Archive | March 2022

Consider the Poor

Psalm 41 begins with the words, “Happy are those who consider the poor; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.  The Lord protects them and keeps them alive; they are called happy in the land.”

Christians believe that we are beings who are made in the likeness of God.  1 John 4:8 declares that God is love.  Therefore, we can conclude that we are made to love and that our lives find their greatest fulfillment when we love as we were designed to do.  If love has to do with meeting the needs of others, then it makes absolute sense for Psalm 41:1 to remind us, “Happy are those who consider the poor.” 

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once commented, “Do kindly things for people, for nothing can so completely erase gloom and create new vigor as the practice of caring and good will.”  Since caring brings both help to others and happiness to our own souls, we should give careful and frequent consideration to how we might contribute to the betterment of others. 

I appreciate an anonymous poem entitled “Thanks Be to God”:

            I do not thank Thee, Lord, that I have bread to eat while others starve;

            Nor yet for work to do while empty hands solicit heaven;

            Nor for a body strong while other bodies flatten beds of pain.

            No, not for these do I give thanks;

            But I am grateful, Lord, because my meager loaf I may divide;

            For that my busy hands may move to meet another’s need;

            Because my doubled strength I may expend to steady one who faints.

            Yes, for all these do I give thanks!

            For heart to share, desire to bear, and will to live,

            Flamed into one by deathless Love—

            Thanks be to God for this!  Unspeakable!  His Gift!


The God Who Runs to Us

At the time of Jesus, the Pharisees considered themselves to be the People of the Law.  They saw themselves as the ones who read the law devotedly and kept the law zealously.  They looked upon those who did not follow the law so zealously as people who were lost.  They referred to such people as People of the Land rather than being People of the Law.  According to William Barclay, Pharisaic regulations stipulated, “When a man is one of the People of the Land, entrust no money to him, take no testimony from him, trust him with no secret, do not appoint him guardian of an orphan, do not make him the custodian of charitable funds, do not accompany him on a journey.”  No wonder the Pharisees grumbled about Jesus spending time with such people (Luke 15:2). 

In response to their complaint, Jesus tells a series of three parables about people seeking and finding and rejoicing over what had been lost but is now found.  In the third parable, Jesus actually makes use of the framework of a story the Pharisees told about a rebellious son who left home to squander his life on wild living.  Eventually that rebellious son comes to his senses, sees the error of his ways, and comes back home.  According to the Pharisee’s story, when they boy knocked on the door of his father’s home, seeking to be taken back, the good, holy, strict, unbending father demonstrated his goodness by slamming the door on the rebellious son.  The story was told by the Pharisees to emphasize the unbending nature of God’s holiness and as a warning to children not to rebel against their parents or against God.

People in general tend to go along with Pharisaical thinking that harsh judgment should be exacted on the rebellious son.  Pope Francis shares, “A few years ago, in a school in northern Italy, a teacher of religion explained the parable of the Prodigal Son to her students, then asked them to write freely about it and reflect on the story they had just heard.  The large majority of the students interpreted the ending in the following way: the father received the prodigal son, punished him severely, and then forced him to live with the servants so that he would learn not to squander the family’s wealth.” (The Name of God is Mercy, p. 49)

Everyone expected the story to conclude with the rebellious son getting his comeuppance.  But Jesus tells the story differently.  As Jesus tells the story, the father is keeping a constant look toward the horizon, hoping for his son’s return.  When he catches sight of the long-lost son while he is “still far off,” the father runs to meet him.  To pull up his robe and run toward his son would have been highly unexpected and, frankly, shameful in that culture.  Philip Yancey remarks, “In the Middle East, a man of stature walks with slow and stately dignity; never does he run” (What’s So Amazing About Grace,p. 80).  But Jesus portrays a father—a God—who runs to embrace his long-lost child! 

Jesus then has the father call for a robe, a ring, sandals, and a fatted calf.  Every gift given was a declaration that the father was welcoming the prodigal home as a fully restored member of the family.

