The Way of the Righteous is Hard, But the Reward is Satisfying
INTERESTING FACTS: John Witherspoon, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; RATIFIER OF THE U. S. CONSTITUTION; PRESIDENT OF PRINCETON
“Christ Jesus – the promise of old made unto the fathers, the hope of Israel [Acts 28:20], the light of the world [John 8:12], and the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth [Romans 10:4] ? is the only Savior of sinners, in opposition to all false religions and every uninstituted rite; as He Himself says (John 14:6): “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”
Daily Reading : Psalms 36 – 39
TEXT : Psa 37:1 A Psalm of David. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. Psa 37:2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Psa 37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Psa 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Psa 37:5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
THEME : WICKEDNESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS CONTRASTED
Psalm 37 is an exhortation to the righteous to keep living right. It compares the end of the wicked with that of the righteous and certainly, as we know, the end of the two is as diverse as night and day. Truly, the end of the wicked is itself eternal darkness, as the end of the righteous is etern al light. Thus, the metaphor is most fitting. According to Matthew Henry, Psalm 37 is more of a sermon than a song of praise.
“This psalm is a sermon, and an excellent useful sermon it is, calculated not (as most of the psalms) for our devotion, but for our conversation; there is nothing in it of prayer or praise, but it is all instruction; it is “Maschil – a teaching psalm;” it is an exposition of some of the hardest chapters in the book of Providence, the advancement of the wicked and the disgrace of the righteous, a solution of the difficulties that arise thereupon, and an exhortation to conduct ourselves as becomes us under such dark dispensations” [Matthew Henry]
Thus, we are taught not to “fret” as we are tempted to. According to Strong’s dictionary to “fret” means – “to glow or grow warm; figuratively (usually) to blaze up, of anger.” Again, in Brown – Driver – Briggs it is defined as – “to be ho t, furious, burn, become angry.” Therefore, fretting is a state of the mind and spirit where one burns as though on fire, outraged by the behavior of the wicked, their deeds, and the apparent comfort, well-being and ease they enjoy. Yet, the Scriptures are clear – the end of the wicked is destruction, as the end of the righteous is life everlasting. Albert Barnes explains.
“Fret not thyself – The Hebrew word here means properly to burn, to be kindled, to be inflamed, and is often applied to anger, as if under its influence we become “heated:” Gen_31:36; Gen_34:7; 1Sa_15:11; 2Sa_19:43. Hence, it means to fret oneself, to be angry, or indignant. Compare Pro_24:19. We should perhaps express the same idea by the word “worrying” or “chafing.” The state of mind is that where we are worried, or envious, because others are prosperous and successful, and we are not. The idea is, therefore, closely allied with that in the other part of the verse, “neither be thou “envious.””
Because of evil-doers – Wicked men: (a) at the fact that there are wicked men, or that God suffers them to live; (b) at their numbers; (c) at their success and prosperity.
Neither be thou envious – Envy is pain, mortification, discontent, at the superior excellence or prosperity of others, accompanied often with some degree of malignant feeling, and with a disposition to detract from their merit. It is the result of a comparison of ourselves with others who are more highly gifted or favored, or who are more successful than we are ourselves. The feeling referred to here is that which springs up in the mind when we see persons of corrupt or wicked character prospered, while we, endeavoring to do right, are left to poverty, to disappointment, and to tears.” [Albert Barnes]
Thus, we must have a continual and steady trust in the LORD. It is not easy to trust the LORD when appearances seem to indicate the wicked enjoy life as t he righteous sacrifice and suffer. Yet, the Scriptures encourage us – it will not always stay this way. Fortunes are to be reversed eventually. Then, the wicked receive their just recompense of reward and the righteous are blessed.
“A composed and uniform trust in God and a constant course of integrity are urged in view of the blessedness of the truly pious, contrasted in various aspects with the final ruin of the wicked. Thus the wisdom and justice of God’s providence are vindicated, and its seeming inequalities, which excite the cavils of the wicked and the distrust of the pious, are explained. David’s personal history abundantly illustrates the Psalm. The general sentiment of the whole Psalm is expressed. The righteous need not be vexed by the prosperity of the wicked; for it is transient, and their destiny undesirable.” [Jameson, Fausset, and Brown]
Many a Christian has wondered at the phenomenon of how the wicked seem to be at ease, while the righteous work c easelessly for what is right in the sight of God and receive little comfort and consolation. Yet, this is where trust in the LORD is both difficult and its best when exercised. Difficult, because human nature wants comfort when duty is what is necessary. At its best because true nobility is the suffering Christian refusing to give up or give in when that is the easier path to choose. Therefore, we are wise when we cast our cares on the LORD, and wait for His deliverance. Be assured, in the fulness of time, He will not delay an answer or relief, but come swiftly to our rescue. He will never permit the righteous to be moved by their afflictions or troubles.
“When we look abroad we see the world full of evil-doers, that flourish and live in ease. So it was seen of old, therefore let us not marvel at the matter. We are tempted to fret at this, to think them the only happy people, and so we are prone to do like them: but this we are warned against. Outward prosperity is fading. When we look forward, with an eye of faith, we shall see no reason to envy the wicked. Their weeping and wailing will be everlasting. The life of religion is a believing trust in the Lord, and diligent care to serve him according to his will. It is not trusting God, but tempting him, if we do not make conscience of our duty to him. A man’s life consists not in abundance, but, Thou shalt have food convenient for thee. This is more than we deserve, and it is enough for one that is going to heaven. To delight in God is as much a privilege as a duty. He has not promised to gratify the appetites of the body, and the humours of the fancy, but the desires of the renewed, sanctified soul. What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and serve God. Commit thy way unto the Lord; roll thy way upon the Lord, so the margin reads it. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, the burden of thy care. We must roll it off ourselves, not afflict and perplex ourselves with thoughts about future events, but refer them to God. By prayer spread thy case and all thy cares before the Lord, and trust in him. We must do our duty, and then leave the event with God. The promise is very sweet: He shall bring that to pass, whatever it is, which thou has committed to him.” [Matthew Henry]
TRUTH FOR TODAY : “THE WAY OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS HARD, BUT THE REWARD IS SATISFYING!”
