Read Psalm 36
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.
1 I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
2 In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
3 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
4 Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong.
5 Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise!
The Lord is the source of life. Psalm 36 is written with a style reminiscent of wisdom literature, while also containing a prayer for help. Much like Psalm 1, David contrasts the corrupting way of the wicked and the faithful love of the Lord. The conclusion is that without the Lord’s unfailing love, the righteous would cease to exist. Therefore, David would certainly agree with Paul that in order to attain salvation, one must receive righteousness from God. He says, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22).
The psalmist begins by reflecting on the way of the wicked. Essentially, David is learning from the mistakes of those around him or potentially the mistakes he made himself. So, David begins listing what has been learned. In wisdom literature, “the fear of the Lord” is the beginning point of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Therefore, the Psalmist clarifies that the wicked person’s misdirected life stems from their lack of fear of God. The character of the wicked person is displayed in their habits (v. 2), words (v. 3), and in their plans/attractions (v. 4). While the wicked person dreams of new ways to commit themselves to evil, the righteous person meditates on God’s truths both day and night (Psalm 1:2).
The common approach in wisdom literature is to parallel a description of the wicked with the description of the righteous. However, David follows the wicked with a hymn praising the goodness and unfailing love of the Lord. God’s love is higher than the heavens. His righteousness is as huge and immoveable as the mighty mountains. His justice is as deep as the sea. David also writes that God’s love is priceless and does not discriminate—all are welcomed to find refuge under God’s wings. Finally, wisdom literature declares that “the teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 13:4). But here the psalmist takes it further, describing God as the source or fountain of life and of light. This, perhaps, is why David did not contrast the behaviors of the wicked and righteous. The point is that the only way in which we live righteously is by drinking the righteousness we receive from the Lord.
- Take a second to reflect. What are some mistakes that you have learned from?
- What does the psalmist teach us in this psalm about God and His character?
- The psalmist did not pray for the destruction of the wicked, but God’s help to keep their destructive influences distanced from himself. How does this change how you and I pray for the “wicked” or people who have wronged/hurt us?
did you know?
There is only one other psalm that has the superscript “David, the servant of the Lord,” and it’s Psalm 18. Theologian John Trapp observed that Psalm 18 comes from David’s old age and Psalm 36 comes from David’s youth. So, from his youth to his old age, David was a servant of the Lord. Trapp went on to say that “David took more pleasure in duty than dignity.”