Like the Scottish plaid, identifying what family a person belongs to, the robe would identify this young man as a member of the family again. 

The ring, bearing the family insignia, would be placed upon the young man’s finger, identifying this young man as a member of the family.

Servants were expected to go barefoot in their master’s home.  Only a member of the family could wear shoes inside the house.  Sandals for his feet was a clear message that the young man was coming into the home not as a servant but as a member of the family.

The fatted calf is to be slaughtered for a feast to celebrate that “this son of mine was dead and is alive again.” 

The message Jesus communicates in this parable is that God delights in welcoming into his family anyone who had previously wandered away—indeed, God runs to welcome us home! 

Our Muddy Prayers

It is an unfortunate tendency for many people of faith to try to be nice and constrained and polite when talking to God in prayer, but if we take a good look at the Psalms we find that God prefers for us to be brutally genuine in our conversations with our Maker.

John W Martens remarks, “The psalms speak with honesty of our relationship with God, in praise, in lament, in anger, in despair, in joy, in wonder. The gamut of human emotion is on display, offered to God in honesty from the miry clay of whatever well we have fallen into.   It is not weakness to cry out to God with your pain, your loss, your suffering, to ask it to come to an end. This is the truth God wants, a fiery soul that burns with passion for God, that does not let him go but puts him first in all things—not just joy and praise, but despair and pain…. There is a tendency when we read the Bible to think of it as speaking of people who are not subject to the same fears, tears, pain and hopelessness that we are, but Psalm 40…reflects raw human suffering and concern.”

Eugene Peterson, who put together The Message translation of the Bible, describes the challenge he had in translating the psalms: “Praying wasn’t getting nice before God…. The Psalms are not pretty; they’re not nice…. I think I’m doing it as close to the Hebrew as I can get it. But it’s not smooth; it’s not nice; it’s not pretty, but it’s honest. And I think we’re trying for honesty, which is very, very hard in our culture.”

In translating the opening lines of Psalm 40, Eugene Peterson captures the struggle we have with patience when we are floundering in the “ditches” and “deep mud” of life: “I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked. Finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch. He pulled me from deep mud, stood me up on a solid rock to make sure that it wouldn’t slip.”

Here’s the wonderful aspect of faith: When we open our hearts honestly to God, God gives his full attention to us. And as fully as God gives himself to us, God wants us to give ourselves to him. Thus Psalm 40:6-7 states, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come.’”

God is not looking for acts of religious piety. God wants us! Indeed, that’s what is meant by the line “my ears you have pierced.” Further back in Scripture, Exodus 21:2-6 speaks of how an Israelite facing bankruptcy could offer himself as a bondservant to a neighbor. He would sell his labor for a time, but after six years, because of the law of the Sabbath year, he would be set free. If, however, a servant loved his master and wanted to continue in his service, he would go with his master to a doorpost, and “his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life.” 

God wants the real me and the real you, and God wants the full me and the full you. God does not want our cleaned-up, constrained and polite prayers as much as God wants us to be brutally honest with him in our prayers. And God does not want religious duties from us as much as God wants our very lives submitted to him.

A Way to Love Jesus

Once upon a time, there was a woman—a very poor woman, a sickly young widow with a young child.  She scrimped, and she saved to the best of her ability, yet it was a constant struggle for her to make ends meet and to provide adequately for her son whom she loved dearly.

Some nights, at dinner, they would eat the last bits of food remaining in their cupboard.  The next day, she would send him to school with no breakfast, and no lunch box.  She would watch from the window as her little boy walked off to school—past the donut shop on the corner.  She watched as people spilled out of the donut shop, licking chocolate off their fingers.  As she watched, tears rolled down her cheeks.  The people walking out of the donut shop were amply well fed, but her son was hungry, with no breakfast and no lunch, and no one gave him a thing.  She knew it was not the fault of those people that her son was hungry while they were well fed, but it hurt anyway because she loved that boy and hated to see him go hungry.

