1 FRET not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
7. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Today it would seem as though the evil aspirations of godless men are reaching out towards ever new heights; at the same time, their deeds sink to ever lower depths of wickedness and depravity. There is a brash anti-Christian haughtiness abroad, a brazen godless arrogance unrivalled in living memory. It is not alarmist or fanatical, nor is it beyond denial to say that there exists a nexus of evil, a bond among many in high places who, as the Scriptures say, “take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us (Psalm 2:2-3). They would cast off the cords divine authority. The evidence for this is clear. These individuals have quite openly set themselves the task of eradicating from the life of our nation everything that is remotely Christian and their actions are well-known.
Using classic entryist techniques, they regularly surface in the judiciary, among high-ranking police officers, ministers of religion, or as members of parliament. The law does not catch them although they frequently act outside it with apparent impunity or in the case of judges and politicians they formulate their own rules and laws. Many are found in the media and the film world. There is a conscious manipulation of television and film, highly selective and skewed news programmes and documentaries distort reality; lies are knowingly presented as truth, no price is too high. People believe what they want to believe is true to give substance to their own vain thinking. Thankfully, not everyone is so gullible. God’s enemies will use anything to hand newspapers. We can be sure; those who operate in the dark are up to no good. Well do the Scriptures say of them,
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:19-20)
The situation is dire. These people are destroying our nation, tearing apart its very fabric, setting its citizens against each other. They are destroying our families, impoverishing the hardworking whilst feeding the feckless, diluting what is left of a moral code, teaching others to blaspheme. Thieves in high places are praised by government ministers for their contribution to the country’s economy, thieves lower down the ladder are quickly brought to book. “For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.” (Psalm 10:3) Thieves and fraudsters are the same at whatever end of the social ladder they are found. A large international corporation can fiddle the tax system, as can the rich by clever accounting and shipping out their funds to offshore bank accounts. The parliamentarian may make fraudulent expenses claims without seeing the inside of a jail, but let not lesser mortals try the same with their welfare claims. The guilty are spared or go unpunished, the innocent are harassed and subjected to frivolous lawsuits. Our godless elite debunk all morality but their own amorality; they laugh at it, turning our society into a cesspit. They care for no one but themselves and their own purpose, which they will see through at any cost. As an unborn baby you run the risk of being killed in the womb, as an older person in hospital you may well be unwittingly placed on a ‘care pathway’ to death, involuntary euthanasia sanctioned at the highest level. All these things are happening every day under our noses, until someone objects. Then when all is quiet, it all starts up again. Thugs rule, from the top of our society to its bottom, godless men and women with evil designs in their heads and in their hearts.
The influence of these kinds of people ought not to be underestimated. On the other hand, it is important that we who know the Lord gain a biblical and proper perspective on the true position of those who plot against God and Christ. We have no reason to grieve or fear what they can do. Their position is far from being what they themselves imagine it to be. Their power is far from being as extensive and as effective as they believe it to be. They believe themselves invincible but their safety is fragile. “He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity” (Psalm 10:6). We read in Psalm 2 (v.4-5) that, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure”.
One often hears the question: what will become of our children’s generation, what kind of world have we brought them into? Such concern is certainly well-founded and legitimate. For sure the world is soaked in sin, but it is not a world out of control, far from it. At times we look around and there seems no place where the godly can find respite or refuge from this onslaught. Evil is thrust into our faces day by day, hour by hour, wherever we go, whatever we do. There is no spot on earth, not the remotest, far-flung island where we can hide.
The question we must all ask ourselves is this: What then shall the people of God do in the midst of a threatening and God-hating society?
It is this question to which we will find an answer in Psalm 37. However, before we refer directly to the text, there are several wider Bible facts that undergird it and which we should consider.
First of all, we need to remember that the world is not running out of control, nor is it within the grasp of godless men to bring it under their control or impose their will upon it. Their strivings and conspiracies against God will come to nothing. God alone is sovereign.
Are we anxious about what is going on around us? Then, let us remind ourselves: God “doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35) There is nothing, absolutely nothing that is now happening on the surface of this globe that comes about outside the circle of God’s sovereign power and will. He will infallibly fulfil all He has purposed to do to the last detail. This puts the genuine Christian believer on the winning side, whilst the hypocrite, false brethren and those who have drifted from the truth, also godless men and their evil schemes will all be exposed and cast out.
Secondly, moving on from the first point, because God is sovereign, and because His enemies can act only within the scope of His eternal purpose, in a time of trial and persecution, we can with confidence say, the Lord knows how to deliver His people. Even as God sees the smallest sparrow fall, so He right now intervenes and oversees every detail of our lives. Nothing can happen to us but by His express command.
We are not exposed to any danger out of which our Saviour cannot rescue us, through which He cannot preserve us. The same God who shut the lions’ mouths delivering Daniel knows how to keep each of us “from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10). As the righteous soul of Lot was vexed as he was obliged day by day to watch the extreme wickedness going on around him in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah – cities that have lent their names to much
that passes today as acceptable behaviour – so too are our hearts similarly grieved at what we are forced to see. But, writes the apostle Peter,“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9).
Thirdly, the present state of affairs will not continue indefinitely, nor shall those who have wrought such havoc upon our people and set themselves to defy God escape retribution. The enemies of Christ will be brought to justice and surely be destroyed. This is what John saw on Patmos:
“And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)
They will be replaced, says Daniel,
“But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18)
Fourthly, the kingdoms of this world are the inheritance of Christ. His is an eternal kingdom not a temporal one. He shall return to rule in equity.
The future is not dark; it is bright, very bright. Christ’s kingdom will be established throughout the earth and we as His people are destined to reign with Him. What can possibly be a more glorious future? John the apostle records,
“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
O, my friends, let us not be downhearted but rejoicing. Let us weep now, if we must for there is much sadness about us on every hand, but our Saviour Himself shall wipe away all such tears, our present grief shall not be remembered. Ours in Christ is the victory. In Him we shall triumph gloriously and our enemies, Christ’s enemies, shall be defeated never more to rise. Hallelujah!
These points are linked and find their culmination in this last one. Even as men’s hearts fail them for fear of what shall come about on the earth, for us as believers it is a time to rejoice as we see the day of redemption draweth nigh and to know that what we do right now is not in vain in the Lord. This is our blessed hope.
“Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:26-28)
What a relief, what a joy for the believer! What a complete shock for the godless. This is the last thing anyone apart from the watchful people of God will expect. They will be stunned at this turn of events. Unbelievable that the Lord Jesus Christ, who left this earth 2000 years ago should return in this way! O, the shock, how fear will grip their hearts! This is the vision, this is the hope that we must constantly keep before our eyes. If we are in anyway fretful, despairing, or angry, surely it can only be because we have lost sight of this magnificent future event. Let those who would rob us of this sight with dismal predictions depart. We will have none of it!
In any portion of Scripture there is often to be found a sentence, verse or verses that summarises the theme of the whole passage. The encouragement to be found in Psalm 37 is brought together in its last two verses.
“But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.” (vv. 39-40)
Whatever the turbulence in the world around us; whatever the threats, whatever the persecution, and whatever disasters before us; whatever we are called upon to face; whatever the raging of evil men, one thing is sure: our salvation is in God’s hands and can never be snatched away. Our strength to overcome we find, not in ourselves but in our Saviour in whom endless resources dwell. Help, deliverance from the wicked when all seems lost comes in that moment from the Lord Himself. For our part, we trust Him, we implicitly believe His promises, we delight in Him, commit our way unto Him, rest in Him, wait upon Him. We have the promise of our blessed Saviour: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Turning now to Psalm 37 itself, the early verses outline several things we are not to do, but opposite these we are told things that we ought to do. The remainder of the Psalm really elaborates and extends in some detail what has been said in these earlier verses.
Verse one: We are not to fret; we are not to be envious.
“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.”
Verse eight: We are not to give way to anger or wrath; we are not to do evil.
“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.”
Here we clearly see a downward curve. There is a progressive intensification that begins with fretting and step by step leads to committing evil acts. If what begins simply with fretting is allowed to progress, this will end behaving in the same way as the perpetrators of evil deeds and makes us then no better than they. “Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil” we read in verse 8. Verse nine follows this though: “For evildoers shall be cut off”.
We look around us at what godless men are doing, and it is easy enough to begin to worry and to fret. What we see, what we read, begins to gnaw at us; it chews us up inside. We feed our minds on a poisonous diet, meditating on things we hardly need to know about. It raises our passions, our anger, but this fretting leads to envy. We lust after what evil men possess for ourselves; they should not have it, we should; we deserve it, they do not. Finally, our envy gets legs and we begin to act on what we feel towards these people. The resentment has built up behind the dam wall and is ready to break, perhaps it is ‘righteous’ anger. Why should the wicked prosper as they do? Why should they get away with what they do? The seed-thought is then within us to take action ourselves, to do something about it. Hateful and even murderous emotions and thoughts break forth into sinful deeds − and it all began with being fretful.
