"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled..." ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands..." ~ II Tim. 1:6

Category: Verse Studies Page 1 of 2

Jesus As The “Author & Finisher” of Our Faith: What Does This Mean?

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2)

Sometimes in my bible study, I bump into a phrase that I’ve read a million times, but suddenly consider it in a different way.  I’ve always loved the phrase above—“author and finisher”—but until recently, never went beyond the surface to meditate on what it should mean to me.

But when we spend some time with the words that Paul (at least we think it’s him) used, it really illuminates Jesus Christ’s role even further, and the blessings we receive as a result.

This one small phrase is an interesting illustration of how different translations can decide to lean into individual nuances of a Greek or Hebrew word, because many of our English words are much more narrow in scope.  Let’s look at a few of my favorite bible translations:

  • “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (NKJV)
  • “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (NLT)
  • “…looking away to the Initiator and Completer of that trusting, Yeshua” (CJB)
  • “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (ESV)
  • “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (NIV)

I like to think of each of these two main Greek words we’ll look at today like a diamond…having many facets so that when you turn it this way and that, you see the light and color and sparkle a bit differently.

So let’s briefly explore some of these facets…

The Initiator of our faith, blazing a trail for us to follow

The word that the NKJV translates as “author” is G747, archegos, and here are some of the ways we can understand it.

First inventor of a thing, initiator, founder, pioneer

Jesus is the trailblazer, the one who went first to “go boldly where no man has gone before”, as the famous Star Trek line posits.  He was the firstborn from the dead (the first to be resurrected to ETERNAL spiritual life), and the first to ascend to heaven to be with God (Col. 1:15, John 3:13).

And, because HE has gone boldly before us and wiped clean the death penalty we’d earned, WE are also able to come boldly before the very throne of God in heaven and bask in God’s grace and mercy (Heb. 4:16).

Jesus Christ was the forerunner, like a scout sent out in advance to see what lies ahead and set up camp.  He told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for us, so that He can come back to get us (Heb. 6:20, John 1:2 and 14:1-4).

He (along with the Father) initiated the process.  No one else could be Mediator of a better covenant, one founded upon the sacrifice of our sinless Messiah as High Priest (Heb. 9).  He was the first.

What Did Jesus Mean By “My Yoke Is Easy to Bear”? Going Beyond the Surface Meaning of This Verse

Have you ever found, at points throughout your life, all roads kind of leading or pointing to a particular topic, or even a certain bible verse?  It just keeps popping up and you eventually can’t ignore it any longer?  That’s what’s happened subtly over the past year or so with this verse.

Jesus issued an invitation to the people following Him:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy [NLT: easy to bear], and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30)

This verse has been one that I’ve mentally skimmed most of my life, picking up the gist but not really internalizing.  And that’s because I’ve never really been completely sure I knew what to make of the last part.

The part about rest, gentle, etc., I was following.  But then I questioned whether the last part contradicted other things Jesus said about following Him being hard…about having trials in this world, counting the cost, and the narrow, difficult way (e.g. John 16:33; Matt. 7:14; John 12:25).

But after having this verse shoved in my face enough times recently, I’ve spent more time meditating on it, and wanted to share some thoughts that may help modern readers apply it in their lives.

What should we understand about yokes in the bible?

In the largely-agricultural society of Jesus’s time, this statement would have been much better understood.  I grew up on a farm, but it’s not like we were yoking oxen together to get work done.  And in today’s world, I think we may even have an instinctive negative reaction to the idea of a yoke…as though we’re coming into bondage somehow, driven and overworked, with no personal agency.

So what should we know about yokes?  A yoke was used to bind two animals together and spread out the weight and effort of a hard task.  By evenly distributing the weight and helping them pull together, it ultimately made the job easier on both.

The animals yoked together need to be well-matched, of equal strength, size, temperaments…getting along and pulling together.  Other places say you’d put an older experienced ox and a younger, untrained one, to teach it.  Both are likely true, depending on the farmer’s need.  And you can easily see spiritual parallels in either scenario.