One summer, her son got a job downtown, sweeping litter and broken glass off the sidewalks and scraping graffiti off the walls.  His mother worked nearby, and sometimes she caught glimpses of him.  She saw the sweat streaming down his face from the hard work under the hot sun.  She knew how thirsty he must have been, but she also knew there was no drinking fountain in that part of town.  As she watched, she saw people stroll by with tall glasses of icy lemonade, and she cried because no one offered him a drink.  She knew it was not the fault of those people that her son was thirsty while they enjoyed lemonade, but it hurt anyway because she loved that boy and hated to see him go thirsty. 

One day this mother went to her son’s school to observe the class.  She watched the other students shun him because his clothes were old and out of style, and he had holes in his shoes, and he didn’t own a baseball glove.  She wished she could give him more, but she wasn’t able to.  Instead, she cried because she loved that boy and hated to see him rejected.

When winter came, and the cold snow blew along the sidewalk, she stood at the window and cried again, as she watched her son shiver in the wind, in a coat that had become too short for him and had worn too thin.  Other children walked by in bright, new, down-filled jackets, and she cried for her son.  She knew it wasn’t those children’s fault that their jackets were large and warm while her son’s jacket was old and ragged, but it hurt anyway, because she loved that boy and hated to see him shiver so.

One winter day, the boy stayed home from school.  His cough had been growing worse for days.  Now the fever was high.  The boy lay on his bed and coughed up blood.  He grew weaker by the day.  No one sent him a card.  No one brought him a gift.  No one even phoned to check on him—until one day the school’s truant officer came by to find out what excuse the boy had for missing class.  The mother cried again.  She knew it wasn’t the truant officer’s fault.  He was only doing his job, but it hurt her anyway because she loved that boy, and she wished that somebody else would love him too. 

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells a similar story…but from a different vantage point.  Jesus tells of “the Son of Man” sitting on a judgment throne and saying to some people, “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”  Those people then ask him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”  And the answer is given, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

The reason Jesus tells this story is because God’s love for struggling little boys is even greater than the love of the mother who weeps for her struggling child.  And God’s love for struggling little girls and for every struggling person is deeper than we can wrap our hearts around.  The reason Christ calls us to give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty and welcome to the stranger and clothing to the threadbare and a visit to the sick and the prisoner, is because God’s own heart goes out to each person in need.  When we act with care toward one whom Jesus loves, we act in love toward Jesus. 

Considering the Brevity of Life on Earth

I have read that Philip of Macedonia, a great conqueror of ancient time, who brought all of the Greek states under his control, had a peculiar custom.  Every morning, as soon as the sun began to rise, Philip was awakened by one of his slaves.  If they were on campaign, the slave would come into his tent.  If Philip was in his palace, the slave would come into the king’s chamber.  When rousing Philip from his sleep, the slave would not call him “Your Majesty,” or “My Lord,” or anything of the sort.  He simply called him by his given name, “Philip of Macedonia.”  Every morning, this is what he cried out—this is what Philip awoke to: “Philip of Macedonia, remember that thou must die.”  Philip began each day with a reminder of his mortality so that he might live each day to its fullest.

Psalm 39 faces the same reality.  In verses 4-6, we read: “Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.  You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in our sight.  Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.  Surely everyone goes about like a shadow.  Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather.”  (A “handbreadth” was the ancient Hebrew measurement of the width of four fingers; it was one of the smallest measures in the Hebrew system of measuring.  To acknowledge that one’s lifespan is but “a few handbreadths” is to recognize how brief is our time on earth.)

As we face the brevity of our life, how are we to respond?  How are we to live?

Psalm 39 answers that question in verse 7: “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in you.”

Over and over again, the message of the psalms is a call to us to turn to God in the midst of our struggles, in the midst of our fears, in the midst of our confusion, and in the midst of life’s apparent emptiness.  Noah Filipiak comments on this verse: “Even in your darkest hour, even when all hope seems lost, run to God.  Cry out to God.  Give him all of your emotion.  Blame him if you need to, he can handle it.  But keep your hope in him.  Keep him as your shelter in the storm and as your refuge in the war.”

