29:1-11; Psalms 7:1-17, Psalms 34:1-22, etc.). And his seed is blessed (comp. Psalms 25:13; Psalms 102:28; Psalms 112:2).
Depart from evil, and do good. The same injunction is given, in exactly the same words, in Psalms 34:14. And dwell for evermore. This is to be understood as a promise, "If thou wilt depart from evil, and do good, then thou shalt dwell in the land for ever" (comp. Psalms 34:3).
For the Lord loveth judgment (comp. Psalms 11:7). "Judgment"—משׁפט—is here "justice," "righteousness;" as in Psalms 33:5; Psalms 99:4; Psalms 103:6, etc. And forsaketh not his saints (see verse 25; and comp. Isaiah 41:17; Isaiah 42:16, etc.). They are preserved for ever. Something has probably fallen out at the commencement of this line, which ought to begin with the letter ain. But the seed of the wicked shall be out off. The wicked shall perish, not only in their own persons, but in their posterity, who shall be "cut off from the land of the living" (Isaiah 53:8), and have "their name blotted out" (Psalms 109:13).
The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for over (comp. Psalms 37:3, Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:11, Psalms 37:18, Psalms 37:22, Psalms 37:28, Psalms 37:34; and Proverbs 2:21). Bishop Butler sagaciously remarks that this is the natural tendency of things, if sufficient time be given, and accidental hindrances removed ('Analogy,' pt. 1 Chronicles 4:0.).
The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom. (On the essential union of wisdom with goodness, see the Proverbs, passim.) And his tongue talketh of judgment; i.e. utters only what is morally right, and,, in accordance with' truth and goodness. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." A good man out of the good treasure of his heart can only bring forth good things (Matthew 12:34, Matthew 12:35).
The Law of his God is in his heart (camp. Deuteronomy 6:6; Psalms 40:8; Psalms 119:11; Isaiah 51:7). None of his steps shall slide. The two facts are associated as cause and effect. The having the Law of God in his heart prevents his sliding or going astray.
The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. Wicked men hate righteous men, as being a reproach to them, and also as being a hindrance and a danger. The righteous thwart their plans, oppose their proceedings, often frustrate their counsels. Sometimes their opposition brings the wicked man into peril, as when it takes the shape of prosecution before a court, or of help given to one who has fallen among thieves. Hence the hatred felt by the wicked towards the righteous is not surprising. It leads the wicked to entertain murderous thoughts—to be ever "watching" for an opportunity when he may take the righteous man at a disadvantage, and, if no other means of removing him from his path present themselves, kill him. Modern civilization, with its precautions and "resources," prevents actual violence for the most part; but the tour-derous instinct remains, and even now, in his heart, many a wicked man is a murderer.
The Lord will not leave him in his hand. God, as a general rule, does not allow the wicked man to work his will upon the righteous. He interposes one cheek or another, and saves the righteous man from destruction. Nor condemn him when he is judged; i.e. nor will he allow him to be condemned when the wicked man brings an accusation against him, and seeks to have him sentenced to death by an ignorant or unjust judge. These promises are not universal nor absolute, since many good men have been assassinated by their enemies, as Abel by Cain; and many have been wrongfully condemned to death and executed, as Naboth at the instigation of Jezebel.
Wait on the lord (comp. Psalms 37:2, Psalms 37:5, Psalms 37:7; and Psalms 27:14; Psalms 62:5; Psalms 130:5; Proverbs 20:22). The injunction is repeated so often because of man's extreme impatience and unwillingness to "tarry the Lord's leisure" (Prayer-book Version of Psa 27:1-14 :16) trustfully and confidently. And keep his way. The way in which he would have them walk—the way of righteousness (comp. Psalms 37:3). And he shall exalt thee to inherit the land (see Psalms 37:29, and the comment ad loc.). When the ungodly are cut off, thou shalt see it (comp. Psalms 52:5, Psalms 52:6; Psalms 91:8). Doubtless with some satisfaction. As the "ungodly" spoken of are employed in watching for an occasion to "slay" the righteous (Psalms 37:32), these last can scarcely witness their removal from the world by God's providence without a feeling of relief.
I have seen the wicked in great power, and flourishing like a green bay tree; rather, as in the margin, like a green tree in his own (or, his native) soil. Growing, i.e; rankly and luxuriantly, like a leafy shrub, that has never suffered transplantation (comp. Psalms 1:3; Ezekiel 31:3).
Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not (cf. Job 20:5; Psalms 73:19, Psalms 73:20). Yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. The sudden disappearance of an imposing personality astonishes and confuses us. We cannot believe that one who has played so prominent a part in our drama of life is gone altogether. We look about for him; we expect him to reappear at any moment. We cannot realize the fact that he is vanished for ever. We ask ourselves, "Where is he?' (Job 20:7).
Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace. This translation is much disputed. Most ancients and many moderns render the first line, "Keep innocency, and observe uprightness," while some critics maintain that acharith in the second line must mean "posterity," and not "end." Others, again, join shalom to ish, and render, "There shall be posterity (or, a future) to the man of peace." However, the rendering of the Authorized Version is retained by our Revisers, and accepted in part by Hengstenberg and Dr. Kay, while it has the complete approval of Canon Cook.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together (comp. Psalms 37:2, Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:10, Psalms 37:15, Psalms 37:20, and Psalms 37:34). The end of the wicked shall be cut off. If acharith be taken to mean "posterity" in the preceding verse, it must be given the same signification here.
But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord (comp. Psalms 3:8; Psalms 68:20, etc.). He is their Strength in the time of trouble (see Psalms 18:1; Psalms 46:1, etc.). The last two verses sum up the teaching of the psalm, and indicate its especial object, which was to encourage and sustain the righteous under their trials, by the assurance that they were under the special protection of God, who, whenever trouble threatened, would stand forth as their Strength and Defence, and would ultimately be their "Salvation.'' The full meaning of this last expression was left obscure, though enough was said to raise the hope that this world was not the end of everything, but rather the beginning.
And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him. The ground of God's favour towards the righteous, and the ground moreover of their righteousness itself (Psalms 37:3), is their trust in him. Trusting in him, they have taken his Law for their rule of life, and made it their constant endeavour to serve and please him.
Delight in God.
"Delight thyself," etc. The order of these words makes all the difference between a religion of selfishness and a religion of love. Not, "The Lord will give you what your heart is set on; therefore delight in him;" but, "Delight thyself in the Lord; let him be thy Joy—Fountain of happiness and Object of desire; then thy most earnest petitions, deepest wants, highest aspirations, shall all be satisfied in him." Delight in God includes satisfaction and joy—
I. IN GOD HIMSELF. That is, so far as he has made himself known to us—who and what he is, in whom we have our being.
1. His glory as the eternal and infinite Creator; his power, wisdom, goodness, perpetual presence and unfailing care of his universe.
2. Yet more in his character—his love, righteousness, unchangeable truth (John 1:18; John 14:9).
II. IN OUR PERSONAL RELATION TO HIM—THAT HE IS OUR GOD AND FATHER. (1 John 3:1; Ephesians 2:1-10.) There is nothing selfish, presumptuous, or exclusive in this joy. The more we have it, the humbler we shall be; more desirous that others should share it; more qualified to influence them to seek and obtain it.
III. IN CONVERSE WITH HIM. This is the most marked and glorious characteristic of the psalms generally—real, living communion with God (comp. Philippians 4:4-7).
IV. IN OBEDIENCE TO HIM. "To live in the fear of God is not without its pleasure. It composes the soul, expels the vanity which is not without vexation, represses exorbitant motions, checks unruly passions, keeps all within in a pleasant, peaceful calm" (John Howe).
CONCLUSION. There is a deep secret of a happy life—must we not say a sadly neglected secret, even among real Christians? Unselfish delight in God is doubtless a high attainment. But is it out of reach? Surely not, when to the glorious knowledge of all that God is in himself is added the blessed certainty that he is our Father in Christ Jesus. This should be sunshine in darkest days. Yet let no Christian be discouraged because consciously very deficient in this respect. "That some are less sensibly and passionately moved with the great things of God (and even with the discovery of his love) than some others, doth not argue them to have less of the Spirit, but more of that temper which better comports with deeper judgment and a calm consideration of things.… Though flax set on fire will flame more than iron, yet withal it will smoke more, and will not glow so much, nor keep heat so long" (Howe).
The rest of the soul.
"Rest in the Lord." If any age ever needed a gospel of rest, it is this in which we live. We often call it "this busy age." But it is more than busy—it is restless. Men pride themselves on "living fast." They seek excitement, not refreshment, in their very pleasures. Amusement becomes not recreation, reinvigoration, restful play, fitting you to return with fresh strength and vigour to work, but often an exhausting demand and strain. You are weary after your holiday, not rested. It was a wise as well as a gracious voice which said to the disciples, "Come ye apart, and rest" (Mark 6:31).
I. WE NEED REST.
1. Physical rest, in due amount, is a very deep need of life. At our peril we despise it. There are forms of animal ]fib which are sleepless, but they are of very low types. The child, for many years, needs to spend half his life in sleep. The strong man needs from a quarter to a third of his time for sleep; and he must not give his waking hours to unnecessary toil, or body and mind will fail under the strain. We are not to think the time spent in sleep sheer waste. The schoolboy knows his task better when he wakes than over-night. You are wiser for "sleeping over" a question. As a new building requires time to settle, so, it seems, do our thoughts. "He giveth his beloved sleep" (Psalms 27:2).
