Sunday 27th September 2020
I was reading Psalm 36 earlier in the week and as I read it I thought about people that this Psalm could apply to, as well as the organisations that are forcing their false ideologies on to us all in the name of freedom!
But then something happened…. God spoke to me clearly…. Before I can apply this to others I first have to look at myself. God also gently reminded me of Jesus’ teaching on judging others (Matthew 7:1-5). I need to take the plank out of my own eye before looking “at the speck of sawdust in my brother’s eye”.
The OT prophet Jeremiah made this observation:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).
As I prayed about Psalm 36 I sensed that God is calling us to use this Psalm to look at ourselves. So let’s spend a few minutes doing just that, because this Psalm is not just addressing unbelievers.
The opening section of Psalm 36 helps us to understand the universal condition of sin with a blunt description of the wickedness that resides in the hearts of all peoples.
The Bible teaches us that left to ourselves, we would gravitate away from the Lord and toward an arrogant and destructive sense of ambivalence toward spiritual truth, which leads to self-deceit, evil and, ultimately, the wilful rejection of all that is good (Psalm 36:1–4).
We all have a bad part. Saint Paul called this bad part “the old man” in us, and it makes the Christian life difficult for us. (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 2:15; 4:22-24; and Colossians 3:9-11) There’s a song by the Christian singer-song writer Amy Grant called Shadows. It’s about how there are two of us, one does the right thing the other does wrong so we have to keep a watch on our shadows.
This illustrates how we all live in a tension, because just as God can speak into our heart His words of goodness, hope and love, so the enemy, the devil, can speak into our heart the opposite. Remember how Satan attacked Adam and Eve? He spoke into their heart and convinced them that God would not be angry with them if they acted in disobedience to His command not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When we allow the enemy to speak into our hearts we are in great danger of losing any sense that terror of the Lord will come upon us because of our evil deeds. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve, they lost any sense of the terror of the Lord coming upon them. That’s what wickedness does, we lose any sense of anticipation that God’s judgement will come upon us because we allow our own voice to delude and flatter us.
When we allow the enemy space to speak into our heart, our words reflect our old flawed character, we thus show wickedness and deceit and we cease to be wise.
But our hope is this: the way of wisdom is constantly encouraged throughout Scripture. So by knowing Scripture we can be shaped by the story of God, the story of His great rescue plan. We can be shaped by His ways, His character, and His mind. Therefore, wisdom comes from being transformed by the presence of God, through His Son Jesus Christ, and then living life in all of its complexity.
This Psalm, therefore, clearly teaches that sin deceives, and confuses our minds to the extent that we speak in a way that flatters ourselves beyond reality and makes us believe that we will never be caught. So when you read this Psalm do you hear echoes of our own words and thoughts, and hardness of heart?
But God is Good as we read in v5-9.
The Psalmist tells us to look at our world. We can see clouds in the sky. We can see mountains and seas. God has put these there to help us remember what He is like. When we see the sky, we must remember His kind love. When we see the clouds in the sky we must remember His truth. So the clouds and the sky tells us that God will do what He promised. In other words, God will always be faithful.
When we see a mountain we must remember that God is good. But He is more than good, He is righteous because He can only do what is right, never what is wrong. And when we look at the sea we must remember the justice of God because in the end what is right and fair will happen, not what is wrong and not fair.
The New Testament teaches us that the way of righteousness is to take the Father at His word and believe that His Son is the only way of salvation. As we trust this promise of God as revealed through His Son Jesus Christ, we become righteous and are welcomed into God’s covenant of righteousness.
So when the Bible refers to the righteousness of God, it’s not saying that God is morally good. That has to be taken for granted, because He’s the standard of all goodness and morality. Rather, the righteousness of God refers to His faithfulness in keeping His word.
I love the second part of verse 9: “In your light we will see light”.
You see, Jesus is the Light of the World, so in God’s light, His Son, we see what is right and just in His world. Then we are able to live lives of love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice. Without God’s light we will live lives described in v1-4.
That’s why the Psalmist prayed that God would give His kind love and goodness to the people that know Him, as well as to help us remember how to see God in the world around us. God is a God of protection; we do find refuge in the shadow of His wing. Remember how God protected His people in the wilderness with the pillar of cloud and fire. The Psalmist also prayed that bad people would not stop God doing this, protecting His people (v10-12).
We too must pray as the Psalmist prayed – that sinful humanity will not stop God working in His world. We are to see “the evildoers lie fallen, thrown down, not able to rise “. As we offer such prayers we are to know that God will decide when this will happen.
The good news is this: it’s as if the Psalmist can see God’s triumph over our enemies. Because of events 2000 years ago God has started to answer this prayer: Jesus, who is the very image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15), definitively answered the psalmist’s request on behalf of all people by giving His life as a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28) to save us from our sins so that all who confess their sins and believe “might live through Him” (1 John 4:9) and receive His gift of eternal life, (John 4:14).
Praise be to the Lord’s name as we experience in greater depths the glorious power of His loyal priceless covenant of love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice, knowing in our “knower” that we find a holy and supernatural refuge in and over our lives.
Digging into God’s Word
- When you read Psalm 36 do you hear echoes of our own words and thoughts, and hardness of heart? How does that make you feel?
- Psalm 36 describes a way that evil takes a grip on people. Can you give examples of this from your experience?
- What does this Psalm teach you about the person of God?
- Do you see Jesus within this Psalm? Where?
- How are the wicked described in this psalm?
- What happens to the wicked according to this psalm?
Digging Deeper into God’s Word
- What are the two contrasts laid out in the psalm? As you hear the contrast between the wicked and the righteous, where do you stand?
- How are we confronted by wickedness in the 21st century?
- How are the godly described in verses 7 to 9?
- Which of the many pictures of God in this Psalm are the most important to you? Can you explain any reasons why this is so?