Hence, we are exhorted to “trust in the LORD.” We are also told “to do good.” Doing what is good is the opposite of fretting and also its cure. It is hard to burn in anger when you are busy doing what is right. However, what we do is dependent on how we think. This is the importance of Biblical doctrine. Doctrine, which is after godliness, controls our behavior. In other words, what we believe dictates how we will behave.
“Trust in the Lord.” Here is the second precept, and one appropriate to the occasion. Faith cures fretting. Sight is cross-eyed, and views things only as they seem, hence her envy; faith has clearer optics to behold things as they really are, hence her peace. “And do good.” True faith is actively obedient. Doing good is a fine remedy for fretting. There is a joy in holy activity which drives away the rust of discontent. “So shalt thou dwell in the land.” In “the land” which floweth with milk and honey; the Canaan of the covenant. Thou shalt not wander in the wilderness of murmuring, but abide in the promised land of content and rest. “We which have believed do enter into rest.” Very much of our outward depends upon the inward; where there is heaven in the heart there will be heaven in the house. “And verily thou shall be fed,” or shepherded. To integrity and faith necessaries are guaranteed. The good shepherd will exercise his pastoral care over all believers. In truth they shall be fed, and fed on truth. The promise of God shall be their perpetual banquet; they shall neither lack in spirituals nor in temporals. Some read this as an exhortation, “Feed on truth;” certainly this is good cheer, and banishes for ever the hungry heart-burnings of envy.” [C.H. Spurgeon]
We should look closely at the exhortation to “trust in the LORD.” Although the call to trust God [Himself] is obvious, nevertheless we must always be reminded not to [fully and completely] trust in Man. With the arm of the flesh, there is no salvation. With the Arm of the LORD there is everlasting strength. [Isa_26:4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength].
“Trust in the Lord,…. Not in men, who are fading and perishing like the green grass and tender herb; nor in riches, which are very uncertain things; but in the Lord, in whom is everlasting strength; and with whom are riches and honour, yea, durable riches and righteousness; trust in him both for things temporal and spiritual, for soul and body, for time and eternity; the way to have peace and quietness of mind under all dispensations is to exercise faith on a promising God. The Targum is, “trust in the Word of the Lord”, in the essential Word of God, the promised Messiah; and do good; in general, all good actions, in faith, and as the fruits and effects of it, without trusting to them, but in the Lord; doing them in his strength, and with a view to his glory; or in particular, acts of beneficence to the poor, to which the encouragement follows; so shalt thou dwell in the land; either in the land of Canaan, a continuance in which depended upon the obedience of the people of the Jews to the commands of God; see Isa_1:19; or rather in the good land which is afar off, the heavenly and better country, which those that trust in the Lord, and have that faith in Christ which works by love, shall dwell in to all eternity; and verily thou shalt be fed; either temporally, shall have food and raiment, even all the necessaries of life; or spiritually, with the word and ordinances, and with Christ the bread of life now; and hereafter shall be fed by him, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, and by him led to fountains of living water: some read the words as an exhortation, and render them, “feed truth” (k), that is, teach it, as Abraham taught his household, and as faithful pastors feed with knowledge and unde rstanding; or “feed by faith” (l), as the just live by it; or, as the Targum renders it, “be strong in faith”, as Abraham was, Rom_4:20; or rather, “feed upon truth” (m), the word of truth, the Gospel of salvation, and the several truths and doctrines of it, which are food for faith, and nourish up to everlasting life.” [John Gill]
To delight yourself in the LORD is similar to how a young child admires his father. Many boys, when we were young, believed our fathers could do anything. Our father was the strongest, the smartest, the biggest, and the best – all the way around. Then, one day, we discovered he was human. Perhaps we were not prepared for our father’s humanity, or rather to accept it. Maybe, we never thought our father had the same weaknesses we did. Some of us were surprised, others disappointed. Yet, when it comes to our Heavenly Father we know He never was or ever will be like us. He is “perfect” in ALL His ways. Therefore, we have every reason to delight in Him. He, unlike you and I, cannot fail!
“Delight thyself also in the – Lord. The word rendered “delight” means properly to live delicately and effeminately; then, to be tender or delicate; then, to live a life of ease or pleasure; then, to find delight or pleasure in anything. The meaning here is, that we should seek our happiness in God – in his being, his perfections, his friendship, his love.
And he shall give thee the desires of thine heart – literally, the “askings,” or the “requests” of thy heart. What you really “desire” will be granted to you. That is,
(a) the fact that you seek your happiness in him will regulate your desires, so that you will be “disposed” to ask only those things which it will be proper for him to grant; and
(b) the fact that you do find your happiness in him will be a reason why he will grant your desires.
The fact that a child loves his father, and finds his happiness in doing his will, will do much to regulate his own “wishes” or “desires,” and will at the same thee be a reason why the father will be disposed to comply with his requests.” [Albert Barnes]
The LORD demands much of His children, but it is only for our benefit that He does require so much. Remember, never envy the unrighteous, and do not fret over their [seeming] prosperity and “success.” One day, all of their hope will come to an end. However, even though the way of the righteous is hard, the reward is, and always will be – gratifying!