I found myself in a situation recently where some money that was owed me did not come in when I was expecting it - and when I figured I needed it to pay a bill. Because of that, I started complaining and stewing - I started fretting about the money and the person. Then the Holy Spirit pricked my conscience and showed me exactly what I was doing. He brought Psalm 37 to mind, and there I found five commands to do good instead of fretting. Five is typical of God's grace. Often we think of grace that is necessary for salvation - and forget that grace is so needful for service, for walking with the Lord everyday!
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
The word for teaching means "to train up a child, i.e. educate, or (by implication), discipline (by punishment)." God's grace trains and disciplines me as His child to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. It was certainly ungodly for me to fret. His grace also teaches me to live right - to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Soberly means to be of a "sound mind" - to be thinking right. Righteously means to be doing right - not walking in a manner that would be displeasing to the Lord. Godly means to be like God, Christlike, living in a way that reflects my Saviour living in me.
What we see in Psalm 37:1-11 is a fivefold lesson on how grace teaches us to "fret not," and reasons for not fretting.
First of all, what does it mean to fret?
Strong's Concordance gives this definition: "to glow or grow warm; figuratively (usually) to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy." Notice also the word range that is given in the King James Bible: "be angry, burn, be displeased, fret self, grieve, be (wax) hot, be incensed, kindle, be wroth." Webster's 1828 Dictionary gives these as some of his definitions of this word: "To rub; to wear away a substance by friction... To agitate; to disturb; to make rough... To tease; to irritate; to vex; to make angry... To wear away; to chafe; to gall... To be agitated; to be in violent commotion... To be vexed; to be chafed or irritated; to be angry; to utter peevish expressions... Agitation of mind; commotion of temper; irritation; as, he keeps his mind in a continual fret." From this word picture, we can clearly see that fretting is not a good thing! It carries the idea of seething or burning within - and brings to my mind the idea of worrying at something, letting it eat at us within, until it wears us out - emotionally, physically, and spiritually!
Proverbs 24:19 Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked;
Proverbs 23:17 Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
The fear of the Lord teaches us to depart from evil - and it is the grace of God that teaches and enables us to do so.
It is beyond the scope of this present study to cover this, but it is worthwhile to read through Psalms 37 and 73, and see the end of the wicked contrasted with the end of the righteous. I've read the end of the Book and know how it all works out - our temporary troubles that we experience because of the wicked will all eventually be righted.
Psalms 37:37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
Those who know the Lord will be rewarded and delivered, and the wicked who refuse to repent and trust the Saviour will be judged for their wickedness. With our eyes on eternity, God will give us the grace to fret not!
1) Trust In The Lord, And Do Good.
Psalm 37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
To fret and be envious of the wicked is evil - yet God commands us to counter that with trusting in the Lord - ie. leaving the wicked in His hands, for Him to take care of in His time - and doing good.
The word for trust here means "properly, to hie for refuge; figuratively, to trust, be confident or sure." To run to for refuge. When we are tempted to fret, we need to find a refuge for our hearts and minds - we need to have God's peace within, regardless of what those around us are doing. We need to have that inward assurance and faith-based confidence that the Lord is still in control, and what He has allowed in our lives - even if caused by those same wicked people we are fretting about - He will use and even turn around for our good.
Then we are commanded to do good. Being filled with anger and letting that control our actions is wrong (see Ephesians 4:26) - instead we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and let His Word control our actions. We need to dig deeper into the Word of God, find promises that fit our situations, claim them and persevere in well doing, so that we will reap a harvest of righteousness, not wickedness in due time. True trust will result in putting feet to that faith - ie. trust and do.
Psalm 37:27 Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.
Psalm 34:14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
When we trust in the Lord and do good, this is God's promise to us: so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
The word for fed here means "to tend a flock; i.e. pasture it; intransitively, to graze (literally or figuratively)." This is the same word that is translated as shepherd in the Old Testament (for example, Psalm 23:1). As Sister Kate has already covered in her devotional on The Nine Cares Of A Shepherd, it is the caring job of a shepherd (whether the Lord Himself or a faithful pastor) to feed his flock, as the following passages bear out:
John 21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Feed means "to tend as a shepherd of (figuratively, superviser)." Not only does the Lord physically feed us, He spiritually feeds our souls. We could never live by bread alone - and our Heavenly Father knows that, so He provides for us spiritually as well - through the indwelling Spirit of God, and through His precious Word.
