Trust In The Lord

Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In Psalm 37, David picks up again his thoughts about wicked people, and in the process he contrasts their behaviour with that of God’s people. Again and again in this Psalm he points out what “the wicked” are doing wrong and how their lives will end, and then provides a contrast of how Godly people live their lives, adding in words of advice where appropriate. The dichotomy between the two types of people is stark and extreme and it is clear that Godless lives will not end well.

The instruction, “Trust in the Lord and do good” acts as a doorway into a gold mine of instructions, thoughts and behaviours. Just reading this inscription above the door knocker will be ineffective on its own; the door has to be opened and the nuggets within removed, consumed, and acted upon, to provide all that is necessary for life in communion with our Heavenly Father. And a relationship develops with God, so close that “Trust” becomes second nature.

The Psalmist also encourages God’s people to “do good”. Two words almost hidden and overlooked after the impact and boldness of “Trust in the Lord”. But nevertheless an important part of life as a Christian is to do good deeds to and for those around us in our communities and families. Galatians 6:10 reads, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone…”. And there are many other similar encouragements spattered throughout Holy Scriptures.

The end result of living our lives God’s way though, is clear. Safety and prosperity will result. There is always a tendency to interpret the word “prosperity” from a financial perspective. But it’s so much more than that. Think about the riches of being healthy – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Think about being blessed by the richness of having a loving family. And of course we mustn’t overlook the prosperity God’s people will find in their ultimate spiritual home.

We can’t leave these verses without considering the last few words. As we delight ourselves in the Lord, and align our hearts, our thoughts, with those of Him, we will find that any worldly materialistic desires will be eclipsed by what really matters. God-values such as love, compassion, mercy, grace, righteousness and so on will infuse our ways of life and waking thoughts. And we don’t worship a stingy God – He will pour out bountifully all we need. 

Psalm 37. Essential reading for everyone. We ignore or disregard these verses at our peril.

All We Need

“How precious is Your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of Your wings. You feed them from the abundance of Your own house, letting them drink from Your river of delights. For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” Psalms‬ ‭36:7-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 36 is so full of information relevant to life. In these three verses, the Psalmist responds in worship to God by listing His provisions – love, shelter, food and drink, light, and even life itself. The basics of human need. And the removal of any one of these will, at best, stunt, and at worse, destroy, our human life.

In the society in which we live we take so much for granted. This becomes clearer in a time of a national disaster, such as a war, or, more topically, the current pandemic. In times like these people become rather insecure as events outside their, or their country’s, control take hold. And people who don’t know God cast around for answers, for help, not knowing what to do or what the future holds.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this statement, “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45). Jesus was talking about something we call “Common Grace”. God loves all mankind, even those people who are against Him, or who deny that He exists, not just His own people. He provides the good gifts listed in Psalm 36 to everyone regardless of whether or not they know, or even want to know, Him.

But as God’s people we know that all that we need for life comes from our wonderful Heavenly Father. And we must never take Him or His gifts for granted. We have a message of hope that we can share with those around us with thankful hearts. And dispense the “peace of God that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) to a world in crisis.

Positive Thinking

“Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are.
Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.”
Psalms‬ ‭36:1-2, 5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 36 starts with a reflection on the attitudes of the wicked and their sin, but then quickly turns to these wonderful verses about God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice. It’s almost as though the Psalmist, David, suddenly pulled himself back from thinking about sin and wicked people, to reflect instead on our wonderful Creator God. These wonderful words in verses 5 and 6 have been used as the basis for several songs; they capture so expressively the boundless limits of God’s wonder.

It is a common human trait, to allow thoughts to dwell on the negative. It is so easy to get focused on what’s wrong in life rather than what is right and good and beneficial. And once thoughts are in a negative groove, they will soon be followed by a downward mood swing, bringing depression or an emotional “low”.

On my morning prayer walks through Dean Woods close by to where I live, I often find that just looking at the wonders of God’s creation around me is sufficient to lift my spirits out of any negative groove. At this time of year I see the wild strawberries and flowers. The trees in a profusion of leafy growth. The birdsong dominating the audio realm. And David in his Psalm did likewise, by looking at the wonders and scale of God’s creation. In his world without light pollution the heavens would be a wonderful sight, full of little bright dots, so many in number that they merge into a canopy of light. And he relates the wonders of creation to God’s character, bringing out His love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice, and probably many more similar thoughts as he dwells on his wonderful God and the world around him.

