The Perfect Summer to Study Psalm 37

“Fret not because of evildoers.”

As I’ve studied Psalm 37 with my sisters in Christ this summer, I’ve quoted the above verse often. Opportunity upon opportunity for anger and worry rolls my way, but the truth always wins out.  

This is a summer where one headline can make your heart heavy for hours. Friends of mine are facing a clear and present danger as they seek to escape from evildoers. We’re surrounded with those who are prompt to call good evil and evil good. From Olympic platforms to the offices in D.C., the wicked are spreading themselves out like luxuriant trees in their native soil.

This earthly soil is the wicked’s turf . . . for now.

Can I draw your attention to Psalm 37 for the encouragement carrying me today? There’s nothing better than a soul-watering reminder from the One in charge. God won’t leave His throne for one moment of break or flee the scene when “the wicked have drawn their sword and bent their bow to cast down the afflicted and the needy, to slay those who are upright in conduct” (Ps. 37:14).

The wrongdoers are quite busy prospering. They’ve plotted and eagerly carry out violent schemes. Teeth gnashing, they gather in envy-worthy abundance, borrowing without paying back, spying, and certainly seeking to kill.

Their future?

Though they appear to have the strength of a Redwood, their roots are like a dandelion. They’re making themselves at home in the earth’s soil, reaching their roots in all directions, but the LORD laughs at them.

He sees the day coming when they’ll be no more. Cursed. Cut off. Broken bows. Perishing. They’ll vanish like the smoke from wildfires finally snuffed out. They’ll wither like autumn grass, fade like the herbs, shrivel like a neglected garden. The Lord loves justice and giving us visuals for it.

Not only will God one day destroy wickedness, but He is protecting the righteous with unending promises. He is One who gives the desires of our heart and honors our trust in Him. As sure as the noonday, right judgment will be seen.  Our King sustains us. He knows our days, each of them. Establishes our steps and delights in our way when we keep His. He holds our hand so we won’t be hurled headlong. He’ll never forsake His godly, but preserves and exults us a gift of inheritance. He is our saving refuge.

Psalm 37 also addresses the righteous in this war-torn world.  We are described in this way:

“The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of God is in his heart…”

We’re not to be busy taking up revenge, but dwelling in the ground we’ve been given. Our role is to boldly utter wisdom and speak justice amidst the chaos. This won’t be easy, but He sustains us.

Instead of fretting, we cultivate faithfulness. May we be faithful in prayer, in cleaning the kitchen, in worshiping God through the ordinary, in sharing our faith with unbelievers. The passage calls us to do good, delight in the Lord, and commit our way to Him as we keep His way. Cease from anger – vengeance is the Lord’s.

Our friends close enough to hear the gnashing of the wicked’s teeth hold these same promises. We can rest that He won’t forsake His righteous saints who are in danger, nor their children. Our descendants do not need to beg for bread. They will have nothing to be ashamed of in this time of evil. We are inheritors, holding the hand of a Kingly Helper and Helping King, who won’t allow our steps to slip.

Can we forsake wrath against those who desperately need the righteous robes we wear? Can we wait patiently as God unfolds His Sovereign plan, responding graciously to others? Can we trust and wait when we wish we were the ones prospering? Can we wait in meekness for the Lord to bestow our grace-purchased inheritance? Will we speak the words of wisdom and justice we have from hiding God’s law in our hearts? In God’s strength, yes.

As we picture the blameless man, the upright and the afflicted in the line of the enemy’s fire, may we stand boldly for them and uphold them with faithful prayer.

And let’s not forget:

The wicked seem to have the center stage. But God’s eyes are on His people, delighting in our way, and we delight in Him. One day soon we’ll look for the evildoers, and they’ll be no more. We won’t find them in all our searching.

The evildoer and the righteous couldn’t have a more perfect diamond-cut contrast in Psalm 37.

So fret not. Wait patiently and rest in the Lord, because we know that the little of the righteous is much better than the wicked’s temporal abundance. Today we carry on with God’s law in our hearts, deliverance in our futures, and strength in time of trouble.

Shake Not a Mountain

You don’t want to be this person.

A clear depiction of the ungodly lies in Psalm 36. If you could see inside his heart, you’d find transgression speaking to it. He’s so wound up in deceit, when others discover the secret webs of his wrongdoing, it brings him flattery. He’s flattered even further by the fact that his actions are hated (vv 1-2). Appalling!

The wicked wellspring of the heart will bring forth both deceitful thoughts and words. This man has ceased to be wise and ceased to do good. When he lies down at night to rest, he uses this time to plot. He sets himself on a path that is “not good.” He doesn’t despise evil like God does. The fear of God is absent (vv. 3-4).

Such an ugly painting.

The psalmist whiplashes from this lose-your-appetite kind of wickedness to a dazzling description of the Lord.

He writes of God’s lovingkindess reaching to the heavens and His faithfulness reaching to the swaths of watercolored skies.

“Your righteousness is like the mountains of God.

Your judgments are like a great deep.”

(Psalm 36:6)

When the sinful man meets the mountains of God, an acute contrast appears. Close your eyes and picture the biggest mountain you can imagine. For me, I see the Teton mountain range, doubling in size when it mirrors in the clarity of Jenny Lake. How grand is God’s righteousness if earth’s mountains express it! They are immovable, enduring, strong, never to be shaken, planted, and rooted to be established across time.