As you consider the brevity of your life and how to make the best of your short time on planet Earth, consider a poem by Linda Ellis entitled How Do You Live Your Dash?

            I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.

            He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

            He noted that first came her date of birth, and spoke the following date with tears,

            But said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

            For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth…

            And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

            For it matters not how much we own: the cars, the house, the cash.

            What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

            So think about this long and hard: Are there things you’d like to change?

            For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.

            If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real,

            And always try to understand the way other people feel,

            And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more,

            And love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before,

            If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile,

            Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

            So when your eulogy’s being read with your life’s actions to rehash,

            Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

God Hears & Responds to our Prayers

Little Benjamin sat down to write a letter to God, asking for a bicycle.  He started out, “Dear God, I’ve been a very good boy….”  He stopped, thought about it, and said to himself, “No, God won’t believe that.”  He wadded up the paper, threw it away, and started again: “Dear God, most of the time I’ve been a good boy….”  He stopped again, thinking to himself, “This won’t work very well with God.”  Into the trash can went the second piece of paper.  Benjamin sat there thinking for a minute, then he got up, went into the bathroom, grabbed a big towel, brought it into the living room and laid it neatly on the couch.  Then he went to the fireplace mantle, reached up, and took down the familiar family statue of the Madonna.  Benjamin placed the statue in the middle of the towel, gently folded over the edges, and placed a large rubber band around the whole thing.  He brought it to the table, took another piece of paper, and began writing his third letter: “Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again….” 

If the success of our prayers depended upon our ability to impress God with our goodness, most of us would never experience an answered prayer.  If the success of our prayers depended on our talent at smooth talking God with the finesse of our request, your prayers and my prayers would never stand a chance.  If the success of our prayers depended on our skill at bargaining with God, we may as well give up praying.

Fortunately God hears and responds to our prayers not on the basis of our stunning goodness or our smooth talking or our clever bargaining but on the basis of God’s limitless love for us! 

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells a parable about a heartless judge who finally grants justice to a struggling widow only because she persistently nags him to grant her request.  A superficial reading of the parable might lead a reader to suppose that the key to successful praying is to nag God sufficiently.  But when Jesus explains the parable he offers a different conclusion, with a sharp contrast between the heart of the judge and the heart of our heavenly Father: “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long in helping them?  I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.  And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” 

When you look carefully at what Jesus says, you will notice that God listens and responds to our prayers because he looks upon us as his “chosen ones.”  Because we are loved and chosen by God, he will not “delay long in helping [us].”  The question here is not whether God will listen to and respond to our prayers; the question is whether there will be enough people of faith praying to God. 

When Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Jeff MacNelly, creator of the comic strip Shoe, died, Walt Handelsman, a cartoonist at The New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote, “I once received a call from (editorial cartoonist) Mike Peters, complimenting me on a cartoon and saying that he and Jeff MacNelly had just been talking about how much they liked it.  When I got off the phone I told my editor that was the highlight of my career—just knowing that Jeff MacNelly knew who I was.”  How much more honored you are—that the Maker of the universe knows you and chose you, and that Jesus laid down his life to make you his own!  You can be certain that the God who loves you this deeply will listen to and respond to your prayers! 

Father Pedro Arrupe expresses it beautifully: “More than ever, I find myself in the hands of God.  This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.  But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God.  It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.”  This is the peace and joy and hope of prayer: To realize that we are totally in the hands of the God who loves us and chose us, who hears our prayers and responds out of love.

May Healthy Guilt Do Its Good Work in Us

Psalm 38 is titled A Penitent Sufferer’s Plea for Healing.  It is a psalm that is filled with the suffering of guilt:

“There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.  For my iniquities have gone over my head; they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.” (Verses 3-4)

“My wounds grow foul and fester because of my foolishness; I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all day long I go around mourning.” (Verses 5-6)

“I am utterly spent and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.” (verse 8)

“My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.” (Verse 10)

Guilt over sin is troubling the psalmist greatly.  It is the God-designed nature of guilt to trouble us…within proper limits.

