Fret not thyself because of evildoers
So here we are on this last day of 2021 and looking forward to the new year of 2022. With so much going on, with so much we don’t know; uncertainty, optimism, pessimism and realism all play a part. In the natural, I do so from the perspective of the Psalmist (likely David) who when he looked around him saw bad people get away with doing bad things and the good, innocent and vulnerable suffer as a result, it was often with foreboding and consternation, at least until he saw things from God’s point of view and knew what to do.
I am sure it is not just me, for we know the Psalmist sometimes thought along these lines before seeing things from God’s perspective, but I have found, ever since my youth, this is how it is – bad people do bad things, get away with it and even praised (so it seems) and others suffer as a result. Not only have I fretted (to use the KJV verb) but, rather than commit my cause to the Lord, rest in Him and get on with life, I sometimes made it my mission to give the baddies their comeuppance, often with unsatisfactory outcomes.
As for the right approach, we can turn to Psalm 37. Might I suggest before continuing that folk read Psalm 37 and then listen while reading (see here). What I am about to share are a few simple thoughts, mindful there is so much to glean. Many have preached helpfully on this Psalm, notably C.H.Spurgeon (see here), and they are worth checking out. I quote from the KJV but to throw further light there is something to be said for reading in other versions. A few days ago, I wrote an article “My Covid-19 briefing (3)”.
While I do not expect readers to agree with everything I wrote, when I looked at a situation where bad people appear to be calling the shots with good people suffering as a result, I pointed to Psalm 1 where the Psalmist made the point the one “whose delight is in the law of the Lord” (1:2) is blessed. The word delight crops up in Psalm 37 too: “delight thyself also in the Lord” (37:4), suggesting one key at least to dealing with the problems we face and anger felt when bad people thrive is delighting in the Lord and His word. All of us can give examples of unfairness, injustice and oppression we or others face, making this Psalm particularly pertinent for our times.
The Psalmist gets straight to the point from the outset. Having set out his store that one is to “fret not thyself because of evildoers” (v1a) and “neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (v1b), he points out the end of such people: “they shall soon be cut down like the grass” (v2a). Also, at the heart of this Psalm is the call to “trust in the Lord, and do good” (v3) and we will be rewarded, although patience is required – again a theme that is later developed. As for delighting ourselves in the Lord (v4a), there is a great reward: “he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (4b). Moreover, we are told: “commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (v5).
The remainder of the Psalm (35 verses) is an elaboration of these (5) verses and reflects the confidence the Psalmist had in the Lord, specifically He will reward the righteous and punish the wicked. It appeared that this was written in his old age (“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (v25)) and, if David, we know he had more than his share of seeing evil doers prosper at his expense, suggesting the writer was well qualified in making the observations he did, which might be contained in the thought that however dire things appeared and however much bad people seem to be getting away with doing bad things, it will turn out aright in the end for those who put their trust and delight in the Lord, however unlikely it seems.
The Psalmist offers sage advice that 3000 years later, living in a time apparently seems to be so much different (but really isn’t), we do well to take heed. For example: “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (7a) and “cease from anger, and forsake wrath” (8a). While the wicked appear to be doing well as they callously disregard and oppress the poor, lowly and vulnerable, they will meet a sorry end – “for evildoers shall be cut off” (9a), “their sword shall enter into their own heart” (15a), “for the arms of the wicked shall be broken” (17a), and “the wicked shall perish” (20a).
In contrast, there are many promises for those who regard the Lord and who the Lord regards: “the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (v11), “a little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked” (v16), “the Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever” (v18) and “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way” (v23) are but four examples of the promises of God we can appropriate.
There will be times of testing and even failure e.g. “though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand” (v24). There will be times when the godly will be called upon to act in the right way e.g. “the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth” (v21b). But there is the assurance “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way” (v23). Jumping to the end, we can see that while “the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off” (v38), that “the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him” (vv39,40).