1 Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong. 2 For they wither quickly like grass and wilt like tender green plants. 3 Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, 6 making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. 7 Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the man who carries out evil plans. 8 Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated —it can only bring harm. 9 For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked person will be no more; though you look for him, he will not be there. 11 But the humble will inherit the land and will enjoy abundant prosperity. 12 The wicked person schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him. 13 The Lord laughs at him because He sees that his day is coming. 14 The wicked have drawn the sword and strung the bow to bring down the afflicted and needy and to slaughter those whose way is upright.15 Their swords will enter their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. 16 The little that the righteous man has is better than the abundance of many wicked people. 17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord supports the righteous. 18 The Lord watches over the blameless all their days, and their inheritance will last forever. 19 They will not be disgraced in times of adversity; they will be satisfied in days of hunger. 20 But the wicked will perish; the Lord’s enemies, like the glory of the pastures, will fade away—they will fade away like smoke. 21 The wicked man borrows and does not repay, but the righteous one is gracious and giving. 22 Those who are blessed by Him will inherit the land, but those cursed by Him will be destroyed. 23 A man’s steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way. 24 Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand. 25 I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread. 26 He is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing. 27 Turn away from evil and do what is good, and dwell there forever. 28 For the Lord loves justice and will not abandon His faithful ones. They are kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked will be destroyed. 29 The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it permanently. 30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom; his tongue speaks what is just. 31 The instruction of his God is in his heart; his steps do not falter. 32 The wicked one lies in wait for the righteous and seeks to kill him; 33 the Lord will not leave him in the power of the wicked one or allow him to be condemned when he is judged. 34 Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land. You will watch when the wicked are destroyed. 35 I have seen a wicked, violent man well-rooted like a flourishing native tree. 36 Then I passed by and noticed he was gone; I searched for him, but he could not be found. 37 Watch the blameless and observe the upright, for the man of peace will have a future. 38 But transgressors will all be eliminated; the future of the wicked will be destroyed. 39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord, their refuge in a time of distress. 40 The Lord helps and delivers them; He will deliver them from the wicked and will save them because they take refuge in Him.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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Reading verse 6 of this passage reminds me of a chorus we used to sing in my youth group back in the 1980s:
He will make your righteousness shine like the day,
He will make you shine like the day.
He will make you shine like the day.
Remember that one? Great tune.
But perhaps the most familiar verse in this passage is verse 4: “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” It could also be one of the most misunderstood verses in Scripture.
We tend to think that if we trust in the Lord, He will grant us the things we want in life. The prosperity gospel proponents love this verse. But in its proper context, we see a different view of the “desires of our heart.”
First, let’s examine what it means to “take delight in the Lord.” In his Exposition of the Entire Bible, theologian John Gill (1697-1771) defines this delight this way:
“In the persons in God, Father, Son, and Spirit; in the perfections of God, his power, goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy; in his works of creation, providence, and redemption; in his word, his Gospel, the truths and ordinances of it; in his house, and the worship of it; and in his people, the excellent in the earth, in whom was all the delight of the psalmist; and each of these afford a field of delight and pleasure, to attend unto, contemplate, and meditate upon...”
Clearly this definition is an indication that we are to dwell on the very nature of God—all that He is and does.
Second, we see in this passage a series of contrasts between the evildoers and the believer. We’re exhorted not to “fret” (the HCSB says “be agitated”) over the prosperity of those who do wrong. We’re encouraged not to get angry by looking at all the things unbelievers have, even though it seems they may have all they want. But what they want is vain idols, simple pleasures, and earthly treasures.
We can draw from this that the desire of the heart of one who is truly devoted to God is simply to know, to love, and to serve Him. When we do this, His desires become our desires. Typically, these are not what we might define as the pleasures of this world, but rather those things that are for the work of the Lord, for the good of His people, and for the prospect of eternal life.
The world assumes the opposite of Scripture’s teaching. They say, “Blessed are those who get ahead by any means possible. Those who put themselves first always win.” In fact, in verse 11, we see that it’s just the opposite. It’s the humble who will inherit the land. Or as Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount, “The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
As we consider this passage, perhaps we can identify those desires in our lives that contradict the things of God. Maybe we need to consider the ways in which we’re looking at the world’s definition of success, of prosperity, of pleasure, and realize these are not usually defined by the same measurement God uses. Of course, this does not mean that all who prosper materially are evildoers. In the light of Scripture’s totality, it’s a matter of the heart, of what we’re focused on and what we value.
“The little that the righteous man has is better than the abundance of many wicked people” (v. 16). Let’s place our value in the things of God, not the things of this earth.
- In what ways have you perhaps “fretted” over the prosperity of someone whom you consider to be a “wrong-doer”? What was your emotional reaction?
- How do you define your “needs” versus your “wants”? Are they actually greater or less than what you have commonly thought?
- When you feel that you have been wronged by “the bad guy,” how might you respond in a way that’s consistent with the teaching in Psalm 37? (See verses 27-40)