The Righteous One’s ABC’s of Discernment between the Godly & the Wicked

a brief study of Psalm 37, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 16 Feb 2007

Psalm 37 is one of the seven Acrostic Psalms found in the Psalter. It is a wisdom Psalm that can be taken in the lips of all of God’s children—whether only begotten or adopted.

But as you read the Psalm, you will notice how the words appear to flow out of the lips of our Lord and how they describe Him.

Consider verse 30 and 31—

“The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Ps 37:30-31).

Who would fit these words as exactly as our Lord? Indeed it seems almost, as someone put it, a full portrait of the Lord—who is altogether righteous in words, thought and deed!

And consider verse 11—

11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

And verse 22—

22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.

Are these not the words of the Lord, who says in the 3rd Beatitude, Matthew 5:5—?

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5)

Or consider verse 10—“For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be…”

Do these words not remind us of the Lord’s words to His disciples?

“A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. &c” (Jn 16:16ff)

In a little while, we shall see the Lord, and the wicked shall be no more. They shall not trouble us any more.

It is hard not to see how Psalm 37 is the word of Christ given to us that we may join Him to sing to teach and admonish one another in the way of the Lord.

In particular, in this psalm, our Lord teaches us to not fret or to become envious because of evildoers or workers of iniquity (v. 1).

Now, this Psalm, as with most of the alphabetic psalms, does not have a clear structure. When I started working on this sermon, I divided the psalm into what appears to be three logical sections. But as soon as I started working on the first verse, I found that the first two sections I have overlap so significantly, that it is really only one section. So I merged section 1 and 2 together and started working on two sections. But as soon as I finished working on the first section and began to work on the second section, I realised that the second section covers pretty much the same thing as the first section. The point is: this Psalm defies any attempt to break it up into logical sections.

Be as that may be the case, this Psalm has 3 main thoughts: (1) What we should not do? (2) What we should do? And (3) Why?

1. What Should We Not Do?

Well, the opening verse of the psalm makes it very clear:

1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

Who are the evildoers? Who are the workers of iniquity? We have no doubt that they include the unconverted in the world. These would live without regard to the law of God; and they would not hesitate to take advantage of God’s people.

But workers of iniquity would, no doubt, also include many who profess to be believers, for the Lord Jesus tells us that at the last day many will say unto Him, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” But He would say unto them: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Mt 7:22-23).

The word translated ‘iniquity’ is the Greek ‘anomia’ which means lawlessness.

Workers of iniquity are those who live without regard to the law of God—whether they profess to be believers or otherwise.

These would often become very rich in the world because they keep not the Sabbath, nor do they care about hurting others in the name of money making.

When they want to sell a Christian something, they may say: “Oh I am a Christian too.” But after you bought it, and discover some problem with the product, and you get back to them, they say: “Ah, business is business; please don’t mix religion with business!”

When you have to deal with such persons, how do you feel? There is a real temptation to be feel very vexed, frustrated and angry, isn’t there?

The wicked are often rich whereas God’s people would often have to struggle to make ends meet. And the wicked would often take advantage of God’s people knowing that they would very rarely fight back as they seek to follow the Lord’s example of meekness.

But these evildoers and workers of iniquity would often be very well-to-do and respected in society. So together with a temptation to feel vexed and angry about them, we sometimes feel envious of their wealth—why do honest people not do as well as them? Maybe they have it right, whereas we are hindering ourselves unnecessary?

Well, what should we do when we are vexed by the behaviour of the workers of iniquity? What should we do if we are tempted to be envious of their wealth and achievement?

Our Lord teaches us to remind one another:

1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

We must not allow ourselves to fret or to be vexed by them. The word of God has already warned us that there will be such persons in the world. Were it not for the grace of God, we would also be like them.

And so, we should neither fret nor be envious of them. We should rather pity them.

It is simply not at all profitable to allow ourselves to be exasperated by the wicked, or to get angry (v. 8), or to be tempted to follow their example.


2. What Should We Do Instead?

Instead of fretting or being envious of the evildoers and workers of iniquity, we should:

· Continue to trust the LORD and do good (v. 3).

· We should continue to delight in the LORD (v. 4) and commit our ways to Him (v. 5).

· We should rest in Him and wait patiently upon Him (v. 7).

· We should cease from anger (v. 8).

