This psalm of David draws a sharp distinction between righteous people (those who live by God’s guidelines and for God’s glory) and wicked people (those who live for their own satisfaction and disregard the Lord). The psalm deals with an age-old question: why does it seem that the wicked prosper while righteous people often face the worst possible hardships?
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David answers the question in the form of a complex acrostic poem, with each section of 3-5 lines beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. That style is lost in English, but it would have made the psalm easier to memorize for Hebrew speakers — and its truth is definitely worth remembering.
David encourages the long-range perspective, looking to the end result of the righteous life compared to the wicked life. The bottom line is that God works His long-range plan in favor of the righteous and in opposition to the wicked.
Wicked people may enjoy temporary happiness and success, but consider their destiny: they will fade and wither (v.2), they will be cut off (v.9, 28), they will be “no more” (v.10), the Lord laughs at them (v.13), they will perish (v.20), and they will be “altogether destroyed” (v.38).
Righteous people may suffer temporary setbacks and heartaches, but consider their destiny: the Lord upholds them (v.17), the Lord establishes their steps (v.23), the Lord holds their hands to keep them from falling (v.24), the Lord will not abandon them (v.33), the Lord will exalt them (v.34), the Lord will be their “stronghold” in times of trouble (v.39), and the Lord will help them (v.40).
The choice is clear, isn’t it? The only kind of life worth living in the long run is the righteous life! Thankfully, David included five ways to cultivate a life of righteousness. Let them guide you today:
Trust in the Lord (v.3)
Delight yourself in the Lord (v.4)
Commit your way to the Lord (v.5)
Be still before the Lord (v.7)
Wait for the Lord (v.34)