Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 27. Psalms
Psa 37:3,4 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Arriving at Psalms we find a quandary. How do you choose a verse from 150 so varied psalms? Do we study David’s anguish that is found in so many of the psalms? Do we take the basic statements about studying the word as in Psalm 1 or Psalm 119? Do we catch the Messianic theme such as in Psalm 2 or Psalm 22? Do we study the sovereignty of God in such an amazing psalm as Psalm 139 or the simple assurance of security in psalm 121, or of course the wonder of the relationship that comes through in the famous Psalm 23? So many psalms that teach so many things! Where will we go?
Well, I’ve chosen Psalm 37 because it has within it a principle of guidance that I have found is applicable to so many people in need of direction. Even within the last week a Christian lady asked my wife and I, do you think I should sell my house and buy the one in a street nearer my church? Psalm 37 is packed with helpful teaching.
In a day of news bulletins, worry, anxiety and stress, this psalm starts off with basic wisdom: “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.” (v.1,2) You will note the initial verses come as couplets, principles linked together. Put another way we might summarise these two as ‘Don’t let the antics of the world around you get to you. They will get their comeuppance in due season!
Then comes the double package of the two verses we’ve chosen for today, two verses that go together but also two verses each with two parts. “Trust in the LORD and do good.” (v.3a) What a great starting point. Yes, I know our salvation is far more complex than this but if you are looking for the most compact approach to life you can find, this is it. Start by simply “trusting the Lord”. When you trust someone you have confidence in them and maybe even rely on them. If I had lots of money and was advised to use a particular financial advisor because, “you can have complete confidence in him and I know this from years of working with him” you know you can trust this person to know all about everything to do with money and, even more, you can have confidence in their integrity, that they will always have your best interests at heart. Now if those are the sort of things that go with a financial advisor, how much more true will they be in respect of God? We can put our life entirely in His hands with the utmost confidence that He will be there for us, guarding us, guiding us, protecting us and providing for us.
But that is only the first part of that first half of the verse; there is also, “and do good”. That sounds so obvious but it comes from our knowledge of the Lord, that He is good, He is just, and He loves us and desires the best for us. We experience all of that as we imitate Him and that is summarized by ‘do good’. Put those two halves together and you have the ingredients for ‘the good life’.
Now when we make this the basis of our life then the second part naturally follows: “dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (v.3b) If God is there for you, then you can just get on with life (‘in the land’ – where you live) and know that whatever you do (‘safe pasture’ for the agricultural community was key) in daily living, daily work etc. will have a security dimension to it that is found nowhere else – because He is all those things we noted previously.
Now when you move into verse 4 we find exactly the same (and see it like that) but put in a different way. It is an example of Jewish writing parallelism. Verse 3 says, “Trust in the Lord,” and now verse 4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD.” Now that does add an additional facet to the meaning. ‘Delight’ implies enjoy, and perhaps, put first in all things. If I delight in my grandchildren, say, I take pleasure in them and they become a focus of my thinking. If I delight in them it also implies I will interact with them; there is something of experiential relationship here. It is putting God first, trusting Him, relying upon Him, enjoying Him – all of these things are part of this delighting in Him.
I would suggest this is a concept certainly foreign to the unbeliever but actually it is often foreign to believers as well, simply because they have not taken time to spend with Him and in His word, to find out about Him. The more you find out about Him the more you are able to ‘delight in Him’.
Now verse 3 concluded, if we may summarise it, with, “and He’ll make your life safe and secure and blessed.” Now verse 4 has, “and he will give you the desires of your heart,” which I believe has a double-edged meaning. Is this, “and He will give you a big mansion, fame and fortune”? I don’t think so. That may be part of His package for you but only He knows what is the best package for you and it may not be that! As I have meditated on this over the years, I believe the double-edged or two-sided meaning of this is a) He will put desires upon your hearts and then b) give you those desires.
You see as we delight in Him, we delight in His ways, we delight in the things He thinks are good and we want those things as well. He changes our hearts the more and more we delight in Him, and that changed heart conforms more with what He sees is the very best for us. He longs to give us the very best for us, but only He truly knows what that very best is. It may include financial blessing but that may NOT be the best for you. This is where the so-called ‘prosperity teachers’ so often go wrong. ‘Prosperity’ is more to do with well-being and that may include financial success or it may not. The Lord does want us to be at peace with our accounting and our giving but having lots of money may or may not be part of God’s package for you.
When we trust in the Lord and we delight in the Lord, then we are first and foremost concerned with what HE wants for our lives because He longs to express His love to us by bringing blessing to our lives, which may involve changing them, changing their direction, changing their motivation, finding yearnings to be a blessing to Him and to His world in specific ways that will be unique to us. When I find someone who IS delighting in the Lord, to help when they ask for guidance, I ask, what is the Lord putting on your heart? Put aside resource limitations (I don’t have enough money or enough brain power), if we could wave a magic wand over your life, what would you like to be doing that would make you feel fulfilled and a blessing to God and His world? When we ask it like that, it often opens up a realization of things we had deep down but didn’t dare utter, that turn out to be the desires HE is giving. Isn’t that great! Enjoy Him, enjoy the things He puts on your heart and then enjoy them as He brings them into being with your cooperation. Hallelujah!