Psalm 37 Un-fret-tered

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Questions: Why do we fret ourselves? Why might we envy the wicked? How is “delight” the alternative? Is God worth waiting for? Upon? Is meekness worth the reward?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 37:1-40

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity

“To fret” is not a verb I use very often — though I probably do it more than I realize! In fact, I suspect I “fret myself” over a great many things, though usually my own carelessness rather than evildoers. In fact, living my comfortable-middle class life here in Silicon Valley, it is easy to believe:

… they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

The impressive thing, of course, is that David is writing this. Even if written after his years of being chased by King Saul, he’s certainly earned the right to admonish us. And regardless of why we fret, his advice is still spot on:

Trust in the LORD, and do good; [so] shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

David then gives a series of admonitions and consequences in that same vein:

Trust, do good :: dwell in the land, be fed.

Delight thyself :: [receive] the desires of thine heart.

Commit thy way, trust :: [the Lord] shall bring forth thy righteousness, thy judgment

Rest, wait patiently, fret not thyself :

Cease from anger, forsake wrath, fret not thyself :

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

This makes an intriguing definition of meekness — submitting our way to God’s way, rather than taking things “into our own hands” like the wicked do.

For yet a little while, and the wicked [shall] not [be]: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it [shall] not [be]. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

Which is hard to swallow when the wicked have you in their crosshairs :

The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth…

The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, [and] to slay such as be of upright conversation.

But, can we trust that:

The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming… Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken… For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.

If so, then we can be content that:

A little that a righteous man hath [is] better than the riches of many wicked… The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.

I wonder how much of my fretting is due to the fear of being ashamed. Even when things are going well, I tend to “fret myself” that this or that failure or (even potential) missed opportunity might lead to me being shamed down the road.

What if true security lies not in compulsive attention to detail, but joyous resting in the Lord?

What if worry and wickedness share the same root: unwillingness to trust in God’s provision?

Clearly, wickedness has a poor return on investment:

But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD [shall be] as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away. The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth. For [such as be] blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and [they that be] cursed of him shall be cut off.

Especially compared to righteousness:

The steps of a [good] man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his
way.

And not just in protection, but in redemption:

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth [him with] his hand.

As David affirms with the voice of experience:

I have been young, and [now] am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. [He is] ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed [is] blessed.

Thus his admonition:

Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

And in case you’re wondering what righteousness looks like:

The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.

The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.

The law of his God [is] in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

Not that he lacks enemies:

The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.

But:

The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.

So:

Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see [it].

Even if:

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he [was] not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

This isn’t just a matter of abstract morality. David is discussing the overriding nature of the universe. No matter how hard or high the human arm can toss a stone of wickedness and vanity, God’s gravity of justice will bring eventually bring it back to earth. It is that certain. The Earth’s gravity may seem weak — after all, our muscles have little trouble pulling a pebble away from it — but our victory is illusory, and short-lived (though perhaps it may not seem such to the pebble!).

I wonder if David is deliberately using his own life as an example of the prevailing power of virtue, even when outnumbered and outgunned:

* Mark the perfect [man], and behold the upright: for the end of [that] man [is] peace.
* But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
* But the salvation of the righteous [is] of the LORD: [he is] their strength in the time of trouble.
* And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.

Amen!

Prayer

God, I have no great enemies or threats to haunt my sleep, yet I still find myself fretful and fearing, if only of the wounding of my pride. Father, teach me how much you love the righteous. Help me to delight in you, and your own goodness, and not fall into the trap of trusting my own arms to save me. Let me look upon your face, and upon those who are faithful to you, that I may know the sleep of the blessed. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is a very weak play on the word ‘unfettered.’

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