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Psalm 37 pits the prosperous wicked against the not-so-prosperous righteous. In the Old Testament Mosaic Covenant, the backdrop of prosperity was “inheriting the land,” which this psalm refers to several times. God and Old Testament Israel had made an agreement in Exodus 24:3-8. Within this covenant was specific blessings if Israel obeyed and specific curses if they disobeyed, which are laid out in detail in Leviticus 26:1-46 and Deuteronomy 28:1-68. The primary blessing of this covenant was inheriting and keeping the Promised Land and the primary curse was losing it. Psalm 37 gives us insider information that things weren’t always as black and white as the “obey and get the land” set up the covenant has in writing.
What we see in Psalm 37 is the opposite of what the covenant promised. We see the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering. With the old covenant document literally in hand, one can see how an ancient Israelite could look at this situation and say, “What gives?” On the surface, it felt like God wasn’t holding up his end of his promise.
While this Mosaic Covenant promise of land doesn’t apply to us today (see Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-13), we can relate with the struggle of seeing the wicked prosper and wondering if God really keeps his promises or is really faithful. Like many of the psalms up to this point, Psalm 37 again reminds us that what you see right now doesn’t last and there is something better and truer that does. Verse 2 gives vivid imagery of this, telling us that the prospering wicked will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
The grass metaphor is the only thing close to a timeline that this psalm gives us on when the righteous reality will come into effect. When we go to God in our suffering, or go to God and ask “How long oh Lord?” like Psalm 13 cries out, we want a definitive answer. A definitive timeline of exactly how long until we see God’s justice. God doesn’t tell us this. But Psalm 37 assures us that it will happen. Psalm 37 tells us we are on the right side. Psalm 37 tells us that a day is coming when the wicked will be punished and they will regret being on the wrong side. It tells us that a day is coming when our past suffering will seem small in comparison with the present glory that we will experience within God’s blessing. The Old Testament Israelites were waiting to inherit the land, but we are waiting to inherit a kingdom, God’s kingdom. His rule and reign on earth both now and for all eternity, which the Lord Prayer tells us to pray for today (Matthew 6:10).
Psalm 37 gives us a glimpse of what this kingdom looks like in modern times. God sides with the oppressed. He defends the weak and the poor. He provides a stronghold and refuge in times of trouble. It also gives us a sense of God’s eternal kingdom. His eternal victory over sin, evil, death, and all wickedness. We don’t understand it now because the green stalks of wickedness are still strong and lush. But a day is coming when that grass will be pulled up and when it is, it will dry out and be discarded. No one will look at its deadness and desire it. No one will wish they too had rebelled against God so they could be in that pile of brown, dried up kindling. (See also Isaiah 40:6-8, 1 Peter 1:24, Psalm 103:15-19, James 1:9-12, Matthew 6:30, Matthew 13:24-30)
Psalm 37 is a call to hang on. It’s a call to keep hope in God and to run to him for comfort and strength. It’s a call to remember his faithfulness, that he keeps his promises, and that we have the final victory in him. It’s a call to surrender our timeline to him and instead to be still in his presence.
Invitation to reflection:
Prayer for the day: God, I thank you for your ultimate victory over evil. Thank you that evil doesn’t get the last word. Thank you that I can rest in your power. That you are the Almighty God, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and that in your mercy and love you reached down to save me from my own sin and brokenness. Thank you that you are a shelter and refuge for the poor, weak, oppressed, and downtrodden. May your kingdom come Father. May your will be done here on this earth, in my town, the way it is done in heaven. Thank you that there is a day coming when you will make all things right. Give me strength to walk in your ways, to live according to your path. Forgive me of when I envy the wicked. Help me to take comfort in your presence today.
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