We don't have to be like Elimelech and his family in the book of Ruth, that ran away foolishly to "greener pasture" when famine came to Bethlehem. The Lord will meet our needs even in the time of famine - if we keep our eyes upon Him. (See Psalm 37:19) We are the sheep of His pasture, and the Lord Jesus Christ promises to meet all our daily needs as we walk in right fellowship with Him. Fret not!
2) Delight Thyself In The Lord.
Psalms 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
The word for desires here means "a request; petition." When the Lord is truly our delight – when our affections are set on Him and on sincerely doing His will, then He will give us the desires He Himself has placed in our hearts. We don’t need to fret when we know that all that concerns us has been placed in the loving hands of our Heavenly Father – and He will take care of that concern according to His perfect will.
Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
Colossians 3:1-2 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Albert Barnes stated this in his commentary: "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."
Psalms 21:2 Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah.
The Holy Spirit puts godly desires within our hearts, helps us pray about those desires - and then fufills them because they are according to the will of God:
Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
We can have God’s peace within our hearts and minds when we know that we have poured out our hearts before Him, and by faith have that assurance that He will grant our requests and our godly desires:
Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
"A pleasant duty is here rewarded with another pleasure. Men who delight in God desire or ask for nothing but what will please God; hence it is safe to give them carte blanche. Their will is subdued to God's will, and now they may have what they will. Our innermost desires are here meant, not our casual wishes; there are many things which nature might desire which grace would never permit us to ask for; these deep, prayerful, asking desires are those to which the promise is made." (Charles Spurgeon, Treasury Of David)
Matthew Henry proposes this question: "What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and live to God, to please him and to be pleased in him."
Psalms 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
We do not need to fret or be envious of the wicked when they are prospering in their wickedness, because when we are in the center of God's will and seeking Him, our desires are met in Him and by Him. Fret not!
3) Commit Thy Way Unto The Lord.
Psalms 37:5-6 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
The word for commit means “to roll (literally or figuratively).” That is very picturesque. We are to cast our burdens upon the Lord, and roll our way unto Him. The word way means “a road (as trodden); figuratively, a course of life or mode of action.” When taken together, this verse is stating we are to give the Lord our whole life, our whole future, and trust Him with it. When we do so, when we leave our plans and goals and dreams firmly in His hands, then we see Him working them out according to His will.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 16:3 Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.
Charles Spurgeon makes this comment, "Roll the whole burden of life upon the Lord. Leave with Jehovah not thy present fretfulness merely, but all thy cares; in fact, submit the whole tenor of thy way to him. Cast away anxiety, resign thy will, submit thy judgment, leave all with the God of all. What a medicine is this for expelling envy!"
Verse six tells us that when we place our lives in the Saviour’s hands, when we are accused wrongly, slandered, or persecuted for doing what is right in His sight, then He Himself will vindicate us – in His timing, He will make manifest to all the truth. There is no need to fret. We only need to persevere in well doing, and trust the Lord to bring forth our judgment as the noon day. It will happen, because God is faithful!
From Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible: "That is, if you are slandered; if your character is assailed, and seems for the thee to be under a cloud; if reproach comes upon you from the devices of wicked people in such a way that you cannot meet it - then, if you will commit the case to God, he will protect your character, and will cause the clouds to disperse, and all to be as clear in reference to your character and the motives of your conduct as the sun without a cloud."
1 Peter 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Matthew 13:43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Whether in this life or in the life to come, the truth will be made manifest to all; therefore, fret not!
4) Rest In The Lord, And Wait Patiently For Him.
Psalms 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
Quit striving and fretting, stop being agitated and unsettled in your mind, stop fighting against the Lord and trying to take back the reigns of your own life! Rest in the Lord. Come before Him and just rest in His presence. Be still and know that He is God, and that He is the one in control of your life - not the wicked person that you are fretting about.
Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
As David has already taught us: trust in the Lord and do good, delight yourself in the Lord, commit your way unto Him, rest in Him, and wait for Him to work out your situation according to His perfect will and timing. Leave it all in His hands. Like Ruth, wait for the Lord to perfect that which concerneth you (see Psalm 138:8):
Ruth 3:18 Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
Like the people in King Hezekiah's day, rest upon the Word of your King, rest upon His promises:
2 Chronicles 32:8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
James 5:7-9 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Be longsuffering with the wicked, set your eyes steadfastly on the Lord, don't murmur against one another - the Lord Jesus Christ is coming, and He will right all wrongs when He returns. Fret not!
5) Cease From Anger, And Forsake Wrath.
Psalms 37:8-11 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. 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.
To cease means "to slacken," and to forsake means "to loosen, i.e. relinquish." The command the Holy Spirit gives us here is to let go of our anger, let go of our fuming and mental agitation - to turn away from our fretting, and to put it out of our hearts and lives. We can become angry at the sin of the wicked, become angry at their mistreatment of us - but these words in this passage show a spirit that is no longer in control: the word for anger means "to breathe hard, i.e. be enraged" (ie. passionate anger) and the word for wrath means "hot displeasure, furious, heated anger." Together they indicate being out of control emotionally, losing our temperance and sinning towards the wicked ourselves! This is something we are not to do!
Ephesians 4:26-27 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
It is interesting that David states the meek shall inherit the earth. This is not just a Psalm for the nation of Israel - in fact, Jesus refers to this verse in His sermon on the mount:
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Meek means "mild, i.e. (by implication) humble; gentle."
The solution to turn from our fretting and receive God's grace to overcome this sin in our lives is to humble ourselves (ie. be meek) before Him, and to wait upon the Lord. Vengeance is His after all - and He knows the end from the beginning. He knows the best way to deal with each situation and each sinner in light of eternity.
James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
1 Peter 5:5-6 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
What does it mean to inherit the earth? While our inheritance in Christ is a rich subject indeed, I leave you the following passages to consider:
1 Corinthians 3:21-23 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.
Revelation 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
In light of God's fivefold commands: His grace to enable us to trust in Him and do good, His promise to give us our hearts' desires when we delight ourselves in Him, His faithfulness to bring to pass our way when it is committed to Him, the commands to rest in Him and wait upon Him, and His admonition to forsake our anger and wrath, is it any wonder we are exhorted to fret not?
The heavenly circles bending, Guides every star aright:
The winds, and clouds, and lightning, By his sure hand are led;
And he will, dark shades brightening, Show thee what path to tread.
Although to make God falter, The powers of hell combine,
One jot they cannot alter Of his all wise design:
All projects and volition Of his eternal mind,
Despite all opposition, Their due fulfilment find.
No more, then, droop and languish, Thou sorrow stricken soul;
Even from the depths of anguish, Whose billows over thee roll,
Thy Father's hand shall draw thee: In hope and patience stay,
And joy will soon shed o'er thee An ever brightening ray.
All faithless murmurs leaving, Bid them a last good night,
No more thy vexed soul grieving, Because things seem not right;
Wisely his sceptre wielding, God sits in regal state,
No power to mortals yielding, Events to regulate.
Trust with a faith untiring In thine Omniscient King,
And thou shalt see admiring What he to light will bring.
Of all thy griefs, the reason Shall at the last appear:
Why now denied a season, Will shine in letters clear.
Then raise thine eyes to heaven, Thou who canst trust his frown;
Thence shall thy meed be given, The chaplet and the crown:
Thy God the palm victorious In thy right hand shall plant,
Whilst thou, in accents glorious, Melodious hymns shall chant.
(Poem by Paul Gerhard, quoted in Spurgeon's Treasury Of David)
(Preached June 6th/07)
60 Day Devotional Series: Numbers In The Bible
For more studies that use passages in the Psalms as the springboard: