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Righteous man

The Righteous Among the Rogues – A Reflection on Psalm 37



This is a word of encouragement coming down to us through the millennia from the pen of an ageing King David. He had lived through good years and bad and experienced trials, victories, the consequences of his moral lapses, and even the rebellion and opposition of his son Absalom.

Psalm 37 is a long composition that David produced in an acrostic format with each verse starting with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Unlike so many of his psalms, he directed this one not to God, but to the reader, as a teaching on the Lord’s faithfulness in difficult times.

I am not going to produce a commentary here, but rather reflect with you on just some of the things that David said to the people of his day. We too are living in difficult times and his words are laden with meaning, comfort, and encouragement for us as well.

The Illusion of Unrighteous Gain

The Psalm starts with Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong.

To understand why David thinks that we might be envious of evil men we need to read verses 7, 16, 35-36 do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes … Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked …  I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil. Wicked people often appear to succeed in what they do and grow very wealthy in the process, but that is temporary and illusionary. David adds Like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants, they will soon die away … The power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous … he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Yes, wicked people may succeed and get filthy rich, but they soon enough wither, lose their power and eventually die like all do.

David goes even further when he says: For evil men will be cut off (verse 9); A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found (Verse 10). But their words will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken (Verse 15). The power of the wicked will be broken (Verse 17).

So, do not fret because of evil people because God will deal with them and the instruments of their demise will be their own words and deeds.

Our Response to the Success of the Wicked

David immediately gives several godly responses that we should embrace.

Verse 3: Trust in the Lord and do good – dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Trust God to take care of the wicked and rather get on with the better business of doing good. The NLT translates the second half of this verse as a result of our doing good; Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.

Verse 4: Delight yourself in the Lord – and He will give you the desires of your heart.

The word ‘delight’ here is misleading for the modern person because the original Hebrew `anag’ means ‘to be soft or pliable’. So, this is really a continuation of the thought in the previous verse – Trust God and be yielding and pliable in his hands, and he will prosper you and fulfil your life’s desires.

Verses 5 and 6: Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: – He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Once again, this verse builds on the stated thought – Trust, be pliable, and commit what you do to God, and he will shine brightly through your life into the dark world around you and all will know that your way of life is right and godly.

Verse 7: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

This is pretty self-explanatory – Don’t be in a hurry in this process but rather wait patiently for God to fulfil his word. However, verse 34 also uses the word ‘wait’ as a translation of a different Hebrew word that has the descriptor ‘with expectation’. So, an enhanced understanding of verse 7 would be ‘…wait patiently and expectantly for him’. Expect God to respond to your requests and wait patiently for him to do so without rushing forward to take matters into your own hands.

Verses 8 and 9: Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. – For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Don’t get angry when things do not go well for you or wicked people are seeming to succeed because this will lead to wrongdoing on your behalf. Don’t worry, evil people will meet their end, but if you place your hope in God you will be the true inheritor of what is stable, productive and of worth.

God’s Promises to the Righteous

David then sets out a series of divine promises that apply to all ages: (I have been selective to avoid the repetition of ideas)

Please note that this article is not a commentary and these verses are largely self-explanatory, so I want rather to encourage you to read them devotionally and not just intellectually. Let them move from your mind to your spirit so that the Lord can speak something into your heart and particular life circumstances.

Vs 17:The Lord upholds the righteous”.

Vs 18-10:The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty”.

Vs 23-24: “The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand”. The NLT translates this in a way that pictures holding our hand when we stumble to prevent us from falling and to steady us as we walk on with him: ‘The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand’.

Vs 25-26:I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed”. God is faithful and able to provide for us in times of need, even to the extent of caring for our children even though they may have left home.

Vs 27-28:Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.  For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever”.

Vs 32-33:The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives; but the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial”.

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

In Conclusion

My concluding thoughts as an encouragement to you are in two wonderful verses (34 & 39):  Wait for the Lord and keep his way … The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.”


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God in our constitution

A Word of Witness

South African Constitution

This is a long post, but one which I feel compelled to write. I hope you will read it through to the end and then comment freely to add your ‘word of witness’.

There is a foul wind blowing across the nations of the world, and its malignant force is most obvious in the land of my birth, the Republic of South Africa. Many local voices are speaking out at this time, but we all need to add our words until the gale of righteous protest is strong enough to counter the evil wind we confront. We all have something to say, we all have a circle of influence, and we are all citizens with birth rights and responsibilities.

It is easy to identify the effects of this noxious squall: poverty, violent crime, economic woes, and political instability. These are just broad categories, but the effects are intensely personal. Our people are dying, our women are being raped, many of our youth are derelict, addicted and without hope. Our currency is becoming increasingly worthless, our education standards a cause of sad derision, and our political antics a pathetic parody of leadership.

What is not so obvious though are the underlying causes of our current calamity. It is too easy and trite to simply blame the past, but we have to go deeper, for the underlying issues that blighted the past are the same that are devastating the present. And it will come as no surprise that the same malevolent causes of our current condition have been evident throughout human history.

The prophet Isaiah identified them in the ancient nation of Israel when he raised his voice and proclaimed:

“For our offenses are many in your sight,

and our sins testify against us.

Our offenses are ever with us,

and we acknowledge our iniquities:

rebellion and treachery against the Lord,

turning our backs on our God,

fomenting oppression and revolt,

uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

So justice is driven back,

and righteousness stands at a distance;

truth has stumbled in the streets,

honesty cannot enter.

