Fret Not - Rest In The LORD - Psalm 37 Sermon From October 2014 Prayer Service
"Fret Not - Rest In The LORD" / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Wed Oct 1st 2014: Season of Pentecost, Psalm 37.
Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in Him, and He will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for He sees that his day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.
The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.
But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by Him shall be cut off.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.
I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.
Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
For the LORD loves justice;
He will not forsake His saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.
The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
and He will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.
Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in Him.
(Psalm 37 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. "What's the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile, So, pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, and smile, smile, smile." In the midst of trouble these words can sound trite - but do you remember where they are from? It's a line from the chorus of a World War I marching song. This is a song for men marching to their possible death against an very real enemy who is striving for success and for their death and the ruination of their country. It was written in 1915 a year into the war, by that time the glamour and pomp had been replaced by mud and mustard-gas. things were growing more and more grim by the minuet as the trenches spread across Europe, and the machine of war advanced around the globe. Here are the words again, "What's the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile, So, pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, and smile, smile, smile."
Does Psalm 37 say the same kind of thing? King David says "Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!" David says, "fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!" ... and "Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil." Well that sort of matches up with the first part of the World War I marching song, "What's the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile," but does this Psalm tell us to personally "pack up [our] troubles," does Psalm 37 say that in the face of evil we should just "smile, smile, smile." No, Psalm 37 says, "Delight yourself in the LORD," "Commit your way to the LORD," "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him;" "Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!" David isn't telling you to 'take your frown and turn it upside down.'
In the Psalm the Holy Spirit is using David to directed your eyes to the LORD, David writes that "the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He sees that his day is coming." The Lords sees that the end of the wicked is approaching. David is saying, something more like "He laughs best who laughs last." For, when it comes to the LORD, the LORD knows the end from the beginning. One of the things Psalm 37 is doing is to act as an encouragement to you - that you would do the very thing David did so many times in his life, which is to put his enemies into the LORD's hand and refrain from the temptation to hang onto them and deal with them on his own. The skilled warrior, the brilliant tactician, the "man of war," the man of blood, David puts the wicked into the hands of God and trusts the LORD.
Psalm 37 sits harmoniously between Deuteronomy and the New Testament epistle to the Romans. In Deuteronomy The LORD says, "Vengeance is Mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’" St. Paul in Romans writes, "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." In the midst of all that trust the Lord, David in his old age says in Psalm 37, "I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread" and why? "For the LORD loves justice; He will not forsake His saints."
What are we to do when the bad guy wins? When the baptized blood of the Christian is spilled on the sand and ISIS/ISIL stands triumphant over the dead Christian? What are we to do when the murderer right here in Regina has stabbed his victim to death and driven away with the body in his trunk? What are we to do then? What are we to do when the wicked prospers in his way? Maybe he sits in prison, in jail, but there he sits alive and his victim is dead - What are we to do when the wicked prospers in his way? This is the whole point of the Psalm. This is what David works to teach you and I. We are to abandon the temptation to fret and worry about it, to put it all in God's hands and not to take vigilante action on our own, and then we are to be comforted that time is short and judgment is coming. In the letter to the Hebrews, Scripture teaches that "It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment," in death each man will be judged, each woman, each child, everyone will die and face judgment. The wicked may seem to win the day but David says to you "fret not," "the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away." They will be, "cut off," in fact David points to That Day, the final judgment, and he tells you that on That Day, "you will look on when the wicked are cut off."
But when I look at my condition I see that I am wicked, am I in danger of being cut off? To the hypocrite John the Baptizer, while preparing the way of the LORD says these unsettling words, "Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Dear Christian Psalm 37 is an exercise in contrast, David is contrasting the wicked and the righteous, and what are you? Are you the wicked or the righteous? Saint John writes, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." You are not being told to "pack up your [wickedness, your] troubles in your old kit-bag" rather in His faithfulness the LORD is packing it all up for you and taking it away. He steps in, makes you righteous, clean, cleansed from your sin, from your wickedness, as a child of God you stand in contrast to the wicked. Your foot stands firm - their foot slips. Where the wicked is cut off - you remain and in your forgiven state you "dwell forever," "you inherit the land."