2. No less do we need mental rest—repose of soul, heart, intellect. Best from doubt in certainty of truth. From care, in trust. From life's turmoil, in the quieting presence of things unseen and eternal. From the world, in solitary converse with our Father and our Saviour. From restlessness, in peace; not insensibility, not inertness or carelessness, but inward calm.
II. GOD IS THE SOUL'S REST. God has made all creation full of delight and profit for man, but not provided full satisfaction, perfect peace, anywhere but in himself. Faith is not a sudden snatch, but an abiding hold. Like the ivy, the soul climbs by clinging close; and as the ivy cannot cling while tossed to and fro by the wind, so the soul must cease to be agitated by stormy restless desires, if it is to take close, strong, peaceful hold on God. Rest in God includes:
1. Reconciliation. It would be absurd to speak of resting in God while our heart is at enmity with him, estranged from him, or careless, ignorant, doubtful, about our personal relation to him. One or other of these must be the case unless we are what Scripture calls reconciled to God. The "glad tidings" is the "word of reconciliation" in a twofold sense:
(1) The message and witness of the fact that God has provided atonement (2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 5:10).
(2) The message of personal invitation—not to Jews, heathen, atheists, notorious offenders, as such, but to men as men, to each one as a sinner (2 Corinthians 5:20). Nature has no gospel. It is Christ who interprets for us the teaching, else unintelligible, of the lilies and the birds (Matthew 6:26, etc.). It is his voice—the voice of the Father speaking through the Son—that says," I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
2. The rest of absolute submission to God's will, is what he sometimes calls us to. A hard lesson, but holy, profitable, with an after-fruit of peace. Not the highest form of faith, but indispensable to its completeness. For God does not cease to be our Creator, our Sovereign, when we become "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
3. The rest of unlimited trust. Not mere lying still in God's hand or at the feet of Jesus; not (as the "Quietists" taught) annihilation of our own will or of personal self; the calm energy of the soul, willingly placing all in God's hand. Not the stillness of the stagnant pool, but the calm of the deep lake through which a steady current flows. Christ was not passive in Gethsemane; the whole three of his will and purpose was gathered up in "Not my will," etc.
Vindication of God's supreme and gracious providence.
"The steps," etc. (see Revised Version). The theme of this noble psalm is the vindication of God's supreme and gracious providence, and the confirmation of faith tried by the vicissitudes of life, the prosperity of evil-doers, and trials of the righteous.
I. IN THE WIDEST SENSE HUMAN LIFE—"the steps of [each] man," the path in which he treads—IS UNDER GOD'S GUIDANCE; upheld by his power, directed by his counsel (Proverbs 20:24). As a journey is made up of single steps, and one false step may be fatal; so life, of momentary experiences and acts of choice, of which the greatest may hinge on the least. Life or death may hang on a pair of damp sheets or wet shoes, or a whiff of poisoned air. The fate of an empire may turn on the flight of a bullet. A spider's web spun across a dark opening has saved a fugitive from his persecutors. A successful career or a happy home may be owing to a chance meeting. If, therefore, God rules human affairs, he must foresee and control their most minute and secret causes.
II. GOD BESTOWS SPECIAL GUIDANCE ON HIS CHILDREN. "The steps of a good man, etc. (Authorized Version). "Established, is the proper meaning of the Hebrew word; not only directed, but made firm, planted evenly and safely. This word" good," inserted by our old translators, seems a bold interpolation; but, in fact, it does but express the spirit of the whole passage. It is of the "meek," the "righteous," the "upright," the man who delights in the Lord, rests in him, waits on him, the psalm speaks (Psalms 37:3, Psalms 37:4, Psalms 37:7, Psalms 37:11, Psalms 37:16, Psalms 37:18). Such phrases as "special providence are sometimes ignorantly used, sometimes as ignorantly found fault with. Wrongly used, if it be supposed that God's control is occasional, not perpetual and universal; wrongly objected to, if it is forgotten that at any moment God's guidance may have some special end in view, some immediate result. There are three reasons why God's children—namely, those who are living the life of faith—obtain this special guidance and may count on it.
(1) They ask for it.
(2) They follow and yield to it.
(3) It is possible in their case, as it is not in the case of an ungodly life.
They have the teaching of God's Word, which the ungodly person neglects; and the teaching of God's Spirit, which he does not believe in or desire (Romans 8:14). Further, God has a different end in view for them (Romans 2:7, Romans 2:8).
1. If we desire God to guard and guide and prosper our whole life-journey, we must ask him to guide every step. We are warranted in asking and expecting his leading in the least matters as truly as in the greatest. We should not willingly move a step without him. We must be prepared at every step to let him choose, remembering Psalms 106:15.
2. What shall we say to those who have never yet taken the one first step into the right and safe path (John 5:40; Proverbs 16:25)? "There is but a step between" you "and death." But also, one God-guided step will bring you to the feet of the Saviour, who is pledged to turn none away (John 6:37).
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
The good man's directory.
