Today’s reading is Psalm 37.
When I hear “fret not,” as the first words of this psalm are translated in the ESV, I think about getting anxious and worried. However, the term is literally about heat. It is more like, “Don’t get overheated.” And that picture had a similar connotation for the Hebrews as it does for us. Heat accompanies anger. We might say things like, “Don’t get fired up.” Or “Don’t get hot under the collar.” In fact, this word is translated as “kindled” in several places when it talks about anger being “kindled” (see Psalm 106:40; 124:3).
Can you understand why someone might get angry when they see wicked people? Of course, we might get angry at the wicked themselves. When they perform their wickedness, it is an affront to God and it is often hurtful to us. Remember in Psalm 35 when we noticed the connection to David’s anger at Nabal? Just looking at external circumstances, Nabal appeared to be blessed while David appeared to be cursed. After all, Nabal had a fantastic, thriving ranch. David was on the run. When Nabal, that worthless, wicked fellow, refused to help David, David was incensed. His anger burned. And can’t we understand it? Aren’t we almost alongside him, egging him on? He almost took vengeance and vindication into his own hands. By God’s providence, Abigail intervened and cooled David’s anger. It was a blessing. Then God dealt with Nabal. He had been spreading like a green tree, 10 days later he could not be found and his wife was marrying David.
However, is there anyone else with whom we might become angry when the wicked appear blessed? Of course, we might get angry with God. He promised that we, His people, the righteous who worship Him and honor the work of His hands would be the green trees, blessed and fruitful. When we are on the run under the oppressive hand of the wicked, we may begin to believe God isn’t holding up His end of the covenant. And that is angering.
Psalm 1 was the gateway to the psalms explaining that those who meditate on God’s law are the blessed trees, and those who don’t are wicked chaff that get blown away. Psalm 37 brings in the healthy dose of reality that this distinction doesn’t always take place immediately. Even Psalm 1 was actually talking about what was to come at the end of the paths we chose, not the beginning. In fact, if it happened at the beginning, the choice of sin wouldn’t even be tempting, would it?
Whether we are talking about our reaction against the wicked themselves or against God who seems to be letting the wicked slide, we need to remember James’s teaching in James 1:20:
So, when you see the wicked prosper, stay cool. God will deal with it in His time.
Discuss the Following Questions with Your Family
- What are your initial reactions to the psalm and the written devo above?
- Why is it so easy to get angry at the wicked people and at God when we see wicked people seem to be blessed?
- What kind of sins can seething in our anger lead to? (Hint: you might look at Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32)
- In Psalm 37:1-9, David gives five positive statements about what we should do instead of fretting or getting overheated. What are they? How do we do them?
- What do you think we should pray for and about in light of this psalm and our discussion today?