Dr. John M. Grohol states, “Guilt is an emotional warning sign that most people learn through their normal childhood social development.  Its purpose is to let us know when we’ve done something wrong, to help us develop a better sense of our behavior and how it affects ourselves and others.  It prompts us to re-examine our behavior so that we don’t end up making the same mistake twice.”

Tim Stafford explains, “The instrument that tells you that you’re guilty is usually called the conscience.  It communicates through your emotions and warns you when there is a problem in your life.  It is very much like your body’s pain-sensing system…. When you cut your finger, the cut, dripping blood, is an indisputable fact.  Anyone can see that it needs attention.  But the pain that comes with the cut makes it urgent.  This can be very annoying if you are doing something you want to do…. You would rather put off dealing with your cut.  But pain won’t let you. 

“Your conscience is designed to respond the same way to sin.  If something is obviously wrong in your life, you need to deal with it.  Guilty feelings force your attention onto the sore spot, making you drop everything else until you deal with it.  It is God’s way of making you feel the same way about sin that he feels about it.” (Unhappy Secrets of the Christian Life, p. 46-47)

Healthy guilt prompts us to change bad behaviors and wrong behavior, to right our wrongs and to become better people.  Unhealthy guilt, however, can damage our souls.  Brennan Manning comments, “Unhealthy guilt is self-centered; it stirs our emotions to churn in self-destructive ways, leads to depression and despair, closes us in upon ourselves, and preempts the presence of a compassionate God.  ‘The language of unhealthy guilt is one of harshness,’ observes therapist Vincent Bilotta: ‘It is demanding, abusive, criticizing, rejecting, finding fault with, accusing, blaming, condemning, reproaching and scolding.  It is [a language] of impatience and chastisement.  Persons are shocked and horrified because they failed.  Unhealthy guilt becomes bigger than life.  It is seen as the beginning and the end.  In unhealthy guilt, the image of the childhood story ‘Chicken Little’ comes to mind.  Guilt becomes the experience in which people feel that the sky is falling.’” (A Glimpse of Jesus, p. 19)

Healthy guilt nudges us toward God for forgiveness and restoration.  Thus the psalmist, after expressing the suffering that guilt has caused him, concludes the psalm by turning to God with a straightforward plea: “Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.”

When guilt troubles our souls, we can and should do the same: Turn to God with a straightforward plea: “Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.”

Beware the Clamoring for a Kingdom

In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus slides a parable into an historical account (with a bit of political commentary) to draw out two lessons: 

The first lesson is a warning: Clamoring for an earthly kingdom often leads to horrible results. 

Luke makes it clear to the reader that Jesus told this parable “because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.”  This parable is told to address people’s anxiousness over the establishment of the kingdom they think that they long for.  But beware of the inherent danger of this. 

The Conquistadors sought a kingdom in the new land of the Americas.  Having had heard stories about cities of gold, they sought the wealth of such a kingdom.  They sought it so desperately that they massacred thousands of native people in their attempt to gain it.  On his arrival in Cholula, the second largest of the Aztec cities, Hernán Cortés and his troops rounded up the unsuspecting priests and nobles in a square in front of the city’s temple.  The soldiers blocked all the exits from the square, slaughtered the unarmed citizens, and set fire to the city.  In a matter of hours, 3,000 to 30,000 Aztecs were slaughtered.  Beware the atrocities that follow when people clamor for a kingdom.

Amidst the economic depression and national gloom that followed Germany’s defeat in the First World War, Adolf Hitler offered the Germans a new kingdom, but this new kingdom called for the annihilation of all who were considered to be polluting Germany’s purity.  Beware the atrocities that follow when people clamor for a kingdom.

In 1991, a nationalistic government led by Franjo Tudjman was elected in Croatia, and Croatian citizens began draping flags from their balconies with the red-and-white-checkered shield that had been aligned with Nazi Germany and was associated with the persecution of Serbs during World War II.  At the same time, Slobodan Milosevic seized power in Serbia with dreams of incorporating Croatia into what he hoped would be a Greater Serbia.  The resulting conflict between the Serbs and Croatians resulted in at least 130,000 violent deaths in the 1990s.  Beware the atrocities that follow when people clamor for a kingdom.