This is a very remarkable psalm. Its theme is one throughout its entire length. Yet it is not so much drawn out consecutively as repeated proverbially. This may be partly accounted for by its alphabetical structure. £ There is no advance between the verses at the commencement and those at its close, but rather a remarkable variety of beautiful turns of expression to a thought that is the same throughout. The whole psalm may be summed up thus: "Just now, you see the wicked prospering and the ungodly depressed. Do not fret over this. Trust, do right, rest in the Lord, wait and see. And by-and-by you will find that the righteous are brought out to the light, while the wicked are relegated to forgetfulness and shame. Even now to have God in the heart with a crust in the hand, is better than to have the riches of many wicked. God will, in his own time and way, appear for his faithful ones, and prove the truth of his ancient word, 'Them that honour me, I will honour.'" So far as the text of the psalm is concerned, there is little to call for laboured criticism, though the Hebrew student would do well to examine minutely the second halves of the third and thirty-seventh verses. For the most part the psalm is delightfully plain and clear; and nowhere could any better rule or directory for life be found than is herein contained. In our homiletic treatment of it we will notice—
I. THE SEVERAL DUTIES HERE ENJOINED ON THE GOOD MAN. These duties are put into a form suggested by the circumstances which surrounded the writer. When David wrote this psalm he was an old man. Looking back on the scenes of past observation and experience, he had witnessed many strange inequalities on the surface of society. Looking in one direction, he had often beheld an ungodly man enjoying all that heart could wish, so far as this world was concerned; and in another direction he had as often seen a good man, one who walked closely with God, in the midst of trial, affliction, and distress. This state of things had perplexed him, and he knew that it still perplexed the righteous. To meet their perplexities and to assuage them, this psalm was penned; and it is this purpose which forms the background of thought throughout the entire length of the psalm.
1. The first injunction is "fret not" (Psalms 37:1). Do not worry or perplex yourself about these mysteries of God's providence. Even if the lot of the wicked seems more easy, more pleasant, more prosperous than yours, yet "they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb; ' besides, "a little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked." God's people are infinitely better off, with him as their heavenly Friend, than any of the ungodly are, with all their noise and parade.
2. Hence a second duty is presented to us: "Trust" and "Rest in the Lord." Two expressions for substantially the same attitude of spirit. But this restful trusting is put in contrast from fretting. Your work is not to worry, but to trust your God. Now, in what sense is this intended? Let us picture the good man under the difficulty to which we have referred. He sees the ungodly in high places, while he is obscure, depressed, afflicted; and he wonders what it means, now, in what sense is such a one to trust in the Lord? He is to trust in God, believing that such a state of things is known and permitted by him in infinite wisdom; that this state of chaos is perfectly consistent with God's love for his people; that God has some wise and holy end in permitting it—to prove him and to improve him; and that he will see that end, either in this world or in the next.
3. Then there follows a third duty: "Wait patiently." If we are content to wait and let God's methods in providence open up before us, we shall see the ungodly cut down (Psalms 37:2, Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:10, Psalms 37:15, Psalms 37:17, Psalms 37:20, Psalms 37:25, Psalms 37:36, Psalms 37:38); that God will give us the desires of our heart, and graciously clear our way (Psalms 37:4, Psalms 37:5); that though we may have been misunderstood and misrepresented for a time, yet God will clear us and our reputation in the long run (Psalms 37:6); that God will grant the true possession and peaceful enjoyment of life to the meek and loyal (Psalms 37:11); that the little of the righteous brings far more joy than the much of the wicked (Psalms 37:16); that he will be upheld where others fall (Psalms 37:17); that supplies shall be sent to the saint even in days of famine (Psalms 37:19); that step by step will be taken under the ordering of a Divine Guide (Psalms 37:23); that even in falling he shall not perish, for to him shall be shown a Divine upholding grace (Psalms 37:24); that the righteous man will leave a blessed inheritance to his children,—peace was his in life, and peace shall follow his children when he is gone to his rest (Psalms 37:37); that his life is but an outworking of God's great salvation (Psalms 37:39, Psalms 37:40). It is not in youth that all this can be seen, but if we believe God when we are young, we shall have proved him ere we are old. Only let us "wait patiently." There is a vast unfolding plan, which, if we are wise to observe, will be ever revealing to us "the loving-kindness of the Lord."
4. And thus we are led on to a fourth duty—that of obedience. (Psalms 37:3.) "Trust in the Lord, and do good," i.e. "do right." In Psalms 37:34 the same duty is expressed in another phrase, "Wait on the Lord, and keep his way." Trusting and trying, resting and working, are to go together. We are to find out what God would have us do in the sphere in which he has placed us; then to trust in the Lord, be strong, and do it. And we may "do right" (Psalms 37:3), or, in other words, we may "keep his way" (Psalms 37:34) in one or other of two methods. By actively doing the Divine will; and this is probably what most of us are called on to do—to pursue with energy the duties in active life that are set before us. Now, we may fulfil these:
(1) In attending at each moment to the duty of the moment; simply doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, and with the distinct aim and purpose of pleasing God. May be our calling is not that which we should prefer, and yet we see no way open to any other. When God does open a way in another direction, by all means let us follow it. But, meanwhile, be it ours simply to do the work which lies before us, with a readiness and cheerfulness that befit those whose sole aim is to please God.
