Friday, November 11, 2005

A Meditation on Psalm 36

n.b. Translation form the English Standard Version of the Bible

Psalm 36

1. Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
There is no fear of God
before his eyes.
2. For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out
and hated.
3. The words of his mouth are trouble and
he has ceased to act wisely and do
do good.
4. He plots trouble while on his bed;

he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.

5. Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to
the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6. Your righteousness is like the mountains
of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.

7. How precious is your steadfast love,
O God!
The children of mankind take refuge
in the shadow of your wings.
8. They feast on the abundance of your
and you give them drink from the
river of your delights.
9. For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.

10. Oh continue your steadfast love to
those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
11. Let not the foot of arrogance come
upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12. There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise.

What an incredible picture of our God and his faithfulness to his people. The beauty of such a Psalm is that it vividly tells us the Gospel message from creation, fall, redemption and eternity. The Psalmist paints us a vivid contrast between the extent of human sin, our sin and the extent of the grace of the LORD God. The object of this Psalm is Jesus Christ, his mercy towards undeserved sinners and the abundance of his grace to his people.

I have broken the Psalm up into three parts, first, vv1-4, then vv5-9 and finally vv10-12.

> We start therefore, at vv1-4, the way of the wicked or way of the sinner.

vv1-2 tell us particularly of their evil attitudes. The sinner does have a 'lord', and it's sin. The wicked have a 'god', and its transgression.

v1 - Sin whispers into the depths of their hearts, it literally in the Hebrew 'gives them oracles' much like the voice of God would a prophet, sin is therefore personified here as the wickeds authority. Sin is the one which rules, governs and tests every action of the wicked, to drive it away from the true way of the LORD, their every action is therefore rebellion against the LORD.
The wickeds God is certainly not the LORD God that David, his servant (see title) worships; they have no fear of the true God before their eyes, they don't set their paths towards him but towards their own authority, towards their sin, which is at direct odds with the way of the LORD.

v2 - The wicked flatter themselves, their eyes look only inward, not outward towards the true and living LORD God.
They refuse to acknowledge God and they are therefore not led towards repentance.

Their sin, in the depths of their heart, they foolishly think, will not be found out.

If vv1-2 tell us of the attitudes of the wicked towards themselves and towards God, then vv2-4 tells us of their social activities and how their sinful attitudes affect their bodily outworkings.

v3 - They speak naught but lies and deceit, their very words are unrighteous. They cease to act wisely and they cease to do good. In fact they spend their time fleeing from doing good, thinking up evils and mischief to keep them set in no good way.
The sin, in the depths of their heart leads to an outflow of their whole being, which is corrupt in their thoughts (v4a), their will (v4b), and their feeling (v4c).

So what will happen to these people? If we turn to Psalm 1 (which is important for the context of any Psalm). Psalm 1:4 tells us that they are like chaff, blown by the wind, v5 they will not be able to stand in the judgment and v6 the wicked - shall - perish. And if we turn back to Psalm 36 and v12, David, the psalmer, tells us again that they will not be able to stand, they lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.

It isn't looking too good for the wicked is it?

So who exactly are the wicked? Are they just some rare or foreign peoples who appear to be exceptionally evil, are they the darth vader figures in an otherwise good and obedient world?

Well Romans 3:10-12 says
"None is righteous, no, not one;
mo one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they
have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."

The wicked shown here in this Psalm is - the natural state of man. Here in vv1-4 is the universal curse of sin from Genesis 3. All men have these characteristics, whether latent or developed. This is us, in our natural state, cut off from God, held in his hand over the pits of hell, we too should perish.

This pride sobering thought should humble us to reflect on the reality of the human heart, looking back over vv1-4 we can identify these areas in our own lives. The first part of this Psalm teaches us of our deprived state, void of the knowledge and grace of God, our only source of Salvation.

> In vv5-9, we see the most incredible contrast from, the way of the wicked to the person of the LORD God.

The LORD God is massive, his traits and characteristics are immense, his love reaches the heavens (v5a), his faithfulness to the clouds (v5b). His righteousness is compared to the mountains (v6a), and his justice is like the great deep (v6b).

God - is - a - big - God!

We'd be forgiven here for thinking that God is so huge and that God is to totally, utterly completely transcendent, that he is also completely unknowable and knowledge of him, totally unobtainable, far out of reach of restricted and cramped sinful man.
But the Psalm tells us that this enormous God is also intimate, he saves man and beast, mortal flesh take their shelter in him (v7). and there, they will feast with him (v8).

God's love reaches to the heavens (v5), so is utterly ungraspable, yet it is also something so precious (v7), something to grasp and not let slip.

At the end of v7, we see the LORD God sheltering mortal flesh under the shadow of his wings, wonderful reminders here of Jesus in the gospels, longing to gather man like a hen gathers he chicks under her wings. Here God shelters those he has saved from those who are not, who still are Gods enermies from vv1-4.

This is the absolutely unmatchable, immeasurable, Grace of God, by which we, sinners as shown in vv1-4, deserving of the unquenchable fires of Hell, are saved by. This is the grace that sent Jesus Christ to die on a cross our eternal, spotless, atoning substitute. This is the immensity of our God, who is the Lord of the entire universe and yet he still wants to be individually involved in our lives. This is the God that when we were still sinners as shown in vv1-4, the LORD God, shown in vv5-9 has saved us, not by any goodness of our own, but out of the eternal, abundant, covenant love that He has for His people. Praise God for his faithfulness and his mercy.

> David finishes his psalm this way: he is torn between the immensity of sin and the immensity of grace, fully aware of his natural state and the nature of God, he turns to urgent prayer.

v10 - 'Oh continue your loving kindness' - not 'deliver me from these present evils', but continue showing your grace to your people.
v11 - 'Continue to keep me form my destructive, human nature,' shown here in pride, aware of where that would leave him.
v12 shows us the faithfulness in David's prayer, as if he already knows what Gods response to be. David prays in the faith of what the writer to the Hebrews calls the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Let us now, turn in prayer, believing faithfully, like David in God's response and promises.

'Oh Father, to be more like your Son
the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise you for his
unswerving obedience to you
even to death.
Praise you that when we were still sinners,
you saved us.
When we were far off,
you met us.
When we like Lazareth, dead in a tomb,
you cried "come out"
and brought us from death to life.
Help us live in the light and conviction
of the abdolute supremacy and
Lordship of your Son, help us to be
satisfied in him alone and
keep us, in your love, on paths of righteousness,
for your names sake,
until we arrive home or meet you
in the air.
In Jesus' Glorious and Holy name.

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