Truth is nowhere to be found,

and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey”.

Isaiah 59:12-15

When we investigate the causes of today’s obnoxious gusts we find three low-pressure areas; injustice, unrighteousness, and untruth. Furthermore, there is one calamity that has given rise to this malign trinity, but to appreciate this fully we first need to understand these three.

Injustice has been a problem for our nation for several generations. In the past, it was most evident in racial prejudice and social inequality. Today it manifests in a number of ways. It is unjust that power, privilege, and wealth are in the hands of a few while the majority live in want of all three. In the past, the culprits were exclusively white, but today colour is not the determinant, despite the vain attempts of government mouthpieces to say otherwise. It is unjust that many politically connected criminals go free while multitudes of lesser offenders languish in an overloaded penal system. It is unjust that millions of our young people are subjected to expensive and increasingly worthless education. And it is unjust that those who deeply desire to work the land, run business, and contribute to society in other ways cannot do so because the opportunities are given to the family, friends and sycophants of those in power.

What is just or unjust is meant to be determined by the justice system of the nation, and it is here where the foul wind is blowing strongest. Despite their transparently disingenuous protestations to the contrary, the political leaders of our land are consistently attacking our juristic foundations. The examples are all too numerous: flouting international law and then protesting that our nation should not be subject to it, blatantly overturning the lawful ruling of the Public Protector, and then pleading ignorance of constitutional law; and so on, ad nauseam. The government agenda is obvious as it seeks to break down that which it is constitutionally responsible for upholding. The latest, not so subtle, onslaught against justice came the other day. The constitutional court ruled that our president had acted in a way that violated the constitution of the country, and his response was to address a gathering of traditional leaders and state that he would be very happy if matters could be settled outside of the legal system because judges dealt only with cold facts and did not take into consideration other perspectives. I need say no more!

The second low-pressure system over our land is unrighteousness. At a social level, this translates as, ‘lack of moral virtue’. When we look at the lives of our president and his henchmen, what do we observe? We see adultery, fornication, greed, corruption, lying, and arrogance. I am a 68-year-old with the incredulity that comes with age, but what of our young people? What models are they observing, and what are they aspiring to as they seek to emulate the powerful figures in our nation?

And as for truth, well Isaiah expressed it better that I ever could when he said that ‘truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey’. It is appalling to realise that we expect politicians to lie. When they spin the truth, distort the truth, or just flat out lie, we tend to grimace or laugh and wait for the next outrageous fabrication. Quotes given in blatant isolation of their context, half-truths and pathetically nonsensical prevarications are the norm. Yet politicians are supposed to be servants of truth, justice, and the wellbeing of the people. They should be held to the highest standard and we, the citizens of the land, fail ourselves and future generations when we do not demand the best from them and of them. But, as it stands now, truth is a swear word, honesty an inconvenience, and anyone who shuns this evil becomes a prey, as is obvious in how our Public Protector has been treated.

It is no coincidence that Matthew applied Isaiah’s prophecy to the Lord Jesus when he said; “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim JUSTICE to the nations” (Matthew 12:18). And Paul was choosing his words carefully when he concluded his sermon to the people of Jerusalem with; “The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the RIGHTEOUS One and to hear words from his mouth” (Acts 22:14). And Jesus was quite specific when he declared; “I am the way and the TRUTH and the life” (John 14:6). So, to look for justice, righteousness, and truth we need to look to Jesus, the divine incarnation of these qualities.

Now, the underlying source of our bad national air is also found in Isaiah’s words; ‘For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God,’ When our new constitution was hammered out some twenty years ago, it was presented to the nation as the body of fundamental principles by which our secular state would be governed. Accordingly, the preamble to the constitution reads ‘We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic…’ The original document did not read this way, but commenced with the words, ‘In humble submission to Almighty God, we the people of South Africa…’ The label ‘secular state’ carries with it the idea of being non-religious, and so the first six words were erased from the constitution. This, in my view, was a disastrous deletion. Those six words would place the constitution and the people who are governed in terms of it under the authority and providence of Almighty God. They imply that there is a higher source of authority and that the constitution itself is an expression of the values established by this higher power, God. Those six words would have given context and perspective to all that the constitution embodies and a final point of reference for the way our government lives up to their constitutional obligations.

If we, the people of South Africa, are to survive the poisonous winds that threaten us, then we must restore Justice, Righteousness, and Truth to our nation.

Ultimately we must restore the lost phrase to our constitution; ‘in humble submission to Almighty God’. And this restoration must start with us, ‘the people of Almighty God’. It is we, who are sons and daughters of the Most High, who need to raise the standard and raise our voices. If we, the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, do what is right, if we speak out to the rulers of our land, and if we humble ourselves and pray for divine intervention, will God not bring a mighty Revival hurricane to blow away the foul wind of corruption, lies, and violence that pollutes our nation?

What can we do to make a difference? We can recognise the true causes of our national ailment, we can speak out into whatever circle of influence we have, and we can pray and ask God to send a mighty wind of revival through the church and across our nation. In this wind of the Spirit, the injustice, unrighteousness, and untruth of our current leaders will be exposed. In this wind of the Spirit, Christian men and women will be inspired to stand up and ascend to the positions of power in our land. In this wind of the Spirit, we the people of South Africa will be refreshed and empowered to take our place as citizens of a nation that is in humble submission to Almighty God.

If you agree with what I have written, then please share this article so that our combined voices can go out into our circles of influence.


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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.