We can avoid this evil progression by following through on those things the Psalmist tells us we ought to do. For each of the negative and sinful responses to the prosperity of the wicked we are given an alternative.
We are not to fret because of evil-doers, verse 1, but instead, we ought rather to trust in the Lord and do good, verse 3.
We are not to be envious against the workers of iniquity, verse 1, but rather we ought to delight in the Lord, verse 4.
We are to cease from anger, and forsake wrath,verse 8, instead we ought rather to commit our way unto the Lord, verse 5.
We are to depart from evil, verse 27, instead we ought rather to do good and rest and wait patiently for the Lord, verses 7 and 34. Rather than give way to doing evil in response to wickedness, we are to serve the Lord, to wait upon Him, verses 9 and 34.
Trust and do good, verse 3 “…so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed”.
Delight thyself in the Lord,verse 4 “…and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart”.
Commit thy way unto the Lord verses 5 and 6 “…and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday”.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him … those that wait upon the Lord,verses 7 and 9 “…they shall inherit the earth”. Here there is a progression, but one moving upwards, trust and do good, delight in the Lord, commit thy way unto the Lord, having done this we rest in Him, wait for and upon Him.
The way of the wicked has but one end, namely, that “… they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (vv. 2 & 9).
The way of the upright and godly man progresses upward from one blessing to another. Evildoers will lose everything. They are cut off, whereas those who wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth.
We shall look each of those things we ought not to do in turn, but together with that which we ought to do instead, along with the accompanying promises …
As we see the wicked prospering, we see how they always seem to have the upper hand, the dominance, the power, treading underfoot all who oppose them, growing, encompassing more and more ground. By comparison, we as Christian believers seem to be weak and powerless, unable to halt the great tsunami of evil that threatens to engulf us all. All our efforts to bring about change seem to achieve little or nothing. But this is an entirely misguided and false view and does not reflect the reality.
Godless men do not have the upper hand, God does. Second, if evil seems to be about to overwhelm everything, it never will; the Bible says so. The present great spreading out of the influence of wicked men, though it may still yet intensify to the extent that the godly may seem to be threatened with extinction, this is but temporary and when they least expect it they will be cut down, just like a scythe slicing through grass and they shall wither. Our enemies and the enemies of God are, according to the Scriptures, at risk of falling every minute of the day, with every breath they breathe.
As for the people of God being weak, this is a complete reversal of the truth. Weak, ineffectual, small, downtrodden − this is precisely what ungodly men would have us believe about ourselves. If we are in any sense weak, then herein lies our strength for the Lord Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Our weakness provides the channel for His strength. Those who are in themselves strong will be weak in Christ. When our Saviour is strong in us, so are we in Him. Our Saviour is victorious, so are we in Him. We are in Him what He is. According to the Bible, our Saviour is right now King of kings, Lord of lords, all power is given unto Him. He says still today, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore” (Matthew 28:18-19).
What reason have we to hide away and hang down our heads? None, whatever! On the contrary, we have every reason to be courageous. Few in number we may now be, but one day, one day we shall be as numerous as the stars that no man can count, as numerous as the grains of sand on the sea shore, so the Bible says. Where then in that day will be those who strove and fought against our Saviour? Gone, my friends, passed away, says the Psalmist “and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found” (v.36). Gone forever!
This Psalm sets the record straight. It brings us into touch with reality and dispels the fantasy world in which those live who are the enemies of Christ. They live according to a lie; they are devoid of truth; they live in a world existing only in their own heads; they are detached from reality.
We are told, we should not fret.
Fretan is an old English word and is a relative of the German word fressen, to devour, used today largely of animals – or of those who have forgotten their table manners! According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary ‘fretan’ means to eat away, or to torture or wear by gnawing. We should not permit what is going on in the world around us to devour us, to consume us; to wear us down by gnawing away at our souls. We must gain a proper and biblical perspective. We should not fret because: the distress caused by continually meditating on the evil around us will have a corrosive effect if it goes unchecked. Gradually it wastes away our Christian faith, saps our strength, until we, being full of discontent, regret and even anger are of little use to God or our fellow creatures.
First of all, by fretting we may become discouraged, despondent and weary in well-doing, we may see the state of affairs we face as an insurmountable wall. “What is the use?” we ask, “Everything is a ‘stitch-up’ and there is nothing anyone can do.” This is the language of faithless defeat. We pull up the drawbridge, retreat in on ourselves defensively, stifle our testimony to the truth and sink into a pit of morbid negative thinking and the enemy has gained another victory. The rampant spread of evil and wickedness depresses us, discourages us and so we seek to gather together with others who are just as miserable as we are.
Then another consequence of fretting is that we may become resigned to our situation. There is nothing we can do to change things, so we might as well just get on with life and live it as best we can, live life to the full. Unless God does something, we might just as well sit on our hands for all our efforts will come to nothing. This is the language of faithless irresponsibility. It takes no account of who we are in Christ and the tasks He has committed to us until His return. We can do nothing, so let us shift the responsibility onto God, we say; after all, He could do something if He wanted to, send a ‘revival’ perhaps. It is all up to God, what can I do? A truth held in isolation from all the rest of Scripture, quickly becomes a half-truth or even an untruth. Shall we then blame God for our own failure to act in obedience to His Word, proclaiming the Word of truth, believing it does not return unto Him void? Do the wicked prosper because God does nothing? In no way, perish the thought!
Moving on from resignation, a further development of fretting is retreat. What has any of this got to do with us, you say? The temptation must be to try to hide from the enemy’s slings and arrows so that we are not hit, or even to beat a hasty retreat altogether. Many have already given up, sunk into passivity, now they are on the run. Many no longer hear the noise of battle or have become ‘conscientious objectors’ to any mention of a fight going on.
The Lord is coming soon anyway, say some, to take us out of all this mess, which is no concern of ours anyway. We have our ‘insurance policy’ for heaven, so why should we concern ourselves about what is going on in the world? For our part, we have other more ‘spiritual’ concerns, it is said. But this is the language of faithless self-centredness. I am alright; I am saved – perhaps − what else matters? This world is not my home. I am off to heaven, goodbye world. This world belongs to Satan, say some. Now this is complete and utter nonsense! This world right now and everything in it, everything it produces and everyone in it all belongs to God, the Bible clearly says so in Psalm 24:1. “The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” The fact that these things are under the sway of God’s enemies alters nothing.
Satan is a usurper, the Prince of all deceivers and chief patron of all confidence tricksters. Prince of the present evil conspiracy that has fraudulently taken over and dominates God’s world he may be, but the kingdoms of this world are not his at all by right and shall soon be given to the One to whom they truly belong, God’s Son, and He shall reign forever and ever. The Bible teaches this in clear and unmistakeable passages.
Fretting also leads to inhibition, fearfulness, a reluctance to make known the Gospel, to preach the Word, to stand for the truth. So formidable seems the opposition, we give up before we have begun. We shy away from confronting anyone with the truth. This is the language of faithless cowardice.
Shall we do our best to keep our heads below the parapet? This is quite difficult to achieve even were it possible. We are set as lights in this dark world and so are not easily hidden. Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14). Those who truly seek to follow the Lord must face up to the fact that this unavoidably sets us apart from our fellow men. Others will recognise this even should we not do so ourselves. Our testimony is inescapable as long as we are on this earth and this only serves to further infuriate those whose hearts are set against God. Our non-conformity to the ways of others, our very presence, even should we never open our mouths, is sufficient on its own to condemn those around us and make them feel uneasy.
Can there ever have been a more pressing need than in our own day and age for men to hear a clear presentation of the truth? Yet the silence is deafening. Where is there today a Luther, a Wesley, where are the fearless men of God? We excuse ourselves, where there is no excuse to be made. “Open thy mouth wide,” says God, “and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). But our lips are sewn shut with fear; we tremble at the footfall of our Lord’s enemies. How true today are the prophetic words of the Lord Jesus Himself! “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-13). Solemn words indeed, only those who endure to the end shall be saved. Those who run at the first sign of danger will be lost.
A final temptation is to believe the enemy’s propaganda: that we are all washed up and done for. This is the language of sinful treachery. There is no possibility of success for the Gospel of Christ; it has been predetermined to failure as has all else that God has tried with the human race. Because of human weakness, on every occasion God’s overtures to men have been marked by failure. Why should the preaching of the Gospel be any different? There are those who teach such things. However, when set against the plain statements of the Bible, this is, false teaching, a terrible insult to our Saviour, God. If the Scriptures have anything at all to say to us at all, it is this: that this current blossoming of evil − and even worse is prophesied yet to come – it is all but a temporary phenomenon and the perpetrators of this evil shall be mown down like grass and wither. They are already a laughing stock before God. We ask: why should we apportion them significance that goes beyond the clear statements of Scripture?