Yokes actually come up a lot in the bible.  They’re mentioned over 50 times, and most of the uses are figurative…denoting slavery, servitude, or the general influence of (or submission to) an authority—for instance, there’s a lot about breaking “yokes of bondage”, particularly in the Prophets.  The bible also sometimes metaphorically uses a yoke to describe the weight of a task or obligation.

What did Jesus mean about His yoke being easy to bear?

At face value His statement makes sense, particularly when contrasting His teachings with the centuries of exile and oppression that the Israelites had faced, as well as the hundreds of exacting physical rules and rituals the Jews had created for themselves out of fear of inadvertently breaking God’s commands and incurring His wrath.

Beyond that, though, there are some interesting angles concerning yokes that can deepen our understanding of this verse and how we can submit to Jesus’s “yoke” in our lives…let’s briefly explore these.

A yoke is created for work, not rest

I think that sometimes Christians key into Jesus’s focus on freeing us from the bondage of slavery, the truth making us free, and similar verses, and assume that we’re “in the clear”…that Jesus took care of everything and we can just coast through life.

But make no mistake—we are called to do God’s work.  Jesus spoke frequently of doing His Father’s work while on the earth, and that didn’t end with His resurrection.

He said, “My food [what sustains and keeps Him alive] is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work…Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!  And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:34-28).

This was a common theme He spoke about.  Right before giving His disciples power and sending them out to preach, heal, cast out demons, and proclaim the gospel, Jesus saw how much need there was and exclaimed:  “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37-28).

Who are those laborers?  Matthew 20 directly connects this to God’s people who are called throughout the millennia, right up until His second coming.  Then in Mark 13, Jesus brings this home with the parable of a man going to a far country, who gave authority to his servants “and to each his work”, which the man expected to see diligently completed when he returned.

What Does “Casting Down Arguments & Pretensions” Mean in II Cor. 10:5? (Part 3 of II Cor. 10 Series)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:3-6)

We’ve been sharing a series of studies taking a deeper look at these verses in II Corinthians (you can read Part 1 & Part 2 here).  They provide important insight into how we should view our inner selves, and our responsibilities in actively guarding, defending, and tending to our hearts and minds.

In particular, these studies focus on interpreting Paul’s somewhat literary or metaphorical language into something that feels tangible and actionable to us today.

One of the ideas that was brought out in the earlier studies on pulling down strongholds was this:

“When we allow our beliefs and our expectations of God to become bigger than God Himself, we limit God.  We have made our God smaller.  And we create an idol out of our own beliefs or ways of thinking.”

That idea segues us nicely into this study, where we’ll dig into the second big element of that keystone verse—casting down arguments, and every “high thing” that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

What does II Cor. 10:5 mean?

It’s kind of a weird phrase in our modern vernacular, so first let’s define more clearly what it really means.  The translation of “casting down” in the NKJV might come across to us in a softer way than its true meaning—which is to demolish, destroy, or utterly obliterate (most other translations beyond the KJV and NKJV use these words instead).

What exactly are we supposed to be demolishing??  Those “arguments” (G3053, logismos…where we get the word ”logic”) encompass our self-directed human reasoning, opinions, convictions, conceit, philosophy, imagination, and thought.

Some translations of the verse also include “high” or “lofty” things (also translated “pretensions” or “opinions”), which indicate something proud, arrogant, human-centered, and self-confident or self-sufficient.

Basically, this verse tells us that (sometimes unintentionally) we elevate our own thoughts or convictions above what God says—which creates a competing and adversarial relationship that can destroy us if we don’t recognize it and work to defeat it instead.

We are in a war for our minds

Those different translations really give us a much better idea of what we’re dealing with here.  We are commanded to be using the spiritual weapons and protection at our disposal (Eph. 6:10-18, armor of God) to recognize and root out human thinking that sets itself up contrary to God’s word.

