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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms
Psalms 37

 

 

Verses 1-40

Psalm 37:1-40.

V:1 , 2. It is probable, that this psalm was written towards the close of David"s life, as the result of his long experience and observation, for the instruction and encouragement of others, who might be called to pass through such trying scenes, as ne had been conversant with. Every other verse, in the original, begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, nearly in regular order : and this arrangement, which, with some variations, is frequently adopted, might be intended as a help to those, who desired to commit to memory these sacred poems, for their comfort and benefit in silence and solitude. The Mosaic dispensation engaged peculiar temporal blessings to the nation of Israel, while they were obedient : yet individuals frequently prospered in wickedness, while the righteous were afflicted and persecuted. (Notes, Psalm 73:1-17} This seemed to imply an inconsistency between the word and the providence of God, and formed a great trial to ancient believers. To this difficulty the Psalmist here gives a copious solution, with many excellent cautions and counsels, which at the same time are equally suited, by varying a few expressions, to the case of Christians in this evil world. (Mnrg. Ref. Notes, Proverbs 23:17-18; Proverbs 24:19-20.)

V:3. This verse may be rendered : " Trust in the " LORD, and do good; dwell in the land; and feed thou " verily," or in confidence. All the verbs are imperative. The union between entire dependence on God, and doing good, as the way to be comfortable and happy, is peculiarly to be noticed. The land of Canaan was considered as the sum of earthly, and the type of heavenly felicity . to be provided for in the Lord"s land, and there to dwell under his protection, near his ordinances, and among his people, was al! that the genuine Israelite could desire. But the words may be considered as an exhortation to the people to dwell in the land, and not to remove on every difficulty among the surrounding Gentiles; with a promise that verily God would feed them there. (Notes, Ruth 1:1-10.)

V:4. To " delight," not in earthly possessions, pleasures, and distinctions, but in God; in knowing, loving, and worshipping him and enjoying his love, and in contemplation, devotion, and admiring praise; is to be spiritually-minded, like the inhabitants of heaven, and qualified for their felicity. He that seeks delight in worldly objects very seldom obtains the wishes of his heart; but the largest and most earnest desires and requests of those who delight in God will be granted, nay, far exceeded.

(Marg. Ref Notes, Habakkuk 3:17-19. Romans 5:11; Romans 8:5-9. Philippians 4:4. Colossians 3:14. 1 Peter 1:8-9.)

V:5- 8. " When thou hast any difficult business in " hand, or when thou knowest not what course to take, " for accomplishing of thy honest designs; leave all to the " Lord, and trust to him, in pious and upright courses, " that he will direct and assist thee, and bring things to a " good issue." Bp. Patrick. (Notes, Proverbs 3:5-6. Philippians 4:5-7) The original is "Roll thy way, &c." (Marg. Notes, Psalm 55:22. Pror16: 3. marg. 1 Peter 5:5-7.) The Septuagint render it " Reveal thy way, &c.;" which is very expressive of the relief which the believer, when burdened, with trouble and anxiety, obtains by opening his case, and pouring out his soul, before God in fervent prayers. (Notes, 1 Samuel 1:9-16.) This may especially be hoped for under unmerited calumnies, which for a while darken the reputation, as mists and clouds obscure the sun; but God will in due time clear up the character of the upright, and make it as bright as the noon-day.

(Notes, Isaiah 54: 15- 17. Micah 7:8-10. Romans 8:32-34.) Silent waiting on God, in patience and confidence, is therefore recommended; without giving way either to that uneasiness and agitation, which are generally felt, when the ungodly for a while prosper, and run down the conscientious; or to eagerness in self-vindication : and especially a caution is given against anger and bitterness, and an imitation of the violent tempers and unjust measures of those who are the objects of indignation and of envy. (Marg. Ref.)

V:9. (Note, 36: 12.) The earth.] Or ""the land." He has all that the earth itself can supply, who has food and raiment, and things suited to his station, with peace, contentment, and a thankful heart. (Notes, 10 , 1121 , 22. Matthew 5:5.)

V:10 , 11 . The whole duration of the world itself is " but " a little while," in the sight of him, whose hope is " full of immortality. But the calamities and deaths of " princes, the tragical fate of empires " swept with the be" " son of destruction; " the overthrow of cities, . . . whose " place is now no where to be found by the most curious " and diligent enquirer, and the desolations of the chosen " city Jerusalem; all these are even now sufficient to draw forth the tear of commiseration, and to extinguish the " kindling spark of envy, in every considerate mind. The meek . . . bear their own adversities, and the prosperity of " their enemies, without envy, anger, or complaint. . . . " " They, and they only, possess the . . . earth, as they go towards the kingdom of heaven, by being humble, and cheerful, and content with what their good God has allotted them. They have no turbulent, repining . . . thoughts that they deserve better; . . . but they possess what they have with a meek and contented quietness; such a quietness, as makes their very dreams pleasing.Bp. Home, and Walton, quoted by him.