The Scriptures teach that over and above all, there is an irresistible and certain eternal purpose unfolding, one that must end in triumph, one that will see the destruction of all that is unrighteous, all that is evil, along with all those who persist in wicked ways. It is a purpose that will see all impostors overthrown, all false gods and all apostate religion destroyed, and the rightful King of kings shall reign openly. Seeing that in the end we shall triumph in Christ, we have no reason whatever to hang down our heads, no reason to be reluctant to face down the perpetrators of evil whether great or small. The surge of wickedness now before us can and must be faced with the proclamation of the whole counsel of God, revealed in Scripture, found in the Gospel. In this each and every one of us has some part to play.
As those who know God in Christ, we need to recover the God-centred, Christ-centred biblical Gospel. Who among us is prepared to arm themselves to face the foe? Of whom among us will it ever be said: these that have turned the world upside down are come hither also”? (Acts 17:6) We need to recover our position in Christ and then in the genuine and mighty power of God’s Spirit to face down the enemy. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Satan’s rope is getting shorter by the day, time is running out for him, and so we must expect him to throw a ferocious and vicious final tantrum before he, his minions, and all those who have sided with him are brought to book by God. Are you an enemy of God, do you? Enemies of the Most High, those who revel in that which God condemns as evil and wicked, repent, turn around and forsake the present pathway. It is destined ere long come to a sudden and unexpected end.
It is not the preaching of the Gospel that will fail, far from it, but those who are rash enough to oppose God, they are predestined to destruction It may already be in this life, but most certainly in that which is to come – one or the other or both. Certainly, their lot is not one to be envied. Who in their right mind would want to follow the godless man to his ultimate downfall and judgement?
It is certain that whilst God’s enemies may presently blossom and flourish, whilst they may through their power and prosperity lord it over us, this can only ever be a temporary phenomenon. Verse 2, “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” Notice the word ‘soon’.God does not allow men to
continue indefinitely on their evil pathway not even today in the present order of things. They may be cut down in our own day before their time because of the enormity of the evil they do. The examples in history are numerous. God has in the past destroyed whole nations because their evil practices were a direct threat to human existence and obnoxious to Him.
We can all think of men in our own lifetime or before, evil men, who have been already removed prematurely from this life by sickness, war, revolution, or some other intervention. They may be well-known; they may be known but to a few, some may be known to us personally. Such people are walking on a knife’s edge.
“Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.”
Verses 35 and 36:
“I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.”
When their cup is full, when their evil becomes no longer sustainable, down they go; and when they go down − unlike the good man (v.24) who is upheld by the Lord should he fall or stumble − when they go down, their end is catastrophic for them. They will almost inevitably deserted by their former friends. Indeed many around them will be glad when they fall thankful they have gone. Schadenfreude rules. Plenty there are, given the chance, who will give them a good kicking whilst they lie helpless on the ground. Mussolini was strung up on a lamppost. More recent wicked rulers have suffered an equally ignominious end, shot in a corner, dragged out of holes in the ground. What we must remember at all times, whether men like it or not, believe it not, God intervenes directly in all the affairs of men.
Godless men and women without exception all make the same error of judgement. They all think themselves to be safe. Nothing can happen to them. They believe themselves to be sure-footed and secure, all but invincible. They can do whatever they like, make whatever godless laws they like; promote whatever evil they fancy. There is no God who intervenes, no God who judges and who stops them in their tracks. There is an unshakeable continuity that cannot be disturbed, not even by God Himself. “All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation,” (2 Peter 3:4). And they will be there forever! Wrong, totally and utterly foolish. Here in this Psalm we read something quite different: they shall soon be cut down like grass and all that they have accomplished shall wither. It takes a man with a scythe about a day to mow an acre of grass, but the wicked shall be mown down by sickle-wielding angels in the blink of an eye. All that these people have striven for, all they have promoted and worshipped, all that they have worked so slavishly to bring about shall lie withered upon the ground and trodden underfoot.
All the grandiose schemes of men we now witness being so carefully planned and constructed, even enforced by armies will collapse by the weight of their own iniquity under the mighty hand of God. Big men, small men, all who have grown far too big for their boots shall be brought down. How often has history seen the mad, man-glorifying schemes and dreams ignominiously crumble and disappear to be forgotten by almost everyone? All brought to nothing. Whosoever dies without God is cursed along with all they have achieved in this life, great or small. Not so the believer, whose end is so very different.
“Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
The works of the godly man remain; they endure long after he has gone and shall receive a just reward from God. Not the Gospel, not the kingdom of God will come to nothing in the end, but all the grandiose schemes and idolatrous conspiracies of godless men.
Where music alone may not have quite conveyed to us what he wanted to say, Beethoven state his intention quite clearly using Schiller’s Ode to Joy as a climax to his 9th Symphony, the Choral. Alle Menschen werden Brüder – all men shall be brothers – a universal brotherhood of all mankind; a worthy goal we may think, but a forlorn never-to-be-realised and misguided hope when sought within the powers of men, apart from and in rebellion against God. In this way leaders of today’s nations seek to achieve a bright and glorious future for humanity, but they will seek to do it, as did Nimrod their father in rebellion against God and by repression and cruel domination. The age of superstition and ignorance must be abolished. The Bible is a book of fables, to be sneered at, resisted, set aside, and persecuted. They will continue the Bible tells us until God appears to be totally superseded and they believe themselves to be greater than their Creator. The world and its kingdoms will reach its zenith, but also its point of final ruin. The gospel of atheistic materialism shall have fully blossomed and the apostasy for which much of the professing Christian church has sold its birthright will have brought forth its bitter fruits. There will be left only a universal wilderness with a monster, a beast from the abyss to rule, with hell-inspired ungodliness for law, the uncleanness of the harlot for a paradise.
A new religion, a new ‘church’ is even now emerging that will in time subjugate all other religions to itself, both the true and the false ‘faiths’ are being enticed – Islam, heathenism of every kind, Romanism and all forms of degenerate and apostate Christianity. “If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24). Some have already begun linking arms, including many from neo-evangelicalism the ‘new’ Calvinism and elsewhere. A precursor of what is yet to come; this movement will continue and grow until no one will be tolerated outside it. Finally, all of life will be subjected to its scrutiny, no one will even be allowed to buy or sell without their hellish mark upon them. All resistance, the Bible tells us, will be ruthlessly put to the sword. Ba-bel, Babylon, the ‘Gate of God’ will then have revealed itself to be the mouth of hell, full of filthy abominations even as Sodom and Gomorrah.
But, at the God-appointed moment, the cry shall go up:
“Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” (Revelation 14:8)
“And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” (Revelation 18:21)
Those who refused to come out of her, as commanded by God, shall also likewise perish with her.
That which the men of ancient Babel feared most was that which befell them, no scaling the heights to heaven, but confusion of tongues and a scattering abroad on earth. They wanted to stay together but were dispersed. Men band together when they have nothing good in mind. Those up to mischief always feel stronger when they are with others of similar mind. They form political and financial unions; then they erect great buildings paid for by others in which to house and represent their new-found unity, peace and friendship. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:20-21). That which men fear most is inevitably that into which God delivers them. Not their fame not the greatness of the men of Babel is celebrated today, but the story of their folly is repeated over and over again.
God laughs at human pride, their foolish ostentation, their empty, unfounded arrogance and pride. They are weak, as the chaff in the wind, but do not recognise it. Verses 12-13
“The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.”
“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”
God laughs at the pretentions of the wicked because he knows their end, he has secured it. Those made perfect in Christ can be sure of peace at the end, but transgressors shall all perish.
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.”
Let us continually remind ourselves of the certain and horrific end that awaits those who persist in godless rebellion.
“And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)
What should replace fretting? Psalm 37 tells us…
Let us be clear, there is and can be only one world of reality. That reality is made up of God and His eternal plan, which includes the universe He created and everything in it. Nothing exists outside this reality. Those who reject God, refuse to believe He made all things, knows all things, rules all things, all such doubters are deluded and live in a fool’s paradise. God is eternal, infinite, and so without beginning or end, thus it is simply not possible for Him to have created anything on the same level as Himself. He is therefore the only one who can possibly be God. He is therefore also the only one who can be Saviour.
Whatever world it is that godless men construct, it is one that exists only in their own imagination, only in their heads – something no more real than Alice’s wonderland. It might just as well be inhabited with white rabbits and mad hatters as with real people. There is no parallel universe. Godless people live in a false reality, and are subject to a gross deception. God brought this accusation against Israel: “This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them…”
The imagination of the heart and following gods who are not God go together. Living according to unreality will bring disaster because it is in itself untrue and clearly nonsense, and also because God also intervenes. A man who jumps off a roof falsely thinking he can fly is not living in the real world. Reality meets him brutally when he hits the ground with a resounding, painful if not fatal thud. Because the godless live according to a lie all they undertake can essentially only fail in its proclaimed purpose.
Despite this, we need to remind ourselves that all men serve, and all that they do in the end serves God’s purpose and can never bring about their own proclaimed ends. Non-believers do not and cannot escape God or His plan and purpose, for that is the only reality there is, they only think they can escape God.