(2) In the cultivation of holiness we may "do right," ever setting the Lord before us, and aiming to follow him who "left us an example, that we should follow his steps."
(3) In personal efforts to help, to relieve, to comfort, or to serve another, we may do right. In this respect, as well as others, "it is accepted, according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not." But we may "do right" also by patiently bearing the Divine will; and sometimes this is all the believer can do—simply to bear what God has laid upon him. Nor is there a nobler sight on earth than to see one who, racked with pain or wrapped in obscurity, can say, "My lot is appointed me by my Father's will; all that will is love, and therefore I can cheerfully bear it. If my Father were to give the rod unto my own hands, I would give it back to him, saying, 'Father, thou knowest best; do with me as seemeth good in thy sight.'" Why, such a one, though he never goes outside the doors of his own house from one year's end to another, is a missionary to the Church and to the world! Preach fervently as we may by words, we cannot preach like these suffering saints! But we must notice—
II. THE CONNECTION THERE IS BETWEEN THESE SEVERAL DUTIES. We have specified them under four heads.
1. Fret not.
3. Wait patiently.
4. Do right.
These four may be reduced to two: trusting and trying; or, in other words, to resting and working. Both are included in the verse already quoted. "Trust in the Lord, and do right." While these duties in combination make up "the whole duty of man," they are so connected together that neither can be discharged without the other. If we do not trust in God, we cannot do the right, and if we do not desire to do right, we have no right to trust in God. What, then, is the relation between them? At least a fourfold one.
1. Trust in God ensures the peace of mind which fits a man for work. E.g. take a tradesman in business, whose affairs are going down, and who will soon find himself on the wrong side of the balance-sheet. It is impossible for him to go about his business with the energy it requires, especially in these times. But put the man's affairs straight; tell him that everything is set right, and that by-and-by he will find himself in a better position than at present,—and you put new life into the man. When he knows that all is right, he can set about his work with all the zest that is needed. So it is here. There once were two burdens pressing on the heart. The one, of his spiritual interests, the other, of his temporal care. What has become of these? The first, the burden of guilt, he has laid at the foot of the cross. The second, the load of earthly care, he brings day by day, and casts it upon his God. Thus he has nothing left to care for, nothing left to be anxious about. Hence, the peace of God passing all understanding keeps his heart and mind in Christ Jesus; and, consequently, with unburdened heart, he can go about the work his Father has given him to do.
2. Trusting in God ensures the reception of strength for the discharge of work. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;" "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." So runs the promise, and so runs experience too. Strength according to the days; strength sure as the days; strength to the end of the days. Such will be the uniform result of" waiting on God all the day."
3. Trusting in God supplies a man with motives to perform his work. If I am permitted to trust in God, then honour requires that I shall do right; for I trust in God for strength to perform his will; hence when I ask for strength there is a tacit pledge that the strength received from God shall be spent in obedience to God. And not only so, but gratitude also requires that I should do right. If I receive of God's strength, how ann I but gratefully spend it for him? And the honor of religion requires that I should do right. For if I tell the world I am trusting in God, and yet fail to do right, what will the worldling say? What can he say, but this?—"Either your God is not the God you say he is, or else you have not the trust in him which you profess to have." If we want the world to believe in God, if we want them to give us credit for sincerity, we must show that, while we trust in God, we also do right.
4. Trusting in God gives a man a guarantee of the successful issue of his work. Is it mine to trust in God? Can I, under all circumstances, repose in him? Then I know that, to the very last, all shall be well. He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Trusting in him, we will dare to work, to suffer, or to die.
5. Trusting in God will ensure a blessing to those on whom our work may afterwards full. The good man layeth an inheritance to his children's children. "The generation of the upright shall be blessed." The Old Testament does not project our thought into our own future life after death as the New Testament does, but it lays very much stress on the effect of a man's life on the generations which will follow him on earth: this is in accordance with Deuteronomy 7:9. And there can be no manner of doubt that the posterity of a man of trained righteousness, integrity, and piety, even though he be a poor man, will have the best of all legacies—pious poverty, God's blessing, and a father's prayers. We do not say that young people are now taught too much to look to their future life, but we do venture to affirm that far too little stress is laid upon, and mention is far too seldom made of, the thought of the effect of parental character upon posterity. The law of heredity is stronger than that of environment; or, to put the same truth in somewhat antique form, "Grace does not run in the blood, but it purifies it."