(P. O149: Notes, Psalm 149:4. Isaiah 29:17-19. ) The meek, here spoken of, are not those of naturally easy, quiet, and indolent tempers; but such as are rendered humble, teachable, submissive, and gentle, by the special grace of God : and the abundant inward peace which he bestows, and which passes all understanding, fills their souls with unspeakable delight. (Marg. Ref. )

V:12- 15. The holiness and happiness of the righteous, and the special favour which God shews them, excite the enmity and envy of the wicked. Thus Cain hated, and envied, and murdered Abel; (Notes, Genesis 4:1-12;) thus Saul, from a similar spirit, plotted against David, and gnashed on him with his teeth; and thus the Jewish rulers persecuted the holy Jesus and his disciples. (Note, Psalm 35:15, I6.) For a while they seem to prosper; but the Lord despists their impotent malice, and foresees the day, when they will suffer the just punishment of their crimes; and when all their policy and violence will only serve to enhance their own misery. (Notes, Psalm 2:1-6; Psalm 7:12-16.)

This is the certain doom of all impenitent persecutors, disproportion to their deliberate enmity against the cause of God, and his image in his humble, afflicted, and upright servants.

V:16 , I7. The little, which is allotted to the righteous, comes from special covenanted love, and is secured by faithful promises; it is given in answer to their prayers, and in the use of lawful means; it is received with thankfulness, and used with temperance and charity; and being attended with a blessing it sub serves the salvation of their souls : and in all these, and many other respects, it is far more comfortable and profitable, than the ill-gotten or abused riches of ungodly men : (Notes, Proverbs 30:7-9. Matthew 6:11. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 :) for their prosperity and power will soon become useless as a broken bow; while God himself protects and supports the righteous. " The " great question Isaiah , whether he be with us, or against us; " and the great misfortune Isaiah , that this question is seldom " asked." Bp. Home.

V:18 , 19. God knows what things his children need, what dangers and enemies await them, and what sorrows they endure : he is omnipotent and all-sufficient; and it is " his good pleasure to give them the kingdom," the eternal inheritance; so that he will never leave them to want any thing really good for them by the way, however distressing the times may be in which they live; nor will he suffer them to be ashamed of their confidence in him. (Notes, Psalm 1:4-6. Matthew 6:25-32. Luke 12:22-34.)

V:20. Fat of lambsl] As the fat of the sacrifices was consumed on the altar by the fire, (which was a type of God"s righteous vengeance upon sinners,) till it vanished into smoke; so the wicked will be the sacrifices to God"s justice, and be destroyed by the fire of his indignation. (Note, Genesis 4:3-5.)

V:21 , 22. The wicked, though for a while prosperous, would soon be reduced, by the secret curse of God on his affairs, to borrow; and be disabled from paying, as well as careless about it: but the righteous would be rendered able to gratify his inclination in acts of liberal mercy, through the divine blessing, and the promise which secured to him the inheritance of the land. This more especially referred to the Israelites in Canaan; yet the same blessing and curse, even in temporal things, are still often experienced and observed.

(Notes, Deuteronomy 28:3-14; Deuteronomy 28:43-44. Proverbs 22:7-24. Our translators here insert the word good; and no doubt the pious Prayer of Manasseh , the true believer, is exclusively meant. God directs, counsels, and supports his steps; and he delights in his holy conversation, and the fruits of his own Spirit, which are through Christ well pleasing to him.

(Notes, Psalm 147:10-11. 1 Samuel 2:9. Jeremiah 9:23-24. Zephaniah 3:14-20. Philippians 4:14-20. Hebrews 13:15-16.) A good man may fall through temptation, as David had done in a most deplorable manner : but he shall not be cast down to rise no more, as hypocrites are, or be a castaway, one finally rejected by God; because God himself upholds him by his mighty power. (Marg. Ref.)