God warns us through Jeremiah the prophet:
“Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. (Jeremiah 17:5-6)
We are instead encouraged to trust the Lord:
“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”
What answer do we give those who ask, as did Pharaoh of Moses: “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2). We draw our picture of God from the Bible, nothing less will do; nothing less than this will fortify our souls in the evil day. What does the Word of God say about who God is? It is most clear:
“For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. … Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:18 & 22)
Only the God of the Christian Scriptures is God, there is no other. In these Scriptures above we find three reasons why we can do nothing other than trust our God implicitly.
1. We ought to trust in the Lord because He alone is God and therefore He alone is worthy of that trust. Because there is but one God, there is but One whom we can trust.
2. We ought to trust in the Lord because He created all things and will bring all He has purposed to pass. Where there is only one true God, there can be but one Creator. There is equally nothing in existence that He did not make. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). The universe and all in it belongs to the One who made it, not to Satan, not to the rulers of this world, not to anyone but to God alone.
3. We ought also to trust in the Lord because He is the only Saviour. A changing god or a polytheistic worldview means that there will be many pathways to salvation. Only the Christ of the Christian Scriptures can rightly challenge men to forsake their sins and seek to be established in the truth. There is but One God, there can be therefore only one way of salvation. There are not many plans for the world, each one uncertain or striving for dominance. So, there can be only one Saviour from sin.
“I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no Saviour” (Isaiah 43:11).
“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:22)
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
We trust God first because:
We first need to understand that when we speak of God, we are speaking of the God of the Christian Scriptures and no one else, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Intelligent discussion about God cannot take place unless we first establish what kind of a God we mean. Who is it we are talking about? All our teaching about God is derived directly from Scripture, the words of prophets and apostles spoken on the authority of Christ, Son of God and the only Saviour of sinners. From this it should be clear that we cannot link arms with those worshipping some other deity.
In Moses’ reiteration of the Law in Deuteronomy (6:4), he says quite clearly:
“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one Lord.”
Isaiah the prophet tells us,
“For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:18)
In Scripture God reveals Himself as the self-existent and absolute One. Because God alone is God to trust and fear Him is a sane and intelligent thing to do. To refuse God is at the same time to lose all sense of reality. The ‘multi-cultural’, polytheistic, ‘everyone is entitled to his/her opinion’ philosophy that dominates our modern world suggests we inhabit a relativistic multi-verse rather than a uni-verse. There is no absolute, no single interpretation of the world. Muslims may live under Islamic law, Buddhists according to their own way of life, and Christians according to theirs.
Today we live under a variety worldviews and lords that can only be unified when one of them subdues all others. This is unfolding before us. Atheistic, materialistic, liberalism declares all faiths equal so that it can subdue all under its own rule of faith. This is at the root of all liberal bigotry and intolerance. When all views are equally valid, when more than one is god, then a people can be united and provided with a basis for law and justice only by force, when one system imposes itself on all the rest. True liberty is found only in Christ, in the only God, the only truth. All other roads lead to tyranny and oppression. Atheistic, materialistic liberals are at heart intellectual tyrants, abusers of the minds of men. In a godless world, the unity of meaning we need to understand the world in which we live can only be achieved when it is imposed from without, a tyranny of the mind.
Jesus said “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
We are freed amongst other things from the tyranny of falsehood and lies. There is freedom for the human race, but freedom found in falsehood is no freedom at all. To be free away from the one true God is the freedom to be ruined, to perish at the last.
The declaration that there is one God is at the same time a declaration that there can be but one moral order, one code of living, one measure of righteousness. One true God, one true way, one code of behaviour given in the Old and New Testaments that reflects the unchanging nature and righteousness of God. We therefore trust this one God revealed to us in Scripture. To change our understanding of right and wrong is to change gods. The moral collapse we witness around us is directly attributable to such a change. There being one God, He demands our total submission and our unqualified obedience. There can be no area held over for ourselves, where God has no business to interfere. We cannot fence off areas of neutrality where we live like all other men.
There is One who is God but also God is one in Himself, unified within Himself. Therefore there can be only one source of truth and that truth like God Himself is one, unified within itself. This strikes a line through all post-modern ways of thinking. Jesus said of Himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). No other way, no other faith, can be valid for Christian believers but neither for anyone else either. In addition, this will always be so. God says of Himself: “I am the Lord I change not” (Malachi 3:6). God is not subject to change, does not evolve, nor does He act in response to other things that do change, such as the fickle will of men. All change is subject to Him, not the other way round. Morality and truth therefore do not change with passing time or circumstances. What was right and what was wrong yesterday is the same today. Time does not bless sin. Adultery is not right because it is common practice today, anymore than homosexuality. The Bible does not need ‘bringing up to date’ on these issues, men need to repent of their sin and return to the God of unchanging truth. Where the world is in constant flux, constant development, ever evolving, what we were certain of yesterday is today something else, be it truth or morality. All stability is reduced to chaos until life becomes impossible. Thankfully, God does not always permit men to pursue their ideals to their disastrous end.
There being but one God, none can take over His role either demanding our worship or claiming total jurisdiction over us in all things, which in essence is the same. No one has any right under God to pass laws as they wish detailing every aspect of our lives. The modern apostate State does exactly this, passing laws that defy God and demanding we obey them. They are God-denying and totalitarian. Where God is denied, freedom is also denied. It is a claim to be as god, to be total governor of the world and of men.
According to the Scriptures, Satan’s ultimate aim and crowning glory is to rule the world through a totalitarian world government. Yet, the truth is that all power resides ultimately in God, there is no other. Our modern humanistic governments claim total jurisdiction over us, from the cradle to the grave. From the womb to the tomb they would dictate to us in every detail of our lives. The godless state would be prophet, priest and king; its rulers believe they can and ought to reach into our very souls. It is a modern day Moloch, a monster god demanding from us the total sacrifice of ourselves. Such a God-hating government taxes at will for no good reason; it expropriates property and goods at will; it also claims the right to send our young men into unjustifiable warfare and death to achieve its own purposes in the world. When the people of a nation turn their backs on the one true God, they will find themselves serving another false god. This will not be the loving heavenly Father they refuse, but a hard taskmaster who would exact from us all the very last drop of our blood. They imagine that in the place of God they can rule the present, dictate the future, predestine the world.
The Ten Commandments say explicitly: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The reason for this is clear: there is only one who is God. Over and over, when Israel was tempted into idolatry, the prophets thundered.
“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. ... Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”
(Isaiah 44:6 & 8)
Today, men do not fear God. The awful descriptions of the early chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Romans are displayed before our eyes each day. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Our fellow citizens ought to and would fear God had they any modicum of sense; but all sense has left them for a haze of madness. They live in darkness and cannot see what is blatantly obvious. Until God by His Holy Spirit opens their inward eyes, they will continue in this pitiful state. They do not come out into the light because their deeds are evil; they hate the light for it exposes their sin and shame. Did they know the truth they would shake with fear, their hearts would indeed fail them; but the truth is the last thing in the world they want to meet up with. Were they to meet up with the truth, have open eyes to reality, their stance would change.
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
“For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30-31)
The believer will echo the prayer of Jeremiah: “Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.” (Jeremiah 17:17)
There then is another reason why we should trust the Lord, because …
If there is one thing that God-hating liberals cannot abide, even more than an insistence upon the existence of one God, it is our determination to teach our children that God is the Creator of all things and that the Genesis account is factual. One early sign that a teacher or minister is sliding into apostasy will be a watering-down of the biblical account of creation. One God-hater recently claimed it is nothing less than ‘child abuse’ to teach children creation as history, adding it should be outlawed. But who are really the child abusers? Is it those who teach little children to trust God or those who would mislead them, turning them away from faith in God. It is better for such people who offend one of these little ones which believe in me, says Jesus, “that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Why do the godless so hate the idea of creation? It cannot be for genuinely scientific reasons. Attempts to prove creation to unbelievers are futile because reason and science are not the reasons why they refuse to believe. They do not believe because they will not. “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water” (2 Peter 3:5).
They will not believe because once they admit such a thing, they must also acknowledge God as Creator. It means that having made the world and all in it, everything belongs to Him and they owe Him their worship and obedience. It means that He can call them to account for their rebellion. It means that He can and does do as He wishes and there is nothing they can do to frustrate His purpose for the world He has made. God made all things, knows all things, present, past and future and does so comprehensively. So, unless what they profess to know coincides precisely with what God knows, then they are in error. They would first grant that some kind of God exists, but this utter dependence on Him is something they clearly hate.
What are, therefore, for the children of this world reasons not to believe in Him are for us reasons to trust God implicitly.
Do not bring your so-called ‘proofs’ for creation, they only confirm the position of the unbeliever. They seek to persuade a reprobate mind, a mind set against God that will not be persuaded. In using such an approach you are acquiescing to what godless men claim about themselves, namely, that they are able to judge truth and error of all matters apart from God and still draw the right conclusions. Until that mind-set is changed from unbelief to belief, from pretended autonomy to faith and dependence, they will continue to deny their Creator. The price of submission to the truth is too great for them. They cannot give way.