Jesus told the people a story that would have reminded them of events close to home.  He described a nobleman who “went to a distant country to get royal power for himself,” and he ends the story with a call for his enemies who did not want him to be king to be brought before him and slaughtered in his presence.  When Herod the Great died, he divided his kingdom between three sons.  Archelaus was given the area of Judea which included Jerusalem, but Herod’s appointment had to be ratified by Caesar.  Archelaus traveled to Rome to ask Augustus to fulfill his father’s wish and appoint him as king of Judea, but the Jewish people sent a delegation of fifty men to Rome to plead with Augustus against Archelaus.  Unfortunately, Caesar sided with Archelaus and appointed him as king of Judea.  We have no record that he took the lives of his opponents, but years earlier his father did.  When Rome appointed Herod as king over the region, he promptly massacred all who had opposed him.  The first lesson Jesus shared though this parable was a warning: Beware the atrocities that follow when people clamor for a kingdom.

The second lesson is this: Put to profitable use whatever God gives to you.

What gift does God give to us?

In John 14:16 and 16:7, Jesus told his disciples that he was leaving their presence but giving to them the Holy Spirit. 

If we “bury” the Spirit (if we do not live by the Spirit), the Spirit will accomplish nothing in us.  How disappointing!

But if we live by the Spirit, then the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will grow in us.  When such qualities grow in us, who knows what great things may happen through us! 

Two Things You Can Be Certain About

Psalm 37 addresses two matters that we can be certain about in our lives.

The first is this: Unfairness will come our way.

We live in a fallen and broken world in which bad things accidentally happen to good people.  Moreover, we live in a world in which sinful people inflict hurt and injury on others.  Repeatedly, Psalm 37 brings up the struggles we face because of injustice committed against us.  For example:

  • Verse 12: “The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them.”
  • Verse 14: “The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to kill those who walk uprightly.”
  • Verse 21: “The wicked borrow, and do not pay back.”
  • Verse 32: “The wicked watch for the righteous, and seek to kill them.”
  • Verse 35: “I have seen the wicked oppressing, and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.”

As we go through our lives, we can be certain that unfairness will come our way at times, and that we and those whom we love will suffer some level of hurt at times from others.

But there is also a second matter we can be certain about in our lives: God is good, and God is always at work to bring about good in our lives.

Repeatedly, Psalm 37 assures us that evil will not last but that God’s goodness will prevail.  For example:

  • Verses 1-2: “Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
  • Verse 9: “For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.”
  • Verse 13: “But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that their day is coming.”
  • Verse 24: “Though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.”
  • Verses 39-40: “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their refuge in the time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”

In the face of these two truths (that unfairness will come our way and that God is good and is always at work to bring about good in our lives), how should we live?

Psalm 37:5-7 answers this question with five instructions to us: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.  He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.  Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.”

1: “Commit your way to the Lord.”  “Commit” is not a soft word or a word of uncertainty.  It is not a word that says “maybe” or “perhaps” or “if I feel like it.”  It is a word of dedication, of devotion, of giving it everything we’ve got.  Commit your way to the Lord = Make a firm decision to walk in God’s ways.

2: “Trust in him.”  Let your confidence not be shaken by any bad thing that happens to you, but hold tightly to the hope we have in God’s sovereignty and care.

3: “Be still before the Lord.”  When bad things come against us, we often react frantically.  This verse calls us to step back into the refuge we have in God before acting frantically.  Come into God’s presence and pour out your heart to him, listening for his guidance and for the calming of your soul before jumping into any action prematurely. 

4: “Wait patiently for him.”  Rather than being driven by the panic in our soul, wait for God to calm our soul and to lead us wisely.

5: “Do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.”  As we follow the first four instructions (as we commit our way to the Lord, as we trust in him, as we quiet ourselves before the Lord, and as we wait for his leading), we reach the point where we are not fretting but are finding peace and hope and strength in the Lord.