The Expository Files


 Psalm 37: The Path of the Righteous

Psalm 37

At some point in the life of most any disciple, there may be doubts about the value of a godly life when compared to those who have no such interests. Within this psalm, David gives a promise to those who seek righteousness that the Lord will be with them in their life and points us to the life of the righteous: ”Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace” (v. 37). David's admonition? Watch the one who is upright and see his end instead.

Today, let us look at Psalm 37 and what the psalmist has given us to lead us in The Path Of The Righteous. Let us see what he says about the righteous and his relationship to the Lord, the life he lives, and how the both the wicked and the Lord will react. Let us not just see how we should live, but who we should be and what we may expect.

The Righteous and His Relationship to the Lord. This man is righteous not of his own determination, but by God, and he is so called because of who he is and how he lives. He is a man who, first of all, trusts in the Lord (vs. 3, 5). He has no faith in the promises of man, for man will lie; the Lord will not - cannot! The righteous man is also one who actually and truly delights in the Lord (v. 4). Because he loves righteousness, he seeks after that which is fully and truly right and, in his search, finds that only in the Lord can this found, so it is natural that he would delight in anything related to Him. In the words of the psalmist, ”I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psa. 40:8).

Because the Lord is one that can be trusted fully and one in whom he can find true and unfailing joy, he is willing to commit himself to the Lord, too (v. 5). He knows there is none other on whom he can depend, and in the Lord he may fully trust that He will be there for rest and assurance, so he also rests in the Lord (v. 7). It comes as no surprise, then, to find that this man is one who has the law of God in his heart (v. 31), for he knows there is no righteousness of God but through the word.

The Life of the Righteous. God calls no man ”righteous” without reason, and we find, then, that it is the life of this man that defines him. He is one who is willing to ”do good” (vv. 3, 27) because, by the very term righteous, we would expect nothing less. Righteousness is not only being good but also doing good and part of that ”good” that he does is showing mercy to others and sharing (v. 21). This, again, is to be expected of the righteous man for mercy is a foundational part of the life of the righteous. If we are to be as our Lord, we must show mercy. With his desire for righteousness, it is not surprising to find that this man is one who speaks of wisdom and justice (v. 30); justice is, in fact, synonymous with righteousness.

Part of being able to be called truly righteous may also be based on what we do not do. That being true, we find that the righteous man, as described here, is one who does not allow the state of the wicked to bother him; he doesn't envy him (v. 1), he doesn't get angry or worry about it when it seems the wicked are prospering and he is not (v. 8), and he isn't bothered by his riches (v. 16). Because his heart is set on righteousness, he departs from evil (v. 27) with the understanding he cannot go back into the life of fleshly indulgences and pleasures and remain faithful to the Lord. He also understands that he cannot harbor anger and wrath (v. 8), which are the marks of a man without control, and not of a righteous man. The wise writer warned, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.” (Prov. 22:24, 25) There is danger is even making friends with one
who cannot control their anger; that being so, what of the one who cannot himself control his anger?

Reactions to the Righteous Life. As we might expect, not everyone will be pleased when they see a man living righteously, if for only the fact his life illustrates the wickedness of their own. Some might even seek to eliminate the one who is now making them look bad (vv. 12, 32)! As long as someone is willing to stand for righteousness, there will be some who oppose him, with some willing to take the life of the righteous that his own deeds might not look so bad.

On the other hand, the Lord is pleased with his life, offering protection for the one who is being persecuted for righteousness' sake (v. 33). When we commit our ways to the Lord as this man did, the Lord will grant us our heart's desire, too (v. 4) - eternal life in heaven! This is a qualified promise, as they all are. “If” we delight in the Lord, He will give us our heart's desire. God's promise to the righteous and those who trust in Him is that they will be exalted in the sight of all (v. 6, 34). It may not be on this earth, but it will come to pass.

Here, the promise to the righteous is that he will gain an inheritance in the land (vv. 9, 11, 22, 29, 34); for those of that day, they could rest assured that it was a literal land promise, but for us, it is an eternal inheritance that does not fade away (1st Pet. 1:4). Likewise, the righteous one of that day was promised salvation and deliverance from the wicked (vs. 39, 40); for us, it is
ultimate salvation from our sins and deliverance from all evil. 


By Steven C. Harper
From Expository Files 18.10; October 2011