In these verses we have,
I. The foregoing precepts inculcated; for we are so apt to disquiet ourselves with needless fruitless discontents and distrusts that it is necessary there should be precept upon precept, and line upon line, to suppress them and arm us against them. 1. Let us compose ourselves by believing in God: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him (Ps. 37:7), that is, be well reconciled to all he does and acquiesce in it, for that is best that is, because it is what God has appointed; and be well satisfied that he will still make all to work for good to us, though we know not how or which way.” Be silent to the Lord (so the word is), not with a sullen, but a submissive silence. A patient bearing of what is laid upon us, with a patient expectation of what is further appointed for us, is as much our interest as it is our duty, for it will make us always easy; and there is a great deal of reason for it, for it is making a virtue of necessity. 2. Let us not discompose ourselves at what we see in this world: “Fret not thyself because of him who prospers in his wicked way, who, though he is a bad man, yet thrives and grows rich and great in the world; no, nor because of him who does mischief with his power and wealth, and brings wicked devices to pass against those that are virtuous and good, who seems to have gained his point and to have run them down. If thy heart begins to rise at it, stroke down thy folly, and cease from anger (Ps. 37:8), check the first stirrings of discontent and envy, and do not harbour any hard thoughts of God and his providence upon this account. Be not angry at any thing that God does, but forsake that wrath; it is the worst kind of wrath that can be. Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil; do not envy them their prosperity, lest thou be tempted to fall in with them and to take the same evil course that they take to enrich and advance themselves or some desperate course to avoid them and their power.” Note, A fretful discontented spirit lies open to many temptations; and those that indulge it are in danger of doing evil.
II. The foregoing reasons, taken from the approaching ruin of the wicked notwithstanding their prosperity, and the real happiness of the righteous notwithstanding their troubles, are here much enlarged upon and the same things repeated in a pleasing variety of expression. We were cautioned (Ps. 37:7) not to envy the wicked either worldly prosperity or the success of their plots against the righteous, and the reasons here given respect these two temptations severally:—
1. Good people have no reason to envy the worldly prosperity of wicked people, nor to grieve or be uneasy at it, (1.) Because the prosperity of the wicked will soon be at an end (Ps. 37:9): Evil-doers shall be cut off by some sudden stroke of divine justice in the midst of their prosperity; what they have got by sin will not only flow away from them (Job 20:28), but they shall be carried away with it. See the end of these men (Ps. 73:17), how dear their ill-got gain will cost them, and you will be far from envying them or from being willing to espouse their lot, for better, for worse. Their ruin is sure, and it is very near (Ps. 37:10): Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be what they now are; they are brought into desolation in a moment, Ps. 73:19. Have a little patience, for the Judge stands before the door, Jas. 5:8, 9. Moderate your passion, for the Lord is at hand, Phil. 4:5. And when their ruin comes it will be an utter ruin; he and his shall be extirpated; the day that comes shall leave him neither root nor branch (Mal. 4:1): Thou shalt diligently consider his place, where but the other day he made a mighty figure, but it shall not be, you will not find it; he shall leave nothing valuable, nothing honourable, behind. him. To the same purport (Ps. 37:20), The wicked shall perish; their death is their perdition, because it is the termination of all their joy and a passage to endless misery. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; but undone, for ever undone, are the dead that die in their sins. The wicked are the enemies of the Lord; such those make themselves who will not have him to reign over them, and as such he will reckon with them: They shall consume as the fat of lambs, they shall consume into smoke. Their prosperity, which gratifies their sensuality, is like the fat of lambs, not solid or substantial, but loose and washy; and, when their ruin comes, they shall fall as sacrifices to the justice of God and be consumed as the fat of the sacrifices was upon the altar, whence it ascended in smoke. The day of God’s vengeance on the wicked is represented as a sacrifice of the fat of the kidneys of rams (Isa. 34:6); for he will be honoured by the ruin of his enemies, as he was by the sacrifices. Damned sinners are sacrifices, Mark 9:49. This is a good reason why we should not envy them their prosperity; while they are fed to the full, they are but in the fattening for the day of sacrifice, like a lamb in a large place (Hos. 4:16), and the more they prosper the more will God be glorified in their ruin. (2.) Because the condition of the