A Desirable Destiny
(35) I have seen a wicked and ruthless (man) spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil. (36) But he passed away and, behold, he was no more. Though I sought him, he could not be found. (37) Mark the blameless, observe the upright, for the future of (that) man (is) peace, (38) but transgressors shall be altogether destroyed. The future of the wicked shall be cut off, (39) but the salvation of the righteous (is) from Yahweh. (He is) their refuge in the time of trouble. (40) Yahweh will help them and deliver them. He will deliver them from the wicked and save them because they seek refuge in him.
Several repeated words emphasize the message of this final segment of Psalm 37. First, the “wicked” who have been mentioned several times previously are again in focus (vss. 35, 38, & 40). Twice David refers to the “future,” first to describe the destiny of the righteous as “peace” (vs. 37) and then to warn the wicked that they face being “cut off” (vs. 38).
In the final two verses, two repetitions offer great hope to the righteous. Yahweh promises to “deliver” them from the wicked (both occurrences in vs. 40) and to be a “refuge” for them in the time of trouble (in vss. 39 & 40). Note the prominence David gives to a synonym of deliverance, the frequently used term, “salvation” (vs. 39).
I. Despite present prosperity, the wicked will soon pass away. (35 & 36)
II. The upright are promised peace while the wicked face annihilation. (37 & 38)
III. Yahweh pledges to deliver those who take refuge in him. (39 & 40)
The wicked who rebel against Yahweh face certain destruction while the righteous who take refuge in him will be delivered.
How the godly should regard the prosperity of the wicked is a recurring theme in the Psalms. Like this closing segment of Psalm 37, Psalm 73 captures the essence of David’s thoughts in the following phrase: “then I understood their final destiny” (Ps. 73:17). When we contemplate the future blessings Yahweh has prepared for those who belong to him in contrast to the bleak prospect the ungodly face, we should never waste our time envying the so-called successes of the ungodly.
David in two brief verses sets forth their destiny. It will be as if they had never existed (vs. 36) because they will “be altogether destroyed…cut off” (vs. 38). In contrast, David sets forth the destiny of the righteous in terms of “peace (shalom)” (vs. 37) and “deliverance” with the prospect of an eternal relationship with Yahweh (vs. 40). If we ever find ourselves envying the prosperity of the ungodly, we should quickly dismiss such thoughts from our minds in view of Yahweh’s firm promise to exclude them from the glorious future that awaits those who belong to him. Instead of envy, we should feel pity for them in view of the disaster of eternal separation from God that awaits them.