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It’s How Christ-Followers Roll

February 12, 2012

The Text

3Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 4Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.. (Psalm 37:3-5 ESV)

A Closer Look at the Text

Don’t Fret it. This is much more than simply “don’t sweat it.” Psalm 37 begins with the words “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.” In the original Hebrew, the word “fret”  (charah, H2734) refers to a seething burning with anger. In this Psalm David reminds us that we aren’t wearing God’s wristwatch. In due time … in God’s time … even the most “successful” evildoers will fade away like the grass clippings of a recently mowed lawn. We are following Jesus Christ, and we need not trouble ourselves about what we see as injustice in a world where many of the wealthiest are actually world-class criminals.

Trust. The Psalmist instructs us in the next verse to “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3-4). Here the word “trust” (batach, H982) speaks to an active and bold confidence-that-enables, not a passive reliance that results in inaction or laziness. Our trust in the Lord points us in the direction of actively dwelling in the land, actively befriending faithfulness, and actively doing good.

Delight. Next we are told to “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is not merely a promise; it is a command. Our delight (`anag, H6062) flows from and flows out of our trust. When we trust God, our universe is in order, and we can flourish in ways that would never be available to us if we did not trust God. There is an exquisite, if sublime, gladness, a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), with which we are graced as a result of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. David command us to pay attention to this exquisite gladness.

Commit. The next command is to “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.” The word “commit”  (galal, H1556) is a Hebrew word that literally means “roll.” To commit our way to the LORD as used here literally means to “Roll with God.” Our journey is God’s journey, and we “roll” with Him.

Rest. Finally, we are instructed to “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Being still (damam, H1826) has as much to do with our thoughts and our speech as it has to do with our body. Daman means to be quite or mute. In the progression of commands, David invites us to trust in God, delight in Him, be committed to him … and then be silent before him. Allow Him, through His Word and His Holy Spirit, to inspire our thinking and to direct our path.

Some Observations about the Text

Trust. What does it actually mean to trust God? “In God we Trust” is on many of our coins and on much of our currency. We like to say, “In God we Trust,” and then, as if that were not quite enough, we like to add, “United We Stand.” This certainly makes for great patriotism, but questionable theology. We either trust God or we don’t. If we do trust God, we don’t have to “override” Him by: rushing into action without first seeking His will in prayer and in His word; borrowing money to make purchases that He has not seen fit to put within our financial reach; cheating or stealing or lying or finding ways to earn a living or support ourselves when those means of support do not glorify Him (in fact, quite the opposite); or permitting ourselves to be dishonest, immoral, impure, disobedient, or sinful in some way because we some “have no choice” even though we claim to trust Him. We can “under-trust” God by acting in self-serving ways that do not glorify Him; we can also “over-trust” God by taking unwise risks, ignoring our responsibilities, being lazy, or otherwise expecting God to solve problems that He has allowed us to face and to take on in ways that would honor Him and reflect our relationship with Him.

sisyphus  Commit. The interesting use of the word “roll” to express the idea of “commit” reminds me of the Myth of Sisyphus, a Greek myth that was made famous in the mid-1950’s by the atheist existentialist Albert Camus. For Camus (and the early Greek storytellers), life amounts to nothing more than pushing a rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down. But the Gospel is the good news that life does indeed have meaning, and to “roll with God” means to trust Jesus Christ to be in charge of rock-rolling. It might not even be too trivial to declare, “I roll with God; He rocks!” Or something like that. Sorry.

Gospel Apologetics

It is impossible to get through life without trusting something. To purchase a loaf of bread at the grocery store, is to trust an entire agro-economy of farming, harvesting, processing, distribution, and retailing … all the while trusting that the loaf of bread is “probably” not contaminated or toxic. To have any relationship with any other person is to trust; and the betrayal of that trust by a friend or loved one hurts deeply. We call people who can’t trust anyone under any circumstances, who are hyper-skeptical of everyone and everything, paranoid. Or insane. They might as well be insane, because their life is non-functional without a certain degree of trust.

People who do not have faith in God, actually do place their faith somewhere else. To a large extent, such folks’ faith is often in rationalism and their own ability to reason. Of course, we all make enough mistakes in life that we ought to realize that our own ability to reason is helpful but ultimately flawed to some degree.

Others place their faith in science (thank you, weapons of mass destruction). Or education (is it necessary to comment on this one?). Or evolution (which means that our lives necessarily have no meaning because we are here by random chance). Or money (tell me again about the world class criminals). Or family (which is great until they separate from us, disappoint us, annoy us, or die …). Or government (now THAT’s a good plan … not).

People seem to instinctively know that they need to trust something or someone. This is a real need. Clifford Williams calls it an existential need.

And so when the Psalmist instructs his reader to “Trust in the LORD,” he’s not suggesting that we trust God because we aren’t trusting anyone or anything else. He’s suggesting that we trust God instead of everyone and everything else. Only when we we do, will we find exquisite, sublime delight. 

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). To trust God, is to take Jesus Christ up on his Word.

Audio MP3 Discussion of this post is available here.

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