189-Psalm 37 – Characters
For a methodical and disciplined person maybe it would seem logical, even prudent to start with a general assessment or overview of a given biblical passage and gradually narrow the focus down to the detail. Although I have had close calls with both method and discipline the encounters have not been prolonged enough for me to wear the label “methodical” and or “disciplined”. When I first wrote about Psalm 37 I jumped right into detail by considering the source language range of meaning for the word fret in verse one.
In this third article, I want to make some general observations that may be a better fit in an introduction or summary.
When approaching a section of scripture it is prudent to note the characters mentioned. You may ask additional detail about each noted entity such as, “are they active or passive?”, “Who was speaking?”, “Who was listening?”, and so on. But for now, I just want to list the characters I noticed.
For identifying the “who” in the passage, I am considering all forty verses. I noticed the following list of characters:
- The author: David
- The wicked
- Yahweh (YHWH)
- The righteous
- The biblical audience
We know the author of Psalm 37 to be King David because of the superscription or title, “A Psalm of David”. As an interesting aside that I’ve probably mentioned a thousand times, the titles are above verse one in the translations but are actually a part of verse one in the Hebrew Bible.
The wicked are identified in various ways throughout this Psalm but their immediate identification is that they are evildoers and workers of iniquity in verse one.
The name Yahweh is of course invisible in most English translations represented by “the LORD”. When I was noticing repeating words and phrases in Psalm 37 I noticed “the lord” shows up sixteen times. If we look up the word “lord” in the Hebrew language we discover fifteen of them to be the word YHWH, and only one instance of the word Adonai (verse 13). Why is the difference noteworthy?
Yahweh or YHWH is a very different word from Adonai. Yahweh is the proper personal name of God. Adonai, simply put, means master.
Master can be referring to Yahweh God, and in verse 13 it is, but it doesn’t always refer to Him. Look at 1 Peter 3:6.
6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
Verse six in context is talking about wives continuing in submission to their husbands. For our purposes I just want you to notice that it is referring to Genesis 18:12.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
In Psalm 37:13 Adonai (master) is ascribed to Yahweh God, but in Genesis 18:12 Sarah referred to Abraham as Adonai.
So why call out the difference? Let’s look at verses 12 and 13 together.
12 The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord [Master] laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.
First of all, I shudder to think what it would be like to have God laugh at us! The context is clear, He’s not laughing because He’s amused. Yahweh is scoffing at them. Ok, but why use the word master instead of God’s proper name? Whose master is He? Not the wicked’s master, but the righteous man’s master. It seems to me we are not to laugh at the wicked. We are to be in submission to our master Yahweh. It’s a concept in keeping with Romans 12:19.
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
We need to walk before Yahweh God, who is God the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior, in the integrity of our hearts. We don’t mock the wicked, God does. We don’t judge the workers of iniquity, God does.
Psalm 37 is rich with truth and wonderfully relevant in our world today. It is empowering bringing peace and joy if we will yield to its message. I will keep writing about it for as long as I feel God is leading me to do so, but in the meantime, I would encourage you to meditate upon it. Let it speak to your heart.
God is so loving and powerful. He is worthy of all of our praise, worship, and adoration. Don’t you agree?
All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.