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This psalm was written by David. From Psalms 36:1-4 he describes the rebellious; Psalms 36:5-9 he extols the various attributes of the Lord; and in Psalms 36:10-11 he add see the Lord in prayer.
THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS OF A WICKED LIFE
We have in these verses a graphic delineation of a wicked life, in every way true, yet abhorrent. The picture of an ungodly man ought to be enough to save others from an imitation of his profane conduct.
I. A wicked life is characterised by practical atheism. “There is no fear of God before his eyes.”
Wicked men are virtually atheistic. They do not in reality recognise the existence of the Supreme Being, and this is evident from the feeling of their inner nature, from their speech, and from their methods of activity. They are without God in the world. They may recognise Him in the form of a creed, but He has no real influence over them; they are entirely led by the impulse of the moment, by the speculation of the hour, or by the passion of the lower nature. They are not influenced by considerations that have reference to God and His government of the universe. Prayer forms no part of their lives. A wicked life is not consistent with a true belief in the Divine existence.
II. A wicked life is characterised by self-adulation. “For he flattereth himself in his own eyes.”
Wicked men are generally guilty of self-flattery, and in this way they endeavour to appease their conscience, and approve their plans. Their lives are sinful, and hence they have to cover them with artificial flowers, and with unreal decorations. They dare not admit the facts and experiences of their own heart even to themselves. Self-flattery is easy. It is common. It sometimes has to serve instead of flattery from others. A wicked life has no cause for self-flattery; it may pride itself upon its cunning, or upon its success, but that will not alter its guilt, or avert the unerring sentence of infinite Justice.
III. A wicked life is characterised by verbal profanity. “The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit.”
Wicked men are recognised by their perverse and profane speech. They hallow not the great name of God, nor do they reverently allude to the solemn realities of the moral life of the race. But their language is not only profane, it is also deceitful. It is characterised by duplicity. It often gives a misrepresentation of moral character, of events and circumstances, and of the ordinary things of life. Speech is a good index to the soul.
IV. A wicked life is characterised by un-wisdom. “He hath left off to be wise and to do good.”
Wicked men are often gifted as far as secular knowledge and wisdom are concerned. But true wisdom cometh down from above, and of this they are sadly deficient. Hence they lack the wisdom that truly makes men wise. Sin is always evidence of the greatest ignorance and folly. The un-wisdom of a wicked life is seen in the pleasure it seeks, in the study it pursues, in the destiny it selects, and in its hatred of philanthropy.
V. A wicked life is characterised by cunning artifices. “He deviseth mischief upon his bed.”
The wicked man deliberately plans mischief. His late and early thoughts, which ought to be concentrated on God and His mercy, are fixed on schemes of fraud and cunning. Wicked men are generally cunning. For this they educate their faculties, and thus they hope to enrich themselves, to malign their neighbours, and to defeat the purposes of the good. Thus it is not difficult to know the ungodly man when we meet him.
1. That a wicked life is hateful to God.
2. That a wicked life is despicable to men.
3. That a wicked life is injurious to society.
4. That a wicked life may be reformed by grace.
A WELCOME REVELATION OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD
The psalm commences with a description of the character of the wicked man, and, by way of sublime contrast, gives a glad revelation of the character of God. There are grand contrasts in nature; equally so in the inspired volume. Here we have a striking one:—
I. The Divine Being is unspeakable in mercy. “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens.”
Mercy is a distinguishing attribute of God. He delighteth in mercy, and has ever proved this in His dealings with the human race. This is evident in the temporal gifts He bestows, in the spiritual good He communicates, and in the grand redemption He has provided for the soul, whereby it can be made free and pure. Nature speaks the mercy of God, as with a thousand tongues, and the Bible lends additional emphasis to her already loud voice. The greatest sinner may experience the mercy of God if he will only seek it prayerfully.
II. The Divine Being is immutable in rectitude. “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.”
And thus, while mercy is an attribute of God, rectitude may also be predicted of Him. The Divine mercy proceeds upon the principle of Divine equity. The mountains are immutable, they are firm, they are majestic, they are imposing and beautiful; and so is the rectitude of God. It is ever the same towards rich and poor; it is worthy the admiration of the intelligent universe, and under its shade men may safely repose. The Divine rectitude should be consoling to the good, and a terror to those who await the unknown tribunal of the future.
III. That the Divine Being invites the confidence of the soul. “Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.”
The mercy and rectitude of God, as seen in the principle of His government and in the preservation of the material universe, awaken men to confidence in Him. And God protects those who put their trust in Him. The figure of this verse is very beautiful and attractive. The soul of man can rest in God by trusting in Him. Faith is moral repose.
IV. That the Divine Being is the source of all life. “For with Thee is the fountain of life.”
God is the source of all life. The angels derive their existence from Him. Man lives in Him. All mental, moral, and spiritual life is the gift of the Eternal. Earth has no life to bestow; it is a grave. Life, full and free, is the gift of the Infinite Being. We should measure the gift by the Giver.
V. That the Divine Being is the protection of the good from the artifices of the wicked. “And let not the hand of the wicked remove me.”
The wicked often seek to injure the good by cunning artifice and sheer strength: at such a time God is their only protection and refuge. Hence we have here a very glad and welcome representation of the Divine character: full of mercy, firm in justice, inviting the confidence of the soul, the source of life, and the protection of the good. What more can we require?
1. We ought to be grateful that God has given such a condescending revelation of Himself.
2. We ought to be consoled and strengthened by the thought that such a revelation is true to human experience.
3. Learn a lesson of trust in the Eternal God.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 36". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20