Psalm 37

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Does anyone here work in a job where they meet a lot of people? I do! I work as a physiotherapist, or as some patients call me, a physio-terrorist, because I give them hard exercises to do. As you can imagine, I meet all kinds of people and patients. My favourite patients are the cute old ladies and men who have a really good sense of humour and make me laugh when I treat them. For the last few weeks, I’ve had an old lady who laughs like this; and she’s been great fun to look after.

Of course, not everyone I look after is a nice person. I remember clearly a patient from last year who was very disrespectful towards another patient because of his intellectual disability and big size. He told us he didn’t want to be in the same room as that other patient, and so they changed the appointment times for the patient with the intellectual disability so that they wouldn’t be in the same room.

But it got worse. On the day of his discharge from the hospital, he went to talk to the CEO of our hospital. And he was given free transport to come back to our hospital as an outpatient. For all our other patients, including those who’re not as rich, they have to pay for the transport we provide. I don’t know what he said to our CEO to get the free transport. When my colleague told me about this, I’m sure you can imagine how angry we were at this unfair and unjust situation. How can someone so disrespectful get extra benefits, while other nicer patients didn’t? It just wasn’t fair, and we were angry.

The story I told you is only one small example of the injustice and evil that we often see around us and in our world. As a Christian, you might be trying to live God’s way, live honestly, do good to others, but you might be struggling with your health, or finances, or relationships. And then you see your work colleagues or neighbours who’re atheists or who don’t care about God doing well, have lots of money, with everything going well in their lives. We might think and say: “God, that’s not very fair. Why’s it like this?” Or when we see Christians persecuted and killed in other parts of the world, and those who’re persecuting the Christians getting away with it, we might think: how’s this fair God? What are you going to do about it?

How should we respond to evil and injustice? What hope do we have when we face evil and injustice? Does God care about evil? Does God care about us when we face evil? These are some of the questions that Psalm 37 will help answer today. Let’s pray before we continue further.

The first point from Psalm 37, which is a song of David, is this: trust in God when you experience evil. Trust in God when you experience evil. We see this in verses 1-11 but let me read verses 1-6 first:

 1Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

King David, the writer of this song, was an older man when he wrote this song, and he’s seen and experienced many things in his life. Just like us today, he’s seen evil and injustice. He’s seen people who’re against God doing well. And so he starts by encouraging us: don’t be anxious about evil people, don’t be jealous of them. Don’t say: “well if you can’t beat them, join them”. No, trust God instead, because evil people won’t last forever. They’re like grass that eventually turn brown, dry and die. But how else does it look like to trust in God as we experience evil? It’s by waiting patiently for God to act and not taking revenge. We see this in verses 7-11:

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-it leads only to evil. 9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

When we experience evil and injustice, or when we see others experience it, it’s easy and natural to feel like we want to solve the problem ourselves. If someone’s being nasty and disrespectful towards me, I can just treat them the same way. But that’s not how God wants us to respond. God says: “Wait patiently for me to act; don’t be anxious, don’t get angry and sin.”

It’s a bit like my middle brother and I when we were growing up. When we were younger, we used to fight a lot. Whenever he did something bad towards me like biting my arm, I remember my mum telling me not to hit him back and make him cry, but I must let her do the disciplining. I mustn’t return him biting me with me biting him back, but to wait patiently for my mum to act. I had to trust my mum would do something about it.

In the same way, trusting in God when we experience evil means waiting patiently for God to do something about it, without doing something sinful in return for the evil done towards us or others. That’s hard to do, but that’s what God calls us to do. Trust in him as we experience evil.

But why else should we trust God in these situations? This brings us to the 2ndpoint of this psalm: trust in God because evil ultimately won’t succeed. Trust in God because evil ultimately won’t succeed. We see this in verses 12-22. Let me read it.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; 13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. 14 The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. 15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. 

16 Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; 17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. 18 The days of the blameless are known to the LORD, and their inheritance will endure forever. 19 In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. 

20 But the wicked will perish: The LORD’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish-vanish like smoke. 21 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; 22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off.

In these verses, we see how the wicked try to do evil against righteous people. But they ultimately fail. God even laughs at them, because he knows that their day of judgment is coming. Though they seem powerful and in control right now, one day they won’t be. One day they will disappear like the flowers in the fields. 

But as you trust God and wait for God to act so that evil won’t succeed, things may not feel easy. It can feel like a real struggle financially and materially. But verse 16 says that it’s better to be right with God and have less money, than to be wealthy and wicked. This can be a challenging thing for us to accept and live out, especially in a culture where money is highly valued, but this is the truth and wisdom of God that we must accept. Trust in God because evil ultimately won’t succeed.

But God doesn’t want us to only trust him. This brings us to the 3rdpoint of the psalm. God wants us to do good when we experience evil, and be blessed. Do good when we experience evil, and be blessed. We see this in verses 23-31. Let me read it for you.

23 If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; 24 though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. 25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. 26 They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. 

27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; 29 the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. 

30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. 31 The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.

Doing good when we face evil is really tough and challenging, but that’s what God calls us to do. Instead of returning evil with evil, we’re to turn from evil and do good instead. One way of doing good is with our words, speaking wisdom from God. And one way that allows us to do so is by having God’s law, God’s word, in our hearts. We can speak wisdom and justice into an evil and unfair situation. We can remind one another and ourselves of the truths from this psalm for example, because they are truths that are difficult to remember and live out in times of evil and injustice. By having God’s Word in our hearts, by remembering it and living it out, it’ll help us to trust in God and do good when we experience evil.

As we do so, God will kindly bless us in different ways. When we go through the pain and difficulties of evil and injustice, God is there to look after us, to stop us from falling. As a physio, one of the main things I do is help people to walk again. And for many people, especially those who’re elderly or who have some weakness in their legs, they have a higher risk of falling, and so often I have to stand close to them and hold onto them to stop them from falling. I sometimes joke with my patients that I actually get paid to catch people from falling.

This is the image that David has in mind. God is near us, close to us, ready to catch us when we stumble. God is not far from us that he doesn’t know what we’re going through. He’s near and he cares when we go through evil and injustice. This is one of the blessings as we trust God and do good when we experience evil.

And this brings us to the final point of the psalm: God will protect the righteous and judge evil. God will protect the righteous and judge evil. We see this in verses 32-40.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives; 33 but the LORD will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial. 34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it. 

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, 36 but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. 37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace. 38 But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off. 

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD ; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. 40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

In this final part of the psalm, we can see the futures of the righteous and the wicked compared and contrasted. For the wicked and sinners, they will be destroyed. They will be cut off from God’s promises. And this is the last reason why we can trust God when we experience evil. God is just and good, and though the wicked might seem successful now, they will be judged ultimately by God. So don’t give up on God, but keep trusting in God to the end. 

Because in the end, we can be saved because of God, because of what God’s done through his Son, Jesus. Through Jesus, we can be saved from our sins and be righteous and right before God. But Jesus is also the model and example for us in trusting in God as we experience evil. We see this in 1 Peter 2:20-24:

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Jesus himself trusted in God the Father, as he faced injustice and evil, and he was raised from the dead as the King of this world. God protected his righteous Son, and judged evil, and God will do the same for us.

To finish up: how do we respond to evil and injustice, and what hope do we have as we face it? Firstly, we must trust in God when we experience evil. And we can trust in God, because evil won’t ultimately succeed. Not only are we to trust God, but we must do good when we experience evil. Why? Because God will protect the righteous and judge evil. These are wise words from God which we must take to heart in the face of evil and injustice. Trust in God and do good in the midst of evil, and be blessed.