Meditations from the Psalms by Pastor Timothy Tow
There is a paradox in the affairs of men, and that is that the wicked and lawless seem to prosper, but the good and law-abiding suffer. So, those who are godly, who come under the oppression of the wicked, tend to complain and “fret”, or even become envious of the success of their opponents.
Writing from an old age (v25), David discovers time to be the best judge. According to a Chinese proverb, David has eaten more salt than a young man eats rice. From the wealth of his many experiences through a long life of seventy years, he has seen how the wicked might spread his power like a green bay tree (v35), but when he dies, his influence is finished overnight.
The righteous may suffer affliction, the very victims of the wicked. But God who sees all this will not allow injustice to flourish. The Lord turns the tables upon the bullies themselves, so that “their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken” (v15).
What are some of the characteristics of the wicked? In the economic world, they practise cheating. They borrow, but from the start, they have decided not to pay back. The wicked are plotters, schemers, whose aim in life is to enrich themselves at the expense of others. In legal terms, they commit criminal breach of trust. Can you think of notorious tycoons who are sent to jail for manipulation of public funds?
The righteous have the opposite characteristics. Knowing God to be their Provider, Sustainer and Judge, they live a frugal life. Whatever they have to spare, they are willing to share with others, especially the needy, by giving or lending (vv21, 26). “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again” (Prov 19:17). They who live unto God, and with regard to their fellowmen, will receive a good reward, even on earth. While heaven is the ultimate goal of a godly life, there are the blessings of earth that God lavishes on the meek. This observation that the meek shall inherit the earth is confirmed by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:5).
In order to keep the godly straight in this path of righteousness, David gives them eight precepts. A precept is a command, so it is given in the imperative mood, as in the opening sentence of this Psalm: “Fret not …” Can you find the rest of the precepts? “Trust in the LORD...” (v3) is the Second Precept. Where are the rest? Obeying these precepts keeps one not only on a straight path but leads the same to prosperity. Thus it is recorded of David the Psalmist himself that his house “waxed stronger and stronger” (2 Sam 3:1).
This Psalm is like a chapter from Proverbs. In the Hebrew, it can be seen as an alphabetical Psalm. This is an ancient poetic pattern of writing which helps one to memorise.
The wicked prospers, but how long?
Curiously enough, this 73rd Psalm corresponds with the 37th in subject matter. It will help our memory to notice the reversed figures, inasmuch as what is given in Psalm 37 is restated from a different angle. The theme is: the prosperity of the wicked and the sorrow of the godly. This is one stumbling block which Job’s friends could not get over.
The Psalmist declares at the outset how God stands with Israel, with those whose hearts are clean. “My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.” This may truly be said of King David.
But the Psalmist here confesses his succumbing to the envy of the foolish and the wicked (v3), so that his steps, spiritually speaking, have well nigh slipped. Be that as it may, his description of the outward prosperity and behaviour of the wicked is vividly true (vv4–12). In their protruded eyes, swelled by power and pride, they see not God (v11) nor men (v8).
The Psalmist speaks of his dilemma from verses 13 to 16 as he looks at the prosperity of the wicked by his own judgment. Surely he is perplexed, and so are we when we try to judge others in our own wisdom.
In verse 17, he sees things in a different light when he enters the Temple to worship. When we come to Church and listen to God’s Word expounded to us, we see ourselves measured against God and not alongside our adversaries. We can adopt a “holier than thou” attitude without God, but under His shining light, we become totally undone.
In the eternity of God, man is transient like a dream. All of a sudden, we see the wicked as thrown off a slippery road. Sudden destruction comes upon them. In the light of God’s righteous judgment upon the wicked, the Psalmist realises his stupidity like a brute beast (Job 18:3). So, do we fret ourselves because of evildoers (Ps 37:1)? No!
ON SPEECH AND DRESSING
In Christian living, believers must be wary of their words or speech. The Bible has a lot to say about how dangerous the tongue can be (Jas 3:5–12). Pastor Tow gave this sobering reminder to his readers that “by your speech one can tell many things about your spiritual health, whether you are worldly, selfish, covetous, spiteful, vindictive, unforgiving, sensual, hypocritical. So, guard your speech! ‘For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned’ (Matt 12:37).” Believers are exhorted to use their speech to praise and thank God more with a worshipful heart, rather than use their lips to destroy or hurt.
In addition, Pastor Tow warned against the danger of dressing immodestly. He reminded believers that we are to “worship God with (our) life and practice” and this includes dressing appropriately. Because of the sinful heart of man (1 Pet 1:13–15), women ought to dress decently and cover up lest they cause others to sin. Women who dress immodestly make themselves a participant of psychological adultery. Furthermore, it is necessary for a male to dress like a male and a woman to dress as a woman for God has created us accordingly (Deut 22:5). Under this biblical principle, Pastor Tow commended the Singapore practice where boys and young men are required to keep their hair short when they attend school. (Weekly Wisdom)
GODLY SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Ken Brown in his article, “The Church Needs Wise Guys”, says “silence is not only golden, it can be godly.” He rightly noted, “It has been said that ‘a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on,’ and that was long before we could communicate at Mega Bits Per Second [MBPS] on the internet. Now we can simply touch a key to forward a false claim, or type an angry screed with little regard for its veracity, and within minutes it’s available to hundreds or thousands.”
Brown offers the following suggestions on how to be wise in our communications so that we will not fall into the sin of spreading falsehoods at the speed of MBPS:
The Apostle James warned about the tongue, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”(Jas 3:5–6).
The proud and presumptuous have said, “With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?” (Ps 12:4). But there is a God in heaven who speaks truthful and enduring words to safeguard His own: “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Ps 12:5–7).
Let us be careful what we say and write, type, text or tweet. “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (Jas 3:2). JK
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