Sound familiar in today’s world?  I loved this quote so much I had to include it verbatim, as a jumping-off point:

“There is the fortress of human reasoning, reinforced with many subtle arguments and the pretense of logic. There is the castle of passion, with flaming battlements defended by lust, pleasure, and greed. And there is the pinnacle of pride, in which the human heart sits enthroned and revels in thoughts of its own excellence and sufficiency” (from this article).

Human reasoning is a mighty fortress (one of those strongholds we talked about).  But the thing is, God CREATED US with the capacity for human reasoning, and He did that with a purpose.  He wants us to have free will, to use our brains.

The key phrase in unlocking our hero passage is “raises itself up against the knowledge of God” (CJB).  When our (or someone else’s) opinions, logic, convictions, beliefs, or political correctness sit in opposition to what God tells us, we are in deep trouble.

One of the subtleties with human reasoning that contradicts the bible is that it’s not always coming from a place of outright malice and rebellion—just as often, it’s fueled by theoretically good intentions, the appearance of logic, or our emotional reactions on a topic (we see an example of this in the conversation of Jesus and Peter in Matt. 16:23).

In the rest of this study we’ll break down and examine—through a few different angles or lenses—these “arguments” and “lofty things” that we are to demolish, and how they can manifest in our lives:

  1. In our hearts and minds…reasoning with ourselves (justification, self-righteousness, putting our logic onto God, etc.)
  2. In our dealings with our brethren…how we treat our brethren, biblical disputes and pet doctrines that divide and distract, etc.
  3. In our interaction with society around us…being swayed by or caught up in worldly human reason at the cost of the spiritual truths (news, social media, politics, etc.); letting the social and cultural thinking of our time shape our own views and how we interpret the bible

The Meaning of Ps. 37:7 “Rest in the Lord, & wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 6)

“It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:26)

This is the last part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for resisting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or struggling with, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into 6 individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading the other sections and this one (linked at the end). 

What does it mean to rest in the Lord?

Finally we examine Psalm 37 verse 7:

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him”

Perhaps the most difficult part in Psalm 37, the hardest thing asked of us, is to rest and wait patiently for God…particularly when we’re “fretting” (worked up) about something.

Or maybe that’s just me??  And I think to some extent, the order of these commands in this passage of Psalm 37 is important because they help us build up to this.

You’re working on trusting God and doing good, abiding in Him and consuming His word, finding delight in His commands, entrusting your whole self, life, and worries to Him…and now He says to rest and wait.

The word for “rest” here means to stop, be still, and be silent.  God is telling us that in order to succeed, we must turn down both the speed and volume of our lives.  That, in order to be attuned to His will and the way He’s working in our lives, we must be better at tuning *out* the world.

Do you sometimes lie in bed with your mind racing, maybe stewing over a co-worker getting credit for something you did, or thinking of something you should have said in response to a criticism?  You toss and turn, running over it in your mind, unable to sleep.  King David sure seemed to struggle with this, and his advice was to “meditate [on God’s word] within your heart on your bed and be still” (Ps. 4:4).  In other words, we must re-orient our focus toward God.

God’s sabbath plays an important role in this idea of resting in the Lord.  On the seventh day of every week, He commands us to stop what we’re doing, step back from the frenetic pace of our lives, and place our attention on Him.  Our core spiritual tools of prayer, bible study, meditation, and fasting are also geared toward helping us shift our focus away from the noise of the world, and toward God’s voice.

After accomplishing some astounding things in God’s name, the prophet Elijah was having a self-pity party out in the wilderness.  He railed at God, as he experienced perhaps his lowest moment physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  And God made a point.  He battered and wowed Elijah through a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire.  But none of those gave Elijah what he was looking for (I Kings 19:12).

Finally He came to Elijah with a “still, small voice” (NIV says “delicate whisper”).  God explained that things weren’t as bad as Elijah feared, and encouraged him with the news that God had been working behind the scenes with thousands of faithful followers (which Elijah had no clue about), preparing them for what was to come.

