Psalm 37 “Trust in the Lord” (Psalm 37:1-3)

“Trust in the Lord”

Psalm 37:1-3

A lady in an airport lounge bought a packet of biscuits & sat down to read the newspaper. She heard a rustling noise & looked up to see the man sitting next to her helping himself to the biscuits. Not wanting to make a scene, she leaned over & took one herself, hoping he would get the message. Then she heard more rustling. She couldn’t believe it. The man was helping himself to another biscuit! There was only one left!  She watched in disbelief as he broke the remaining biscuit in two, pushed half across to her, popped the other half in his mouth, & left. She was still furious when her flight was called. Imagine how she felt when she opened her handbag to get out her boarding pass - & found her unopened packet of biscuits![1]

 

The lady got all stressed out & angry when she saw what the man next to her was doing. She thought he was helping himself to her biscuits. Of course the fault was not with the man but with the woman herself. 

 

Today, as we look at the first few verses of Psalm 37, we begin with some good advice given by David. He tells us:

 

1. Do Not Fret & Do Not Be Envious of Evil-doers (vrs. 1 & 2)

David writes, “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.”

 

The lady in the story I just told was fretting, getting herself all worked up & angry – but in her case the reason was not that the man was actually doing evil (stealing her biscuits). The problem was she thought he was stealing her biscuits. In her case fretting, getting all stressed out, was not only a waste of time – it was also embarrassingly foolish.

 

In the Psalm, David gives us advice about what to do or what not to do when people actually are doing evil, when morally corrupt people do bad things & seem to be getting away with it. They seem to flourish despite their evil deeds. Everything seems to go their way. How easy it is for us to get upset. It all seems so wrong, so unfair. Well, it is but David tells us to avoid two wrong reactions:

 

1) We must not fret. Why? Because getting fretful or angry does not help. It does not solve the problem or change the situation. For example, when people say bad things about us or do bad things to us, if we react in an angry, defensive, fleshly way, it very often only makes things worse. How easy it is to react in the heat of the moment & say or do or write things that we later regret. Things very easily become personal. We attack the person not the problem. This leads to misunderstanding & a breakdown in relationships. Things get messy. When we fret we fail to think objectively & calmly. We actually use up precious emotional energy for nothing.

 

2) Secondly, we must not be envious. Envy is like a cancer. It can kill – not the person who is the object of envy, but the person being envious. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Envy only hurts us. Despite this, we human beings often become envious of others.

 

Speaking to fellow believers, Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). If you are tempted to envy someone because of the position they hold, work hard to help them succeed, don’t try to undermine them. If you are tempted to envy those who get higher marks in exams or who do better at sport than you do or who seem more popular than you are, seek instead to bless them & encourage them. How sad that sometimes we get envious of others even when they do good things or when they succeed due to their talent or hard work.

 

Notice, however, that David urges us not to be “…envious of those who do wrong.” How strange that sometimes we even envy evil doers! Yes, we are tempted to envy the person who has made lots of money even when we know they made it through corrupt underhand ways. We envy someone who seems popular & successful even though we know they compromised their values & morals to get to where they are. David says, do not “…be envious of those who do wrong.”

 

So now then, let us ask why we should not fret & why we should not be envious? David tells us exactly why, in v.2. He writes, “…for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.”

 

I grew up in Zimbabwe. In the summer rainy season the bush is luscious & the grass grows tall. The lawns are all green & the plants & flowers flourish. But once the rains stop & the weather turns cold & dry, everything starts to wither & die. The grass in the bush turns brown. Within minutes bush fires can turn everything to dust & smoking ashes.

 

This of course is a metaphor, a picture, of what happens in life & why we should not envy those who do wrong. Outward prosperity or popularity may not last for long. When we look forward, with the eye of faith, there is no good reason to envy those who do wrong. Quite the opposite – we should pity them. The student who cheats, sooner or later, discovers he or she was not so smart after all. The one who seems to be having a lot of fun – partying, drinking, & sleeping around – ends up miserable, without true friends.

 

I could name many sports stars, singers, pop stars, actors & actresses, media personalities, politicians, etc who once were household names, but who today are forgotten. They had the world at their feet but like a shooting star across the night sky they soon burnt out & disappeared from sight. Some turned to alcohol or drugs. Some died all alone & full of regret. And you & I are tempted to envy them?

 

Worldly fame & success & power can be very hollow & it is often only temporary. Even if we enjoy long life – what about the next life? Just think of some of the dictators in history. They may stay in power for many decades & store up millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts, but one day they will die. One day they will face God’s judgment. Do not envy them. Rather pity them.

 

Those who know God & live for God in this life can look forward to an eternity of unspeakable joy. Those who reject God & His truth & His ways can only look forward to judgment & an eternity of regret & sorrow.

 

David has told us not to fret & not to envy those who do wrong, and he has told us why. Now finally for today let us look at more excellent advice, in the next verse:

  

2. Trust in the Lord & do good (v.3a)

David says, “Trust in the LORD.” What great advice!  It is so easy to put our trust in material things (like money or investments), or in other people, or in our health, or even in ourselves (our talents, training & knowledge). But nothing & no one can compare with the Lord. We can lose our money. We can lose our health. Yes, it is wonderful to have people we can rely on for help, support, guidance or comfort & it is a huge blessing to have a spouse or friends we trust. However we can lose our spouse, we can lose our friends, & sadly, even trustworthy people can let us down. Our primary trust must be in the Lord. He never fails. He is always there. He is always faithful.

