The Apparent Good Fortune of the Godless Compared with the Believers’ True Happiness.
A psalm of David, rightly considered one of the most beautiful written by him, called by Luther the garment of the pious, bearing the inscription: “Here is the patience of the saints,” Rev. 14, 12. V. 1. Fret not thyself, with excitement and anger, because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity, being vexed by their apparent good fortune and prosperity. V. 2. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, fading away and perishing, and wither as the green herb, the tender grass and young vegetation of spring, whose beauty is but transient. These two verses having expressed the sentiment of the whole psalm, the two thoughts contained in them are further elaborate. V. 3. Trust in the Lord, every believer placing his full confidence in Jehovah alone, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, the exhortation being to a quiet and peaceable life, and, verily, thou shalt be fed, rather, practice faithfulness and uprightness in all dealings. V. 4. Delight thyself also in the Lord, considering Him the heart’s highest desire; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart, all the requests which accord with His gracious and good will. V. 5. Commit thy way unto the Lord, literally, “roll it upon Jehovah,” heavy as it may seem with all its troubles and cares; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass, perform all that is needed for the believer’s true happiness. V. 6. And He shall bring forth thy righteousness, which is now unappreciated and in densest darkness, as the light, when the dawn spreads over the eastern sky and the morning sun dispels the darkness, and thy judgment, the right on the part of the believers, as the noonday, in full brightness before the eyes of all the world. V. 7. Rest in the Lord, being still before Jehovah with that calm resignation which knows itself secure in His hands, and wait patiently for Him, looking for His help in steadfast hope; fret not thyself, in anxious vexation, because of him who prospereth in his way, against the wicked in his good fortune, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass, carrying out evil plans to harm the righteous. V. 8. Cease from anger and forsake wrath, jealously guarding against the sins of an evil temper; fret not thyself in any wise to do evil, for such would be the natural result if a believer would yield to his vexation; he himself would become guilty of sin. V. 9. For evil-doers shall be cut off, this result being certain without the sinful anger of the believer; but those that wait upon the Lord, steadfastly placing their trust in Him, they shall inherit the earth, enjoy true happiness even here in time, while sure of the blessings of eternity. V. 10. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be, wiped out by the avenging hand of God; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, wondering why it was so suddenly empty, and it shall not be, literally, “it is not,” denoting the quick stroke of God’s avenging justice. V. 11. But the meek, those who humbly rest their trust in God, shall inherit the earth, as the Lord repeats, Matt. 5, 5; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace, enjoying the happiness of true prosperity under the blessing of Jehovah. V. 12. The wicked plotteth against the just, with the intention of harming him at every opportunity, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth, in a gesture of unbridled fury. V. 13. The Lord shall laugh at him, making mockery of the unbeliever’s futile anger; for He seeth that His day, the day of judgment and punishment, is coming. V. 14. The wicked have drawn out the sword, to commit murder, and have bent their bow, ready to let the death-dealing arrow fly, to cast down the poor and needy, with the weapons of violence, and to slay such as be of upright conversation, who conduct themselves in accordance with the will of Jehovah. V. 15. Their sword, by the dispensation of God, through His avenging power, shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. V. 16. A little that a righteous man hath, though he be poor in this world’s goods, is better than the riches of many wicked, which do not represent true prosperity, because they do not give contentment, do not afford them rest and satisfaction. V. 17. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, so that these members of wickedness can neither harm others nor help themselves; but the Lord upholdeth the righteous, Jehovah being their everlasting Strength and Stay. V. 18. The Lord knoweth the days of the upright, carefully watches over them, lovingly orders all that befalls them; and their inheritance shall be forever, they will be given the blessings which He has intended for them, here in time and hereafter in eternity. V. 19. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, objects of mockery because of their being forsaken by the Lord, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied, their wants being supplied in accordance with God’s gracious and good will. V. 20. But the wicked shall perish, this their ultimate fate being emphasized time and again, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs, or, ‘‘as the splendor of the pastures,” which vanishes so quickly; they shall consume, into smoke shall they consume away, as smoke dissolves and vanishes in the air. V. 21. The wicked borroweth and payeth not again, being deliberately dishonest in his dealings; but the righteous showeth mercy and giveth, glad to share the blessings given him by God with such as are in want. V. 22. For such as be blessed of Him shall inherit the earth, the blessing of Jehovah proving rich abundance for them; and they that be cursed of Him shall be cut off, their final lot being one of extreme want, of unhappiness, no matter how many treasures they have heaped up. V. 23. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, firmly established, with Jehovah as his Guide; and He delighteth in his way, Jehovah has pleasure in the entire conduct and manner of living of the believer. V. 24. Though he fall, for even the righteous will occasionally stumble and become guilty of transgressions, he shall not be utterly cast down, stretched out to his full length, unable to rise again; for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand, sustaining him, offering him His almighty and gracious support, so that he can once more stand upright and proceed upon his way. V. 25. I have been young and now am old, the psalmist has the experience of a lifetime to draw from; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, abandoned past the point of help, nor his seed begging bread, suffering permanent want. Temporary abandonment and privation there may be, but the righteous are never really forsaken by Jehovah. V. 26. He, the righteous, the possessor of true righteousness by faith, is ever merciful, showing the faith of his heart in deeds of love, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed, the blessing of Jehovah resting upon his house and family. The conclusion drawn by David, therefore, is: v. 27. Depart from evil and do good, following the way of true righteousness; and dwell forevermore, that being God’s blessing of mercy upon true piety. V. 28. For the Lord loveth judgment, He is right in all His dealings with men, and forsaketh not His saints; they are preserved forever. But the seed of the wicked shall be cut off, their entire posterity, following them in their wickedness, shall be destroyed. V. 29. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell therein forever, possessors of true happiness. V. 30. The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, for he is continually meditating upon such things as pertain to the highest wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment, intent upon the right in every situation. V. 31. The Law of his God is in his heart, providing the motive for his pious conduct; none of his steps shall slide, his entire conduct being guided by a certain rule and norm, since his will is regulated by the will of God. V. 32. The wicked watcheth the righteous and seeketh to slay him, to that end he has laid his plans. V. 33. The Lord will not leave him in his hand, will not give the righteous up to the evil intention of the wicked, nor condemn him when he is judged, the divine judgment will acquit him, even if men should declare him guilty. V. 34. Wait on the Lord, with quiet, steady confidence, and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the land, this promise being given six times in this one psalm; when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. V. 35. I have seen the wicked in great power, proud, ruthless, arrogant, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree, a tree in full foliage, teeming with strength. V. 36. Yet he passed away, rather, “lo, one passed by,” spoken as of a casual passer-by, and, lo, he was not, gone without causing so much as a ripple; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” V. 37. Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, watching closely how the Lord deals with such a person; for the end of that man is peace, the man of peace receiving everlasting peace as the reward of God’s mercy. V. 38. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the end of the wicked, their entire posterity, shall be cut off. V. 39. But the salvation of the righteous, their final deliverance from every evil, of body and soul, property and honor, is of the Lord: He is their Strength in the time of trouble, in every form of distress and oppression. V. 40. And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked and save them because they trust in Him, making Jehovah their sole refuge. The lesson of the psalm is beautifully summarized in the well-known hymn of Paul Gerhardt “Commit Whatever Grieves Thee,” which has brought consolation to many a troubled heart.