Today, we continue with our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)* of Psalm 37. Today we look at verses 12-17.
This section of the Psalm contrasts the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.
The word wicked is an English translation of the Hebrew word רָשָׁע râshâʻ, raw-shaw’ which means morally wrong, an (actively) bad person:— condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.
The word righteous is an English translation of the Hebrew word צַדִּיק tsaddîyq, tsad-deek’ meaning just:—just, lawful, righteous (man).
There are those who are actively bad, wicked, ungodly and those who are actively doing what is just or right in following God’s teachings found in the Bible. With this in mind take some time to Read, Meditate, Pray and Rest in God utilizing this section of Psalm 37.
1. Read: Read the following sections slowly, at least 3 times:
12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
2. Meditate: Choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time meditating (thinking deeply about, chewing on it mentally, emotionally, spiritually).
The section that stood out to me today was verse 16: “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.” He seems to be linking the righteous to the poor and the wicked to having wealth. I wonder why he makes those associations? Are all wealthy people wicked, morally wrong, actively bad?
What about the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life? He apparently was a righteous man in that he kept all of the law/Torah that was required of a righteous Jewish person of his day. Yet still there was something that was preventing him from experiencing the fullness of the life of the Age to Come/Kingdom of God/Eternal Life that Jesus was offering. According to Jesus, it was his wealth. He was unwilling to let go of his wealth and follow Jesus and it resulted in sadness. (If you want to read about that story it’s found in Luke 18:18-23 as well as in other Gospels).
In 1 Timothy 6:10 it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” So clearly throughout the Bible there is some sort of correlation between wealth and evil. It would be a stretch to say that all wealthy people are evil, after all, Abraham was a man of God and he was righteous. But we counter that with Judas, who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because he was greedy. So there certainly is a strong potential for wealth to be associated with wickedness. Jesus said you can’t serve God and Mammon (Money). If you love money it will prevent you from loving God rightly.
To personalize this a bit for myself I must ask: am I wealthy? I live in a pretty nice house. I have enough money to buy groceries. I have access to excellent health benefits through my work. I have money to go on a vacation. I have access to good, clean drinking water. I have reliable transportation- my cars aren’t fancy but they get me where I need to go. If you compare me to actors in Hollywood or hedge fund managers on Wall street, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Sam Walton’s children, then I’m not wealthy. If you compare me to most of the people living in places like Malawi and Mozambique, South America or India, yes, I’m very wealthy. So in light of this Psalm I must ask, am I using my wealth in a just way, a right way, or am I using it in a wicked way, or have I used wicked means to obtain my wealth?
As you can see, meditating on one little verse can crack open a whole lot of questions and issues. That is what it did for me. Perhaps you spent time meditating on a different verse which cracked open a whole different set of questions or issues for you. Maybe you were wrestling with verse 13. What does it mean that the Lord “laughs at the wicked”? Is that a scornful laugh? Is He laughing at them because he knows how ridiculous they are and that, in the end the righteous, who appear to be the losers in this worlds system will actually emerge as the winners in God’s kingdom?
3. Pray: Whatever verse you choose to meditate on – take the issue to God in prayer. Talk it over with God. Bring him your questions. Bring him your complaints. Bring him your fears. Bring him your gratitude and joy. Bring whatever comes up during your time of reading and meditating. Do you have some sinful attitudes toward money that could potentially get you into trouble? Is there something you need to confess to God? Do not just speak, also take time to listen. Sometimes God speaks to you in various ways, so pay attention.
4. Rest in God: As you come to an end of your prayer, spend some time resting in God. Even if this produced unease, guilt, a need to repent, know that God’s grace is sufficient. Remember Zacchaeus, the wicked and greedy tax collector. He met Jesus and his grace and acceptance, it led Zacchaeus to repent and change his attitude toward money (he paid back those he had extorted and gave money to the poor), and then he went and had dinner with Jesus and I’m certain had a wonderful time visiting with our savior. Through Jesus’ grace, you can spend time with God, our Father and rest in him.
-Pastor Jeff Fletcher
*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.