6. Trusting in God ensures a man of a home in God when the earthly work is over. Even when flesh and heart fail, God is the Strength of our heart, and our Portion for ever!—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
The psalmist says, at Psalms 37:25, "I have been young, and now am old." We may regard him therefore as speaking in this psalm with the fulness of knowledge and the confidence of ripened wisdom. His old experience has attained to prophetic strain. Let us consider two pictures.
I. THE EVILS OF ENVY. It is common. It takes its rise and works upon the lower part of our nature, blinding our minds, perverting our hearts, and stirring up all our evil passions. It "frets" us with a sense of our inferiority; it "frets" us with a feeling of the injustice with which we are treated; it "frets" us with a proud consciousness of what we would have done, if only things had been otherwise, and we had fair opportunities. In these and other ways it breaks our peace and embitters our lives. And yet how useless is envy as a resource amidst the ills of life! Instead of remedying, it only aggravates our troubles. Nothing but evil can come of evil. Envy leads not only to waste, but to worry, and not only to worry, but to wearing away of our powers, as by the slow and insidious progress of disease. Besides, envy is manifestly unreasonable in view of the realities of character. The prosperity of the wicked is vain and delusive. Look to the tendencies of things, look to the effect upon character, look to the end, and then see how, even in the deepest sense, it is infinitely better to have little with a clear conscience, than a full purse of unrighteous gains; to take the lowest place among men, with the love of God, than lands and heritages and the highest honours of the world, by the sacrifice of truth and righteousness. Moreover, envy is in reality a grievous offence against God. We are slow to admit this. We regard "fretfulness" as more an unhappy temper than a sin. But in this we err. "Envy" implies dissatisfaction with God's government, distrust of his justice, and doubt of his truth. When we give way to "envy," we place ourselves first, and as good as say, "If God were just, if he really loved us and eared for us, he would settle things otherwise, and not suffer our enemies to triumph over us." Thus in our selfishness we blind ourselves to the truth, and act not only unworthily towards God, but inconsistently with our own best faith and hopes. "The tree is known by its fruits." To judge rightly of envy, let us mark its effects. See how it wrought in Cain. See how from that time onward, wherever it has had sway, it has wrought terrible evils—as in Saul, and Ahab, and Haman, and the wicked Jews, and even in the Christian Church. If these things are so, how great a sin do we who profess to be the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus commit by yielding to this mean and degrading vice that has wrought such havoc in the world and in the Church!
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF TRUST IN GOD. Trust is the true antidote to envy. We see this in the dispositions it produces—towards God, piety (Psalms 37:3-6); towards man, benevolence (Psalms 37:8). Next in the benedictions it secures. It brings settledness. Instead of distressing cares and passions, we have tranquillity. Instead of pain, we have peace. We are at home with God. There is also sustenance. We are "fed" with heavenly food. We gain strength for all work. "Daily bread" fits us for daily duty. There is also satisfaction. Our higher nature is set above our lower nature. Reason rules instead of passion. Love binds us to our brethren instead of our being separated by envy. Trust in God brings to us all that is really good for us, and we bask as in the sunshine of God's favour instead of being alienated from him by wicked works. Mark the Divine order with regard to these blessings. There must be a right spirit before there can be right conduct. Mark also how, as we live a true and unselfish life, doing good and hoping for nothing again but what God the Lord sees fit to give, we secure not only our own self-respect, bat grow in favour with God and man. The surest way to get rid of discontent with the present, and fear of the future, is to do right and leave auto God.
"Careless seems the Great Avenger; history's pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness, 'twixt old systems and the Word,
Truth for ever on the scaffold—wrong for ever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own."
Here we have a
Sweet picture of a noble life.
I. QUIET HEART. The eye, the ear, the imagination, continually bring before us objects that appeal to our desires. We are in danger of being distracted and harassed, and of even yielding to envy and discontent. The cure is from God. When we come to know him as he is, to believe in him as he has revealed himself in Christ Jesus, we are able to rest in him with confidence, leaving everything to his righteous and loving rule.
II. RIGHTLY ORDERED LIFE. There may be life without any rule, or there may be life wrongly directed, or there may be life regulated in a right way, in accordance with God's will and not our own. This last is the true "way." It is when we "commit our way to God "in humble prayer, and holy submission to his will, that light will arise to us, and strength be ministered to us, and real prosperity secured to us. This is not only the best way for ourselves, but also for others. It is in doing God's will that we reach the highest honour and usefulness, and accomplish our true destiny.
III. BLISSFUL FUTURE. There is a screen as of night between us and to-morrow. We know not what a day may bring forth. There may come loss of health, of property, of friends. There may come diverse trials and troubles. Or it may be otherwise. Let us be thankful that God has been pleased to conceal from us what it would have been ill for us to know. But God knows all, and we are as sure, as that God lives, that it shall be well with the righteous.—W.F.