Grand Teton National Park, PC Shane Cotee

“Firm and unmoved, lofty and sublime. As winds and hurricanes shake not an Alp, so the righteousness of God is never in any degree affected by circumstances; he is always just. Who can bribe the Judge of all the earth, or who can, by threatening, compel him to pervert judgment? Not even to save his elect would the Lord suffer his righteousness to be set aside. No awe inspired by mountain scenery can equal that which fills the soul when it beholds the Son of God slain as a victim to vindicate the justice of the Inflexible Lawgiver. Right across the path of every unholy man who dreams of heaven stand the towering Andes of divine righteousness, which no unregenerate sinner can ever climb.”

Charles Spurgeon

The wicked man has much to fear if His righteousness is like mountains, and His judgments are like the great deep. Who can search out the great deeps? Even to this day we do not know the depths of the ocean and are continually making big discoveries. So it is with the judgments of God. They are deep, unsearchable, uncharted; they are too great for us to comprehend.

He alone is the One who preserves man and beast — so obvious. His lovingkindness is precious, and His children take shadow in His wings. The wicked one takes a sick satisfaction in the discoveries of what is a shame to even speak about.

But the children of God drink their fill of abundance in His house. They drink the river of His delights. He owns the fountain of life, far superior to the path of death chosen by the one who doesn’t rightly fear God (vv 7-9).

The psalmist ends with a prayer:

“In Your light we see. O continue Your lovingkindess to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.”

We might look at the first verses of the chapter and thank God we have not done anything to make scandalous headlines. Gratefully, we’re not to the point of enjoying and bragging about evil.

But we must keep our eyes on the mountain of God and ask like the psalmist:

“Let not the foot of pride come upon me.”

Our eyes behold the grandeur of God, and note the foolishness of the foot of pride, so subtly deceptive. In verse three, we know the wicked man ceased to be wise and ceased to do good. He used to be good and wise. Any of us could take subtle steps of pride.

Let not the foot of pride come upon me!

Instead, remember the judgments of the great deep and the faithfulness reaching to the sky. Meditate on Christ’s work of rescuing us from the judgments our own wickedness deserves. “Pride wilts in the atmosphere of the gospel.” (Milton Vincent)

What are mere men and women compared to the mountains of God?! What is man that He is mindful of us? Like the immovable Alps, His holiness is sure. Christ’s death and resurrection is the only way we can be spared from pride and know the abundance of His house and drink the river of His delights.

Thoughts from Psalm 36

Parking Lot Prelude

I’ve been uniquely positioned to see a new angle of behind-the-scenes church since I’ve become a mom. Whether it’s catching most of the sermon from the foyer speakers, inhaling the shared meal before the baby wakes up, or catching conversations over the diaper changing table in the nursery, church looks a bit different in this season. I’ve appreciated the new observations I’ve made. 

Sunday morning I sat in our car, fitting in a baby feeding before the service started. My husband was greeting at the door, but I had a chance to observe the happening parking lot.

There’s something special about seeing car after car turn into this holy slab of cement. The day washed in sunshine, smiles appeared bright.

I noticed a newlywed couple, dressed in Sunday best, but returning a post hole digger to someone else’s vehicle before heading into the building. 

There also was a darling collection of six young siblings tumbling out of the van, waving to their friends as they patiently waited for their parents. Their pink dresses, blue plaids, and grins melted my heart. “Behold, children are a gift from the Lord.” What a testimony their smiles were to the joy of the Lord! 

A few spaces down, my sister and her husband emerged from their car, with laughter and coffees. They whipped out baby and baby stroller in practiced teamwork style, also eager to worship.

As more people filed toward the front doors, I also noted a new haircut, a young believer in the faith, and a proud, new grandma. The high school seniors had arrived early to pass out their grad party invitations.

Each sister and brother in Christ — young and old — spoke some aspect of God’s truth to me. I need them all.

They are individuals carrying unique spiritual gifts into the church foyer. Members of Christ’s body, and if they are suffering, we all are; if they are rejoicing, we all are, and somehow we can visit both places at once in our Oneness with Christ. The Man of Sorrows and yet, the Dayspring from on High.

What a gift to be physically together. The sun and spring blossoms beckoned praise. I reached for my Bible to read a little, and my eyes fell on this passage:

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

For He is our God,

    and we are the people of His pasture,

    and the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you hear His voice,

 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.”

Psalm 95:6-8

Since I was peering through my vehicle’s tinted windows, and not through rose-colored glasses, I knew this was as an imperfect sheep gathering as any. We desperately need God to soften our prone-to-be-hard hearts to worship Him and genuinely care for one another. We also need each other to call one another to worship and bow down.

My heart swelled as I prepared to set up my own little sheep’s stroller and enter the gates with thanksgiving. I determined to encourage anyone I could and also be encouraged.

The behind-the-scenes of the parking lot gave me a small prelude of thankfulness as I prepared to worship with this gift of grace we call the local church.

Better than Life

The church sings and reads of lovingkindness often. Have we perhaps become immune to what it means, or can we fully realize why Scripture declares it’s better than life itself? 

Lovingkindness is a unique term. I’ve never heard friends say to one another, “You have so much lovingkindness.” 

Continue reading “Better than Life”