V:25 , 26. There is not indeed an absolute promise in scripture that no righteous man shall ever want bread, or his seed become beggars : but the Psalmist had never, during a long course of observation, known an instance of the kind. It Isaiah , no doubt, a very rare case in any age, but was peculiarly so under the Mosaic dispensation. Yet times of persecution seem excepted from general rules concerning temporal things, having so many particular promises relating to them : and we cannot tell how it may please our wise and righteous God for our good, to try our faith and patience, or to remove us out of this world; or how he may see good to dispose of our posterity. But in general the godly man will best secure himself and his children from want : and that genuine liberality to the poor, in giving or lending, according as circumstances may require, which men think will impoverish their families, is in fact by far the best way of laying up a provision for them. (Notes, Psalm 112:5-10. Proverbs 11:24-26; Proverbs 13:22-23; Proverbs 19:17. Ecclesiastes 11:1-6.)

V:27 , 28. This general counsel for present and future happiness is here again inculcated, (Note, Psalm 34:11-14,) in a manner which shews, that none but the saints, the regenerate and believing who have obtained mercy, do thus " depart from evil and do good : " and the final preservation of the saints is most expressly maintained, and grounded on the Lord"s love of judgment, and faithfulness to his promises. Some think this doctrine is to be found no where, except in St. Paul"s epistles; and then they endeavour to explain away his language : but not one sentence in his writings is more explicit, than this declaration of the inspired Psalmist. (Note, 1 Peter 1:3-5.)

V:29-31. (Notes, 911.) "The righteous Prayer of Manasseh , " whose mouth speaketh Wisdom of Solomon , whose tongue talketh of judgment, and in whose heart is the law of his God, " shall not slide in any of his steps." Thus some render these verses, which strongly mark the character of those saints, "who are preserved for ever." (Notes, 40: Jeremiah 31:33-34. Romans 7:22-25.) Wise and pious, conversation, when it comes from the abundance of the heart, and is enforced by a holy example, is one grand means of communicating the savour of divine truth around, in families and neighbourhoods, and of transmitting it to posterity. (Notes, Psalm 71:13-15; Psalm 22:1 to Psalm 24:10. Proverbs 10:20-21; Proverbs 15:7; Proverbs 25:11-12. Matthew 12:33-37. James 3:3-12. P. O1-12.)

V:32 , 33. In general, God will defend his servants against the designs of wicked men, when, under colour of law, they seek to murder them by a judicial process : and in those cases in which Hebrews , for wise reasons, allows persecutors to prosper; he will finally rescue the persecuted from their malice, and openly reverse their unrighteous decisions. The wicked one, " the accuser of the brethren," will in like manner be baflled and silenced. (Notes, 5- 812-15. Romans 8:32-39.)

V:34. " The apostle, writing to the Hebrew converts, " under affliction and persecution, thus expresseth the sentiment contained in this verse; " Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward : for ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come, will come and will not tarry." Hebrews 10:35-37 -" Bp. Home. (Notes, Job 17:8-9; Job 23:8-12. Proverbs 4:23-27.)

V:35 , 36. The text of our translation gives, as the emblem of a wicked man"s prosperity, an ever-green, flourishing and beautiful to look upon, but bearing no fruit, or only such as is poisonous. But most expositors suppose that a tree, growing in its native soil and never transplanted, is meant : and in these circumstances, trees acquire their largest and most luxuriant growth. (Marg.) Thus Saul, Doeg, and Ahithophel, in David"s time, had flourished; and thus they had vanished. The vision of Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel"s interpretation, form a striking illustration of these verses. (Notes, Daniel 4:1-33.) " I " looked about me to see what was become of him, and whether he might not be removed (as a tree sometimes " Isaiah ,) to another place, but there was no such man ... to "befound." Bp. Patrick. (Notes, Job 5:3-5; Job 18:5-21.)

V:37 , 38. He that patiently and accurately observes the dealings of God with his upright, consistent, and faithful servants, will find, that whatever trials, temptations, and disquietudes they have during a great part of their lives, their closing scene is tranquil and comfortable; and that there are very few exceptions to this general rule. But a contrary and dreadful end, sooner or later, awaits all the ungodly. (Marg. Ref.)

V:39 , 40. Marg. Ref. Notes, Ephesians 2:4-10. 2 Timothy 4:16-18. Titus 2:11-14.

PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS.

