Psalm 37: Keep Calm and Carry On
“It’s so unfair!” you say, and you’re absolutely right.
Corporations rip what they want from the earth
and leave their toxins behind.
Countless starve as a few wallow in wealth.
But do not fret because of the wicked.
Take the world’s problems seriously but don’t live in anxiety.
Get mad but don’t feed anger.
Take it from me, I’ve seen a few years and fought a few battles –
peace is not won by violence, but claimed by the soul.
Those who live by the sword die by the sword.
Old age brings a longer view,
the choice between faith and bitterness gets more stark.
Only the Lord God is worth committing your life to,
so live full-on for Christ.
Only He is worth your trust
so learn to be still, learn to listen, learn to wait,
let him teach you His ways,
and you will find the strongest strength in weakness,
the mightiest power in vulnerability,
the most precious riches in emptiness,
the greatest blessing in generosity.
The meek shall inherit the earth,
the patient shall outlive the strivers.
The Lord loves justice far more than we every can;
walk with Him or you will become the thing you hate.
Walk with Jesus and he will catch you when you stumble.
The Lord holds you and sustains you and provides for you.
Delight in God and he will give you the desires of your heart.
NOTE on Psalm 37
I read this as an aging King David advising his grandchildren, or maybe even pondering what advice he would have given himself as a young man. It is easy to promise others "prosperity for the peaceable" (v 37) when you are yourself prosperous and prefering to keep one's wealth unthreatened by hot-heads complaining about social injustice! Meekness in one's subjects is a quality highly desired by kings! Young people in our day are all too easy seduced into a sense of powerlessness about the problems of our world without King David saying, in effect, 'Don't worry about injustice, it'll all come out in the wash sooner or later."
In attempting to read this Psalm as Jesus did it becomes less a tool of social control than a powerful statement of the 'upside-down' values of the Kingdom of God, in which meekness is power, stillness is action, abundance is found in poverty, and in which being in right relationship with God and with other people matters far more than winning battles against evil.
p.s. Verses 14&15 can be read as a self-fulfilling prophecy by David with profound implications for his own family and the heritage that he leaves for the line of leaders who followed him. Sadly the 'wicked' was for David not ultimately his enemies that he could defeat with military might, but his own propensity for violence which indeed turned against him in a deeply personal way. His sword pierced his own heart through the death of his son, and the family in-fighting which threatened ultimately the very existence of Israel.
(June 2020 during Black Lives Matter protests)
I am suspicious of Psalm 37.
I mean, I want to be one of those
whose righteousness shines like the dawn (v6).
But I don’t trust the categories.
Who decides who is righteous and who is wicked?
“For the arms of the wicked will be broken
but the Lord supports the righteous” (v17).
Who gets to inherit the land and live in security? (v3 & 29)
The Israeli or the Palestinian?
Who will God protect from whom? (v40)
When the President says that the police “keep us safe”
who is “us”?
Not the black man dying on the tarmac.
Psalm 37 tips the injustice of today on its head -
those who prosper now
may not be those God is lifting up.
But is silence and calm our calling
in the face of oppression? (7-8)
Or might the Good Spirit be in the raised fist?
What if we are all a mix of good and evil?
blessed and cursed?
The categories of righteous and wicked
cut too deep
and are too tightly bound
to the colour of our skin.
Psalm 37: The meek shall inherit the earth
Trust in the Lord, and do what is right
and you will live in safety.
Delight in the Lord, and he will give to you
what your heart desires.
Everywhere we see wrong being done -
the poor get poorer,
people in power fight for more power,
children are hurt by those who should love them.
You wait and see – bad people come to a bad end,
greed and violence will not win.
God lifts up those who seek peace
God protects those who seek justice
God loves those who are humble and kind.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right.”
said Jesus (Matthew 5:4-5)