Despite all God’s miracles and Elijah’s role in accomplishing them, he had temporarily lost his focus on God, taken his “eyes off the prize”…and as a result, he got caught up in the discouragement, isolation, and hopelessness he felt in the world around him.

How often are we like Elijah, fixing our eyes and ears (and our minds and our time) on the circumstances around us, anywhere but on God??

When the world around us gets loud, God speaks in that still, small voice.  Can you hear God when He whispers to you?  Do you know how to “turn down” the speed and noise—in the world, and in your own mind?  Or do you lean into the distractions, filling every spare moment with anything *but* spending time with God?

We should be able to identify when we’re worked up (“fretting”), and consciously work on calming our minds.  This requires focus and discipline, yanking on the ”leash” of our thoughts when they run down a well-worn path, refusing to allow ourselves to dwell constantly on whatever is upsetting us.

What’s your first instinct when you’re worked up about something?  Is it to go to God and place it in His hands (“roll your burden upon Him”, as we saw in the previous study)?  And if so, what comes next?

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10)

What does it look like to “wait on the Lord”?

So, hopefully we’re working on “turning down” the noise of the world around us and being more attuned when God whispers.  How should we then apply the idea of waiting patiently for God?

The word used here for “wait patiently” (chul, H2342), gives us a richer understanding of what’s being asked of us.  It can imply many things, but in this case we should think of it as being firm and strong, enduring and prospering.

The Meaning of Ps. 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord & He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 5)

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be shaken” (Ps. 55:22)

This is the fifth part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy and anxiety that results from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this and the other sections (linked at the end). 

Next we look at Psalm 37 verse 5:

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass”

The word for “commit” is interesting, a root word where the literal translation is very broad and figurative, and the word translated “your way” is basically your road, path, mode of action, or course of life.

The way we can understand “commit” in this case is “to roll yourself upon,” like a burden is rolled onto a kneeling camel to be carried away—completely relieving you of that burden and carrying it for you.

We can think about this “burden” we roll onto the God in a couple different ways, one more outward and one more inward:

  • Your “road” – your choices, actions, plans, what happens to you, the direction your life takes
  • Yourself – your health, needs and wishes, thoughts, emotions, heart, spirit

What it means to commit yourself to God

It’s worth asking, have you committed your “course of life” to God, placed yourself body, mind, and heart FULLY into His hands?

Committing yourself that completely takes an immense amount of trust!  And let’s be honest, no one gets it right all the time because we’re all human (I mean, look at how King David handled the Bathsheba/Uriah mess…and he was a “man after God’s own heart!”).  But it should be something we consciously think about and strive for.

It’s interesting to note that the main other way that “commit” is used heavily throughout the bible is to commit adultery, fornication, or (more broadly) sin or iniquity.  It’s the same idea of giving your whole self to something—body, heart, and mind.  We commit or give ourselves to God or to the world, but it can’t be both (Matt. 6:24).

James continues this idea of “rolling our burden upon” God and entrusting our path to Him:

“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time He may lift you up. Throw all your anxieties [NKJV “cast your cares”] upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:6-7; CJB).

The Adam Clarke commentary notes that when it says “He cares for you”, what we’re really being told is that “He meddles or concerns Himself with the things that interest you”.  To me, this idea helps it feel even more active and tangible, more real.

And if we believe that what God says there is true—that He concerns Himself with the things that we care about—then that is an incredibly comforting statement!

So the question is, do you believe that?  And if so, how does that change your perspective on the things you’re struggling with?  Have you handed over your worries, fears, struggles, and desperate hopes to your Almighty Father?

This segues nicely into how we can think about the second part of Psalm 37:5, where it tells us that if we commit our way to the Lord, “He shall bring it to pass”, or as the CJB says, “He will act”.

Read next:  “Take Up Your Cross Daily”: How Should Christians Look at the Cross?

“I will act”:  Do you trust that God will make the right choices?

That seems like a ridiculous question, and it kind of is.  But it starts to get at the heart of our anxieties, and whether we truly trust God (as we explored in part 2).

