By Jamie Tisler
In his old age, King David wrote Psalm 37 concerning his observation of ungodly, evil people prospering while God’s people struggle and even suffer. His observation is seen on many stages today—the world, the nation, the community, and the lives of individuals. Nestled in this psalm are these words written to God’s people:
“Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it only leads to evildoing” (V.8).
David in this verse gives a command to God’s people about ongoing anger. Anger is an intense passion of irritation and dislike within the heart brought on by a real or supposed wrong towards oneself or others. Sometimes the view of anger in one’s life is blocked by an attitude of infringement of one’s rights. No matter the wrong, the person of God must choose to stop being angry.
An angry heart is a blow torch that ignites the response of wrath. The sin of wrath is exhibited vocally and/or physically with the intent to do harm and vindicate the wrong done. Vengeance belongs to God and it is His only to exercise. The Apostle Paul, who experienced numerous wrongs in his life, wrote: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Thus for the person of God who chooses to stop being angry, the sin of wrath is abandoned before it is even fueled.
The second command is “Do not fret; it only leads to evil doing.” Fretting is an emotional state of agitation because something is constantly on one’s mind causing anxiousness. There are two ways fretting shows itself in a person’s life. Inwardly, when a person frets, his thoughts and emotions are always in a state of turmoil. Outwardly, he makes comments such as, “I just do not know what I am going to do,” “I have to do something though I do not know what,” and/or “I cannot get this off of my mind.” It is an indictment of a lack of trust in God when His people fret. Perhaps that is why David gives this command three times in the first eight verses of this psalm (vs. 1, 7, 8).
In Psalm 37:27, King David states what the person of God must do if he has broken one or more of these commandments: “Depart from evil and do good.” A person of God might think this is impossible, but fortunately, this is not the case because he is saved by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). This same grace enables this person to put off the sins of ongoing anger, wrath, and fretting, and to put on forgiveness, love, and trust in God. David gives encouragement for those battling these sins with reminders of God’s promises in the closing verses of this psalm (vs. 28-40). These promises extend to God’s people today.
Over the course of his life David had experienced and observed many wrongs; however, he knew that God was trustworthy and that the enemies’ prosperity was temporal. He knew the “why” behind the commands God wrote through him. Should I not obey these commands when I experience or observe wrongs?