Psalm 37: 1-7
One of the things that make the Psalms so precious is that they record for us the experiences of real saints of God. We read of their sorrows, their joys, the things that made them afraid, and what their hopes were; and especially how they proved God, how they learned to trust Him. We read of how they got into trouble - at times this was through their sins, but at others they suffered on account of their righteousness. We know that when the Holy Spirit prompted them to record what they did record, it often went far beyond what they experienced. But it is a comfort for us in reading of them because sometimes when we pass through difficulties, we may think we are the only ones who have had that experience, and then we find in the Psalms that the saints have been this way before. The Psalms record the times of spiritual decline that saints passed through, and how they were recovered. That is something which has marked all our histories to a greater or lesser degree.
This psalm refers in its prophetic bearing to a time still future when evil will be rife and the wicked will appear to have the upper hand. The great point of the psalm is to encourage the saints to trust in Jehovah and to look forward to that day when God will intervene in His government; when He will deal with the wicked, and vindicate the righteous. It has a bearing on our position, because we are living in an evil day. Evil appears to triumph. The Scriptures, and the Psalms in particular, lead us to believe otherwise. But as far as things outwardly are concerned, evil appears to triumph, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the people of God. The question is, ’How are we to get through, how are we going to get on in these circumstances?’. I think this psalm points the way. It shows how exercised saints, who desire to please God and to practise His will, can get through in such times. Verse 18, for example, says,
Jehovah knoweth the days
of the perfect;
and their inheritance shall
be for ever:
they shall not be ashamed
in the time of evil,
and in the days of famine
they shall be satisfied.
We may feel that we are living in times of spiritual famine. But we need to be careful of complaining, for example, about being impoverished, of being spiritually emaciated, because, according to this verse, even in an evil day, the perfect - those that are walking uprightly - can know what it is to be satisfied by God; which is a great comfort.
The first exhortation is not to fret because of evil-doers: their time will come. We are not to become agitated by the trouble. We might extend that to the crises that come into the testimony: to fret, or to be agitated, is really unbelief. This is seen with the disciples, when they were in the boat with the Lord, and were afraid of perishing, Luke 8: 22-25. To fret is a sign of unbelief, or it is a sign that we may have ourselves before us in some way. We are not to fret because the time will come when things will be put right.
It then says in verse 3, “Confide in Jehovah”. What impressed me about verses 3 and 4 is that they raise the question with us as to what God is, what the Lord Jesus is, to us personally. The other verses speak of what He can do for us, and how we are to get through. But the first matter is what the Lord is personally to us. It says, “Confide in Jehovah”. When exercises and questions arise we may turn to this one or that one, when really the Lord is the One to whom we must turn. We are liable, I think, to be influenced to a greater or lesser degree by those that we speak to, but it is essential that we should have to do with the Lord. The measure in which we are truly able to confide in Him will reflect what the Lord is to us personally.
So it says, “dwell in the land, and feed on faithfulness”. That raises two questions: first, as to where it is we are living, and then what is it we are feeding on. Dwelling in the land, I think, would point to the great spiritual inheritance which God has given us. You might say, ‘Well, there are things that need to be faced’ - and there are. But that is not where we are to live. God has given us a spiritual inheritance, and that is where our souls are to dwell. It is a practical test, while we must be occupied with the interests and needs of the testimony, as to where it is that our souls repose: where do they find their rest? Is it in the blessings of God? Is it in the sphere of things that He has provided in His goodness?
Then it says, “feed on faithfulness”. I take it the thought directly is to feed on the faithfulness of God. Now that is a wonderful thing to feed on. When matters come up we tend to be much occupied with things that are said and done. I think every assembly-minded person would make it his business to know what is passing among the people of God. But that is not to be the food of our souls. We are to “feed on faithfulness”, to feed especially on the faithfulness of God, as expressed in the Person of our Lord Jesus. While we ought to be occupied, as I say, with the interests and needs of the saints, we need to be watchful that it does not become our food. We ought to feel deeply the sorrows that arise amongst us, but we also need to take care that these matters do not become food for us; and that we are feeding on the Lord Jesus.
