For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.
I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong.
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast in the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
Continue your love to those who know you,(Ps. 36:1-12 NIV)
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
See how the evildoers lie fallen –
thrown down, not able to rise!
While there is some lament in this Psalm there is a clear contrast between the ways of wisdom and folly.
V1-4 has the element of lament but is a lament about the way of folly. The Psalmist functions like a prophet uttering a word of prophecy about the way of folly or the way of the wicked. The message weighs heavily upon the Psalmist’s heart. The Psalmist is given insight into the behaviour of the wicked; in their sinfulness they have no fear of God, that makes them foolish
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,(Prov. 1:7 NIV)
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
They are without the fear of the Lord, and therefore without wisdom. The way of the wicked is utterly condemned and this condemnation serves for every generation. Their position is one of religious indifference, they have no thought of God and they live as if God did not exist. With them there is no respect or sense of trembling. With that as the basic foundation for how they are going to live, the rest of the description is a descent into further evil. The view that they have of themselves is so inflated that they don’t recognise any wrong in their behaviour. Who is to judge them, as they live by their own standards? The instruction in wisdom literature already evident in some of the Psalms is that there should be a wise use of words. Here the foolish wicked have no regard for the proper use of words. Their words are wicked and deceitful. They do not act in a wise way or do good. The description of their night-time contemplation of evil means that they never take a rest from the evil, ‘even on their beds’ they still come up with new ideas for evil, and they resolve to commit themselves to a sinful course of action, never taking a moment to reject what is wrong. Because they have an inflated view of themselves they become their own judge and they decide for themselves what is right and wrong for them. We learn from Psalm 1 that this is the way that perishes.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,(Ps. 1:6 NIV)
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
In complete contrast is the way of the Lord. Notice that the Psalmist does not contrast the way of the wicked with the way of the righteous as we might have expected. It is as if the unwholesome thought of evil causes him to turn away to the wonders and beauty of the Lord.
The character of the Lord knows no height or depth. God’s covenant love (hesed) reaches right up to the heavens and God’s faithfulness reaches to the skies. The covenant love and covenant faithfulness of the Lord cannot be measured. The Lord’s righteousness stands as timeless sentinels like the highest mountains. The righteousness of the Lord does not change with time, by the righteousness of the Lord the difference between right and wrong is established. God’s justice is not a thin veneer, it penetrates to the great depths of the ocean. Though the wicked pursue their way of life which impacts the whole of creation, the covenant Lord preserves both people and animals.
The Psalmist values the covenant love (hesed) as priceless. We were not redeemed with things like silver and gold whose value fluctuates with the uncertainty of the market, we were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. The way of the wise is dependent on the greatness of God’s character and works. The love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice of God are constants in an ever-changing world. The wisdom of God impacts upon the whole of creation. But God is not aloof from His people. They are hidden in the shadow of His wings. But it is not that we are hiding cowering in fear from the enemy, no! We are feasting on the abundance that comes from God’s presence. The Psalmist again reflects the idea of refreshment from Psalm1. We are led to the still waters and we drink from the Lord’s river of delights. This is a picture of security, of spiritual health and joy. With the Lord we have the better way, the wise way, the way of life. Unlike the wicked who couldn’t tell right from wrong, the people of God see light in God’s light. We see things God’s way. There are moments in our Christian lives when we grasp such a sense of blessedness. The Psalmist, aware of the brevity of such contemplation, prays that the Lord will continue His love. When we reach heaven we will know the security, the abundance and the delights of the Lord for all eternity. It will mean no longer will we have fleeting glances, but we will enjoy an eternal gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. But through this little while, we still have the proud wicked opposing the Kingdom of God. Our prayer is the same as the Psalmist’s, that the wicked will not drive us away from this place of security, abundance and delight. The final verse of the Psalm describes the downfall of the wicked that had been described in Psalm 1.
Lord our God, we stand in awe that we are permitted to shelter in the shadow of Your wings, that we can feast on the abundance of Your presence and that we can drink from Your river of delights. Lord we are abundantly blessed to be in Christ and to be allowed such joys of salvation. Keep us near to Your side because we are prone to stray. Be pleased to hear our prayer in Jesus’ name.