Paul encouraged the Philippian church with the advice, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬). Sound advice that we would do well to obey. David realised it. So must we.

False Accusations

“Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.” Psalms‬ ‭35:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Throughout the Bible much is written about “bearing false witness”. It means telling lies about someone. Or accusing them of something that they haven’t done. Or gossiping about them, particularly on social media. But not to bear false witness against your neighbour was the ninth commandment that Moses delivered to the Israelites. God gave this commandment to the Israelite nation for a reason – “bearing false witness” strikes at the very fabric of society because it destroys relationships. And here we have David in Psalm 35 complaining that he was being accused of crimes he didn’t commit, caught up in the middle of a storm of rebellion in the society he was trying to lead. But this wasn’t just an Old Testament problem. It was prevalent in New Testament times as well – Jesus Himself was similarly accused (Matthew 26:60) and also Stephen, one of the early church leaders, in Acts 6:13.

And the problem hasn’t gone away today, with a constant stream of false accusations and comments about sports people and others being posted on social media. People’s reputations are easily destroyed by careless words in the workplace, or in conversations with others. The problem is all about the evil thoughts that people have within their hearts and Jesus thought this problem was important enough to teach about – we read what He said in Matthew 15:19. And the Apostle James wrote about the dangers of the spoken word in the third chapter of his epistle.

So what is to be done about this perennial problem? The bottom line is that each one of us must be careful about what we say and how we say it. We must think carefully before hitting the “return” key. We must ask ourselves the question, “is what I am about to say or write true, helpful, necessary and encouraging?” And we must strive to apply the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:18, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Righteousness

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry;
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”

Psalms‬ ‭34:15, 17, 19-20‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Who or what is a righteous person? Does such a person exist? And why does he or she have troubles? These are questions that aren’t easy to answer, especially in a short blog post. From a Christian perspective, people are made righteous through their faith in Jesus. We believe that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, both human and divine, and that He came to this earth with one mission – to manifest God’s love for mankind by saving them from the consequences of their repented sins, by His sacrificial death on a Roman cross at a place called Calvary. Jesus took onto Himself our sins and in return gave us His righteousness. The faith that we hold, through a continuing trusting relationship with God, in our righteous state, brings us to a place where we can cry out to God and He will answer us. The verses before us today don’t say that we won’t have troubles. But it does say that God will deliver us from them. Sometimes, this deliverance happens quickly. But at other times it will only come after we die. But the faith and trust that we have in God will sustain us through all our troubles.

In the news this morning is yet another story of a person with Motor Neurone disease who wants to end his life through assisted suicide. A person without hope for the future. A person without a belief in God. A person who thinks that only blackness awaits him after death. But a person who will find that there is a worse place to be than this life here on earth. God has compassion and love for all mankind and it must break His heart to see such a person in such a hopeless state, rejecting the very One who will deliver him from his troubles. As Christians we must pass on God’s love to everyone we meet, not just those in such dire needs, in the hope that they too will embrace our wonderful Saviour and find that His righteousness is available to everyone

Taste

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” Psalms‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Tasting is one of our five physical senses. Touch, sight, hearing, smelling and tasting. And they will all, or in part, interrelate to help us build a picture, an image or thought in our minds, of whatever we are encountering in our daily natural life. We have spiritual senses too, but, sadly, in most people, these remain largely undeveloped, forgotten or ignored. Our verse today seems ridiculous when viewed from a natural perspective because people fail to understand or appreciate that there are spiritual senses that parallel our natural ones, and consequently they will reject the possibility of a spiritual world because the application of our natural, physical senses will not find it. And so, most people will reject any thought of God out of hand, without ever having undertaken a spiritual ‘taste’ test, without even considering that He even exists. 

The Psalmist, David, knew better and his life was lived in both the physical and spiritual realms. To him they weren’t two separate worlds, but one integrated whole. And his relationship with God never faltered because his natural/spiritual combo was so real to him. He could say, with total confidence, that God is good and by keeping close to Him, he will experience a joy unknown to natural man. In this verse David encourages us to try the God taste test. To switch for a moment from the natural to the spiritual. And as we come to God, openly and honestly, we will experience something incredible. We will find that God is good, and we too will find amazing joy in His presence.