Today's Lectionary Text
Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40
Don’t get upset over evildoers;
don’t be jealous of those who do wrong,
because they will fade fast, like grass;
they will wither like green vegetables.
Trust the Lord and do good;
live in the land, and farm faithfulness.
Enjoy the Lord,
and he will give what your heart asks.
Commit your way to the Lord!
Trust him! He will act
and will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your justice like high noon.
Be still before the Lord,
and wait for him.
Don’t get upset when someone gets ahead—
someone who invents evil schemes.
Let go of anger and leave rage behind!
Don’t get upset—it will only lead to evil.
Because evildoers will be eliminated,
but those who hope in the Lord—
they will possess the land.
In just a little while the wicked won’t exist!
If you go looking around their place,
they won’t be there.
But the weak will inherit the land;
they will enjoy a surplus of peace.
The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
he is their refuge in times of trouble.
The Lord will help them and rescue them—
rescue them from the wicked—and he will save them
because they have taken refuge in him.
Trust the Lord and do good; live in the land, and farm faithfulness. Enjoy the Lord, and he will give you what your heart asks.
Psalm 37:4 is a very common verse. You may know it in a different translation: Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. It is often quoted as a word of hope and encouragement. However, as I’m reading these two verses in a different translation, the Common English Bible (CEB), I am especially struck by Verse 3: Trust in the Lord and do good; live in the land, and farm faithfulness. Remember, this is one of the psalms of David. He knew how important the land was to the people of God. He was the quintessential king of the United Monarchy, when Israel was establishing firm borders of the promised land for which generations had been longing. So, when David said in this psalm to “live in the land” and “farm faithfulness,” he’s inviting them to get comfortable … breathe deeply … stay a while.
Living in the land has a beautiful imagery to me. For the Israelites, it meant to put down roots (figuratively and literally), to cultivate the land, to trust God’s provision. For me, today, it means that I need to “live in the land” of my life now! It is often tempting to live for a time in the future, in the past, in one’s hopes and dreams, or even in one’s fears. But for me, living in the land means that I will embrace the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about right here and now. I will embrace the promised abundance (especially of God’s grace), and the call to bring heaven to earth through living out God’s kingdom. I’ll live in the land as one who has inherited God’s blessing and not mourn what the locusts have eaten, or what I think I deserve to be given.
The second half of the sentence includes the admonition to “farm faithfulness.” I love the powerful imagery in this phrase in the CEB. Instead of farming animals or crops, one is told to farm faithfulness. It’s as if I hear the instruction: grow your ability to be true, diligent and obedient. Cultivate habits that enable you to trust God and be faithful in your relationships with God and others. When the weeds creep in, and they will creep in, do the hard work of love, forgiveness, perseverance, and giving and receiving grace. I’ve learned that certain practices help me in this pursuit. Prayer, study, meeting regularly with other Christians who seek the same things, intentionally seeking to engage with those most in need, and worship. These practices are my tools, my sustenance, and that which helps me to grow in faithfulness.
While it’s tempting to skip the farming part for the blessing part in 37:4, we just can’t. Our hearts must trust that God has our best interest at heart, that what we have is enough, that the suffering that we endure is not going to destroy us. And this trust is built only through farming faithfulness. Yes, I pray that that I would enjoy the Lord and that God will give me what my heart asks, but for today, farming faithfulness is enough.
-- Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford
Clergy Recruitment and Development Coordinator
Prayer for Reflection
God, help me to show that I trust you by “living in the land” where you’ve got me now. Help me to “farm faithfulness” through my daily practices of love, acceptance, prayer, and building community. I want to truly delight in you all the days of my life. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Editor's note: This devotion was originally published on Feb. 23, 2019.