The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 37

Psa 37:1


ACROSTICS: See Lesson, Acrostics.

HISTORICAL SETTING: In such a didactic psalm as this, history is relatively unimportant. But note v 25: David is an old man, now looking back on earlier evil days -- presumably the days of Saul's jealousy and his own varied experience as an outlaw. Also, consider: vv 15,17: The death of Saul: 1Sa 31:4; v 28: The judgment on Saul's family also: 2Sa 21; v 3 (and vv 9,11,18,22,29,34): "Dwell in the Land". Refs to David's full inheritance of the Land promised to Abraham. Ct his own expedients in the land of the Philistines. The third "beatitude" (Mat 5:5) is, of course, the NT equivalent of the entire psalm. Besides vv 35,36 (Mar 11:20), there seem to be other matching ideas in these OT and NT scriptures.

V 1: Repeated almost verbatim in Pro 24:19. Several other vv (Pro 23:17; 24:1; 3:31; Psa 73:3) express the same sentiment.

DO NOT FRET: Means really "Do not make yourself hot." "The promised land is not for murmuring Israelites" (CAL). To fret is to waste energy, and to waste energy is to rob God.

Psa 37:2

A telling figure of speech: the brevity of human life: Psa 90:5,6; 129:6,7; Isa 40:6-8; Mat 6:30; 1Pe 1:24.

Psa 37:3

DWELL IN THE LAND: Thus to see both the blessing of the righteous and judgment upon the wicked. Abraham was told to dwell in the Land (Gen 26:2; ct Gen 12:10-20). See this important principle at work in the lives of Jacob and Esau. The former was prepared to make heavy sacrifices if only he could settle in the Land. Esau, by CT, cared nothing for it, and seems to have been quite pleased to leave it altogether (Gen 31:13; 33:16,17; 35:12; 36:6-8).

AND ENJOY SAFE PASTURE: Lit, "thou shalt feed on faithfulness." "Faithfulness" is a word very commonly associated with the covenants of promise (cp the preceding phrase). These call for faith: trust in the Lord. Ct those who feed on foolishness (Pro 15:14).

Psa 37:5

COMMIT YOUR WAY: "Roll (galal) thy way upon the Lord" (RV mg). Poss an allusion to the cherubim chariot of the Lord. Eze 1 was called by the rabbis "Merch'vah", the Chariot. Cp Psa 22:8, mg; Pro 16:3. Also, more generally, see 1Pe 5:8: "Cast all your cares upon him..."

AND HE WILL DO THIS: Almost identical with Psa 22:31: "that he hath done this".

Psa 37:7

BE STILL BEFORE THE LORD: Lit "Be silent unto the Lord", but AV ("Rest in the Lord") has just the right idea, as in Exo 14:13,14; Isa 53:7; Lam 3:24-28; Hab 2:20; Rom 8:18,19. A quiet but persistent pressing home of this idea of abiding faith. In quietness and confidence the believer finds strength (Isa 30:15).

DO NOT FRET: Neither in your own soul or in complaining before the Lord.

The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for "religious" things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever -- the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God.

Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, "Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper." The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, "God doesn't always settle His accounts in October."

Psa 37:8

REFRAIN FROM ANGER: That is, from such anger as v 7 describes, for there were times when even Jesus was angry (Mar 3:5; Mat 23:13-33; Joh 2:17; Psa 69:9). But for the ordinary disciple it is a fairly safe rule that all anger is sin: Jam 1:20.

IT LEADS ONLY TO EVIL: By following the ways of the godless, and by ceasing to depend upon God. Here WK reads: It tends only to evil doing.

"Anger of the mind is poison to the soul" (Ecuadorian proverb). "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned" (Buddha).

Psa 37:9

In the short term this may not seem to be at all an accurate summary of human experience, but of ultimate human destiny, yes!

Psa 37:10

A LITTLE WHILE: Again, as in v 9, the human perspective makes nonsense of this verse, but God has time on His side.

Psa 37:11

THE MEEK: Not to be confused with the spineless, but rather those who resign themselves to God and His leading.

