In most Wisdom literature, the one who has hope in the Lord will succeed even if the wicked seem to prosper now. Psalm 37 describes the wise as “waiting for the Lord.” This refers to placing hope in the Lord to keep his promises of loving care for his people as well as rendering righteous judgment. The verb (קוה) refers to hope directed at a target, and “expectation of fulfillment” (HALOT). Perhaps “have confidence” is a better translation since this is an expression of certainty.
The wicked, on the other had, will fade from memory, while the righteous will endure forever. The foolish have “spread themselves out like a tree,” appearing prosperous. The noun translated as “green laurel tree” combines “native” (אֶזְרָח ) and “leafy” (רַעֲנָן). They were like a tree which is native to an area so that it flourishes and has thick leaves. Tanner suggests the wicked are doing well and “showing off” (NICOT, 352 n. 28).
Imagine if you planted a banana tree in your backyard in Michigan in August. It would be warm and humid enough for the tree to flourish for a while. You could even make your yard look like the banana plant belonged there, maybe landscape the yard to look like Hawaii. But what happens when fall comes and the temperature drops? Or when the snow starts? The banana plant will naturally curl up and die since it simply does not belong there!
In most of the wisdom literature, the fool appears to prosper for a time and eventually their foolishness catches up with them and they naturally are forgotten. Memory of their existence will simply fade away. It will be like they never were!
The righteous, on the other hand, will continue to dwell in the good land the Lord has given them. The Lord will continue to be their fortress of protection (v. 39) and he will continue to deliver them (v. 40). The Lord is like a mountain fortress (מָעוֹז) which is for the enemy impossible to capture.
Perhaps the hardest part of living out a life of wisdom as described by this Psalm is to not worry about the current state of the world. It is very easy to look at the way things are going in the world, this country, this state, the local politics of the our city or town, and think the whole world has gone wrong. This is not true, the world was always wrong! It is simply no worse now than it was when a sage wrote this wisdom psalm.
The Lord guarantees a future for the righteous, then ones who have committed to live in this good and safe pasture. The foolish have willingly wandered from that good place and do not enjoy the promises of the Lord. Ultimately, these foolish wicked will receive exactly what they have asked for and deserve.
So, do not fret! The wise person understands there is nothing in this word which has escaped the Lord’s attention and he will set things right. Our responsibility as the people of God in the present age is trust in the Lord’s sovereign lordship of this world and to rest in our certain knowledge he will judge fairly.