It is a great challenge for the Christian to know how to respond when wickedness succeeds bringing prosperity, power and happiness to its practitioners, especially when it is at the expense of ‘the righteous’. This situation does seem to be an ever present reality. In the workplace it is often bullying leaders and managers who succeed at the expense of employees and this is not limited to private enterprise. Consider the cost whistle blowers in public services have paid. At governmental level the power and wealth accumulated by oppressive governmental leaders is a permanent feature of history and no less evident today. A global perspective brings into focus that a broadly just and compassionate government that prioritizes the weakest in society is a minority position. In the home the figures for domestic abuse are frightening. Last year the Office for National Statistics estimated that 2.4 million people were domestically abused in England and Wales. The church is not immune to the corruption of power as has been highlighted in recent public exposures.
How then should the Christian live? Should we change sides and say that clearly righteousness is a waste of time and we would be much better off conforming to the norm where evil doers prosper? David’s response in Psalm 37 is reinforced through the bible and it is striking how much it accords with Jesus’ teaching 1500 years later. He is adamant that we should, ‘turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.’ vv 27,28
David characterizes the wicked as enemies of the righteous v12 and the poor and needy. v14 This is a warning as to reality, ‘The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him. V12 and ‘The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.’ V32 It was the same experience for Jesus and the church of the New Testament.
David takes a long view or eternal perspective. Some might say even a naïve view when he says, ‘I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.’ v25 when that clearly is not universally true. He is however clear that the prosperity of the wicked is a temporary thing and often they become the victim of their own wickedness, ‘But their swords will pierce their own hearts.’ v15 He compares the wicked to the grass in the Middle East, green in spring but withered and dry by the autumn. v2 Ultimately under God’s judgement the wicked will be destroyed, ‘there will be no future for the wicked.’ v38
In the face of wickedness he calls people into relationship with the Lord. He urges us to, trust in the Lord, v3 take delight in the Lord, v4 commit to the Lord, v5 be still before the Lord, v7 wait for the Lord, v7 and hope in the Lord. v34 Arising from time spent with the Lord and our relationship with him he then appeals to us to not be angry or worry v8 and to hope in the Lord and keep his way. v34
This is not an easy thing when one has experienced great suffering from the hands of evil doers but this is the over-arching promise of God that was pioneered by Jesus.
‘The salvation of the righteous come from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.’ vv39,40
Trust his heart – Babbie Mason
New wine – Hillsong