“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.
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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).
This idea nicely ties together what Jesus was saying about dwelling in Him as the vine, and that we as branches should produce fruit as a result of that connection. In fact there’s a clear warning for those who are NOT bearing fruit and staying connected to the vine (John 15:6). Paul expounds on the idea of spiritual fruit further in Galatians as well, a very good list to reference as a starting place (Gal. 5:22).
What are you planting or tending right now? This question can help us understand whether we’re being active in using God’s spirit (remember the “and do good” part from Part 2), and also help us evaluate what we’re spending our time and energy on.
Cultivation aside, even if we take just the idea of “feeding on faithfulness” at face value, there’s a lot we can glean and apply in our lives.
Jesus Christ tells us that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled or satisfied (Matt. 5:6). You know that gnawing ache you get in your belly when you’re ravenously hungry? You can’t focus on anything else until you satisfy that hunger.
When you feel that gnawing ache in your mind or soul—that soul-deep dissatisfaction and desire for more—what do you feed it with? What fills you up or sustains you? Or what are you consuming on a regular basis, your daily diet?
For some people it’s TV or books, shopping, time with friends, their career, their kids, or self-help books. But it shouldn’t be for us. Those things aren’t inherently bad, but they are not a substitute for what nourishes and sustains us.
Jesus is the living bread from heaven, our spiritual manna. When He spoke to the disciples about the right way to pray, He told them to ask for their “daily bread”. By this He meant not only their physical food needs but more importantly to be spiritually fed and sustained DAILY. And like the Israelites wandering through the desert and collecting manna daily, we have to actively seek out and consume the spiritual food that God provides.
Practically-speaking, what happens when we consume food? It not only satisfies our hunger, but our body works to absorb all of the nutrients and fuel it can provide. It’s in human nature to always chase after what we think will make us happy, but it’s almost never what truly satisfies the soul—God created us to crave a relationship with Him.
The prophet Isaiah speaks to this idea a little, expressing the Messiah as saying, “Why do you spend money…for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Is. 55:2).
If you’re eating spiritual, mental, and emotional junk food, your body won’t have much to work with and will become spiritually weak and malnourished.
We should instead be striving to be more like what Jeremiah writes about, where he says, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name” (Jer. 15:16). Do you “eat” God’s words…take them in, chew on them, digest them? Or is bible study more of a “check the box” exercise, skimming through but not truly absorbing?
The word “fed” also has strong shepherd implications, and is used a ton in the Old Testament—not only translated “fed/feed”, but often as “shepherd” or “keeper”. It implies a sense of peace and satisfaction, of being cared for and having our needs met. As we mentioned at the beginning of this section, when we trust in God and fully inhabit the (physical or spiritual) land He places us in, we can be content.
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven…he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides [dwells] in Me, and I in him” (John 6:51, 56)
Now that we’ve looked at the entirety of Ps. 37:3, we can move on to verse 4…”delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
Here are the remaining studies:
- Part 1: An Intro & Summary of the Message in Psalm 37 – read first!
- Part 2: Trust in the Lord and do good (Ps. 37:3)
- Part 4: Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4)
- Part 5: Commit your way to the Lord…and He shall bring it to pass (Ps. 37:5)
- Part 6: Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7)