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
God created heaven and earth, the whole universe and all that is in it. We learn in the Scriptures that outside the things God created nothing exists. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Everything He made, He made for Himself. Everything He made conforms to and fits into His plan. Even the wilful wickedness of godless men for which they alone are responsible will end as He has determined. “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:40). This means that not only did God create the world, but everything that happens in it serves His purpose.
Those substituting their own understanding, vaunting their own pretended autonomy, proposing a substitute mythological science have condemned themselves to intellectual chaos. Meaning can be predicated only on the basis that there is but one who is God, at whose word the universe became what it was − a one-time fiat, immediate creation, sustained, preserved, and one day to be brought to its glorious climax by the eternal counsel of the one true God. All else is vain imagination. Any notion of a self-contained sovereign Creator-God and any thought of an eternal decree will be an anathema to the godless man, who will rightly discern in it the destruction of all he holds precious, of all that lies at the heart of his wicked way of life. For us who believe, it can only make good sense for us to trust God completely.
There being but One who is God, and He being the Creator of all things means that
The Lord is the only Saviour because He is the only God, the only Creator. No one else is in a position to help.
Salvation has two aspects: one is individual, the other universal. We need to have the rebellion and sin in us dealt with, but also the searing holiness of God will and must clear away and destroy all vestiges of sin and evil in the wider created world and that entered because of human sin. There must be individual regeneration, but equally a regeneration of all things.
First, the individual and his sin
At the heart of every revival of the Christian faith, whether it is the Reformation in the 16th century, the Puritans in England and America in the 17th, the Evangelical Awakening in the 18th or the growth of Evangelicalism and the worldwide Missionary Movements of the 19th, all had at their heart the same biblical doctrine of salvation by faith in the redemptive work of Christ alone. It is only in the 20th century that we have failed to experience any revival of religion. Instead, there has been a widespread rejection of the truth and a steady drift into apostasy even by evangelicals. The lack of emphasis on this central teaching of the Bible has been abundantly evident. Attempts have even been made to modify it in the interests of a false unity. The gold of Scripture truth has been exchanged for a gilded base metal, something that claims to be from God but is not. The 21st century is witnessing our marvellous spiritual heritage being dismantled piece by piece, to be replaced by a counterfeit. The Reformation is scorned as being schismatic by many who ought to know better. The Puritans and early Evangelicals are dismissed or misinterpreted, quite often deliberately reinterpreted, valued only by a faithful few. Men of the past, whose testimony made us what we are, are despised and trodden on in the name of a progressive approach to the modern world. Words are put into mouths of many that were never said, motives attributed where clearly quite contrary views were held; the result is a distortion based on dishonesty. The great Gospel heritage is everywhere being systematically and wilfully diluted and those who object are loudly defamed, scorned and abused.
The Reformation began in earnest in Germany when Martin Luther, stirred by the Spirit of God, was confronted with the reality of his own personal sin. The answer he found not in some mystical lightning strike from heaven, not in some ecstatic ‘spiritual’ experience whilst alone in his monastic cell, but in the pages of the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, the Psalms as the Epistles, from the Prophets as from the Apostles – one book, one teaching, one Gospel, one way of salvation, one and only one Saviour. Luther was driven to desperation, almost to distraction − and how many of us have trodden that pathway! Only after hours and hours sweating, toiling and praying over the pages of sacred writ did the light dawn upon his soul, Christ Jesus has done it all, Christ Jesus had taken away his sin by His death on the Cross one for all time, so that there is nothing left for him now to do, thus demonstrating the truth that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). He could not beat the sin out of himself with a whip and neither was it necessary for Christ Jesus had suffered to bear away sin. There was no special word in his ear as he lay in his monk’s cell, only the word of God, which he then strove to make available to all by translating the Bible into a German all his fellow-countrymen could understand. No more striving to be accepted with God by good works, no more payments to a clearly corrupt church to be rid of sins they could not forgive, just simple straightforward faith: for he read “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17; cited from Habakkuk 2:4) To rely on Christ is to be saved, to rely on ourselves or others is to be damned.
Reconciliation with God is possible for us only when God takes the initiative, when He brings about salvation for us. Being sinners we are in no position to save ourselves. The Lord Jesus came to bring us back to God. It follows that to save us He must Himself be truly God, even although in coming to earth he assumed a human nature and became genuinely man including with a human body. So it is that Christ is the only Saviour, He is God who alone can rescue us, at the same time he needs to be man to suffer and take our sin upon Himself.
Trust, or faith, is not simply a blind leap in the dark. It is not something we believe only when proof escapes us. In Hebrews 1:1: we read that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Faith enables us to step from world of vain imagination, make-believe, into the real world. Faith enables us to see ourselves as we really are. Faith enables us to see the Lord Jesus as our only Saviour. Given such faith, being repulsed by and repentant with respect to our sin, we trust Christ to take away that sin that we may be declared righteous before God on the basis alone of what He did on our behalf and not works that begin with us.
Christ came into the world to save sinners, and man is at the pinnacle of God’s creation, and through man sin came into the world − but true faith can only exist where there is also true repentance exhibited, turning from sin and rebellion. Trust and faith in God, if genuine, must take on board a roundabout turn with regard to what we think about ourselves. From the point when God reveals to us what we are, who Christ is and what He has done on our behalf, from the point where our trust is only in Christ for salvation and it is applied to our heart by the Holy Spirit, from then on only, will we live in the light of things as they truly are under God and will not continue in the darkness of rebellion into which we were all born. Those who say they believe in Christ but demonstrate no change of direction are deluding themselves. Believers live under a completely different regime than all other men and women. Those who live as though faith in Christ is nothing more than a ticket to heaven are gravely mistaken.
The view that many have of God is that He is much as we are ourselves. As in ancient Israel, we have said: “thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself” (Psalm 50:21). Many think that God is like we are but just greater. They imagine that He is also subject to change and the influence of outside elements about which He can do nothing. He can do nothing in the face of the so-called ‘freewill’ of His creatures – this is a citadel that cannot be stormed. Of course, were this so, we would have no reason ‘not to fret’, for this is a god who is blown about by the winds of change as we are. The will of this god can be resisted, his plans can be frustrated. This god is worse than useless and beneath contempt. This is not the God of the Bible, but one of human invention. Because God is sovereign, because His will is sure, we know our salvation is sure, our end in Christ is certain. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). That men die in their sins is entirely their own fault, there is no way that God can be the author of it. Whilst every individual must carry the responsibility for every thought or deed, good or evil, no action of any man is done outside the eternal purpose of God Himself, therefore we have no reason to fear. Nothing happens but that God ordains it should be so. The end of the wicked is already certain. God’s glory can only be enhanced by the removal and punishment of sin.
Sin was brought into the world by a wilful act of transgression. Sin is not inherent in creation. Men not God are responsible for sin. Due to the entry of sin into the world, the curse of God rests upon creation and His wrath abides on everyone born into this world. Men have allied themselves with Satan in opposition to God. Despite this God has brought into the world a remedy for sin. This remedy is found only in Christ. But Christ is come! “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:80) – all the works of the evil one. The eradication of sin and wickedness within us and around us cannot fail and this knowledge sustains us. Whatever happens, no evil can ultimately triumph over us. We are kept secure in His hands. God’s purpose is to bring the destruction of sin and evil both in individuals and society as a whole and it is to this end we preach the Gospel that God may be glorified in this. Because of who God is, it is a war we cannot lose. What the Bible tells us about God involves a direct relationship of God to the universe He created and everything in it. It follows that the issue of sin and its effects also includes everything in the created universe.
Preaching the Gospel cannot be likened in effect to the operation of a snatch squad, grabbing out of the crowd those we can for Christ before everything goes up in smoke. It is instead a total confrontation against all that sets itself up against God, whatever and wherever. If we view the Gospel as anything less we shall fall short of teaching all that Christ commanded us (Matthew 28:20). Then as the Gospel is preached according to the Scriptures, so the Lord Himself will add to the Church, add to the community of saints, such as should be saved. To allow ourselves to fall into fretfulness, anger, despair is misplaced and entirely inappropriate for the people of God. We only fall into this depressive condition if we forget that “the heavens do rule” (Daniel 4:26). Are we in Christ? Then we are on the side that shall without fail triumph. All that in which we are now engaged in His
Name is part of this great movement that shall have a victorious and glorious end. Let us be obedient children about His business, confronting instead of cowering, proclaiming instead of retreating.