God tells us that His word “shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please” (Is. 55:1).  He takes an active role in the lives of His people.  God doesn’t have “oopsies”, and nothing happens without His knowledge and permission.

Here are just a few of the many scriptures we can read to remind us of how God views His role in our lives:

  • “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11)
  • “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose…if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:28, 31)
  • “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:29-31)

Where we struggle, though, is that our expectations and timing don’t align with His, because we can’t see the “long game” the way He can.  When it says “He will act”, that is not a promise that we will get everything we want, when we want it.

It IS a promise that He is in control, that He knows what we hope for, that He wants amazing things for us, and that “He will act”.  That’s pretty awesome.

So it’s worth coming back to as we wrap up this section…have you committed your “way” to God?  What do you dedicate your time, energy, and thoughts towards?  What burdens are you trying to lug around yourself?  Do you trust God to act on your behalf and direct the course of your life?

“Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Prov. 16:3, AMP)

Finally we’ll look at Ps. 37:7…”Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”

Here are the other studies in this series (this is the fifth):

The meaning of Ps. 37:5 "Commit your way to the Lord, & He shall act" | Placing the course of your life & the burdens you carry into God’s hands., what that trust really looks like. Have you TRULY handed over your hopes, fears, struggles, & desires to Him? Psalm 37 study part 5

Ps. 55:22 cast your burdens on the Lord & He will sustain you | Examining the meaning of Ps. 37:5 "Commit your way to the Lord, & He shall act" | Placing the course of your life & the burdens you carry into God’s hands., what that trust really looks like.

What Ps. 37:4 Means: “Delight in the Lord, & He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 4)

This is the fourth part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy & anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this & the other sections (linked at the end). 

Continuing on to Psalm 37 verse 4, we’re told:

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart”

What does it mean to delight yourself in the Lord? 

That question is a logical place to start.  And for that matter, what does it mean to “delight in” anything??

“Delight” is not a word we use quite as much today, though honestly it’s one that I love.  Some other ways of thinking about this…what do you take great pleasure in, what brings you joy?

What brings contentment to your heart and satisfies your soul?  Can you honestly say that you find enjoyment in God’s commands?  This contentment and satisfaction also builds upon the previous verse’s idea of feeding on faithfulness.

Part of why I love the word “delight” rather than the tamer “happiness” is that it evokes a sense of joy and even childlike or innocent wonder.  It’s also a verb, indicating an active choice to take delight, rather than a passive feeling or reaction.  (There’s that theme of taking action again…)

According to Rhonda Stoppe from Bible Study Tools, “True delight in Him causes us to take our sights off of what we want in order to long for what He desires.”  Now, this doesn’t mean that God will automatically give you that new car you’ve been wanting—this isn’t about a prosperity gospel.

Instead, “The idea behind this verse and others like it is that, when we truly rejoice or ‘delight’ in the eternal things of God, our desires will begin to parallel His and we will never go unfulfilled.”  (link to study on Ps. 20:4 about God fulfilling all your heart’s desires)

What It Means to “Dwell in the land & feed on His faithfulness” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 3)

“You have been a shelter…I will abide in Your tabernacle forever” (Ps. 61:3-4)

This is the third part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this and the other sections (linked at the end). 

Putting down roots in the land God provides

Let’s pick up where we left off in part 2, with the second half of Ps. 37:3:

Trust in the Lord, and do good…Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness

The second part of verse 3 tells us that if we put our trust in God, He will provide for us both physically and spiritually.  Shelter and food are two of the most fundamental needs of human life.

We’re told to “dwell” in the land He provides.  This word means to settle, permanently live, abide, inhabit, or rest.  Basically, to live and put down roots.  What is the land God has given us?  It’s being in relationship with Him, extended an offer of grace and forgiveness from our sins.

