Devotional -- "Leaning on the everlasting arms"

What message does Psalm 37 have for us today?

Commentary on Psalm 37

Psalm 37:1-11

37 1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
   or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
   like green plants they will soon die away.

3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
   dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
   trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
   your vindication like the noonday sun.

7 Be still before the Lord
   and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
   when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
   do not fret it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
   but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
   though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
   and enjoy peace and prosperity.

Week 52 (December)

"If I just had a body that was 20 years younger, I'd be pastoring again," Alfredo Del Rosso told me not long after his ninetieth birthday.

Del Rosso, the founder of Nazarene work in Italy, was a remarkable man whose 75-year walk with the Lord taught him the secrets of Psalm 37.

Alfredo Del Rosso was nearly 80 when he finally retired from active ministry, but for 10 more years, he continued to serve as a supply preacher, filling in for pastors when they were away on vacation or for other reasons. Del Rosso preached often in the Florence church until his death at age 94.

This was no tired, worn-out old man waiting to die. Instead, he was a vibrant Christian who could joyfully sang, "What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, Leaning on the everlasting arms."

By way of contrast, I remember a phone conversation with one of the other members of the Florence congregation. Mario and Laura Landi were also getting up in years. But their state of mind was altogether different from that of Alfredo Del Rosso.

Mario was having some severe health problems. Over the phone, Laura told me she was at the end of herself. I suggested she might try putting everything in the hands of the Lord, but she wasn't sure she was ready for that. You see, about six or eight years prior to that they had an upsetting experience in church. They had been back in church only three or four times since.

Their spiritual and emotional lives were anything but the rest in the Lord mentioned in Psalm 37. In fact, Mario had even told me he had considered suicide.

Unfortunately, the Landis and too many other believers like them have succumbed to fretfulness, impatience, and even envy -- all of which are nothing more than snares of the devil.

We live in a world torn by pandemics, terrorism, crime waves, international tensions, and dishonesty and corruption in business and government. Disease, death, the evil actions of others, and inequities of every kind invade our personal lives. All of this can cause tension and restlessness, even for those who have had the best experiences of grace. Psalm 37 gives us the divine recipe for living in the midst of wicked people: Do good. Trust God. Don't worry.

It is interesting to me that a former missionary, Earl Lee, would write a book on Psalm 37. We missionaries are noted for living hectic lives (or at least most of us complain that we do).

In his book, Cycle of Victorious Living, Earl Lee used key words from this psalm to point to the kind of abundant living Christ promised to us: Commit, trust, delight, and rest.

In his explanation of the "rest" theme, Earl Lee noted that this is not the exhausted paralysis of one who has collapsed from a losing struggle. Rather, it is the rest of triumph, the rest of one who has found contentment and serenity in God even in the face of the apparent contradictions of experience.

E. Stanley Jones, like Earl Lee, was a missionary to India. Jones recounts the story of a young man who said to him: "I've resigned as general manager of the universe!"

More of us probably need to do that as well. You see, the "blessed peace with my Lord so near" mentioned which Anthony Showalter and Elisha A. Hoffman wrote about in the third verse of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" won't come until we're really leaning on the everlasting arms., a phrase built on Deuteronomy 33:27:
"The eternal God is your refuge,
   and underneath are the everlasting arms."

Discussion questions

  1. How can Psalm 37 guide us in living in a world filled with tension and wickedness?
  2. In what ways can we fully lean on God and find the rest and peace promised in "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"?
  3. How do fretfulness, impatience, and envy hinder our spiritual and emotional lives, and how can we overcome them?
  4. What does the "rest of triumph" mean, and how can we find contentment and serenity in God despite the contradictions of experience?
  5. How can we resign as "general manager of the universe" and truly lean on the everlasting arms of God, as mentioned in the article?

    -- Howard Culbertson,

I wrote this devotional article while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. It originally appeared in Standard, a weekly Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes published by The Foundry.


Here are some key points made by Psalm 37:

  1. Trust in the Lord: Psalm 37 encourages trust in God and emphasizes that those who trust in Him will be taken care of. It reassures believers that God is in control and will ultimately bring justice and righteousness.
  2. Patience and perseverance: Psalm 37 advises patience and perseverance in times of difficulty or when facing the prosperity of the wicked. It urges believers not to be envious of evildoers and to wait for God's timing for justice and reward.
  3. Delight in the Lord: Psalm 37 encourages finding joy and satisfaction in God rather than in worldly success or possessions. It emphasizes the importance of seeking God's will and following His ways.
  4. Commitment to righteousness: Psalm 37 underscores the importance of living a righteous life and following God's commands. It contrasts the fate of the righteous with that of the wicked, highlighting the blessings that come from obedience to God.
  5. The ultimate victory of the righteous: Psalm 37 assures believers that ultimately, the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. It contrasts the temporary prosperity of the wicked with the eternal reward of the righteous.

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