Psalm 37:1–2, 7-8
1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb… 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.
Within our current cultural climate it is easy to grow discouraged and lose perspective. Whether it is the triumph of unprincipled and immoral men and women in politics, or the support of sinful behaviors in business, or the compromise and corruption that have permeated the Church, or the wholesale immorality in the entertainment industry, or the miserable failure of our judicial system to secure justice – we look around us at the growth of such wickedness and can be tempted to anger, anxiety, or envy.
David was no stranger to these temptations and helps us put the triumph of the wicked in perspective. How ought we to respond to the wickedness that surrounds us? Ought we to become angry? Anxious? Envious?
David’s answer to each of these questions is a resounding, “No.” “Cease from anger,” he tells us, “and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only causes harm.” Why is it that we are tempted to anger or anxiety when we see the wicked triumphing? Is it righteous indignation at the defaming of God’s name? Is it fear at what they may do when they gain power? Whatever the reason for our anger or anxiety, David reminds us that such a response forgets God’s sovereignty. He calls us to rest in the knowledge that the very God whose name is defamed is the one who governs all things. He is the righteous Judge and the Loving Father. He shall call the wicked to account and He knows the number of hairs on our head. God sees, brothers and sisters; He hears; He knows – and so, David teaches us to sing, we need not grow angry or anxious, it only causes harm. We are to trust God; believe Him; look to Him. He will vindicate His Name and the names of all those who trust Him.
But sometimes our response to the triumph of the wicked is neither anger nor anxiety but envy. We envy their prosperity or their power or their influence or their licentiousness. But such envy reveals that we really don’t believe that God is the Lord and will render to every man according to his works. After all, David reminds us that the lot of the wicked is not enviable; any triumph they experience is momentary. They shall be cut down like grass; their plans will ultimately fail; and they shall be destroyed. So why envy that?
God has so made the world and so orchestrates history and eternity, that those who honor Him and His law will prosper while those who rebel against Him and spurn Him will perish. Our Lord Jesus Himself promised us, quoting from later in this very psalm, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Note that the promise is not that the meek shall inherit heaven – as true as that is – the promise is that the meek shall inherit the earth. Any triumph of the wicked is momentary. As John Wycliffe declared, “Great is the truth, and it shall prevail.”
Reminded of our failure to trust less in God’s promises than in our own feeble assessment of our cultural situation, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive our anger, anxiety, and envy.