To further illustrate this Jesus told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And [the vinedresser] answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Jesus is the vinedresser, Jesus saves, likewise in Psalm 37 it is the LORD who saves, it is the LORD who rescues, it is the LORD who is the final judge. David says "The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him." As in Psalm 10 David trusts that the LORD will break the arm of the wicked, in Psalm 37 David says "For the arms of the wicked shall be broken." Here too is a window into the future for if the arms of the wicked is broken they cannot persecute you. On the Last Day they will never persecute you again. They will never harm the Body of Christ again.
That is fine and good, but what about today? Where do I set my hope now? Do I have to wait forever? For the LORD the wicked may be like "the glory of the pastures," for the eternal God they may "vanish like smoke," for me they are like mountains, they weather like granite, they look as dark as obsidian and seem as hard as diamonds, it's difficult to see a way out from under their advance. The wicked get rich, the criminal, the dictator, the terrorist, they prosper 'Where is their defeat?' 'Where is their downfall?' David says, "I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found." The downfall of the wicked is in their death, and because of Christ Jesus' cross death for you has lost its sting. Death has lost its victory, the blood of Jesus who takes away the sin of the world has crushed death along with the first of the wicked - Satan - under the heels of Jesus' nail pierced feet. For all the world it seemed like Christ was slow in coming but as the events of Holy Week unfolded salvation came swiftly as did the LORD's vengeance and His recompense: On the Last Day Christ will come even more swiftly, He will come "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye."
For the victory then look daily to Christ at the cross, look to Him hanging there dead, and in that death look to the death of death for you. On His one side the wicked thief, the criminal, the rebellious man who turned to Christ and asked for forgiveness and was given eternal life "today you will be with Me in Paradise” Jesus says - on the other side the wicked thief, the criminal, the rebellious man who turned away from Christ and His forgiveness, the one who had no fear of the LORD or of the judgment he was under, the one to whom no personal promise of eternal life was given. Christ Jesus dies for them both, He is "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Likewise in Psalm 37 the wicked and the righteous are all in the LORD's hand. David says trust the LORD, live your life without worry over it and leave it in the LORD's hands. Let the LORD judge and as That Day comes remember that you aren't expected to save yourself from the wicked, and you aren't being told to "Smile, Smile, Smile," rather you are being told to live in hope.
David patiently hoped for the coming Christ, we live in the hope of the second coming of that same Christ - both we and David live in the hope of the resurrection - so that with our own eyes we will see The Day of justice unfold, the fruit of forgiveness and love harvested. When the final judgment comes you will not be condemned when you are brought to trial. The LORD will acquit you because of Christ Jesus, because Jesus' "tongue speaks justice," because, "The law of His God is in His heart;" because, "His steps do not slip." Indeed, in your baptism you will stand firm on That Day, your foot - on the account of Christ - will likewise "not slip," and because of Him you will be lead into eternal life. It will be Jesus who greets you with a smile, because He has packed away your troubles and proven the worthlessness of worrying, He has freed you from the hand of the wicked and gives you the future - eternal life in Him.
Today the wicked can do their worst, they can amass a fortune, they can make the rivers run with blood, but it will not last, it is Christ who lasts, it is the LORD who is "the same yesterday and today and forever." And Jesus says to you “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you." In Christ your steps are established by the LORD, delight in His way; though you fall, you shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds your hand - He makes you righteous, forgives you, delivers you, saves you, He and He alone is your stronghold and your refuge as you march, as you sing in the face of trouble, rest in Him. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 George Henry Powell (27 April 1880 – 3 December 1951).
 Oxford Treasury of Sayings and Quotations, Susan Ratcliffe, Oxford University Press (2011), pg 387.
 1 Chronicles 28:3
 Deuteronomy 32:35
 Romans 12:17-21
 Hebrews 9:27
 Luke 3:9
 1 John 1:8-9
 Luke 13:6-9
 1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
 1 Corinthians 15:52
 Luke 23:43
 John 1:29
 Romans 8:24-25.
 Hebrews 13:8
 John 15:18