The life of faith involves the miracle of seeing above your circumstances. It means we grasp the unseen that’s been promised, that we orient our lives in the time at hand, on the yet to come.
Psalm 37 exhorts us to this kind of life, and actually models for us what it looks like. David begins the psalm with end-times hope:
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. (Psalm 37:1–2)
He says that the wicked will be cut off on the coming day of God’s judgment, and therefore, we need not worry over them now. One day, a new world will dawn, and God’s righteousness will be fully manifest — those who don’t know him will be punished and those who trust him will be saved (2 Thessalonians 1:6–10).
Simply put, David has pointed us to what will be as the ground to how we act in the present. This straightforward formula provides an aerial view of what is happening in this “wisdom psalm.” He continues the common contrast between the wicked and righteous and tells us, in light of our future, to keep waiting. Hold on. Hang in there.
This is the psalm, and in many respects, it’s the Christian life.
Just Hold On
Far from a triumphant flourishing, or a slick success story, or our best anything now, the psalms show us how to survive. They show us how to live in hope when the scenery around us looks more like Babylon than the new Jerusalem. Because, to be sure, this place isn’t the new Jerusalem.
We can’t help but ask if the reason the psalms sometimes seem strange to us — all these complaints about evildoers and the plots of the wicked — is because we’ve become too comfortable with the brokenness of Babylon. Have we confused American prosperity to be the norm of present Christian existence? Have we let all the good things that this world can give us blind us to the more important things that it can’t?
Maybe. But the psalms won’t let us go. They just won’t, especially Psalm 37.
David, again, shows us the life of faith. But it’s not the straight-laced kind in the study when all is right and the kids aren’t screaming. It’s life in the commotion, in the chaos, in the bustling, hustling jungle called this sin-tainted world, where cars break down, good dads get cancer, and seven of our Egyptian brothers are found shot to death in Benghazi.
Hang in there, he tells us. Just wait.
An Active Waiting
But what does it mean to wait like this? Well, David shows us, and perhaps it comes as a surprise. We may be accustomed to think that waiting means bunkering down, that hanging in there means hiding out. But that’s not what he says.
In verses 3–7, repeating a similar construction, he exhorts us:
trust in the Lord . . .
delight yourself in the Lord . . .
commit your way to the Lord . . .
be still before the Lord.
This is the character of our waiting — of the life of faith. It is thoroughly active. We are called to trust God. To really trust him. Not just on the sidelines, or in the books, or only in theory. But to trust him out there. We are to trust him and do good, which implies that our faith rolls up its sleeves and digs into this grimy earth. We trust God while the dirt of Adam’s world gets buried beneath our fingernails.
What We Say
And it is full of delight. This might be the most confusing to the sentiments of our old nature. When things are bad, when the wicked draw their swords and bend their bows, we have delight — because it is a delight in God, not our circumstances, not the goodness or badness of the details around us. This is overwhelmingly a delight by faith, when we look through our pain and seize the unshakable glory of a Savior who will never leave us nor forsake us, one who knows what it means to hurt, who walked the path of greatest suffering to welcome us into his presence where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
And then, trusting him and doing good, delighting in him and desiring things that conform to his will, we commit our way to him. We know that the horses are made ready for battle, but the victory is always his. We know that unless he is watching, the watchman stays awake in vain. This is the humble refrain to mistake ourselves as the one running things. It’s the bowed-head, soul-prostrate refusal to take the situation into our own hands. We’ve trusted, we’ve acted, we’ve delighted, and now we say, “Let the Lord do what seems good to him!” (2 Samuel 10:12).
And then we are still before him. We are waiting, after all. Waiting. Holding on. Orienting our lives in the time at hand on the yet to come.