The center of Psalm 36 is one of the most beautiful hymns of praise to God's love. Are you feeling unloved or forgotten? Psalm 36 reminds us that God loves us and is the great Provider and Protector of those who love Him.
Psalm 36 appears to be closely connected to Psalm 35. Both psalms are connected through the word "servant". In Psalm 35:27 David says,
“Great is the Lord,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
Intriguingly, the heading for Psalm 36 says "Of David the servant of the Lord."
In addition to the connection through the word "servant" in the heading we also have a similar topic: rescue from evil men. Also, the second section of Psalm 36 seems to develop the theme of God's delight mentioned in Psalm 35:27.
The meaningful center and main theme is found in verses 5-6.
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. Psalm 36:5-6
These two verse are clearly set apart by the use of two techniques. One is the change of address from talking to people to talking to God. The second is the use of God's covenant name YHWH which, in Hebrew, begins and ends these two verses and is the only use of God's name except in the heading.
As we have in most of our posts, we will continue to follow the structure as outlined by Dr. C.J. Labuschagne, who finds 3 sections to this psalm.
Contemplating the Wicked
In Psalm 35 David complained to God about the wicked and prayed for God to punish them. Psalm 36 continues this focus on the wicked, but now with a more meditative tone. It feels as if David has used up his anger in Psalm 35 and is now contemplating the characteristics of the wicked.
- No Fear of God. They do not fear the consequences of their actions. Once one has lost the fear of God, sin becomes much easier to do.
- No Recognition of Sin. They are too proud to even admit or hate their sin. Repentance requires humility.
- Wicked Tongue. Their mouths reflect their hearts.
- No Wisdom. They have lost whatever wisdom they may have had. God has given them over to their sin and the path of wisdom is lost to them.
- Committed to Evil. Their life is dedicated to evil.
Most people have not progressed so far in their rebellion against God that they are totally committed to evil. God's general grace is still at work in their hearts. But notice that the first step to evil is when we no longer fear God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverb 9:10) and once we stop fearing God the potential is open for greater and greater evil. This process was fully lived out recently in atheist regimes which murdered millions without any fear of God.
But for many of us we forget that we can start down this road any time we take our eyes off of God and place them upon ourselves. When we make ourselves the center of our universe and sideline God we begin down a path where evil is the final destination. The first step to righteous living is to have a proper fear of God's justice and a humble enough heart to repent of our sin.
This section is such a beautiful hymn to God that I am tempted to quote it all, but I will trust you to read it on your own. The section begins with praise for four of God's characteristics:
David's main point is that God uses these attributes to protect and provide for those who seek Him.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7
This section ends with a picture of God's overflowing kindness. Those who seek God ...
- Feast on God's abundance
- Drink from God's river of delights
- Gain life
- See the light (truth)
The final blessing "in Your light we see light" reminds us that only when we are in connection with the God of truth will we fully understand the truth. Sin blinds our eyes to the truth.
Prayer for Protection from Wicked
After hymning the love of God, David makes a final plea to God to protect the upright from the evil. Verse 12 functions as a coda where the psalmist confidently declares the final destruction of the wicked.
See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise! Psalm 36:12
Psalm 36 contrasts the characteristics of the wicked with those of God and proclaims that in the end the upright will be blessed and the wicked will be judged.