On the night before He was crucified, Jesus spent a long time talking with His disciples.  One of the teachings He gave was that He was the true vine and God the vinedresser, and that we were branches connected to the vine that needed to bear fruit.  He told His disciples:

“Abide [dwell, live] in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you” (John 15:2-6).

Can you truthfully say you abide in, or live with, God and Jesus Christ?  I don’t mean in some weird mystical way.  One way to think about this is being fully present, spending time with.  If you go back to that branch and vine metaphor earlier, the branches literally cannot survive without the vine’s nourishment.  If they get disconnected, they perish.

When we dwell in the land God has given us, we consider God and His way of life our home, and we’re not always looking around at society to see if the grass is greener.  The Israelites always displayed this attitude…*kiiiiind of* dwelling with God in the land He’d provided, but always casting an eye around at their pagan neighbors to see what they were missing out on.

You might also like:  FOMO: How to Derail Your Relationship with God

Taking a “cultivate faithfulness” mentality

The next part of the verse tells us to “feed on His faithfulness”.  While I love the NKJV translation of “feed on His faithfulness”, the Berean Study Bible’s translation also adds some nuance.  It says, “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness”.

This is interesting because it positions us not only as consumers of what God provides, but also as being accountable for actively planting, tending, and producing ourselves (with His help, of course). 

Meaning of Ps. 37:3 “Trust in the Lord and do good” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 2)

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Ps. 56:3)

This is the second part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this and the subsequent sections (linked at the end). 

What does Ps. 37:3 mean?

After David tells us not to get worked up when we see bad people get what we feel we deserve, his first instruction is to “trust in the Lord and do good” (Ps. 37:3).

What does it mean to trust God?

The word used here for “trust” means to be confident, secure, or “to hie for refuge” (which makes me laugh).

Ye Olde English aside, that last bit really helps flesh out something we can take away from this…like in Psalm 91 where it speaks of God as “my refuge and fortress”.  He should be what I look to for protection, and who I run to in times of trouble (like peasants running toward the castle walls when the barbarians attacked).

In other words, with my trust placed in God, I am certain of my protection and deliverance.  The word is used many times in the Old Testament, including dozens in the Psalms alone.  And so I have to ask myself, what makes me feel safe and secure?  How certain do you feel about things in your life right now?

Where is your center of gravity, the thing your world revolves around?  Is it in your 401k, or your ability to defend yourself (Ps. 49:6, 44:6)?  Is it in your own judgment, your career, the government, or even your family and friends (Prov. 28:26, Ps. 146:3, Ps. 41:9)?

What is your confidence in?  What is the one thing that, if it became shaky, would rock the foundations of your world?  If you don’t know the answer to that, it might be wise to take some time to reflect on it *before* you’re in a situation where you find out in real time and regret the answer.

“And do good”: The need for action

But we shouldn’t forget the rest of the phrase in Ps. 37:3.  We’re told to trust in the Lord and do good.  As with many of God’s commands, this isn’t only a mind exercise, but rather mind AND body.  Heart and action.

Psalm 37’s Message: A Prescription for the Diseases of Envy & Anxiety (Psalm 37 Study – Part 1)

The meaning of Psalm 37’s command to “Trust, Dwell, Delight, Commit, and Rest”

This is Part 1 (& a high-level summary) in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription to combatting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to others, & helping process the question, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this very long study into individual parts, beginning with this and then linking to the subsequent sections at the end.

Do you fret often?  It feels strange even typing that, so let me rephrase:  do you get “worked up” when you see certain people thriving more than you are?  Especially if you think they’re not a good person, or they don’t work as hard as you, or they don’t follow God, or…fill in the blank?

The psalms are a fascinating book, written in poetic verse and covering topics ranging from praising God to Messianic prophecies to lamenting personal trials.  And because Proverbs tends to get the attention for practical life advice, we often forget that the Psalms have a ton of it as well.

Psalm 37 is a psalm of David, and he begins by telling us, “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 37:1).  Fret is a weird word to us in the modern world, and because of that I think we tend to miss what David is really trying to tell us here.

