When the Green Bay Packers got off to a shaky start to the 2014 National Football League season, veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a simple message for all those panicking cheeseheads (nickname for Packers' fans, see picture above): "Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packer-land: R-E-L-A-X, Relax. We're going to be OK." Rodgers' comments seem prophetic now that the Packers have been winning in dominating fashion and Rodgers himself has suddenly become mentioned as a midseason candidate for Most Valuable Player. His words also have been repeated regularly. Humorously, a video of his words was played on the NFL network (see Rodgers remix). When the Cleveland Cavaliers stumbled out of the blocks with several losses, returning NBA star Lebron James tweeted out these words: "In the words of the great @AaronRodgers12 "RELAX"!
Sometimes, people need to be told plain and clear: "Relax." In the Bible, Psalm 37 is written for that very purpose. In the first eight verses, King David writes the words "Fret not yourself" three times. Fretting is getting yourself all worked up. Good leaders whether they be quarterbacks or kings must at times call people to calm down, to stop fretting, to "relax!" They need to do this because when people start losing their heads, they start making poor choices and they begin to do things that they ought not to do.
Of course, telling people to stop fretting and to relax must be followed with legitimate reasons for not freaking out. In Psalm 37, David seems to be addressing that common and very distressing experience of people watching evil people get away with murder. Most of us know how upsetting it can be for us to see someone that we know to be fake and corrupt being embraced and exalted in popular opinion. A cheater and a liar gets a promotion at work. A betrayer is honoured by friends. The wicked seem to prosper not just financially but in the admiration and acknowledgement of public opinion.
If this starts to eat away at us, we soon find ourselves angry, agitated, and vulnerable to all kinds of sin like gossip, slander, verbal abuse or worse. We become miserable with the people that we love. We can fall into self-pity or self-righteousness. We stop praying for people as we ought.
One of the key corrective truths of Psalm 37 is so important that Jesus Himself makes it a foundational principle in His teaching on the kingdom of God. In His famous sermon on the mount, Jesus quotes Psalm 37:11 which reads "But the meek shall inherit the land." Meekness, as is often said, is not weakness. It is actually a remarkable, God-given ability to not freak out when you are being treated unjustly and when the wicked are "getting away with murder", so to say. It is a steady hand and a humble resolve to do good in the midst of the maddening crowd.
How do we do this? Well, Psalm 37 can largely be explained by the line "the meek shall inherit the earth." That is a declaration. It is a statement of fact. It is a revelation about how the story of human history culminates and then continues on into eternity. The story does not end with the wicked winning and getting away with all their deceit and corruption. The wicked disappear. The meek inherit the earth. God has a purpose and in His purpose, the bad guys don't win. God does. Psalm 37:13 tells us that God doesn't freak out when the wicked seem to be winning. David writes: "but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He sees that his day is coming." David also explains in verse 18, "The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever." The days of the wicked are coming to an end. The days of the blameless will go on forever.
This should tell us at least a couple things. First, only the blameless will inherit the earth. As much as we get worked up about the hypocrisy of others, we all know that none of us is spotless. We are just like the wicked in that we aren't everything that we hope people believe us to be. We all have sinned and fallen short of God's standards. Therefore, we need help with the blameless part. That is why in the Bible, the main story is of God's plan of redemption and forgiveness. In that plan, the only blameless man, God's Son, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, bears the guilt of all those who confess their sins and look to Him for forgiveness. By the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, our guilt is taken away and we are made blameless. We are blameless by means of a great exchange. The New Testament letter of 2 Corinthians explains it this way: "For our sake, God made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus takes our sin. We are given his blamelessness.
If this is the means by which we are made blameless, then that increases our understanding of why we ought to be meek. We are meek not simply because the wicked will not win in the end. We are meek because we are living evidence that God through meekness saves and transforms wicked people like us. God was meek when humanity rebelled against Him. He lovingly and purposefully implemented His plan to save and forgive a people for Himself. Jesus was meek in that He prayed that God would forgive those who crucified Him "for they know not what they do." Therefore, we should be meek. By our meekness, and our willingness to keep calm and to carry on faithfully with God's work of pointing people to Jesus and offering His forgiveness and a new way of life, we are a powerful force for God's change in the world. This alone is the path to victory. Psalm 37:4 puts it this way: "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act; He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noon day." To put it another way: Don't Freak. Be Meek.