One specific aspect of the faithfulness of God which has been a comfort to me is in 1 Corinthians 1: 9, where it says that “God is faithful, by whom ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord”. I think we have been taught that, in the first place, God is faithful to the fellowship - faithful to the fellowship of His Son. To my mind that is a great comfort. It is what gives us the assurance that the fellowship of God’s Son will never be overthrown. Whatever may come in, in the course of the testimony, the fellowship of God’s Son will never be overthrown, because God is faithful to it. Of course, much exercise has to be entered into in order to locate it for ourselves, and then to be in the power of it. But let us feed upon the faithfulness of God, dear brethren, because that is what will put strength into our souls; and that is what will steady us for the pathway.
Then it says, “delight thyself in Jehovah”. You see, it comes back to what the Lord is to me actually. Do I find my delight in Him? It is one thing to speak about Him, it is one thing to share precious thoughts as to Him when we are together; but is the Lord Jesus really the present delight of my soul? For the verse implies that, if He is, “he will give thee the desires of thy heart”. In other words, He will satisfy us. What a wonderful thing that is to know, in days which are marked by such weakness and breakdown. What a wonderful thing to find that, notwithstanding all the conditions that exist, the Lord Jesus is still able to satisfy our hearts as we find our delight in Him. I think that is something to be proved by us.
Verses 3 and 4, relate to what the Lord is to us personally. Then verses 5 and 6 have to do with committing our way to Him. “Commit thy way unto Jehovah, and rely upon him”. That also involves something which is very blessed for us. We might be anxious as to how things are going to work out, but the note to “Commit thy way unto” is ‘roll thy way upon’ Him - roll it upon Him. In other words, speaking, I trust, with the greatest care and reverence, let Him take the burden of it, let Him take the strain, as it were. Roll the whole matter upon Him.
Now, if we are going to commit our way to Him, we must be exercised as to whether it is a way that He can approve of. That raises the question as to what our motives are; whether it is our desire, for example, to walk in the truth; whether it really is our desire that, in all that we do, it should be honouring to Him. But I would say, dear brethren, that where our motives are pure and our desire is to please the Lord - again, notwithstanding all the conditions that exist - I am assured that the Lord will help us. May we commit our way unto Him, in simplicity and dependence, and “rely upon him”. That does not in any way excuse us from taking up our responsibility, or being ready to act for the Lord as He may direct. But the great thing is to “rely upon him”. I think the Lord would exercise us to do that increasingly.
Then verse 7 says, “Rest in Jehovah, and wait patiently for him”. As having committed matters to the Lord, we can wait for Him. In the meantime we have always - at every moment - to practise His will, to do what is right, to speak the truth; but, according to this scripture, we are to bring matters to Him and wait for Him. It says, “fret not thyself because of him that prospereth in his way, because of the man that bringeth mischievous devices to pass”. We are not to become agitated by what others may be doing, but as waiting on the Lord we can be assured that He is available to support and guide His saints.
I bring these few thoughts before us that they may encourage our hearts. May we be helped to take matters to Him in simple confidence in the Lord. To seek His mind about every matter, and to be directed by Him is a very present exercise for us. It does not in any way relieve us of our responsibility. In verse 3, it says, “Confide in Jehovah, and do good”. We are required to do good. We are required to do what is right. Similarly, in verses 27 and 28 it says,
Depart from evil, and do good,
and dwell for evermore;
for Jehovah loveth judgment,
and will not forsake his saints.
I notice that word, “Depart from evil”. It shows that the obligation on the people of God to separate from evil is a very old one. It is important to understand 2 Timothy 2 and all that it involves. But there is nothing new about the principle that the apostle Paul draws on in that chapter. He gives it a particular application to the broken state of the church, but the principle that underlies it is very ancient, because God’s people have always been required to “depart from evil”. This verse indicates not only that they must depart from evil, but that they must also “do good”. We must not forget that side. Not only are we called on to take right ground, in separation from the world and from vessels to dishonour, but, dear brethren, let us not forget to do good.
What a comfort that word is, “Jehovah loveth judgment”. “Judgment” here means bringing to light the true character of things, discriminating between good and evil, and doing justice. God loves it. It is something that marks Him. It is part of His character. Then it says He “will not forsake his saints”. What strength that is intended to impart to our souls. What a mighty Champion we have in the Lord Jesus! We can say now, with the benefit of two thousand years of church history, that the Lord Jesus has never forsaken His saints. There has never been a need on the part of His church that He has not been able to provide for. I think the Lord would encourage us at the present time to draw near to Him, to find our delight in Him, and to trust Him more. May it be so for His Name’s sake.
15th October 2013