Psalm 37 deals with how the wicked flourish.
Christians shouldn’t be envious of individuals who do wrong even when they seem to have everything going for them. The wicked are the Lord’s enemies. Like grass and wildflowers, they will vanish (Psalm 37:20).
Psalm 37 verses 35 and 36 compared wicked men to the green laurel tree. David wrote that he saw a wicked and ruthless man who flourished like a green tree in its native soil. The wicked man was prosperous and powerful. A short time later, however, David looked for the wicked man. The man was gone; David couldn’t find him. David’s perspective was that the wicked don’t endure; they have no staying power.
David cautioned listeners not to fret when they saw wicked, ruthless men prospering. Fretting leads to evil (Psalm 37:8-9). Instead, David implored the righteous to refrain from anger and to hope in the Lord. In a later Psalm, David averred that the righteous will flourish like a palm tree (Psalm 92:12-14); the righteous will grow like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the Lord. They will still bear fruit in old age and stay fresh and green.
The laurel tree is the Laurus nobilis. The laurel tree is the sweet bay laurel because the culinary seasoning bay leaves come from the tree. A number of writers have proposed symbolism for the Laurus nobilis to include notable, victory, merit, accomplishments, honor, praise, martyrdom, and old age. Psalm 37 seems to fit most of these concepts; however, a better description is “flourish.” Flourish means to grow luxuriantly, to achieve success or prosper, and to reach a high height of development or influence.
When believers encounter situations where the wicked seem to achieve everything, they can remember that God can’t lie. God promised that the righteous will flourish (Psalm 92:12) and God won’t forsake his faithful ones (Psalm 37:28). Further, evildoers will be forever destroyed (Psalm 37:20; Psalm 92:7). Our reaction to evil-doers shouldn’t be envy, but sadness and prayer for their redemption. The only heaven, or nearest heaven, that wicked, ruthless men and women will experience is on earth.
Seeing ruthless men and women achieve isn’t easy. I’ve asked God, “how can you let this happen?” In those times, God didn’t give me an answer; probably because I wasn’t in a mind frame to receive it. In retrospect, I can see that instead of anger and resentment, my response to workplace wickedness should have been compassion and prayer. I cannot be responsible for evil, ruthless men and women flourishing. I am only responsible for my thoughts and behavior. At all times, I must be right with God, trusting that his ways are not my ways and his thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). They are much, better and wiser than mine. When I concentrate on flourishing in the garden where God planted me, I don’t obsess about whether or not ruthless individuals are getting ahead.
Reflection. Father knows best.
Updated May, 2023.
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