Read the psalm through first, and then keep your Bible open so that you can refer to it as you read this article. The Scripture references are given so that you may turn them up for yourself where the verses are not quoted in full. This will help you get the most out of it.
This psalm of David is acrostic in form and provides teaching or wisdom. There is nothing in it of prayer or praise, it is all instruction. Its theme is how to combat any feelings of envy we might have, when we see the prosperity of the wicked, as opposed to the apparent lack of success of the righteous, in the world. There are five exhortations to help and sustain us in the face of the apparent contradiction, that the wicked should prosper and the righteous be cast down. They each have a precious promise attached to them.
Trust in the Lord, and do good, v. 3
We have nothing to fear or worry about if we trust in the Lord with all our heart, Prov. 3. 5. In another psalm David exclaims, ‘What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me’, Ps. 56. 3-4. It is to be a wholehearted faith in the Lord and in His word, as is emphasized in Psalm 119, verses 2 and 10, and in verse 31 of this psalm.
It is with steadfastness of heart that we are to follow our Lord; David makes the statement in two of his psalms that his heart is fixed, or steadfast, in his trust, Ps. 57. 7 and 108. 1. We are not to allow circumstances or people to deflect us from our intent of following the Lord. John Bunyan put it so well in his hymn ‘He who would valiant be’.
Service is to be rendered with ‘singleness of heart, as unto Christ’, Eph. 6. 5. The Greek word translated ‘singleness’ means ‘with freedom from duplicity’. The Lord Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve God and riches’.
The psalmist reminds us that our trust in the Lord is to show itself in a life of goodness, that is, in humble service to others. According to James 2. 17 if our faith is not accompanied by good works, it is dead.
The promise attached to this exhortation is that we shall ‘dwell in the land, and verily … shalt be fed’. We shall know what it is to have a table prepared before us even in the presence of our enemies, as well as looking forward to dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. Ps. 23. 5-6.
Delight thyself also in the Lord, v. 4
It is with ‘great delight’ that we are to sit down under His shadow, and find His fruit sweet to our taste, S.of S. 2. 3. David could speak of his soul thirsting after God, longing for Him, and then he knew that he would be ‘satisfied as with marrow and fatness’, Ps. 63. 1, 5.
Of the upright man, it is said that ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law he doth meditate day and night’, Ps. 1. 2. There are many things in our lives that can give us delight, such as in God’s creatorial handiwork or a delight in kind and thoughtful actions done towards us. But we must not allow such things as these to obscure the fact that the source of all true delight is God Himself. The Lord Jesus explained how we can experience the wonderful gift of His own joy: a joy that comes from a delight in God and in keeping His commandments, John 15. 10-11.
The promise here is that ‘He shall give thee the desires of thine heart’. All our spiritual aspirations will be met, as we delight ourselves in our God. We shall prove the truth of David’s words: ‘In thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’, Ps. 16. 11.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, v. 5
The AV margin has, for ‘commit thy way unto’ – ‘roll thy way upon’. In other words, roll both your present burdens and your future plans upon Him. Let Him undertake for you in all life’s goings out and comings in. We are to acknowledge Him in all our ways, and then He will direct our paths, Prov. 3. 6. If we are looking to the Lord in faith, and being obedient to all the light He has already given us, He will surely direct our feet in the right way, the way of His choosing. As David says later in verse 23, ‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.’
What a wonderful promise is attached to this statement - ‘He will bring it to pass’! No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ about it, other than fulfilling the condition to commit our way to Him.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, v. 7
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, v. 7
Again, the AV margin has a helpful alternative rendering of ‘rest in’ - ‘be silent to’. In other words, don’t be full of words about your situation either to Him or to others, just tell Him simply your case, and then be content to leave it in His hands in a spirit of submission. God doesn’t want us to be in a spirit of bondage, to worry or be impatient, but to have a spirit of resting and waiting and trusting. As the hymnwriter has said: ‘His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower’.
There is a promise attached to this exhortation too, although it doesn’t come until verse 9, ‘Those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth’. This promise is repeated again in verse 11, to those who are characterized by meekness, a principle which is taken up by the Lord Jesus in His discourse on the mount, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’, Matt. 5. 5.
Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, v. 34
Notice the difference between waiting for God, which we had in the last statement, and waiting on God. This is about the life of prayer, believing prayer. The verse tells us that it is not enough to be found in prayer; we have to be obedient to the word of God as well. James tells us, it is ‘the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (that) availeth much’. Faith and obedience, as we see in this verse, are often linked in Scripture, for in one sense faith is obedience. This was exemplified in the life of Abraham, as we see from his inclusion in the roll of the faithful. ‘By faith Abraham … obeyed’, and ‘By faith Abraham … offered up Isaac’, Heb. 11. 8, 17. We are told that ‘we do not have, because we do not ask’, but it is also true that we do not ask, because we do not have the faith to believe that God will answer. Our faith is just too small. ‘Lord, increase our faith!’
The promise is, that those who are meek will one day be exalted by God, a truth that is often repeated in Scripture and which the Lord Jesus spoke of on three separate occasions, Matt. 23. 12; Luke 14. 11; 18. 14. In this we are to follow our great Example, who ‘humbled himself’, but who now ‘God hath highly exalted’, Phil. 2. 8-9.
David sums it all up in the last two verses of this psalm. The Lord will be our Salvation, our Strength, and our Helper and Deliverer. May we know these things in all of life’s experiences, ‘because (we) trust in him’.