This psalm contrasts the evil in humanity with the goodness in God. It begins with a denunciation of the wicked (vv. 1–4), moves on to praise the Lord for the beauty within Him (vv. 5–9), and concludes in tying the two themes together by noting the distinction between those who move toward or away from God (vv. 10–12).
The problem with a psalm like this is our own failure to apply introspection. Too quickly, we look at the first four verses and say, “That’s someone else. Not me. I’m innocent, but other people sure do have faults.”
A Heart of Evil
So this psalm first faces me with the questions: “What’s wrong with me? What kind of messages am I sending God and others when I make choices God’s Word forbids or fail to do what His Word commends?”
1. I don’t care what God thinks or if He even exists. (See v. 1.) When I commit wrong, my actions illustrate I have no fear of God. I believe my life is outside His jurisdiction and that I will never have to defend myself before His bar of judgment.
2. I haven’t done anything wrong. (See v. 2.) My denial of personal responsibility causes God to say of me: “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” (v. 2). I remain blind to my faults, the ways I have offended God and others.
3. I can talk my way out of it. (See v. 3.) I have to lie to cover my tracks. I could never afford to be honest for then I could not get what I want. So, I’ll rely on deception and no one will ever find out. Little do I realize such sin perverts my personality so much that I am no longer capable of discerning or desiring good.
4. I am determined to do what I want. (See v. 4.) At night when I’m tossing and turning on my bed, I’m laying plans to get my way even if what I want is wrong.
These first four verses in Psalm 36 do not paint a pretty picture of my life when I am in rebellion against God.
The Help of the Savior
It’s easy to be against sin, but far more difficult to recognize or stand against sin in my own life. The good news of Jesus Christ is that God offers His purity as a cure to my evil. When I look to Him, what do I see?
1. Love without limit. (See v. 5.) God’s love and faithfulness reaches to the heavens. Small things don’t stick up very high; God’s love for us is so great you can’t put an altimeter to it.
2. Solid goodness. (See v. 6.) His righteousness stands like mighty mountains: massive, enduring, immovable; and His justice lies vast and deep as the oceans.
3. Grace available. (See vv. 7–9.) God does preserve—man and beast. If He did not, all would be lost through the effects of our sin. Here we see the Lord as our refuge, food, drink, life and light.
What a contrast between these qualities and our own sinfulness. I demonstrate none of these characteristics in God when I am blind to the evil in me. God calls me to love, to faithfulness, to righteousness, to justice, to preserve others, but, the lure of sin makes me want only to satisfy self. In satisfying self, I really cease to be myself and become another—distanced from God, ignorant of God, and unlike God.
So what am I to do? I pray verses 10–12 against wickedness within me. I pray not to be blind to my failings, acts of resistance, or rebellion. I ask the Lord to prevail in me and cause His personality to win out over mine. I ask Him to protect my life from what is wicked within and deal with my evil so severely it falls down, never to rise again.
I do not take the Lord for granted. I know I need the continuation of His love and righteousness. I am always able to rise whenever I fall if He will pick me up. I can always count on Him. He is not going to change.