Unable to come to terms with the present, many godless men pin their optimistic hopes on the future. “Trust the evolutionary process.” boasted Timothy Leary, “It’s all going to work out alright.”(in The Politics of Ecstasy p.293) There is salvation, but not in Christ. Others are less than optimistic. Teilhard de Chardin wrote, two and a half years before his death, “Man now sees that the seeds of his ultimate dissolution are at the heart of his being.” (The End of the Species p.300) Men have for millennia sought to find utopia or failing to find it, prophesied oblivion. Plato wrote his proto-fascistic dialogue The Republic in 380 BC. In 1516 and in this same tradition, Thomas More published Utopia. In it, he describes a well-ordered world of well-designed towns, each having a limited number of households. It is a communistic economy, no war, gardens for each house and euthanasia for everyone when becoming eventually decrepit. (Sounds very much like the ‘care pathway’ for the old used today here in the UK.) Later in 1872, Samuel Butler wrote Erewon prophesying a land where men rose up against machines and destroyed them. In 1891, William Morris wrote his story News from Nowhere, portraying a rural paradise, set incidentally in the year 2012,
Recent times have produced more seriously pessimistic dystopias. Aldous Huxley Brave New World (1931); George Orwell 1984 (1949); Neville Shute On the Beach (1957); and Anthony Burgess Clockwork Orange (1962). The fear of many has been expressed by Arthur Koestler in The Ghost in the Machine (p.339): “Nature has let us down, God seems to have left the receiver off the hook”. There are many who fear that the world may be destroyed by some man-made or other disaster. In 1968 Paul Ehrlich told us overpopulation of the planet would bring worldwide famine by 1980 and we would all starve to death. Some years ago there was to be a new ice age and we were all going to freeze to death. Today there is talk of the opposite: global warming. Some still seriously suggest that to escape we could perhaps live on the moon or make Mars or Jupiter habitable – and they are not joking.
Ernest Renan predicted in 1876 the advent of new men who would become gods. Karl Marx propagated the myth of a communist utopia. Many of us have observed at first hand in our own lifetime precisely where that leads. B. F. Skinner promises progress through conditioning. In contrast to Scripture, the hope of men is sought within man himself. Skinner wrote in Beyond Freedom and Dignity: “We have not yet seen what man can make of man” (p.215). Individual freedom, an expensive illusion, must be sacrificed to social conditioning through behavioural technology. His theories have heavily influenced modern educational teaching methods. In 1984 O’Brian declares, “We shall squeeze you empty, and we shall fill you with ourselves … If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face−forever” (pp.195 & 203). The only solution proposed to avert total chaos is total control achieved through violence.
The Romanic movement of the 18th century spawned the French Revolution. In the same way having no power to create a new world or a new man, men still resort in the end to death and destruction to assert a pretended omnipotence. The godhood of men is exemplified in terror, destruction, perversity and death. Where God’s justice and righteousness is supplanted, it will always be replaced by perversity and violence. These are religious acts in a war against God. Where every man is a law unto himself, where there are many gods only coercion can bind men together. Anarchy is the personal creed of which the totalitarian state is the social counterpart. Dreams of a new, regenerated world without God are unthinkable without the use of force and brutality.
The peace that Christ brings is built not on the co-operation of sinners, not on any kind of external change social or environmental, but first and foremost on the complete and certain destruction of the power of darkness. The message of the Prince of Peace is this: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). When most caught up with thoughts of peace what does the Psalmist (139:21) cry? “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” Peace without the total destruction of evil is unthinkable, impossible and it will come.
The whole of creation is not now what it will be one day. This will not come about by the exertions of godless men.
“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”
“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13)
The world as it currently is will come to the end of its useful lifespan as far as God is concerned, and then it will be folded up as a garment.
“And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.”(Hebrews 1:10-12; cf. Psalm 102:25)
It will not be destroyed but changed there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. The apostle John records in Revelation 21:1:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”The guarantee of this is God’s immutability, the changelessness of God Himself and the consequent certainty of His purposes being fulfilled. God’s faithfulness can always be relied upon because He is unchangeable. Says God: “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). If God sustains the world as He covenanted with Noah at the flood, we can trust Him with respect to everything He has promised.
In chapters 4 & 5 of the book of Revelation, we read of peace. He that sits upon the throne is surrounded by four and twenty elders and the four living creature. The whole of creation is there. All sing the song of redeemed creation. Satan is finished, all God’s enemies finished!
“Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Revelation 5:12 -13)
We are not to fret but instead to trust in the Lord, but more than this,
The command is: do good.
Christian works can never be an added extra, a moral or spiritual supplement to life, but a necessary and predictable expression of the spiritual life within. Neither is the way we must tread some kind of alternative lifestyle to that of those around us. It is more than this, it is a contrary lifestyle. Unbelievers too express what is within them. Jesus said to the Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44). Those outside Christ live accordingly, they operate within the kingdom of darkness and as a consequence their deeds are evil. As children of God we too must demonstrate clearly who is our Father.
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 John 5:18-19).
Little wonder then that we are despised and persecuted. At every level our thinking, behaviour, attitudes, activities will be precisely the opposite of those around us. In living such a life we are set inevitably on a collision course with those who live and walk “according to the course of this world”. There is a sharp line of division, a clear delineation between those who believe and those who choose to remain in their unbelief. We too were once even as they are, but in trusting Christ, in knowing His salvation, what we think, what we do, is now something very different.
“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:2-3)
There is bound to be a clash. If there is not, then we should be asking ourselves why not. Certainly, those who see themselves as being powerful and strong in this world will seek to persecute and destroy godly men and women. This is nothing surprising and we must expect it. They will seek us out, try to drag us through the courts of law, set traps for us. That this is today more frequent ought not to surprise us as wickedness increases. This has been a normal way of life for most believers down through the centuries, and there is yet more to come.
Those who devise wickedness will see us as obstacles in the way of their purposes, but many will also perhaps be struck in their hearts and consciences. Verses 12 to 15 of our Psalm:
“The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”
Also in verse 32 we read: “The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.”
We read here that they plot against us, conspire to entrap us, use violence against in abuse and threats. They take to the sword and the bow seeking to bring down those in little position to defend themselves, they are cowards. Those who live upright and godly lives are at serious risk of losing their lives. This has always been the case, and if in Britain there has been a period of respite, this does not mean it will never happen again. However, the very instruments that they would use against the people of God, God Himself turns on our enemies. Thus Haman was hanged in the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7:9-10).
As we read this Psalm we find the good man and all his works contrasted with the wicked and his. The difference could not be more apparent. The good man is 1. contrary in his relationship to God;
2. contrary in his disposition towards others;
3. contrary in his assessment of the value and use of material things.
First then, our good works will flow from our personal knowledge of and personal relationship with God through Christ. The only works that really count with God are those motivated by that which has been worked in us by His Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 522-23). There is no way by which those with no knowledge of Christ can emulate that which is a work of God’s Spirit.
These kinds of attribute are not those valued today by the world around us. Quite the opposite, people who exhibit such traits of personality will be trodden on. Meekness is mistaken for weakness, gentleness for softness of mind. Followers of the godless madman, Nietzsche, believe we ought to demonstrate a strong spirit, a will to power, such are the blessed among men. Blessed are the arrogant, the strong in spirit, the ruthless, for they shall inherit the world, rule on earth, they shall amass a wealth of every kind. This is the leitmotiv of the godless, whereas Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:3 & 5). This appears to be an allusion to our Psalm, v.11: “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
This is a philosophy of life that is precisely the opposite to that of those who believe they will prosper by exerting brute force and treading all over others, by swindling, by fraud and dishonesty. Psalm 37 teaches us that they may well prosper for a time, but like the grass of the field, it will endure only for a short time before they are cut down and wither. The godly or righteous man does good where he is able; he may enjoy little of this world’s goods or influence, but gains everything at the end. Indeed we shall at the end live and reign with Christ as kings and priests unto God, something beginning now but one day to become manifest when our Saviour Himself shall be openly manifested to be the rightful Lord and King over all things at His return. In every way the godly have everything to gain and nothing to lose. We should believe and embrace this wholeheartedly.
Secondly, those who live in close fellowship with God will have a completely different disposition towards their fellowmen.
Too often we are accused of so emphasising faith that we overlook works. One is simply not possible without the other. If there are no works, neither is there any faith.
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”
We are to seek the good and wellbeing of others and not to benefit by seeking their ill or taking advantage of them. What does this all mean in practical terms – do good? We can do no better than look to the Scriptures directly. Here there is instruction enough. The Lord Jesus is Himself the example. Writing to the Philippians, the apostle Paul said:
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus Himself said this:
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
We are not to cease from doing good, not to get weary, not to despair even when we see nothing in return or receive little or no thanks. We are to do what we ought to do towards others, even although they may despise us and think us foolish. We do it as unto the Saviour who bought us.
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
What we do to others is something done unto Him and in His Name, even if it be but giving a cup of water to those who are thirsting (Mark 9:41). A cup of water may be something small even insignificant in our eyes. Two things make such a deed precious: one in Eastern lands where the land is very dry, water is a precious commodity; but also, and more significantly, it is done in our Saviour’s Name. Paul encourages us: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians3:23). Whatever we do, we do to God’s praise, not to our own, nor to ingratiate ourselves with others. If we cannot do it in God’s Name, it should not be done.
