Devotional · Hymns · Old Testament · Psalms

Psalms for Psome – Ps 37 – E

Psalm 37

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

Refrain from anger! But I can’t help myself. I loose my temper so easily!

Earlier in this psalm, David spoke to the believers heart in stating “fret not”, and as I sought to try to understand that term, I have come to realize it is not primarily a term that describes worry, as I previously thought, but “to fret” relates closer to anger and wrath. (See Psalms for Psome – Ps 37 – A)

In this set of verses, David speaks of this weakness in his own heart, of his need to refrain from anger, wrath and fretting.

It tends only to evil. What? Is David saying that anger, wrath and fretting is not evil but only brings the believer close to evil? What am I to understand by “it only tends to evil”?

Lets consider some additional translations to hopefully get some clarity.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. RSV

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. KJV

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm. NKJV

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. NIV

Desist from anger, and forsake fury, Fret not thyself only to do evil. YLT

I think a pattern is emerging that may help me with this passage. Most of the passages above speak of anger, wrath and fretting as a gateway for the believer to perform a sinful act. “To tend only to evil” may be a way of describing the pathway of the believer to abandon God’s way and enter into a sinful act, that is through anger, wrath or fretting. This phrase may define the obvious end result of the anger if anger isn’t checked, and abandoned by the believer.

Note that David is commanding the believer to “cease from anger”, not claiming that he is a victim of anger, hopelessly “addicted” to wrath, and without any defense against fretting. The saint is to control their anger, anger is not to control the saint!

So is anger a sinful act? For even the youngest believer out there, a passage in Ephesians must be ringing loud and clear to answer that question. Paul instructs the believer to be angry, but to not sin in the following verse.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, – Eph 4:26 ESV

For every believer, anger is a very real companion, an attitude and emotion that flares up when we feel our rights are trampled on, when we are unjustly treated, or when we are simply selfish and acting out.

I have what many may call a “brooding anger”, You know the type. The type that covers (or hides) the anger until it blows up at some insignificant happening, some occasion that I react to with an overabundance of “fretting”. It is my hypocritical way of appearing spiritual until I just can’t take it anymore. But once it breaks, then my true self appears, all angry and sweaty, raging over something that shouldn’t matter at all.

In my personal struggles with anger, I have found it is directly related to my perceived rights. I heard a teacher once speak of the believer as having no personal rights, nothing he can demand of, and nothing that can be claimed as his own, either spiritually, emotionally, physically. He went on to say that as the believer enters into this attitude, this faith, anger will become less and less a reality in the saints life.

What a heretic, eh? Didn’t we just read that Paul allowed, no he commanded believers to “Be angry”.

So what gives? Are we to be angry or not? The solution I have come to is that both teachings are correct. We are to be angry and yet to cease from anger!

Come on Carl – now you are just speaking riddles. (I hope I am not making anyone angry!)

You see, the teacher was speaking of anger as it related to my rights, my life, my needs, my wants, my thinking, me me me.

Paul is speaking of anger which includes others. Check the previous verse out. He is directly speaking of our dealings with others.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. – Eph 4:25 ESV

So, let me try to explain what I understand is going on. Two types of anger that I will try to differentiate below.

ANGER (in relation to me)

Anger, when it comes to my own circumstances is wrong. It may be sin, and as David teaches us, acts as an entry way into a sinful action. Acting upon anger that is related to perceived rights only draws us down into an never ending spiral of victimization, killing an attitude of gratitude and seeing God as One who delights in taking our happiness away from us.

Isn’t this so typical! Even from the beginning we blamed God for our problems!

As an example, weak as it may be, consider the act of a mugging, and the working out of anger in this action.

If I am being mugged, should I not simply give of what I have to the thief?

ANGER (in relation to others)

  • For a Neighbor

Paul, when he addresses anger in Ephesians 4:26, speaks of relational anger, anger that is exercised for a neighbor. I often think of this as anger for my neighbor when he is being treated wrongly! When his rights are being violated.

Let’s pick up the mugging incident as an example.

If my neighbor is being mugged, should I not rage inside over the injustice, seek to defend him, seek to protect him?

But you may say this is too simplistic! I would agree, so let’s think a bit further into this topic, and bring another passage into the mix.

  • With a Neighbor

What does the Lord Himself say when he addresses the topic of anger?

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:21-22

Again, this passage speaks of a believer, a follower of the One, a disciple of the Savior on how to respond to anger, specifically in the arena of relating to a neighbor, a brother. To be angry with a brother is different I would suggest, than to be angry for a brother as above.

One more time to communicate my message via the mugging example

If my neighbor is being mugged, it dang well better not be me doing the mugging!

Nevertheless, however you understand anger, it is a dangerous emotion and attitude to live in or under. And as David speaks to the end result of anger leading or tending towards evil, he also provides the final condition of one ruled by anger, and therefore becoming an evil doer, in our second verse.

Evildoers will be cut off!

Don’t become an evildoer, and if you struggle with anger, realize the dangerous friend you are allowing to live in your heart and mind. Fight against it, ask for mercy from the Lord Himself, for grace lose the demanding attitude, to die to your perceived rights. And you may find the greatest joy imaginable, for

“those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.”

As you can tell, this is a topic I struggle with, and the nuances of anger are multitudinous. I would appreciate any comments regarding this topic. Let me know of your success in living free of an angry life.

As always, thanks so much for taking a few minutes of your busy day to spend with me, and my efforts in Considering the Bible.


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Psalm 37

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

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Psalm 37

12 The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.

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Psalm 37

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

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Psalm 37

16 Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.

Psalm 37

18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.

Psalm 37

20 But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish–like smoke they vanish away.

Psalm 37

21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives;
22 for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

Psalm 37

23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.

Psalm 37

25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.

27 Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.
33 The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.


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