It is of vast importance to understand the present and future condition of the righteous and the wicked, that we may know what to choose and to expect. The workers of iniquity, who cast off the fear of God, to follow their own corrupt inclinations; and who are fraudulent, covetous, sensual, or profane; who " plot against the righteous, " fninshing upon them with their teeth," and using their power and subtlety to oppress, ruin, and murder the poor : even such monsters of wickedness often prosper for a time, succeed in their projects, flourish in wealth, pomp, and mirth, and seem to enjoy happiness. (Note, Job 21:7-34 :) But their flourishing resembles that of the grass, and they will be soon cut down and withered : shortly they will be no more found on earth; into heaven they cannot enter; bell alone remtins for them, where they will for ever be sacrifices to the righteous vengeance of their offended God, Then their power of doing mischief will be at an end, and their injurious swords will pierce their own souls, with inexpressible anguish. As they are now under the wrath and curse of the Almighty, their plenty and prosperity only pamper them for destruction; and the wealth which they leave behind them .proves a snare, and often a curse, to their posterity; while terrors of conscience, dread of death, and furious passions, mar their precarious enjoyments, and give them a sad foretaste of the wrath to come. Who that believes these things, can envy them, or fret themselves at beholding their success and magnificence; while, like the heathen sacrifices, they are led to the slaughter, adorned with gaudy ribbons, and accompanied with the viol, the Song of Solomon , and the dance ? But the righteous bear another character, meet with other treatment, have other supports, and will experience a contrary end. They " trust " in the LORD," walk in his ordinances and commandments, and imitate him who went about doing good to the bodies and souls of men. They delight in the favour and service of God, and expect their happiness from him; the leading desires of their hearts are after communion with him, and conformity to him, and to be instrumental to his glory; they follow after meekness, humility, and a blameless conversation; they are upright and sincere; and though often poor and needy, they spare from other expences a portion, to lend and give, as occasion requires. Their mouth will be speaking of Wisdom of Solomon , and their tongue will be talking of judgment : and this springs from the abundance of the heart, in which the law of God is written; and comports with the actions of their lives which are ordered in his ways. Their salvation is from the Lord, and reigns within; and it appears that they are accepted through the merits of Christ, because they are partakers of his Spirit, and bring forth " the fruits of the Spirit."

Yet must such Christians expect tribulation in the world. They are not exempted from the common afflictions of life, or pampered with worldly prosperity; their heavenly Father does not withhold from them salutary correction; the world hates and despises them; calumnies, reproaches, and persecutions are their usual portion : while some have been constrained to wander in dens and caves, others (" of whom the world was not worthy,") have been immured in prisons, and tortured to death. In general they are a poor and afflicted people, and Satan distresses, as much as he can, those whom he is not able to deceive, defile, or destroy : their endeavours to do good are often unsuccessful, and ingratitude proves their only recompence. They therefore have need of faith and patience, of hope and love : but, observing the directions and pleading the promises of God, they find inward com- fort to counterbalance their outward trials. He will maintain their lot, and supply their wants : whatever they lose for conscience" sake, " verily they shall be fed : " and food and raiment here, with heaven at last, is a goodly portion.

The Lord will also vindicate their characters, and give them peace of conscience : when he sees good, their enemies shall be at peace with them; and they shall enjoy more content, than if they actually inherited the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace : for their little shall be better, than the riches of many wicked. The Lord himself will uphold and protect them : he knows their days and will proportion their strength and comfort, and in no evil time shall they be ashamed of their confidence; for " they are the blessed of the LORD, and their " children with them." He orders their steps and delights in their way; if they fall under temptation, they shall not be utterly cast down; if into trouble, he will not leave them to sink under it. Their work of faith, and labour and liberality of love, instead of impoverishing them, shall lay up an inheritance for their children; and few accurate observers of mankind have known the con- sistent believer, or his children, reduced to abject, friendless penury. In short, the Lord, having separated his people from the world, and taught them to love righteousness and judgment, will preserve them for ever; and however they may be slandered, tempted, or persecuted by the way, their end shall be serene and happy : they shall have hope in their death, and be better spoken of afterwards, than during their lives; and while they enjoy their everlasting inheritance, they will witness the destruction of all impenitent transgressors. Even in this world it is evident, that the afflicted righteous man is far happier than the most prosperous of the wicked. Let sinners then be counselled to "depart from evil, and to do good;" to repent, nnd forsake sin, to trust in the me r cy of God through Jesus Christ, and take his yoke upon them, and learn of him, that they may dwell for evermore in heaven. Let us all watch against impatience, envy, and despondency, and look more to the wretched end of wicked mm, than to their present state; committing all we are, and have, and do, to the Lord"s disposal, being assured that he will order that which is best for us. Let us cease from wrath and contention, which are sure inlets to evil doing; and wait for and on the Lord, and keep his way, without wraryiug or turning aside : let us endeavour to give energy to edifying conversation, by holy living : let us mark the closing scenes of different characters; and thus keeping our eyes fixed on eternal things, and our dependence on God"s mercy, we may pass safely and comfortably through this dangerous and miserable life; meet death with composure; and have " an entrance ministered to us abundantly into " the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus " Christ."

 


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Bibliography Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 37:4". Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsp/psalms-37.html. 1804.

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Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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