Evil-doers are not truly objects of envy. The more closely we contemplate this, the more clearly do we see their baseness. But it is needful that we should be urged to this salutary duty. Again and again in this psalm is the exhortation addressed to us to consider and judge rightly, to cease from evil and learn to do well. And there are good and weighty reasons given why we should have no part with evil-doers.
I. THEIR CHARACTER IS ODIOUS.
II. THEIR PROSPERITY IS DELUSIVE. Image upon image is used to set forth the vanity and worthlessness of all prosperity not founded in righteousness. Reason, observation, and history are appealed to as teaching that sometimes quickly, at other times slowly, sometimes openly, at other times silently and secretly, but always certainly, the end cometh (Psalms 37:38).
III. THEIR DEVICES ARE DOOMED TO DEFEAT. We see, on the part of the wicked, malice suggesting, cunning contriving, and energy working out their evil devices, and, on the other hand, God watching and thwarting and overruling for good all their plans. So it was with Joseph's brethren (Acts 7:9, Acts 7:10). So it was with Daniel's cruel foes (Daniel 6:24). So it was with the Jews, whose wicked hands had crucified the Son of God (Acts 2:23, Acts 2:24). The day of retribution surely cometh. Not only defeat, but "shame and everlasting contempt," await the wicked.—W.F.
We have here—
I. THAT GOODNESS IS THE TRUE AIM OF LIFE. The first thing is to have the heart made good, and then all that flow from it, in word and deed, will be good also.
"But such as are good men can give good things."
II. THAT GOODNESS IS THE REAL GLORY OF LIFE. (Psalms 37:30, Psalms 37:31.) We cannot hut admire "wisdom" and "judgment;" but what gives these their sweetest savour and their highest worth is the spirit of goodness that dwells in them The glory of God is his goodness, and it is in the measure that we are like God in goodness that we are like him in glory. This glory is free to us in Christ Jesus.
III. THAT GOODNESS IS THE MOST PERMANENT POSSESSION OF LIFE. Many things stand high for a time that will be brought low; many things are counted worthy amongst men that will yet be proved worthless. There may be wicked men who hold a prominent place in the world, and are for a while the envy of many, whose greatness is after all a delusion and a lie. In the end they will be cut down like a tree, whose glory is for ever abased. But it shall be otherwise with the righteous. Goodness cannot die. It is safe amidst all changes. It stands firm in the tumult and rage of the greatest storm. It emerges purer and brighter than ever from the fires of persecution and the fury of evil men (Psalms 37:39, Psalms 37:40). Goodness lives as an influence in the world alter death, triumphs as the power of Cod in death, and will dwell in the light of God beyond death for ever and ever.—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Doubts raised by the Divine providence, and how to meet them.
The difficulty which perplexes the mind of the psalmist here is—How does God judge the wicked, if he allows them to prosper; and how reward the righteous, if they suffer adversity? The answers given are not a consecutive argument. The whole psalm is more like a string of pearls held together only by the string. The thoughts have no joints or links to unite them. The leading thought, repeated in various ways, is not to envy the present prosperity of the wicked, but rather to wait in patient resignation for the just judgments of God.
I. BURNING ENVY IS WRONG IN ITSELF, AND LEADS TO EVIL CONSEQUENCES. (Psalms 37:1.) To grudge the wicked their prosperity is very much as if we coveted it. And envy is nigh to cursing—an unrighteous spirit.
II. WE MUST ALLOW TIME TO SOLVE THIS AS WELL AS MANY OTHER DIFFICULTIES. (Psalms 37:2.) Fate of Saul, Absalom, and Ahithophel. "What thou knowest not now," etc.
III. LET NOT YOUR DIFFICULTIES SUPPLANT THE ONLY TRULY SATISFYING EXERCISES OF THE HEART AND LIFE. (Psalms 37:3, Psalms 37:4.) Trust in the unseen Lord; delight yourself in him; find the joy of his service; and your best desires shall be satisfied. Do not let your jealousy of the wicked cause you to cease from doing good, and unsettle your ways of life; inhabit the land, and live a truthful and faithful life.
IV. LET THE RIGHTEOUS MAN BE ASSURED OF THE SYMPATHY AND CO-OPERATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS GOD. (VEER. 5, 6.) God brought David out of all dangers with which Saul threatened him, and made his name to shine over the whole kingdom. Present adversity is often the way w future glory. Think of the darkness that fell upon Christ in his sufferings and death; and yet he was the Sun of Righteousness.—S.
Confidence in God.
The text of the whole psalm is in the first two verses. We are not to be discouraged in the service of God by the prosperity of the wicked; for it is more apparent than real, and is a short-lived prosperity. At the seventh verse the psalm takes a fresh start from the same key-note.
I. SILENT TRUST IN GOD, WAITING FOR HIM, IS THE ONLY TRUE SOLUTION OF THE DIFFICULTY. (Psalms 37:7.) Do not vainly argue the question; be silent to God, and he will speak by-and-by and explain the difficulties of his providence.