 

What if you are afraid to cross the Harbour Bridge? What if you worry about being blown off the bridge by the wind, or are afraid the bridge might collapse with the weight of so many cars? What will give you the courage you need to drive across the bridge? Perhaps seeing others safely crossing will help. Perhaps knowing that the bridge was designed & built by expert engineers will help. However if you are going to overcome your fears, sooner or later you have to put your faith into action. You have to start your car & drive across the bridge.  

 

Learning to put your trust in the Lord is a little bit like this. You see what God has done for others. You realise His Word is true. It is reliable. You realise you can believe what He says. You can lean upon Him & commit yourself to Him. There is a great verse at the end of Psalm 84 which describes beautifully what it means to put one’s trust in the Lord. In the Amplified Version it says, “O LORD of hosts, how blessed (happy & greatly favoured) is the person who trusts in You [leaning & believing on You, committing all & confidently looking to You, without fear or misgiving]!

 

Let us ask in what ways should we trust the Lord? First of all, we trust in Him for our salvation. As we have said many times before, salvation is a gift to be received by faith. God’s Word tells us that “…whoever believes in Him [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) His Word tells us, “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, & believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

 

Secondly, we trust in the Lord to meet all our needs. He provides for us, protects us, guides us, & blesses us. Jesus tells His followers not to worry about things like clothing & food (i.e. our physical needs) but rather to “…seek first His kingdom & His righteousness, & all these things will be given you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) When we put our trust in the Lord, when we lean upon Him, He meets all our needs. Even in times of difficulty or suffering, the Lord provides for us. He gives us strength & nourishment.

 

And thirdly: we trust in the Lord for the future. As we trust in the Lord, He guides us. He gives us the wisdom we need to make wise choices & He gives us the strength we need to follow in obedience. He promises He will never leave us or forsake us. He promises to come back for us one day & to take us to glory. As the chorus says, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds the future & I know He holds my hand.”
 

David has been telling us, “Trust in the LORD”. Now let us notice how David continues. He goes on, “…and do good.” “Trust in the LORD & do good.” We know that “doing good” does not earn us salvation. However, good deeds are the fruit that comes as a result of putting our trust in Jesus. Good deeds are evidence of the genuineness of our Christian faith. If a person has no good deeds, if there is no change in their life, one may question if their faith in Christ is real.

 

Last week I mentioned the testimony of Darrell Tunningley who became a follower of Jesus after attending the Alpha Course while in prison in the UK. Very soon after he trusted in Christ, one of the other prisoners tried to make fun of him. Darrell felt the anger boiling up inside & was about to punch the guy in the face when he heard a voice say, ‘Darrell, you’re not that man anymore.’ Instead of boiling over in anger, as he would have done previously, he quietly turned & walked away. After he put his trust in Jesus, Darrell’s life began to change. With God’s supernatural strength he was able to keep calm & do what was right.

 

Not everyone has a dramatic conversion, like Darrell, but all of us who have put our faith in Jesus can testify to the difference He has made. For some people, change comes slowly, but it does come. We sometimes trip & fall, but the Lord is able to help us get up & do what is right. He helps us to overcome the old patterns of sinful behaviour – lying, cheating, drinking, being jealous, being self-centred, being full of self-pity, being proud, or lustful – whatever it may have been. Good deeds are the natural outflow of a changed life.

 

Now finally for today, let us look at the second half of verse 3:

3. Dwell in the land & enjoy safe pasture (v.3b)

David implies that if we do “Trust in the Lord & do good” then we will, “…dwell in the land & enjoy safe pasture.” As a young boy David had been a shepherd. By the time he wrote this Psalm, however, he was king & was living in Jerusalem. In David’s day Israel was still a largely rural agriculture-based society. The ideal for most people would have been to live a peaceful life with secure tenure of land & good pasture for their animals. To put this in our present-day context we might say something like this – if we trust in the Lord & do good then we will, “prosper, be secure & have all we need.” That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it! It sounds almost too good to be true.

 

What is true, dear friends, is that when we put God first in our lives, when we trust Him & obey Him, He does bless us. He provides. He guides. He fills our lives with good things, & He blesses our families too. I have never heard of anyone who gives of their time & talents & their tithes & offerings to God who does not receive back from God far more than they give.

 

This does not mean, of course, that Christians are guaranteed a life free of suffering or difficulty or hardship. And it does not mean that God gives us everything we want in terms of material or physical blessings. No, there are tough times, dark times, times of need. But the fact remains, God promises to take care of us when we put our trust in Him & when we seek with all our hearts to live a life pleasing & honouring to Him.

 

When David wrote this Psalm he was an older man, for he says in v.25, “I was young & now am old.” The whole tone of what David writes shows he is writing with the wisdom that comes from experience. He has seen enough in life to know that following an evil path only leads to trouble & disaster. He has seen those who once seemed so prosperous & successful losing everything or fading into obscurity; & he has seen many godly people once despised & persecuted, being vindicated & blessed. David knows from personal experience that to “trust in the Lord & do good” brings peace & happiness. He knows that God’s Word is true.

 

There is a big contrast between what David in his old age says here & what his son Solomon, near the end of his life, said. David was neither bitter nor cynical. He had learnt that there was no point fretting about evil people, nor was there any reason to envy them. He had learnt to trust. He had experienced God’s grace in all the ups & downs of life, in both his failures & in his successes. Solomon however, was different. Solomon was outwardly incredibly successful. He never held himself back from going after & enjoying any desire or pleasure he fancied. However when he came near the end of his life he says, “All is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

 

David knew that putting one’s trust in the Lord was the only way to find true happiness & security. I encourage you to do what David recommends – do not fret because of those who do evil. Do not be envious of them, but rather put your trust in the Lord & do what is good. Then your life will be full of meaning & purpose & true blessing.

 

 

[1] Quoted from Word for Today by Bob Gass, June 3, 2015