Psalm 37 - Do not fret because of the wicked

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Of David.
1) Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2) for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.

3) Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4) Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5) Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6) He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

7) Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
8) Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9) For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10) Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
11) But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

12) The wicked plot against the righteous,
and gnash their teeth at them;
13) but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that their day is coming.
14) The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly;
15) their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16) Better is a little that the righteous person has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17) For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
18) The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will abide forever;
19) they are not put to shame in evil times,
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20) But the wicked perish,
and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21) The wicked borrow, and do not pay back,
but the righteous are generous and keep giving;
22) for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23) Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
when he delights in our way;
24) though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand.
25) I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26) They are ever giving liberally and lending,
and their children become a blessing.
27) Depart from evil, and do good;
so you shall abide forever.
28) For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his faithful ones.
The righteous shall be kept safe forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29) The righteous shall inherit the land,
and live in it forever.
30) The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak justice.
31) The law of their God is in their hearts;
their steps do not slip.

32) The wicked watch for the righteous,
and seek to kill them.
33) The Lord will not abandon them to their power,
or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial.
34) Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on the destruction of the wicked.
35) I have seen the wicked oppressing,
and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.
36) Again I passed by, and they were no more;
though I sought them, they could not be found.
37) Mark the blameless, and behold the upright,
for there is posterity for the peaceable.
38) But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.

39) The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
40) The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
Psalm 37 (NRSV*)
7th Sunday after Epiphany, Year C, verses 1-11, 39-40
Proper 22, Sunday between October 2 and October 8, verses 1-11, 39-40

This psalm has some well-known wisdom: "Trust in the Lord" (v3), "Wait patiently for the Lord" (v7), "I have not seen the righteous forsaken" (v25).

But its heart is directed to believers who are troubled by the wicked. Perhaps by the wicked's very existence, but certainly by their threat, and the very real evidence of their success.

The wicked vex us. They irritate us, they anger us, they tempt us, they beset us with troubles they impose, and with troubles we stumble into. They even obsess us. Truth be told, we may envy them their power, their seeming ease, their enjoyment of their lifestyle.

The psalm does its best to take seriously our relationship to the wicked, and to turn our attention to the Righteous One, the Lord God. You see, the Lord stands in a different kind of relationship to both the wicked and to us.

The same God stands above us all, dispensing both judgment and grace. The same vexatious Lord loves both the wicked and the oppressed, and wants healing and goodness for both.

If and how God achieves that with those evildoers is not really our job, yet we are desperately concerned that God at least does something with them.

This might be a good time to pause, and remember where and who we are. While we may justly see wrongdoers and injustice... are we that far from being in the wrong ourselves?

However much they may be bothering us, even in the most dire ways, the wicked are God's problem. Righteous, wicked, and every point on the spectrum between, are all in God's hands. And we are asked to trust. However inscrutable to us at this moment, god's will will be done. While we may pray for justice or vengeance, we also pray for grace when it comes to ourselves. Can we trust the Lord to do what is divinely-right, not just for those others, but for us?

This psalm attempts to redirect us: "Do not fret because of the wicked" (v1), "Do not fret—it leads only to evil" (v8), rather, turn to the Lord and simply practice goodness in your life.

If we take care of our business (loving God and neighbor), God will take care of God's business. The psalm says that the Lord rescues those who take refuge in him. That very act of seeking your home in the Lord's goodness is our vocation and our salvation. Do not fret because of the wicked. Instead, dwell in, rejoice in, trust in the Lord.

Credits:
Derek Harper, Withered grass on stone row, (edited), (CC BY-SA 2.0).
* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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