· We should strive to be meek as our Lord is meek. We should not retaliate or return evil for evil (v. 11)

· We should delight ourselves in the abundance of peace (v. 11).

· We should depart from evil, and do good (v. 27).

· Wait on the LORD, and keep His way (v. 34).

· And above all, we should “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (v. 37).

Who is the perfect man? Need I give an explicit answer? This man is none other than our Lord Himself.

Instead of being vexed and frustrated by wicked and lawless persons, let us learn to turn our eyes unto the Perfect Man, our Lord and Saviour, the Prince of Peace. There is no better antidote from the vexations of this present life than to turn our eyes and look full into the wonderful face of our Saviour.

Did someone make your life miserable?

She may be a sales clerk at the supermarket you had to deal with.

He may be a stranger who drove recklessly and nearly caused you to have an accident.

He may be your boss.

She may be your colleague.

He may be a member of the same church.

She may be your mother-in-law.

He may be a fair-weather friend.

She may even be a loved-one who simply does not understand the way of truth and therefore has made your life miserable.

What should you do when you feel so vexed and angry? It does not help to keep brooding over it. It always helps to turn your eyes to the Perfect Man. Know that it is because there is none perfect that He had to come to rescue you. Know that one day there will be perfect peace for your soul because your Saviour, the Perfect Man, will make sure that all that surrounds you for all eternity are perfectly loving and understanding and caring.

And besides, He has also given you other reasons why you should not fret over evildoers and workers of iniquity, but instead do as He instructs. This is the final thing we must consider.

3. Why?

Why should we not fret over evildoers, but continue to trust and wait upon the Lord?

The answer is found everywhere in this psalm, but we may summarise it under 7 points.

First and foremost, when we learn to trust in the Lord and to seek first His kingdom and righteousness, God promises to provide for all our needs (v. 3) and to give us the desires of our heart (v. 4).

Secondly, the Lord will give success to our endeavours (v. 5). All things work together for the good of the righteous even in days of famine (v. 19) in contrast to the curse that will attend the wicked. The Lord will order our steps and enable us to delight in His way (v. 23). He will not allow us to fall beyond recovery (v. 24). This is something that experience testifies to be true (v. 25-26)

Thirdly, when we put our trust in Him instead of taking matters into our own hands, our Lord will grant us deliverance from all our sin and from all our troubles, verse 39—

39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble. 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.

Fourthly, vengeance belongs to the Lord. When we refuse to allow ourselves to sin because of anger and vexation against the wicked, we will see the day when the Lord will deal with the wicked on our behalf.

He will cut off the evildoers (v. 9-10, v. 34b, v. 38). He will laugh at them for their day is coming (v. 13). He will destroy them with swift and perfect judgement (v. 14-15, 17).

They may be great in power. They may spread themselves like a green bay tree. But they would pass away and all their wealth will be completely lost to them (v. 35-36) in contrast to the eternal wealth of the righteous.

Fifthly, and related to the fourth point, when we commit ourselves to the Lord’s vengeance, the Lord will vindicate us openly (v. 6, 17b).

Sixthly, when we refuse to be envious of the wicked, the Lord will give us an everlasting inheritance. We shall inherit the earth (v. 9, 12, 22, 29). Our inheritance is eternal, whereas the inheritance of the wicked will last no more than a lifetime (v. 18)

For this reason the little that the righteous have is better than the riches of many wicked persons (v. 16). We should therefore never be envious of their wealth and status.

We should not allow ourselves to sink in depression because of the vexing ways of the wicked. We should rather pity them.

But seventhly and finally, when we take heed to the instructions of this psalm and turn our eyes unto the Lord to walk in the ways of the Lord, we shall more and more be like the Lord, the Perfect Man, and know the blessings of the Perfect Man (v. 30-33).

In short, when we refuse to allow ourselves to be vexed by evil doers and instead to trust and wait upon the Lord in regard to our present circumstances, we will experience the Lord’s richest blessing today and forever.


May the Lord grant us that we may take heed to the admonishment in this psalm and encourage one another to that end.

May He grant us that we may truly experience the blessings that He outlines in this psalm in a very real way.

May the Lord grant us that as we learn to humble ourselves under His mighty hand through all the trials we may experience in our lives, we will also have many occasions to rejoice and to testify before the world, “The LORD reigns and He keeps His promises.” Amen. W