II. ENVIOUS ANGER THAT THE WICKED ARE BETTER OFF THAN YOU IS SINFUL. (Psalms 37:8.) It is an arraignment of God's providence, which is presumptuous, and a discontent which is ungrateful, and an undervaluing of that inward prosperity which is the greatest good of life.
III. IT IS THE RIGHTEOUS WHO REALLY INHERIT THAT WHICH IS BEST IN THIS LIFE. (Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:10.) The prosperity of evil-doers will soon come to an end; for it is unrighteous, and cannot last in the world of a righteous God. But the righteous have an inward life that turns outward things into gold; they feast royally at the table of God, as is said in the twenty-third psalm.
IV. THE PRECEDING THOUGHT IS REPEATED WITH THE PROMISE OF AN ABUNDANCE OF PEACE. (Psalms 37:11.) Our Lord repeats the former part of this verse in the Sermon on the Mount. "The meek—those who do not vainly strive and fret over the impossible or the inevitable—shall inherit the earth." And shall have peace of heart and mind, which the wicked have not.—S.
The righteous and the wicked.
The argument is continued and repeated in various forms, that the righteous is to hold fast his confidence in God, and not to be discouraged by the prosperity of the wicked. For—
I. CONSIDER THE EXPERIENCE OF THE WICKED. (Psalms 37:12-15, Psalms 37:20.)
1. The impotence of the plots which they in their anger devise. (Psalms 37:12, Psalms 37:13.) The Lord shall laugh. "No weapon formed against him shall prosper."
2. The punishment of the wicked is near and certain. (Psalms 37:13, Psalms 37:20.) "He seeth that his day is coming."
3. The weapons which they employ against the righteous shall recoil upon themselves. (Psalms 37:14, Psalms 37:15.) God overrules the contest between them.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS Or THE RIGHTEOUS. (Psalms 37:16-19.)
1. A little with righteousness is worth more than much with wickedness. (Psalms 37:16.)
2. The strength of the righteous is maintained and upheld by God. (Psalms 37:17.) While the "arms"—equivalent to the "strength"—of the wicked soon break down.
3. They fulfil their divinely appointed days, and their goods descend to their posterity. (Psalms 37:18.) They are secure, and all things work together for good. The Christian knows of an eternal inheritance.
4. God will provide for all their wants. (Psalms 37:19.) This we know more abundantly in Christ.—S.
Psalms 37:23, Psalms 37:24
God orders the good life.
"The steps of a good man," etc.
I. GOD ORDERS THE LIFE OF A GOOD MAN.
1. By means of outward law. "His delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in his Law doth he meditate day and night." "But what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh," etc. Christ is the outward law for the Christian.
2. By means of an inward influence. His Spirit exerting, directing, and ruling the thoughts, the desires, and the will, teaching him how to choose and how to walk. He "orders" consistently with our freedom.
II. GOD TAKES PLEASURE IN THE WAY OF GOOD MEN.
1. Because all his work is good. A good man's life is his production. All God's work is good, none evil.
2. Because he delights in the rectitude and welfare of his children. As an earthly father delights in the true prosperity of his children.
III. GOD GIVES EVERY HELP FOR THE RECOVERY OF THOSE WHO FALL. He upholds him, helps him to rise, by taking hold of his hand.
1. He promises abundant forgiveness to the repentant. "Let the wicked forsake his way," etc. The parable of the prodigal son.
2. He searches and tries and shows the evil way in men, and leads them to repentance. By the revealing work of his Spirit. "Like as a father pitieth his children," etc.—S.
The perfect life.
"Mark the perfect, and behold the upright: for the man of peace hath a future [or, 'posterity']." In contrast to the wicked spoken of in the next verse (38). This whole psalm is a record of human experience.
I. THE STUDY OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE IN THE LIGHT OF HUMAN CHARACTER IS MOST INSTRUCTIVE.
1. Every maws life is in the main an embodiment either of the Law of God or of the law of self. Intellectual life, a life of knowledge or of ignorance, of wisdom or foolishness. But the moral life is the grandest, as exhibiting obedience or disobedience to the eternal laws of God.
2. The moral life shows the consequences of living the one life or the other. The shame and misery of the one, and the peace and blessedness of the other. Difference is life or death.
II. WHAT THE STUDY OF THE RIGHTEOUS MAN'S LIFE REVEALS.
1. It brings him internal peace. And in the main outward peace; but if not, the peace of trust and rest in God. Peace in life and peace in death.
2. He transmits righteousness to his posterity.
(1) By the influence of his example and teaching. His words and his character are reproduced in his children; he lives again in them, perhaps a higher life than he lived, according to the law of progress. May be exceptions.
(2) By hereditary transmission. Moral as well as physical qualities descend to our children, and to children's children. How grand a motive for a pure, noble, Christian life! Goodness runs in the family blood.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 37". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13