Verses 34–40

The psalmist’s conclusion of this sermon (for that is the nature of this poem) is of the same purport with the whole, and inculcates the same things.

I. The duty here pressed upon us is still the same (Ps. 37:34): Wait on the Lord and keep his way. Duty is ours, and we must mind it and make conscience of it, keep God’s way and never turn out of it nor loiter in it, keep close, keep going; but events are God’s and we must refer ourselves to him for the disposal of them; we must wait on the Lord, attend the motions of his providence, carefully observe them, and conscientiously accommodate ourselves to them. If we make conscience of keeping God’s way, we may with cheerfulness wait on him and commit to him our way; and we shall find him a good Master both to his working servants and to his waiting servants.

II. The reasons to enforce this duty are much the same too, taken from the certain destruction of the wicked and the certain salvation of the righteous. This good man, being tempted to envy the prosperity of the wicked, that he might fortify himself against the temptation, goes into the sanctuary of God and leads us thither (Ps. 73:17); there he understands their end, and thence gives us to understand it, and, by comparing that with the end of the righteous, baffles the temptation and puts it to silence. Observe,

1. The misery of the wicked at last, however they may prosper awhile: The end of the wicked shall be cut off (Ps. 37:38); and that cannot be well that will undoubtedly end so ill. The wicked, in their end, will be cut off from all good and all hopes of it; a final period will be put to all their joys, and they will be for ever separated from the fountain of life to all evil. (1.) Some instances of the remarkable ruin of wicked people David had himself observed in this world—that the pomp and prosperity of sinners would not secure them from the judgments of God when their day should come to fall (Ps. 37:36, 35): I have seen a wicked man (the word is singular), suppose Saul or Ahithophel (for David was an old man when he penned this psalm), in great power, formidable (so some render it), the terror of the mighty in the land of the living, carrying all before him with a high hand, and seeming to be firmly fixed and finely flourishing, spreading himself like a green bay-tree, which produces all leaves and no fruit; like a native home-born Israelite (so Dr. Hammond), likely to take root. But what became of him? Eliphaz, long before, had learned, when he saw the foolish taking root, to curse his habitation, Job 5:3. And David saw cause for it; for this bay-tree withered away as soon as the fig-tree. Christ cursed: He passed away as a dream, as a shadow, such was he and all the pomp and power he was so proud of. He was gone in an instant: He was not; I sought him with wonder, but he could not be found. He had acted his part and then quitted the stage, and there was no miss of him. (2.) The total and final ruin of sinners, of all sinners, will shortly be made as much a spectacle to the saints as they are now sometimes made a spectacle to the world (Ps. 37:34): When the wicked are cut off (and cut off they certainly will be) thou shalt see it, with awful adorations of the divine justice. The transgressors shall be destroyed together, Ps. 37:38. In this world God singles out here one sinner and there another, out of many, to be made an example in terrorem—as a warning; but in the day of judgment there will be a general destruction of all the transgressors, and not one shall escape. Those that have sinned together shall be damned together. Bind them in bundles, to burn them.

2. The blessedness of the righteous, at last. Let us see what will be the end of God’s poor despised people. (1.) Preferment. There have been times the iniquity of which has been such that men’s piety has hindered their preferment in this world, and put them quite out of the way of raising estates; but those that keep God’s way may be assured that in due time he will exalt them, to inherit the land (Ps. 37:34); he will advance them to a place in the heavenly mansions, to dignity, and honour, and true wealth, in the New Jerusalem, to inherit that good land, that land of promise, of which Canaan was a type; he will exalt them above all contempt and danger. (2.) Peace, Ps. 37:37. Let all people mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; take notice of him to admire him and imitate him, keep your eye upon him to observe what comes of him, and you will find that the end of that man is peace. Sometimes the latter end of his days proves more comfortable to him than the beginning was; the storms blow over, and he is comforted again, after the time that he was afflicted. However, if all his days continue dark and cloudy, perhaps his dying day may prove comfortable to him and his sun may set in brightness; or, if it should set under a cloud, yet his future state will be peace, everlasting peace. Those that walk in their uprightness while they live shall enter into peace when they die, Isa. 57:2. A peaceful death has concluded the troublesome life of many a good man; and all is well that thus ends everlastingly well. Balaam himself wished that his death and his last end might be like that of the righteous Num. 23:10. (3.) Salvation, Ps. 37:39, 40. The salvation of the righteous (which may be applied to the great salvation of which the prophets enquired and searched diligently, 1 Pet. 1:10) is of the Lord; it will be the Lord’s doing. The eternal salvation, that salvation of God which those shall see that order their conversation aright (Ps. 50:23), is likewise of the Lord. And he that intends Christ and heaven for them will be a God all-sufficient to them: He is their strength in time of trouble, to support them under it and carry them through it. He shall help them and deliver them, help them to do their duties, to bear their burdens, and to maintain their spiritual conflicts, help them to bear their troubles well and get good by them, and, in due time, shall deliver them out of their troubles. He shall deliver them from the wicked that would overwhelm them and swallow them up, shall secure them there, where the wicked cease from troubling. He shall save them, not only keep them safe, but make them happy, because they trust in him, not because they have merited it from him, but because they have committed themselves to him and reposed a confidence in him, and have thereby honoured him.