Psalm 36—Jim Shelburn
Many of the psalms that David wrote were in response to something that he had faced in his life. However, Psalm 36 seems to be more of a reflection upon the general state of sin that existed, and exists in the world. The first four verses are a harsh, but realistic, picture of a person who has given himself, or herself, over to the wickedness of the world. “Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For it flatters him in his own eyes concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He plans wickedness upon his bed; he sets himself on a path that is not good; he does not despise evil.”
Today, the words of David are reflected in faces of people seen everyday. People live lives of indescribable misery, yet there seems to be no motivation to change for something better. The first four verses may seem to be extreme, but how many people fall within this picture? For some people – some families – the only words heard are harsh. They are designed to hurt the self worth of a person. Words such as, “I love you”, or “You are important” are never considered. Too often, the goal of such people is to “get ahead” regardless of who it hurts. Times that could be spent in relaxation are spent trying to escape from life. Yes, David’s words are uncomfortably close for too many people.
In contrast, David’s words and thoughts turn from the wicked to the Lord. And what a contrast that is! The first four verses seem to show a life of desolation and spiritual poverty; but verses 5 – 9 give a picture of peace, beauty, and plenty. David uses such words as faithfulness, righteousness, justice, love, joy, and abundance. Yes, David knew what too many people tragically cannot see today. Everything that is truly important can only be found in the Lord.
Look again at the words David used, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.” There is a real sense of permanence in these words. These give a picture of the Living God that will NEVER fail those that trust in Him. Every single good thing or person in this world will fail eventually, but absolute trust can be placed in the Lord, because He is good, faithful, loving, and eternal.
In verses 7-8, David wrote, “How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.”
John described the time when Jesus met the Samaritan woman. Jesus told her that he could give her living water. In John 7:37 Jesus said, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”. Physically, every person must drink enough water to live. Without water, a person becomes increasingly thirsty. The initial pangs of thirst become an unbearable need for water. A person’s body will begin to shut down, and the person finally dies.
Likewise, every person must be replenished spiritually. The only true source for this is Jesus Christ – period. Initially, the effects may not be as obvious, but over time the chronic effects of a spiritless life lead to despair. Many people that have a reputation of “living life to the fullest” Usually, that expression refers to a world-focused life. But those same people begin to look at things differently as they face the fact of their own demise.
In the Lord, a person will find spiritual nourishment. Life can still be active and fun; but the difference is day-to-day decisions are Spirit-driven and not world-driven. Serving Lord gives purpose to life. “Walking in the Light” automatically provides a better quality of life; because contentment and inner peace CAN be achieved. In addition, the ability to answer the “whys” of life become clearer as a person matures in Christ.
Verse 9 is significant. “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”. Not only are these words a beautiful picture of what comes from the Lord, but they also bring to mind some of the deepest truths presented in the Gospel of John. In John is found the picture of Jesus Christ as the Light that gives light to the world. At night, when the lights are out in our homes, we move cautiously; because we cannot see, and we’re afraid we might stumble into something or stub a toe. Then, the lights come back on, and we can see!
Every day is a day of decisions. “What am I going to do in this situation?” Many of these decisions are routine. For other situations, deciding the right course of action is obvious. But in too many cases, determining the right answer does not appear to be that clear-cut. The consequences for each option are obscured. In that case, the right decision must be determined based on the principles found in the Bible.
The “Good News” establishes the goal of eternal life; and the teaching in the New Testament provides the instruction for day-to-day living. Of course, that will require a working knowledge of the principles in the New Testament. Decisions based on feelings, impulse, or strong emotions invariably lead to disaster. “Ready, go, set!” has never worked.
David’s words also pointed forward to a time when the mystery of the ages would be revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ gives us the anchor for people’s lives. Through study, reflection, and application of the scriptures, the revealing light and wisdom of God opens up more and more. As faith and trust grows, His precious light pushes the shadows farther and farther away.
Yes, in the world, it seems like wickedness has the upper hand. The righteousness of God, God’s will, often seems to be in retreat; but David knew, and Christians know, that is not true. God WILL strengthen his children, and those that reject His love and offer will suffer the consequences of their actions.