The word translated “fret” (charah, H2734) really means to grow warm, blaze up, be angry, or be incensed.  You know that sudden rush of heat and adrenaline you get when something happens to make you upset?  Your heart starts pounding, you get a kind of hot flash in your head.  That’s part of charah.

So in other words, what David is telling us here is not to get super upset or react intensely when we see people who don’t appear to deserve it get rewarded.  Throughout the psalm it really harps on these “evildoers” and “workers of iniquity” and how God’s people shouldn’t get fixated on what they do or don’t get in this physical life.

This isn’t just about “evildoers” in the truly evil sense (murderers and such), but the way we think about our neighbors, our coworkers, and more—whoever you look at and think “Why do things go right for them and not for me?” (or “Why don’t they get what they deserve?”).

The F.B. Meyer commentary summarizes this idea, noting that David is “grappling with the problem of the inequality of human life and the apparent failure of God to reward His servants and punish His enemies as they deserve”.

And honestly this idea is just so relatable.  It is a core part of human nature to look around and compare our lives to other people, which is a “wide, easy path to both envy and self-righteousness” (see our study on Comparison & Envy: The Key to Unhappiness).

And it leads to anxiety—focusing on other people instead of fixing our eyes on God.

You might also like:  A Practical Approach to Worry & Anxiety in the Bible

What does Psalm 37 tell us to do instead?

Right after warning us not to fret about those people (sure, easy to say!), David lays out his recommended approach:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;

Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:3-7)

When you skim through those verses, they sound really pretty but also a bit…vague.  Like, “Cool, David, love the vibe, but what do I DO with this???  On the surface for a modern reader, these platitudes and abstract commands mirror many other passages in Psalms and don’t seem to offer much practical help.

But once we dig into each command a little deeper, we see that these verses actually give us a clear five-part prescription for the diseases of anxiety and envy brought on by comparison, all having to do with how we relate to God: trust, dwell, delight, commit, and rest.

Studying Psalm 20:4 – Our Heart’s Desire and Accomplishing Our Plans

I ran across a verse in my daily bible reading that, while familiar, I’d never really considered carefully.  It’s short and lyrical, something you’d see printed on someone’s wall or in a greeting card, or even recited at a wedding.  Let’s look at the verse:

“May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose” (Psalm 20:4, NKJV)

It’s easy to skim this and think, “that’s lovely!” then keep moving.  But if taken at face value it would be easy to miss the verse’s intent—full of both promise and warning. 

Oftentimes, the words themselves can provide rich information, but the Hebrew words used in this verse are fairly run-of-the-mill and used all over the Old Testament.  They don’t appear to provide any additional insight, being quite broad and able to be interpreted a number of ways based on context.

Let’s look instead at the two separate pieces of Psalm 20:4.  My goal here isn’t an exhaustive study, but rather just highlighting a few deeper things to ponder.

Read next: FOMO:  How to Derail Your Relationship With God

“May He grant you according to your heart’s desire…”

When the bible talks about the heart, it doesn’t just mean our emotions or feelings like we often think of today.  Instead it’s truly the core of who a person is.  And so when this verse talks about our “heart’s desire,” it’s not talking about every single thing we’ve ever wanted in life, every wish and fleeting craving.

It’s referring to our deepest desires and motivations, the thoughts that drive us, the things which occupy our minds.  It’s who we are at our rawest.  Jesus is very clear that the desires of our heart will be reflected in how we talk and act, and will be reflective of where our priorities in life lie (Matt. 12:34, 6:21).

The verse asks that God grant His people their desires…but we also know from Jeremiah that the heart is deceitful and “desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).  This feels like a worrying contradiction.  So what are we to do with this?

There’s another translation for Psalm 20:4 that a few bibles use, where it says, “May He grant you according to your heart”.  I quite like this translation, because it indicates a little bit more of the double-edged sword that this verse implies—if your heart isn’t right, what you get will not be right either.  It implies that you should be careful what you wish for (or subconsciously focus on), because you just might get it.

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