AND ENJOY GREAT PEACE: Only rarely in Scripture does peace mean the absence of conflict. Rather, peace with God and from God is the dominant meaning of the word. Cp v 37.

Psa 37:12

Violent anger. Act 7:54 is a perfect illustration of this verse.

Psa 37:13

THE LORD LAUGHS: Men take themselves so seriously, but God's perspective is different (cp Psa 2:4).

FOR HE KNOWS THEIR DAY IS COMING: Allusion to 1Sa 26:10: "His (ie Saul's) day shall come to die." The word here for "seeth" (LXX) occurs only in Heb 11:40 ("God having provided some better thing for us").

Psa 37:16

WEALTH: The word (hamon) appears to imply pomp and circumstance. It is poss the source of the NT word Mammon. See Luk 12:15; Pro 15:16; 16:8.

Psa 37:19

"They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied" (AV). This may have been generally true for some times and some places, on a material basis. But the passage is universally true only when read with reference to the hidden spiritual resources of the godly man.

Psa 37:20

THE BEAUTY OF THE FIELDS: The alternate reading, "the fat of lambs" (AV), conjures up the picture of a great column of smoke ascending up to heaven. The everlasting death of the unredeemable wicked is the only acceptable sacrifice they can offer (cp Psa 21:8,9; Eze 39:17; Isa 34:6; 66:15,16; Zep 1:7,8,17; Mal 4:1). The punishment of the wicked is death, not endless torment: Psa 104:35; 145:20; Pro 10:30; 11:31; 13:13; Job 20:7,8; 21:30; Eze 18:4; Mat 21:41; Luk 19:27; Rom 1:32; 6:23; 2Th 1:9; 2Pe 2:12; Heb 6:8.

VANISH LIKE SMOKE: Like the continual burnt offering, consumed into smoke, until there is nothing left: cp Eze 39:6,17-22. Judgment of the wicked described as a sacrifice: Rev 20:9; Gen 19:24; 2Ki 1:10-14; Psa 37:20; Eze 39:6,17-22.

Psa 37:21

THE RIGHTEOUS GIVE GENEROUSLY: Lending graciously and expecting nothing in return: v 26; Psa 112:5; Deu 15:7-11. Consider Pro 29:13, LXX: "When creditor and debtor meet together, the Lord is overseer of them both."

Psa 37:22

BLESSES: Connotes forgiveness of sins, as in Gen 22:18 and Act 3:25,26. Despite the nonsensical "promises" of evangelists everywhere, offering every sort of material "blessing" for those who follow them (and contribute to their coffers), there is in fact no greater blessing than the forgiveness of sins! What a pity so few people understand this!

Psa 37:23

THE LORD DELIGHTS IN A MAN'S WAY: Yet the words are just as true in the converse: The good man delights in God's way.

WAY: In the NT, the divine designation for what we today call "the Truth": Act 9:2; 18:25,26; 19:9,23; 22:4; Heb 9:8; 10:20; 2Pe 2:2,15,21; Rev 7:17. Traced all the way back to Gen 3:24: "the way of the tree of life". Consider also the words of Jesus: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (Joh 14:6) puts undoubted stress upon the way ("No man cometh unto the Father, but by me"), and should probably be translated: "I am the true way to (the tree of) life."

HIS STEPS: Cp Jer 10:23. Even the stumbling and uncertain steps of a good man are divinely ordered for his ultimate good: Rom 8:28,31; Pro 3:5,6.

FIRM: Pro 20:24; Jer 10:23. The good man knows this well enough. Yet some say that this "ordering" is either by the wisdom of the Bible (of course!) or by angelic guidance (yes!), and in no other way (how short-sighted!).

Psa 37:24


THOUGH HE STUMBLE, HE WILL NOT FALL: David shows us that even though we may fall, God will lift us up. Even though we may go through a tough time, God will bring us through it. Even though we may be forced to bend, we will not be broken. Praise God for His tender mercies and love! "Sorrow may bring us to the earth, and death may bring us to the grave, but lower we cannot sink, and out of the lowest of all we shall arise to the highest of all" (CHS).