Only a glass of water, only a kind deed, nothing great, nothing difficult; we see and judge things so differently than God does. God sees as great, things we count as being but small. Did we see as God does, we would estimate the value of our lives in a very different way. We are not all called upon to do some great thing, head up some great movement or enterprise. God looks upon the small things, the day-to-day encounters with others. The time we take with others, children, grandchildren or those less fortunate than ourselves. He looks at how we treat others, even those who do evil to us or wish us no good thing. The goodness of the godly goes far beyond what is generally expected by those who consider themselves to be righteous. It is this that the ungodly man cannot reproduce. Jesus said: “…except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
A contrary motivation indeed:
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)
Rather than seek revenge for wrongs done, recompense, compensation of some kind, we are to seek the good of others.
Thirdly, the godly is contrary in his assessment of the value and use of material things.
We should at this point remind ourselves that this Psalm is not primarily dealing with the matter of God’s people and riches, but with the wicked who prosper and why it is that the righteous man appears not to do so, whether in terms of power, influence or wealth. It shows the different attitudes of both and the consequences of each. God has down the years blessed many of the faithful with wealth. Certainly, it cannot be said it is sinful to be rich. For a biblical example of a rich man, we need look no further than Abraham. However, this is not our main concern at this time. The wicked will always tend to use their wealth to further sin because it is their nature to do so as it was once ours.
At the time that the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, they were warned that in occupying and possessing a rich land they had not developed themselves they should not forget God (Deuteronomy 6:10-15). It was God who had delivered them and brought them out of Egypt and into the land. The wealth they were now to enjoy had come from a culture hostile to God. The temptation was to seek other means of success and prosperity than that coming from the Lord. The temptation would be to go after others gods, the gods of the people round about. This remains a temptation for believing people. Finding prosperity all around us, we shall be tempted to forget God. Jesus Himself said: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Matthew 18:24) We shall be tempted to adopt the same lifestyle, take over the same route to riches as those around us – going after the gods of the people round about. This can never be right: it is to suggest that there is another way of going about things than that given us by God.
What this Psalm promises us is somewhere to live and food enough to eat. Not of right, but in God’s mercy and goodness. “Do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed” (Psalm 37:3). God has promised to answer the prayer: give us this day our daily bread. We are not promised today, provision for tomorrow’s needs. Each day has its own problems and needs.
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34)
In fact, even when we have little ourselves we can always find something to give to others. We have surely all met such people. Selfless parents who deprive themselves to provide necessities for their children, or those having little enough themselves but are more than willing to share what they have with others, entertaining angels unawares. What a difference to the grab, grab society we all live in today. We are to be merciful to others, have compassion even as God does on others, even although they may have brought their misfortune upon themselves through foolishness. How many of God’s saints, many perhaps known to us, who have passed through times of severe testing, in times of war perhaps, yet have been kept by God, fed by ravens as it were, as Elijah. Indeed, we talk much about faith in Christ, but less about the faith that works.
What should be attitude of the righteous man to material possessions? Should he reject them all, retreat from the world somewhere, live as a self-denying hermit? By no means! The godly will see material possessions as being entrusted to him by God, be they great or small, with which to do good to others, not to consume them on their own lusts and desires as do others around us. Let us never forget that this world belongs to our God and He distributes what is His as He will. Even what we justly earn, belongs still to God and is on trust from Him. We are but His stewards. We, as God’s servants, are not to spend our earnings frivolously. It is not ours to determine. Ultimately, this is not something in our own hands or that of our fellowmen. There are not really any self-made men. It is God who blesses or curses those with great possessions. We should not despise that which God has entrusted us with, nor covet for ourselves that which has been given to others.
Our Lord Himself has given us instruction enough as to what should be our attitude to material things. In His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, we are told when we do give to others we are to avoid all ostentation. The purpose of giving is not self-aggrandisement. How often people give to draw attention to themselves, making a display of their generosity.
“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (vv.3-4)
When we pray, and this includes requests for material provision, when we are down to our last pound – and some of us will have known such times – we are to remember: “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (v.8). If we lack something, God knows already our situation already. Let us rejoice in this, rather than panic. Often easier said than done, but oh the reward to us in the strengthening of our faith! Yet whilst we are still on our knees, the answer is already on the way, and some of us can testify of God’s provision of basic needs in times of sheer desperation over and over again. Even although our lack may be directly attributable to our own foolishness, yet God is constantly merciful to us and mindful of us, withholding from us what we truly deserve and have brought upon ourselves, providing for us despite ourselves. In our Psalm, the psalmist testifies (vv. 25-26):
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.”
Those who recognise from whence their daily provision comes will have little difficult in sharing what they have with others. Those who are mean-spirited assume that what they have gotten themselves therefore is for their exclusive use and they intend to keep it. This does not have the blessing of God upon it and consequently they risk losing all that they have. The God who gives also takes.
The promise of the Lord Jesus could not be clearer, and this is mode of life we are all to lead:
“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:25-34)
The pride of many is their bank balance, the size of their house and the district in which they live, the enormity of their pension pot, the car they drive. Their treasure is very much on earth as is their heart. We cannot live in this way. In this respect, the difference between those without God and many professing faith in Christ is all too often only marginal. The difference in their lives is hardly discernible. Despite this, the instructions of our Lord are clear, yet somehow we feel they are not to be taken at their face value, not to be literally adhered to. We cannot simply set aside Scripture verses, or provide an interpretation that excuses us, simply because they are uncomfortable to us.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (vv.19-21)
There is an enormous difference between making sensible and Scriptural provision for wife, family and dependents and from being eaten up by an all-consuming passion to amass treasures on earth as an end in itself, and generally for self-aggrandizement, to display what wonderful and successful people we are. Those who hoard, those who close their hearts to others, so often end up with nothing, with hardly even enough for themselves – it rots, is stolen, runs out. Many of us will know such people or know of them.
We read Psalm 37 again verse 16: “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.” Not the least because the righteous and the wicked will face totally different reward.
Trust and do good, verse 3 “…so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed”.
That which the godly man receives from the hand of God is that which the ungodly man would dearly love and strives to possess. Albeit everything is founded on a totally different ground and is given under totally different conditions for the believer because the under-standing of the ungodly as to what is good, just and righteous is corrupt and utterly perverted - and he will receive nothing. He will instead end up with total loss. There is here a kind of role reversal.
Of the godly it is said:
“So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” (v. 3)
“Those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.” (v.9)
“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (v. 11)
“For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth.” (v.22)
There is in this Psalm a twofold promise:
First, that we should receive that which we need for our life on earth and not be reduced to beggary.
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (v.25)
Second, that there awaits us, “…an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven.” (1 Peter 1:4)
This is reflected in verse 34, “Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land.” (v.34)
It is also prefigured in the Old Testament.“But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18)
The wicked, the ungodly can have such expectation, instead we read in verse 38, “But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.”
What this Psalm has to say about the wicked, about evildoers, workers of iniquity, godless men is very much all the same.
“For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” (v.2)
“But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” (v.20)
“They that be cursed of him shall be cut off.” (v.22)
“The seed of the wicked shall be cut off.” (v.28) There will be no one left to carry forward their wickedness.
“I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.” (vv. 35-36)
They may be very well-known in their own day, celebrities indeed. They and their name will fade and be forgotten. They will have no one to call them to remembrance. They wanted fame and fortune, but will end up possessing neither.
What is it for which the ungodly so much strive? To inherit the earth at whatever cost! This fills their every waking moment and at night their dreams – and nightmares! It what they continually plot and conspire to have. Envy of the wicked is misplaced, there is nothing there to covet, for nothing is what they will achieve in the end; their apparent success we observe today is but temporary; they will instead be cut down and wither as grass. By contrast the righteous shall inherit the earth without such striving; they are meek, and trust God. Their inheritance is received from the hand of God as they do good and wait upon Him.
That which the ungodly presently possess, they do so all too often by fraud and deceit or through violence and wicked striving, not by being meek but strong in spirit. The result we see is a world full of strife, ever beset with continuous wars. Surely, the twentieth century must have been the bloodiest in human history! And it has continued in the same way into the twenty-first. Their hands drip in the blood of the innocent. The contrast with the man of God could not be greater. He is meek, trusts rather in God rather than strives, and waits for Him; he is a man of peace. His whole existence is marked by peace. The possessions of the wicked are held in uncertainty, in fear of loss and whilst continually warring and struggling. Vv.37-38: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.”
If we have ever asked ourselves why it is that so few Christians have amassed great fortunes, are often relatively poor or at most have a fairly modest income, or are rarely found in positions of great power, then this Psalm provides some of the answers. Paul in writing to the Corinthian Church observes just this, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Corinthians 1:26) But more than this, it seems so often that wicked men prosper at the expense of everyone else. Why is it?
Worldly men, the godless, assume that influence and power, strength lies in the acquisition of wealth and they will do whatever it takes to make themselves rich. This is a totally misguided philosophy and whilst it may at first appear that they are right, it can be only a temporary phenomenon. Remember the man about whom Jesus told us, who having done rather well, aspired to yet greater things. His heart was full of his ambitions.
