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From this psalm we cannot discern a direct occasion that led to its being written. We hear the language of a believer who has insight into the nature of the ungodly, into what characterizes and drives him. That insight drives him out to the excellence and greatness of God as his refuge and the abundance of blessing enjoyed with Him. The psalmist looks first at the ‘greatness’ of the ungodly and then at the greatness of God. We recognize here the experience of the believing remnant in the end time when they have to deal with ‘the ungodly’, that is, the antichrist.
That the believers will be driven out to God through their knowledge of the ungodly is exactly what God wants. We see here an application of the riddle that Samson gives up: “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet” (Jdg 14:14a). The threat of the ungodly makes us all the more aware of all that we have received in Christ. As a result, ‘food’ and ‘sweetness’ come to us out of “the eater” and out of “the strong”, that is, the wicked.
The psalm can be divided as follows:
1. The characteristics of the ungodly (Psa 36:1b-4).
2. Praise of God’s covenant of faithfulness and the joy over it (Psa 36:5-9).
3. Prayer to be preserved from the ungodly (Psa 36:10-12).
Characteristics of the Ungodly
For “for the choir director” (Psa 36:1a) see at Psalm 4:1.
For “[a Psalm] of David” see at Psalm 3:1.
For “the servant of the LORD” see at Psalm 18:1. There this expression occurs in the heading the first and only other time.
In Hebrew, this psalm begins with the word ne’um, which means that what follows is an oracle from God. What follows is a description of the ungodly as God sees him. The characteristics described here show that there is not the slightest restraint in committing sins.
It is not limited to a particular enemy in the psalmist’s life, but applies to every ungodly. It is his nature, he lives according to it. It involves his whole being, his thinking, his words and his deeds, in short it is man under the power of sin (cf. Jer 17:9; Eph 2:1-3). “The transgression” here means that sin has taken the place of God in the heart of the ungodly.
His life consists of “transgression” of all that God has forbidden (Psa 36:1b). God knows what the ungodly speaks “within his heart”. That man does not have the slightest “fear of God”. His eyes are not fixed on it. With the ungodly, the speaking of God in the heart or conscience has been replaced by the desire to transgress all that God has forbidden. This is not a heathen, but one who is consciously in rebellion against the covenant of God. It is about an apostate Jew, who will eventually find his full fulfillment in the antichrist (cf. 2Thes 2:3-4).
Instead of awe for God, the ungodly has something else in mind and that is himself. He considers himself great. He boasts of his transgression, he justifies it, and flatters himself with all that he is able to do and is in his own eyes (Psa 36:2). In doing so, he deceives himself and others. There comes a time of “the discovery of his iniquity [and] the hatred [of it]” (cf. Num 32:23). This means that the ungodly will ultimately face his iniquity before the great white throne and will be judged, but here we are talking about the government of God here and now.
Whoever does unrighteousness will be punished for it by God. He will be hated by God and all who love Him. Then the doers of unrighteousness will be convinced that they have loved unrighteousness and thereby sinned against God and their own lives. Without defense, they will see that the punishment they receive is deserved and just.
His transgression – that is, not just doing wrong, but it is violating a prohibition – is evident in the words of wickedness and deceit that come from his mouth (Psa 36:3). There is no acting wisely and doing good with him. In his words and deeds there is nothing to discover that is true and good. This is the result of the lack of awe for God. If that is lacking, there can be no wise acting. Here it says “ceased”. This indicates that he knows better, but does not do it, fails to do it. It is a culpable omission. The next verse shows that.
From Psa 36:4 it is clear that the ungodly intentionally and knowingly does evil. It is willful, premeditated sinning (Heb 10:26). It is rebelling against the covenant of God. “He plans wickedness upon his bed.” At night the desire to do wickedness occupies him. When he gets out of bed, “he sets himself on a path that is not good”. On such a path it is not possible to do good. “He does not despise evil” means that he knows evil but does not despise it.
Without transition, without introduction, suddenly the LORD is there (Psa 36:5). How is that possible? The answer is: His lovingkindness, or His covenant faithfulness. For us, the LORD’s actions are based on the blood of the new covenant, which is for us. His faithfulness is based on the accomplished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. This psalm, as noted at Psa 36:1b, is an oracle of God, indicating that everything here is seen from God’s point of view. Therefore, here in Psa 36:5 we can have the abrupt transition into a song of praise to God’s covenant faithfulness.
In contrast to the glorification of the ungodly of himself in Psa 36:2 is the glorification of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness by the God-fearing (Psa 36:5). God’s “lovingkindness, … extends to the heavens”. This means that God’s lovingkindness will accompany the righteous on earth until he is in heaven. Also, the righteous counts on the faithfulness of God that goes beyond the earthly events and reaches “to the skies”.
It means that the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God are immeasurably great (cf. Psa 57:10). As far as the eye reaches, they are visible. Lovingkindness is the source of God’s acting and provides comfort in difficult circumstances. Faithfulness is the anchor to which the believer clings. Faithfulness offers security.