FOR THE LORD UPHOLDS HIM WITH HIS HAND: Jesus went out of his way to emphasize this truth in the most literal fashion: Mar 1:31; 5:41; 9:27.

Psa 37:25

Build on your own experience. Examples of this valuable principle are very numerous in Scripture: Gen 24:7; 50:20; Num 22:34; Deu 1:31; 7:18; 1Sa 17:37; etc.

AND NOW AM OLD: Joh 21:18, sw. But what a contrast in idea!

I HAVE NEVER SEEN THE RIGHTEOUS FORSAKEN: Again (as with vv 9,10,19, etc.), true in the absolute and ultimate sense, although apparently untrue for some righteous (even David himself: 1Sa 21:3; 25:8) at any given moment.

"There is tremendous comfort in this. It all depends on whether we are His seed, and we remember Paul telling us in Galatians how we do this. The fact is that if we belong to God then He will provide. He does not always provide what we want, but He will always provide what we need. We know as parents that if we love our children we will not give them everything they ask for. The wise man Solomon who incidentally was very rich, taught us that we should pray saying, 'Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain' " (MM).

Psa 37:26

THEIR CHILDREN WILL BE BLESSED: Lit, "his seed is for a blessing" -- with poss ref to Abraham and his special "Seed", in whom all nations of the earth will ultimately be blessed (Gen 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 22:18; Act 3:25,26).

Psa 37:28

THE LORD LOVES THE JUST: Or, "loves judgment". Judgment is used here in the sense of sound principle, or "justice" (RSV, NEB); note the parallelism in both vv 6 and 30.

THEY WILL BE PROTECTED FOREVER: For this the LXX has: "The righteous are destroyed for ever, and..." Thus, in the four lines of this v, the last two are a counterpoint to the first two.

Psa 37:29

The righteous will reign with Christ on the earth: Gen 13:15; Num 14:21; Pro 10:30; 11:31; Isa 11:9; Dan 2:44; Zec 14:16; Mat 5:5; Luk 13:28; Rom 4:13; Rev 2:26,27; etc.

Psa 37:30

Pro 37:30.

Vv 30,31: A restatement of the Great Shema: Deu 6:6,7.

Psa 37:31

THE LAW OF HIS GOD IS IN HIS HEART: This does not mean that his emotions are enthralled, but rather that his mind has grasped the logic of God's pronouncements and has made a logical commitment to them. ("Heart" = "mind" in both OT and NT: Pro 2:2; Exo 36:2; 1Ki 3:9; Jer 15:16; Luk 5:22; 24:25,32,38; Rom 10:9; etc.)

Psa 37:32

THE WICKED LIE IN WAIT FOR THE RIGHTEOUS: Psa 7:2; 10:8,9. And even when there is no intention to kill, there is delight in character assassination.

Psa 37:35

I HAVE SEEN A WICKED AND RUTHLESS MAN: Lit read: "causing oppression" (aritz). But prob it should read: "in the Land" (eretz), thus to conform to the fig tree parable: This is the great tree in the "Land".

LIKE A GREEN TREE IN ITS NATIVE SOIL: This figure of a wicked nation is not a "bay" tree but a "fig"! These words foretell the Lord's cursing of the fruitless fig tree: Mat 21:18-22; Mar 11:12-14,20-22; cp Hos 9:10,16,17; Eze 17:24; Mic 7:1. This RV and NIV ("native soil") reading anticipates "dried up from the roots". And "I passed by" (v 36, LXX) = "as they passed by" (Mar 11:20). Also, "wait on the Lord" (v 34) = Christ's admonition, "Have faith in God" (Mar 11:22; Mat 21:21). And "cut off" (v 34) suits the NT situation perfectly.

Psa 37:36

The wicked passes off the scene, leaving no permanent monument or reminder -- like the beasts which perish (Psa 49:11,12,20). In keeping with the fig tree motif, Jesus said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up" (Mat 15:13; cp Mat 3:10; 7:19).

Psa 37:40

The word "because" says that the very act of seeking this divine refuge gives a title to protection. Cp Psa 16:1; 57:1; 91:9,10; and hence Psa 2:12.

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