I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness….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 a blessing. (Psalm 25:10, 37:25-26)
Whale Riders and Psalm 37
The Māori culture in New Zealand is rich with whale-riding stories and traditions. But it’s complicated, and barnacles are involved. Barnacles are a type of arthropod, related to crabs and lobsters, which glue themselves to whales. Barnacles get a stable place to live, a free ride, and access to plenty of food. Brave whale riders hang on these barnacles, sometimes as big as plates, and are able to ride the whales through the waters.
Psalm 37 reminds me of the whale riders. Its 40 verses make up an acrostic poem, each stanza beginning with successive letters of the alphabet. In Hebrew from aleph to tet, like a to z in English, or alpha to omega in Greek. This made Psalm 37 easier for believers to memorize and to meditate on a single thought at a time, covering many aspects of walking with God by faith. Each stanza, shown as a paragraph in our English Bibles, is like a handle to hang on to the Lord (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with. The individual thoughts remind us of the Proverbs.
In past posts we’ve looked at some verses in Psalm 37 and this post builds on on our previous ones: When We Are Frustrated; Frustration or Faith in Christ?; Hope Beyond Frustration; Meekness is Not Weakness; and Secure in Christ
Remember God’s Faithfulness
Saying that the Lord is faithful means that He is totally trustworthy. He is unchanging in His nature, true to His word, has promised salvation and care to His people, and will keep His promises forever. He is worthy of eternal confidence no matter how bad things get. No one or nothing can prevent God from accomplishing all that He has pledged to His people through Jesus. The Lord’s reliability encourages and strengthens us as we fumble and fail and suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.1
Isaiah writes: “Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”2 God promises to provide what we need.3 He created the universe and gives food to every living thing, including human beings. The same Lord who feeds the animals will not ordinarily let us go hungry.4 In Psalm 37:25, David says that in his experience: “I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” He may mean that he (personally) had never witnessed believers being totally abandoned. Or he may be stating a general rule about God’s providential care, without denying that exceptions do happen in our fallen world.
The Bible often makes sweeping statements describing God’s ordinary generosity. Here are some examples from the Psalms:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing….The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing….I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it….For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless….Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things….He gives food to every creature. His love endures forever….The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.5
All these Scriptures encourage our confidence in God the Faithful One. And we pray as Jesus taught us, “Give us today our daily bread,” asking our Heavenly Father for enough of His good and free gifts so that we may enjoy the Lord’s blessing and live gratefully in serving Him.
Likewise Agur prayed like this: Keep falsehood and lies far from me. Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)
We trust our faithful Lord, knowing that He always gives us what He sees and knows is best.
Susan Wunderink was a swimming instructor who spent lots of time trying to get little kids to float. She told them to put their ears in the water and their belly buttons out. She’d say, “When I count to two, you won’t feel my hands underneath you, but they are there.” As soon as she’d say “two,” most children would frantically jerk their knees towards their chins and flail their arms, dropping their full weight into her hands. Almost all people float when they trust the instructor and assume a resting posture. But people who fear sinking panic and don’t keep that posture for long.
Susan writes: Christian faith is a posture of resting on the Lord. Many of us are terrified by the life of faith, needing to feel the support of steady jobs, steady relationships, and back-up plans. God knows our weakness and signed us up for swim lessons. The Lord intends to make good swimmers of all Jesus’ followers. So He often teaches us to rely on Him through testings, trials, troubles, difficulties, disorders, disasters, and disappointments. And we never understand the Lord’s faithfulness by taking the short-term view.6
Sometimes our lives can only be understood by looking backward, but we must live looking up to God and, by faith, looking forward to all He has in store for us.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You have promised
That if we die with You, we will also live with You.
If we endure hardship, we will reign with You.
If we deny You, You will deny us.
If we are unfaithful, You remain faithful, for You cannot deny who You are.
Help us to trust You and hang on to You, knowing that You uphold us. Amen.7
To be continued.
Notes (various Bible translations): 1 This section helped by Samuel Saldivar on thegospelcoalition.org. 2 Isaiah 25:1. 3 Phil 4:19; Matt 6:31-32. 4 Psalm 145:15-16; Luke 12:24-26. 5 Psalm 23:1, 34:10, 81:10, 84:11, 107:8-9, 136:25, 145:15-16. 6 Adapted from “The Sabbath Swimming Lesson,” CT magazine (March, 2013), p. 36-37. 7 Prayer based on 2 Tim 2:11-13; Psalm 63:8.