Friday, July 9, 2010

Do Not Be Agitated

Do not be agitated by evildoers;
Do not envy those who do wrong.
For they wither quickly like grass
And wilt like tender green plants.
(Psalms 37:1-2 HCSB)
Lately, I have found myself talking back — yelling, actually — at my TV set. Not that anybody I am yelling at can hear me, I know. But I have become weary of the lies, dissimulations, hypocrisies, frauds, empty posturings and arrogances of politicians and their media enablers. These days it seems that it has been a relentless stream. And I have let it bug me. Really, really bug me.

Yesterday, as I was praying this psalm — my habit is to pray through the book of Psalms each month (150 psalms / 30 days = 5 psalms a day), and Psalm 37 falls right in the middle of my group on day 8 — I was brought up short by this admonition: “Do not be agitated by evildoers.” The Hebrew word for “agitate” means to be hot, furious, burn, become angry, kindled, incensed, to blaze up and be heated with vexation. Yep, that’s been me. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

But David gives us this admonition, and also a very good reason for it: “For they wither quickly like the grass and wilt like tender green plants.” David was speaking from experience; he certainly had his share of opportunities to be agitated. Sometimes he may even have taken advantage of those opportunities — but he strongly recommends against it. Why? Because it doesn’t do any good. Quite the opposite.
Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
Do not be agitated — it can only bring harm.
For evildoers will be destroyed,
But those who put their hope in the LORD
Will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
Though you look for him, he will not be there.
But the humble will inherit the land
And will enjoy abundant prosperity.
(Psalm 37:8-11 HCSB)
Cease from “anger” — the Hebrew word pictures the heated flaring of the nostrils. Give up venomous rage and its poison. Do not be agitated — it only does harm! Liars and cheats and frauds — evildoers — will soon reap what they have sown, and become a byword of infamy. My agitation will not do anything to hasten that day; it will only hinder me. It is a stumbling block and if I let it trip me up I will no longer be making progress and moving forward. And, after all, I do want to move forward. So what should I do? David offers an effective strategy in verses 3-7:
Trust in the LORD and do what is good;
Dwell in the land and live securely.
Take delight in the LORD,
And He will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit your way to the LORD;
Trust in Him, and He will act,
Making your righteousness shine like the dawn,
Your justice like the noonday.
Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him;
Do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way,
By the man who carries out evil plans.
There are a lot of good bullet points here and they all work together for my good.
  • Trust in the LORD. If I let myself become agitated by those who do what is wrong, I am not trusting in God and resting in Him.
  • Dwell in the land and “live securely.” The ESV has it as “befriend faithfulness.” The NKJV says, “feed on His faithfulness.” To dwell means to abide. God has not gone off anywhere, and neither should I. If I stay put and feed on God’s faithfulness, I will befriend it and find it in myself.
  • Take delight in the LORD. I can choose to be agitated by the faithless and feckless or I can choose to take delight in the Lord. Delight is better. The Hebrew word for “delight” here means to be luxuriantly happy. The promise is that He will give me the desires of my heart. The wicked cannot keep that from me, but allowing myself to be agitated by them can.
  • Commit your way to the LORD. The word for “commit” literally means to “roll.” Whatever is bothering me, I can roll it over onto Him. “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). “Trust in Him,” David says, “He will act.” Whatever needs to be done, He will bring it to pass.
  • Be silent before the LORD. Be silent, be still and rest quietly in Him. If there is anything I need to do or say, He will show me. And I certainly don’t need to tell Him what to do. His words will always be much better, and God-directed actions will always be far more effective than my own. But if I let myself become agitated, it will be much harder for me to hear His voice.
  • Wait expectantly. Faith is the substance, the underlying reality, of things hoped for, the things we are joyfully anticipating (Hebrews 11:1). When we put our trust in God, He will bring about everything that needs to be done.