Attached to God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness is His “righteousness” (Psa 36:6). It is unshakable “like the mountains of God”, like the mighty mountains. His righteousness is manifested in His government which is for judgment to the ungodly and for redemption to the righteous. He always acts in accordance with Who He is, in accordance with His holiness and His love.
In His judgments in the great tribulation, which are like “a great deep”, He preserves “men and beasts”. This recalls God’s judgment of the flood (Gen 7:11), that men and beasts are preserved in the ark and then come out of the ark onto an earth cleansed by the judgments (Gen 8:18-19). So it will be in the realm of peace after the great tribulation (Rom 8:20-21).
In the realm of peace, it will become clear “how precious” God’s “lovingkindness” is, for everything enjoyed then is a result of it (Psa 36:7). This principle applies not only to the realm of peace. God’s lovingkindness is already now the reason, “for the children of men to take refuge in the shadow of Your wings” (cf. Rth 2:12; Psa 17:8; Psa 57:1b; Psa 61:4; Psa 63:7; Psa 91:4). God offers protection and safety. We see a foreshadowing of this in nature with chicks crawling under mother’s wings when danger threatens (Mt 23:37; Lk 13:34).
In the shadow of God’s wings, the children of men find not only protection, but also an abundance of blessings: “They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house” (Psa 36:8). The blessings here are to be permitted to eat of the peace offering that speaks of fellowship with the LORD and with one another.
God gives them there to drink from “the river of Your delights” or, as it is translated in the Dutch translation, to drink from “the brook full of delectable gifts” (cf. Eze 47:1-5). This is characteristic of the joy of all who partake of the Divine nature. Where God has His joy, that is where His own have their joy. By the “delights” or “delectable gifts” we can think of all the gifts we have received in Christ, both spiritual and material. For both gifts apply: what do we have that we have not received (1Cor 4:7)? All gifts find their summary in the one great gift of God: Christ. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!” (2Cor 9:15).
This abundance of blessings may be enjoyed by us New Testament believers in a higher way than is possible for believers associated with God’s earthly people. Christ has become our life. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. We have been given eternal life. Our fellowship is by the Spirit with the Father and the Son and with one another. This causes complete joy (1Jn 1:1-4).
We can enjoy all this because we have been put in connection with Him with Whom is “the fountain of life” (Psa 36:9). Fountain means well of water. Life means a well of living water, water that gives life and refreshment. For us it goes even further. That well is not only “with” us, but in us (Jn 14:16-17). We have that well in Christ, Who dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph 3:17), and in the eternal life – that is He Himself (1Jn 5:20) – that we have received (Jn 4:14). We also have that well within us through the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us, enabling us to become a well of water for others in turn (Jn 7:37-39).
In addition to being the fountain of life, God is also “light”, and in His light we “see the light”. Seeing the light is connected with “life” (Psa 49:19). This means that they receive life in the light of God. Life and light belong together. This is seen in Christ: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men“ (Jn 1:4). In the context in which it appears here, it means that the light shows the believer the way in the darkness in which the world is shrouded. It is about the light of God giving light in the darkness.
The deeper meaning is that the light shines into dark human hearts and reveals what is in them. It reveals the sinner and also shows Who God is and what He has done to save the sinner.
Lovingkindness and Righteousness
Here we come to the third section of the psalm. In the first section we have seen the features of the ungodly. In the second section, we heard a song of praise about the covenant faithfulness of God, of His lovingkindness. In this third section, the psalmist asks if the LORD will show His lovingkindness on those who know Him. They call themselves those who know the LORD and are upright.
Who the ungodly is and Who God is has been clarified. Now David can pray for the lovingkindness and righteousness of God for the righteous (Psa 36:10). Here, as in Psa 36:5-6, lovingkindness and righteousness are linked together.
When David thinks of God’s lovingkindness and righteousness, he cannot just think of himself. He asks if God will also extend His lovingkindness and righteousness over His own. This makes one think of protection and security. Therein lies for David both for himself and for those who are with him security against the enemy.
He speaks of “those who know You” and “the upright in heart”. They are the “we” of Psa 36:9. Those who know God are those who live in fellowship with God. It means they trust Him and are faithful to Him. In the heart of the upright in heart are no curves, side paths, or ulterior motives (cf. Psa 7:10; Psa 11:2; Psa 32:11). They are distinguished from those who deny God in their heart and have no awe of Him (Psa 36:1).
Following on from Psa 36:10, David asks in Psa 36:11 to be kept from the proud and wicked (cf. Mt 6:13). He speaks of “the foot of pride” and “the hand of the wicked”. He does not want to be trampled by the foot of the proud or chased away by the hand of the wicked. He would like to enjoy God’s lovingkindness and righteousness undisturbed and serve Him. Therefore, he does not want to be overrun by the boasters and have to wander around to stay out of the hands of the wicked.
David concludes his prayer by expressing the certainty that “the doers of iniquity” will meet their end (Psa 36:12). He sees the future as present. When the God-fearing takes shelter in the shadow of the LORD’s wings, the wicked cannot stand (Psa 1:5). They have fallen because they have been cast down, which also prevents them from rising again to start committing iniquity again.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 36". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13