righteous, even in this life, is every way better and more desirable than that of the wicked, Ps. 37:16. In general, a little that a righteous man has of the honour, wealth, and pleasure of this world, is better than the riches of many wicked. Observe, [1.] The wealth of the world is so dispensed by the divine Providence that it is often the lot of good people to have but a little of it, and of wicked people to have abundance of it; for thus God would show us that the things of this world are not the best things, for, if they were, those would have most that are best and dearest to God. [2.] That a godly man’s little is really better than a wicked man’s estate, though ever so much; for it comes from a better hand, from a hand of special love and not merely from a hand of common providence,—it is enjoyed by a better title (God gives it to them by promise, Gal. 3:18), --it is theirs by virtue of their relation to Christ, who is the heir of all things,—and it is put to better use; it is sanctified to them by the blessing of God. Unto the pure all things are pure, Titus 1:15. A little wherewith God is served and honoured is better than a great deal prepared for Baal or for a base lust. The promises here made to the righteous secure them such a happiness that they need not envy the prosperity of evil-doers. Let them know to their comfort, First, That they shall inherit the earth, as much of it as Infinite Wisdom sees good for them; they have the promise of the life that now is, 1 Tim. 4:8. If all the earth were necessary to make them happy, they should have it. All is theirs, even the world, and things present, as well as things to come, 1 Cor. 3:21, 22. They have it by inheritance, a safe and honourable title, not by permission only and connivance. When evil-doers are cut off the righteous sometimes inherit what they gathered. The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just, Job 27:17; Prov. 13:22. This promise is here made, 1. To those that live a life of faith (Ps. 37:9); Those that wait upon the Lord, as dependents on him, expectants from him, and suppliants to him, shall inherit the earth, as a token of his present favour to them and an earnest of better things intended for them in the other world. God is a good Master, that provides plentifully and well, not only for his working servants, but for his waiting servants. 2. To those that live a quiet and peaceable life (Ps. 37:11): The meek shall inherit the earth. They are in least danger of being injured and disturbed in the possession of what they have and they have most satisfaction in themselves and consequently the sweetest relish of their creature-comforts. Our Saviour has made this a gospel promise, and a confirmation of the blessings he pronounced on the meek, Matt. 5:5. Secondly, That they shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace, Ps. 37:11. Perhaps they have not abundance of wealth to delight in; but they have that which is better, abundance of peace, inward peace and tranquility of mind, peace with God, and then peace in God, that great peace which those have that love God’s law, whom nothing shall offend (Ps. 119:165), that abundance of peace which is in the kingdom of Christ (Ps. 72:7), that peace which the world cannot give (John 14:27), and which the wicked cannot have, Isa. 57:21. This they shall delight themselves in, and in it they shall have a continual feast; while those that have abundance of wealth do but cumber and perplex themselves with it and have little delight in it. Thirdly, That God knows their days, Ps. 37:18. He takes particular notice of them, of all they do and of all that happens to them. He keeps account of the days of their service, and not one day’s work shall go unrewarded, and of the days of their suffering, that for those also they may receive a recompence. He knows their bright days, and has pleasure in their prosperity; he knows their cloudy and dark days, the days of their affliction, and as the day is so shall the strength be. Fourthly, That their inheritance shall be for ever; not their inheritance in the earth, but that incorruptible indefeasible one which is laid up for them in heaven. Those that are sure of an everlasting inheritance in the other world have no reason to envy the wicked their transitory possessions and pleasures in this world. Fifthly, That in the worst of times it shall go well with them (Ps. 37:19): They shall not be ashamed of their hope and confidence in God, nor of the profession they have made of religion; for the comfort of that will stand them in stead, and be a real support to them, in evil times. When others droop they shall lift up their heads with joy and confidence: Even in the days of famine, when others are dying for hunger round about them, they shall be satisfied, as Elijah was; in some way or other God will provide food convenient for them, or give them hearts to be satisfied and content without it, so that, if they should be hardly bestead and hungry, they shall not (as the wicked do) fret themselves and curse their king and their God (Isa. 7:21), but rejoice in God as the God of their salvation even when the fig-tree does 8000 not blossom, Hab. 3:17, 18.
