Revised Common Lectionary--2007
For May-Aug, 2007 click here
Easter IV (Apr. 29)
Acts 13:15-16, 26ff.
Psalm 23 (I)
Psalm 23 (II)
Rev. 7:9-17 (I)
Rev. 7:9-17 (II)
Easter III (Apr. 22)
VT Killing Meditation
Acts 9:1-19a (I)
Acts 9:1-19a (II)
Easter II (Apr. 15)
Acts 5:12-32 (I)
Acts 5:12-32 (II)
Easter (Apr. 8)
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18 (I)
John 20:1-18 (II)
Lent VI (Apr. 1)
Psalm 22 (I)
Psalm 22 (II)
Lent V (Mar. 25)
Psalm 126 (I)
Psalm 126 (II)
John 12:1-8 (I)
John 12:1-8 (II)
Lent IV (Mar. 18)
Luke 15:11-32 (I)
Luke 15:11-32 (II)
II Cor. 5:16-21
Lent III (Mar. 11)
I Cor 10:1-13
Lent II (Mar. 4)
Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18
Luke 13:31-35 (I)
Luke 13:31-35 (II)
Lent I (Feb. 25)
Deut 26: 1-11
Luke 4:1-13 (I)
Luke 4:1-13 (II)
Rom 10: 5-13
Epiphany VII (2/18)
Gen. 45:1-15 (I)
Gen. 45:1-15 (II)
I Cor 15:35-38,42ff.
Epiphany VI(Feb 11)
Luke 6:17-26 I
Luke 6:17-26 II
I Cor 15:12-20
Epiphany V (Feb 4)
Is. 6 (The Senses I)
Is. 6 (The Senses II)
Luke 5:1-11 (II)
I Cor 15:1-11
I Cor 15:1-11 (II)
Epiphany IV (Jan 28)
Jer. 1:4-10 (II)
Luke 4:22-30 (I)
Luke 4:22-30 (II)
I Cor 13 (I)
Epiphany III(Jan 21)
I Cor 12:12-31
Epiphany II (Jan 14)
John 2:1-11 (I)
John 2:1-11 (II)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (I)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (II)
Baptism (Jan 7)
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Luke 3 (II)
Epiphany VII--Feb. 18, 2007
Bill Long 2/6/07
Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40; Don't Worry...Trust
Here is the Psalm for the day, from the NRSV:
1 Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2 for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
7 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.
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant prosperity....
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,
because they take refuge in him."
This attractive Psalm is usually referred to by scholars as a "Wisdom Psalm," because many of themes it probes are those that are picked up in the Book of Proverbs. The categories of the Psalmist are clear; the rules are even more clear. There is such a think as the wicked and the righteous. The former will get their just desserts while the latter will trust in the Lord and shall inherit the land. As a result, one shouldn't worry about the prosperity or seeming invincibility of the wicked; it will soon end and leave the meek to inherit the earth (v. 11). The Psalm's confident language is structured as an alphabetic acrostic. That means that each sucessive letter of the Hebrew alphabet begins every other line of text. Thus, v. 1 ("do not fret..") begins with the Hebrew letter "aleph," (the negative command is "al"), while v. 3 ("trust in the Lord") begins with "beth" (the verb trust is batah). By the time you get to the end of the Psalm (v. 39), we begin with "taw," ("salvation"--teshuat). The acrostic pattern not only illustrates the cleverness of the author but also signals a theological idea--that the Psalm covers everything from "a to z," as we would say, about a certain topic. For example, Ps. 119, on the law of God, is an alphabetic acrostic, with a succesive letter of the Hebrew alphabet beginning each 9 verses. The point is that the law of God covers life from a to z. Here, in Ps. 37, we would say that the Psalm covers completely its theme--on the futility of wickedness and the blessedness of trust in God. Thus we should read these verses not as a cumulative argument but as a catalogue of benefits of trusting in God, arranged from "a to z." If we can "count the ways" of how we love someone, we can also go through the alphabet of reasons for the value of trusting God. All I need to do, then, is to exposit briefly the fate of the wicked and the blessedness of those who trust.
II. The Fate of the Wicked
Moral advice requires repetition. Just as Joseph repeated his major interpretive point to the brothers (see here) in Gen. 45, so the Psalmist repeats his point in our hearing. Don't get mad (the verb harah in v. 1 really is best translated, "don't burn with anger") at the ways of wrongdoers. Don't envy them. They will fade. Again, he repeats himself. "Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath....for the wicked shall be cut off" (vv. 8-9). He doesn't tell us why this is the case or how it will happen. It is enough for him to tell us just not to get exercised over it. The Psalmist is wise because he knows that this is exactly how we react when we see the "prosperity" of the "wicked." We envy it. We want a chunk of it. We wonder why it is that life seems to be running so smoothly for them when it is all in tatters for us. We feebly struggle, and they in glory shine. That just isn't fair. Ps. 73, the dyslexic of Ps. 37, deals with this issue in extenso. The Psalmist complains, when looking at the wicked: "They have no pain; their bodies are sound and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are" (vv. 4-5). This seeming impunity of the wicked really stuck in the craw of the Psalmist. Understanding it was a wearisome task "until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end" (v. 17). We tend to fret over things over which we have no control. We get tangled in the thickest web of anxiety over issues that are really none of our business. The Psalmist, both in 73 and 37, tells us that we ought not to worry. It just does us no good and it accomplishes nothing. Indeed, God will take care of things in the end. That is the "don't worry" prong of our text.
Unlike the 1980s American ditty, "Don't worry, be happy," the Psalmist is realistic enough to know that the opposite of worry is not happiness but trust. Trust is the glue that solidifies our spiritual lives. Without trust we cannot live, but when we learn to exercise it properly towards people and God, we open tremendously deep and fulfilling relationships and insight. The Book of Proverbs is all about trust and the way that trust opens our lives to delight, happiness and straight paths.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths" (3:5-6).
There is, of course, the shadow side of trust, explored through the Book of Job, but that is not the theme of the Psalmist for today. Here it is the delight of trust in God and the confidence that trust in God leads to blessing:
"Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.."
It is those who trust, the meek, who shall "inherit the land." Jesus picked up this theme in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:5), and perhaps not surprisingly, the result for those who are meek is also a life of blessing:
"But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Mt. 6:33).
Happy are those who have learned the importance of committing their way to God. Does that answer all of life's questions? Hardly. Does it deal with the tough issues of apparent and actual injustice in the world? Nope. But is it true nevertheless? Well, the wisdom tradition and the Psalms says it is so, as does Jesus. And, it has been tried out by millions over the years. Why not commit your way to God afresh today, and see how life and the desires of your heart flow.