“And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Men forget, they do not want to know, that wealth and influence, power, to whomsoever it comes, comes their way only by the working of God. It is fragile and can be removed in a moment, and so can they. They feel themselves to be invincible, eternal. Those who obtain their wealth by wicked and evil means, as this Psalm shows, stand particularly exposed to losing all they have.
We remember the contrasting story of godly Job. His conclusion was when reduced to poverty, God gives and God takes away. No one can do anything to us; no one can touch us without God’s direct say-so. Job was a wealthy man, God has made him so. Satan touched him only with God’s agreement. The extent to which Job was afflicted was entirely in God’s hands. Satan took all Job hand including wife and children. Job’s response?
“Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:21-22)
This was a man who understood the goodness of God. He knew that God would not do anything unkind or unloving towards him. If God had permitted this then it was by His purpose and design. Job knew that he could demand nothing of God as of right. Such was this man’s faith and confidence. In Job 9:2-4 & 12 we find this conviction expressed.
“I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?”
The consequence of Job’s faithfulness was that God blessed him even more than He had done previously.
“And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.” (Job 42:10 & 12)
Sadly many today calling themselves Christian have been deceived and have erred, following the mistaken view or worldly thinking. It is not easy to live in the midst of riches and not be seduced by them. These people are looking in the wrong direction, have set sail only to be wrecked on the rocks in the day of the storm. The apostle Paul was saddened, he wrote: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed…” (2 Timothy 4:10). Many have followed him since, they have departed, left the pathway of truth. They acknowledge Christ, but their hearts are elsewhere.
Writing to Timothy, Paul says:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
(1 Timothy 6:6-10)
In another place, referring to the prosperity of the Philippian believers, Paul writes:
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11) What we have is what we should have, be it much, be it less. It is the best because it is ordained by God for us in order that in that state we should best glorify Him. If we complain at how little we possess, it is thus a complaint against God whom we blame for not providing what we think we should have.
And what then, we ask, of those in positions of power? Many of these people suffer from what could be called the ‘Pilate syndrome’. They do not seem to appreciate that the power they have does not come from their money or anything within themselves or the patronage of others. It comes neither from their position nor their possessions. All such things are in God’s hands to give, to permit, or to remove. Pilate thought that he had it in his own hands to crucify or release the Lord Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11). Ultimate power lies not in the hands of men. This is not the way the world really works, but only the way men imagine it does.
What we must ever keep in the forefront of our minds, lest we panic at the spread of evil, become fearful and full of despair in the darkness about us − what we must remember is that no detail of what goes on in this world is beyond the hand of God. He intervenes, directs, and has under His complete control everything that happens. Keep God out of politics, out of business, out of science, out of education, out of charitable works, out of medicine, out of everything except personal belief. That is something more than mildly amusing on the part of the spiritually blind and ignorant. God laughs. It is an utterly ridiculous thought, a total nonsense. After all, it is still God who rules in the affairs of men; it is God who sustains the world He created; it is God who cares for little children, whose angels watch over them; it is God who puts it into the heart of men to be kind to others, particularly in bringing the Gospel; it is God, although through the hands of doctors and surgeons, still heals; it is God who alone saves us and not we ourselves.
Believers have resources not available to those who do not believe. Also we work together with God, not against Him. Do we have little do we have much? Is our position high or lowly? It really does not matter either way; this is not where our strength or influence lies, but within the power and working of God in Christ Jesus our Saviour. In the context of this Psalm, we have a God and Saviour whose strength is unending, whose purposes cannot fail, in whose everlasting arms we rest, is it then surprising that we would not wish to exchange our place for that of our enemies and God’s whose end is to be cut off for ever? Says the apostle Paul, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:12)
If we continue to read 1 Corinthians 1, we find this:
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (vv.27-29)
God chooses more often than not to do His work not though the things that are mighty in men’s eyes, but through the base things of the world, that it might clearly be seen where real power lies. It is “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). All this so that the glory be given to God alone. Isaiah writes, “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8). Jeremiah wrote words that Paul quotes in a more general way in Corinthians:
“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”
Let us rather rejoice that we are abased, that we are among the lowliest of the Lord’s saints, for being so abased enables us to show forth the power and love of God to a yet greater degree than would otherwise be the case. Paul writing again to the Corinthians:
“… My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
This kind of weakness is not weakness at all but is strength, is power. The resources of men are bound up with weakness and impotence. True strength and power has its source Him from whom all things emanate, by who all things were created. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore” (Matthew 28:18-19).
Do you have power, wealth; do you have influence? Have you received it in weakness from Christ? Then otherwise it is nothing, nothing at all and you have wasted your time in its acquisition. You have been on a fool’s errand! What godless men possess is not any concern of ours, because it is of no consequence. God approves the pathway we tread because our steps are ordained by Him (vv.22-23).
“For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off. The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”
God approves the way He has proposed for us. He delights in our way even as we also delight in Him (v.4), “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart”.
We may draw down difficulties upon our own heads by virtue of our own foolishness. Lean days may also come upon us by God’s ordering, such as with Job. But we shall and can never be totally destroyed by such experiences. Quite the opposite, for all is to God’s glory. Though we may slip, though we may even fall, God has a good grip on us (v.24),“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand”. Poverty may not pass us by, but we shall not have to endure constant beggary.
In the end, it is only the godly, who can or will really best benefit from any blessings of God in this life. The thought that the wicked always prosper and the godly do not − a questionable thesis in itself − must be tempered by the fact that the rise to such prosperity stands on very insecure ground and can at best be only temporary. The advantage that the godly have is that what they may acquire, great or small, (v.16) has come as a blessing from the Lord rather than through wicked machinations and dishonesty. What matters is not the amount, but the source. What we have is enduring because it is God’s own provision for us, (v. 16) “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked”. That which the righteous man possesses is sure, for it has come to him from God. The ungodly man can never be sure for his power and his wealth is certain to come to nothing, verse17, “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.”
Even although they may sit surrounded by great wealth, the wicked will often behave as though they have but little. In order to finance a lavish lifestyle they find it necessary to borrow. They borrow with little or no intention of repayment. By contract, the godly man who manages his affairs well will not need to borrow; he wants for nothing and even supplies the needs of others. “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth” (v.21). We may not be exempt from relative poverty, but we have the promise of God not to be reduced to beggary. A godly life is the surest way to bring blessings upon our house and home. We shall dwell in the land – and here is a measure of permanence not enjoyed by the wicked whose prosperity is intrinsically unstable.
In the end we should not covet the prosperity of this world. Many do it and so set their whole lives in a wrong direction. Many who confess Christ have been deceived in this way. It is difficult when surrounded by riches not to be seduced by them. Those who choose this pathway will often despise those who refuse to walk with them. This refusal implicitly exposes their covetousness and they resent it deeply.
They put a high value on that which the world values and not that which has value with God. It is gained by following the paths of evil and not the paths of righteousness. All too often acquisitions are based on a false morality, upon a false set of values, they are sought in wickedness and in opposition to our Lord’s exhortation to seek first the kingdom of heaven. They will be cut down, when not in this life most certainly in the next.
This Psalm is addressed to the righteous not to the wicked giving encouragement and how to cope in a day when wicked men flourish., so it is interesting to note that in Psalm 37 there is no call to repentance addressed to the wicked. In Psalm 2 there is the plea: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little” (v.12). This is something we must continue to press upon those who have the rule over us, that they ought to be reconciled to God. Though their ears be stopped, we should continue to call. When yet the floods begin to rise and the day of God’s grace is at an end, they will knock at the door of the ark only to find it closed, for God hath shut it and no man can open it from the inside, even if he would. Even so, those outside Christ shall perish in the day of God’s wrath.
Everything, everything that is and everything that happens from the moment of creation and forever, serves the eternal purpose of God; it is impossible that anything of it should fail. It is this side that we are on. Let us get this clearly implanted in our hearts and minds, reading and meditating on the Word of God. All too often our stance is purely defensive, fending off attacks, defending our faith. This must also be balanced with a clear declaration of the glories of the Gospel of Christ, in all its power, in all its aspects. We must look forward to Christ’s triumph over all His enemies.
To do other than rejoice in their ultimate destruction in that day is treason and betrayal of our Saviour. Nevertheless, the unbelief and wicked ways of men we see before us day by day all serve God’s purpose; they do not subvert it, but contribute, even if negatively, to its fulfilment. They cannot overthrow God; they can neither damage His cause nor Him. Slander, blasphemy does not touch God, but brings down His wrath upon the perpetrators. Every day that passes brings us nearer to that moment, when those redeemed by the precious blood of Christ out of every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation shall reign on earth unto God as kings and priests – ten thousand and thousand of thousands. The cry will go out with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
The whole of creation shall bless Christ forever and ever. What a Gospel, what a victory! What possible grounds can there be for us to hang our heads, to creep around the place like paupers and vagabonds? Sure in the eyes of those who know not God we are as the scum of the earth, to be trodden on, despised. “We are,” says the apostle Paul, “made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:13). However, the truth is otherwise: we are the servants of the most high God, His representatives on earth. Let us never forget this, and it is for this reason we are held in contempt.