“Trust in the LORD, and do good;
so shalt thou dwell in the land,
and verily thou shalt be fed.”
~ Psalm 37:3
We can hardly find a more direct and succinct answer to a very common question than our text. How often have you asked or been asked, “What should we do?” Our text was a favored one of Hudson Taylor, missionary to inland China. In his later years, he administered a large, visionary mission endeavor. He had two principles of operation that he never abandoned during his work as a missionary—do not go into debt to finance the Lord’s work, and do not ask directly for money from others to finance the work. He had already seen a mission work fail for these reasons and he chose rather to trust God and ask Him for everything he needed.
While he was blessed for adhering to these principles, life was certainly interesting when he had many young men in his care and no, or not enough, money to provide for them. When this was the case, Taylor would always seem to be calm and quietly resting in faith. He would be asked times over, “What should we do?” His answer was simple and biblical, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” Likewise, we may turn to this verse in all conditions when we wonder what we should do.
The construction in the Hebrew actually contains four imperatives. The first is to trust in the Lord. The second is to do good. The third is to dwell in the land. The fourth is to feed on the truth. Let us take a few moments and consider the four injunctions.
First, we are told, “Trust in the LORD.” At first, this statement may seem a little less than colorful, but when we consider the context of this Psalm, it becomes more meaningful. The whole Psalm speaks of “enemies,” “evildoers,” “workers of iniquity,” etc. So, this word does not come to the Psalmist in a vacuum or an abstraction. This word comes to one in adverse circumstances. The Psalmist sees the wicked “who prospereth in his way” (Psalm 37:7), and the wicked who “plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth” (Psalm 37:12). He is living in the real world, having very real problems. Yet, the word comes, “Trust in the LORD.”
Notice some of the other commands joined with “trust” in this Psalm—“fret not,” “delight,” “commit,” “rest,” “wait,” etc. All of these speak to one who dwells in the presence of his enemies and he must learn to trust, to sit down at the table there prepared for him and be able to delight himself in the Lord (Psalm 23:5).
The second admonition is to “do good.” What should we do when we are surrounded by enemies? What should we do when troubles overtake us? What should we do when we are in a quandary, not knowing what to do? Simply, we should “do good.” In every situation, it is always right to “do good.” It is always appropriate.
What does it mean then to do good? We can be assured that it is not to do good Pharisee-style. Rather, it is to do good by God. Jesus said the second greatest commandment was, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:31). Doing good is not in rites, traditions, and ceremonies. Rather, it is doing the will of God toward man. It is giving a cup of cold water to one who is thirsty (Matthew 10:42), feeding and clothing our hungry and cold neighbor (James 2:16), visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction (James 1:27), reaching out to those around us who are truly in need (Proverbs 31:20), returning good for evil and blessing for cursing (Matthew 5:44), and also, preaching the gospel in word to them (Matthew 11:5). What of these things are not always at hand to us? No matter our condition, we may always “do good.”
The third imperative is to “dwell in the land.” There is something to be said for staying where God has put us. In other words, do not run for the high ground when the circumstances are adverse. We must learn to be content in the land where God has led us, even when surrounded by enemies. If God leads us out, by all means, we must follow, but until that time, we must not abandon our post of duty.
I read a story once of Stonewall Jackson in a battle before the days of the Civil War. Jackson’s company was losing the fight and as it turned into a route, his fellow soldiers were retreating in mass. But, Jackson did not retreat. Rather, he dug in and weathered the storm. When asked later why he did not retreat with the others, he responded that he had no orders to retreat. He assured them he would have complied with such orders speedily had they come; otherwise, he would not abandon his post. May God give us the flint-like determination to dwell in the land, despite the difficulties.
The fourth word was to feed on the truth, or that we shall be fed with the truth. In the presence of much falsehood and “wicked devices” (Psalm 37:7), what better regiment of nourishment than the truth. When evil prevails around you, eat up the truth. When perturbation and chaos reign, swallow the truth. If bread and water fail, esteem the truth more than your necessary food (Job 23:12).
We should always strive to be immersed in and imbibed with the truth of God’s Word. Paul admonished the Philippians similarly, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Further, he told young Timothy, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them” (1 Timothy 4:15).
The words of our text are spoken against the backdrop of active, wicked, and cruel men. The Psalmist knew no better than to “Trust in the LORD, and do good.” How else could we know peace in the midst of the storm? How else could we find comfort amidst distress? Dear beloved people of God, do not let your eyes deceive you. Rather look unto God, “fret not,” “delight,” “commit,” “rest,” “wait.” “Trust in the LORD, and do good . . . And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday” (Psalm 37:3, 6).