2. Good people have no reason to fret at the occasional success of the designs of the wicked against the just. Though they do bring some of their wicked devices to pass, which makes us fear they will gain their point and bring them all to pass, yet let us cease from anger, and not fret ourselves so as to think of giving up the cause. For,
(1.) Their plots will be their shame, Ps. 37:12, 13. It is true the wicked plotteth against the just; there is a rooted enmity in the seed of the wicked one against the righteous seed; their aim is, if they can, to destroy their righteousness, or, if that fail, then to destroy them. With this end in view they have acted with a great deal both of cursed policy and contrivance (they plot, they practice, against the just), and of cursed zeal and fury—they gnash upon them with their teeth, so desirous are they, if they could get it into their power, to eat them up, and so full of rage and indignation are they because it is not in their power; but by all this they do but make themselves ridiculous. The Lord shall laugh at them, Ps. 2:4, 5. They are proud and insolent, but God shall pour contempt upon them. He is not only displeased with them, but he despises them and all their attempts as vain and ineffectual, and their malice as impotent and in a chain; for he sees that his day is coming, that is, [1.] The day of God’s reckoning, the day of the revelation of his righteousness, which now seems clouded and eclipsed. Men have their day now. This is your hour, Luke 22:53. But God will have his day shortly, a day of recompences, a day which will set all to rights, and render that ridiculous which now passes for glorious. It is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment, 1 Cor. 4:3. God’s day will give a decisive judgment. [2.] The day of their ruin. The wicked man’s day, the day set for his fall, that day is coming, which denotes delay; it has not yet come, but certainly it will come. The believing prospect of that day will enable the virgin, the daughter of Zion, to despise the rage of her enemies and laugh them to scorn, Isa. 37:22.
(2.) Their attempts will be their destruction, Ps. 37:14, 15. See here, [1.] How cruel they are in their designs against good people. They prepare instruments of death, the sword and the bow, no less will serve; they hunt for the precious life. That which they design is to cast down and slay; it is the blood of the saints they thirst after. They carry on the design very far, and it is near to be put in execution: They have drawn the sword, and bent the bow; and all these military preparations are made against the helpless, the poor and needy (which proves them to be very cowardly), and against the guiltless, such as are of upright conversation, that never gave them any provocation, nor offered injury to them or any other person, which proves them to be very wicked. Uprightness itself will be no fence against their malice. But, [2.] How justly their malice recoils upon themselves: Their sword shall turn into their own heart, which implies the preservation of the righteous from their malice and the filling up of the measure of their own iniquity by it. Sometimes that very thing proves to be their own destruction which they projected against their harmless neighbours; however, God’s sword, which their provocations have drawn against them, will give them their death’s wound.
(3.) Those that are not suddenly cut off shall yet be so disabled for doing any further mischief that the interests of the church shall be effectually secured: Their bows shall be broken (Ps. 37:15); the instruments of their cruelty shall fail them and they shall lose those whom they had made tools of to serve their bloody purposes with; nay, their arms shall be broken, so that they shall not be able to go on with their enterprises, Ps. 37:17. But the Lord upholds the righteous, so that they neither sink under the weight of their afflictions nor are crushed by the violence of their enemies. He upholds them both in their integrity and in their prosperity; and those that are so upheld by the rock of ages have no reason to envy the wicked the support of their broken reeds.