Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, I’m going to pick up the discipline. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
For the fourth of December, here’s Psalm 36:
1 I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
2 In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
3 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
4 Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong.
5 Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise!
What is this Psalm about?
Psalm 36 contrasts the sinfulness of the wicked (v1-4) and what life looks like lived in and under the love of God (v5-12). The wicked do not fear God (v1), they ignore their sin (v2), fail to live wisely and well (v3), and fail to reject wrong (v4). The contrast with the life of those loved by and loving God is in contrast one that covers all creation with righteousness and justice, with abundance and life. Verses 10-12 re-emphasise the contrast between these two ways of living.
What does this Psalm teach us about God?
Firstly, the Psalm clearly teaches that God is a communicating God – the Psalm opens with the act of God giving a message. This message – pointing perhaps to the wider grace of God – is aimed at everyone, who are divided into two kinds of people. The stark absence of God in verses 2-4 is contrasted with his presence throughout creation, and care for all creation, in the large central part of the Psalm. As we have seen in other Psalms, God is a God in whom we can find refuge – intimating strength, care and protection. The God of Psalm 36 is a powerful, good God.
How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
Some commentators have commented, in a way I probably echo above, that this Psalm gives a picture of the life of the blessings of God on the righteous, in contrast to those who are not in God’s love. In a mixed and fallen world, where all God’s people are by and large living alongside people who God made but is absent from, this Psalm is a reminder to stand firm, and also a stark warning, I think, to those who do not know God. As well as encouragement to God’s people in difficult times today, then, Psalm 36 is also a challenge to invite others to know God, and to flee from the coming wrath.
A prayer drawn from Psalm 36:
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! Help me take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Thank you that we can feast on the abundance of your house; you give us drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Lord, let me live in that light, and share it with others. Amen.