“1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.”
Within our current cultural climate it is easy to grow discouraged and to lose perspective. Whether it is the triumph of unprincipled and immoral men and women in politics, or the support of sinful behaviors in business, the compromise and corruption that have permeated the Church, the wholesale immorality in the entertainment industry, or the miserable failure of our judicial system to secure justice. We look around us at the growth of such wickedness and can be tempted to anger, anxiety, or envy.
David was no stranger to these temptations and addresses them in our psalm today by putting the momentary triumph of the wicked in its proper perspective. It is important for us as the people of God to pay very close attention to David’s words and learn from them how we ought to respond to the wickedness that surrounds us. Ought we to become angry? Ought we to be anxious? Ought we to envy their triumph?
David’s answer to each of these questions is a resounding, “No.” “Cease from anger,” he tells us, “and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only causes harm.” Why is it that we are tempted to anger when we see the wicked triumphing? Why are we anxious? Is it because we see God’s name being defamed and have a sense of righteous indignation? Is it because we fear what they shall do when they get in power? Because their triumph just doesn’t seem right? Whatever the reason, David reminds us that no matter how great our indignation may, it does not compare with the righteous indignation our Lord Himself has. And so we are called to rest in the knowledge that the very God whose name is defamed, is the one who rules and orchestrates history and who shall cause every man to give an account for His idle words. God sees, brothers and sisters; He hears; He knows – and He tells us not to grow angry or anxious – they only cause harm. Trust Him; believe Him; look to Him.
But sometimes our response to the triumph of the wicked is neither anger nor anxiety, it is envy. Why is it that those wicked folks have that nice house? Why are they making all the good movies? Why do they have control of the paper? Why do they have the nice building? But David tells us, “Do not be envious of evildoers” because their lot really is not enviable. Verses 12 – 17 say:
12 The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword
And have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
15 Their sword shall enter their own heart,
And their bows shall be broken.
16 A little that a righteous man has
Is better than the riches of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But the LORD upholds the righteous.
Why then ought we to put away our anger, anxiety, and envy? Because, David reminds us, the triumph of the wicked is temporary. The wicked shall be cut down like the grass; their plans will not be victorious. They shall be destroyed. And so, what is the point of growing angry, anxious, or envious? God has so made the world and He so orchestrates history and eternity, that those who honor Him and His law will prosper while those who rebel against Him and spurn Him will perish. Our Lord Jesus Himself promised us, quoting from later in this very psalm, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Note that the promise is not that the meek shall inherit heaven – as true as this is – the promise is that the meek shall inherit the earth. The triumph of the wicked is temporary. Oh sure, it may last a while – perhaps even our lifetimes – but God shall win for He is Lord. And He calls us to trust Him in these times of history when His ways are being scorned; to trust in His sovereign ordering of history and that everything – even this momentary triumph of the wicked – shall abound the the glory of the Lord and the filling of the earth with the knowledge of Him. As Wycliffe once said, “Great is the truth, and it shall prevail.”
Reminded of our failure to trust less in God’s promises than in our own feeble assessment of our cultural situation, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive us and begin to fulfill His promises in our own lifetime.