Read: Psalm 36:1; Jeremiah 2:19; 17:9; Romans 3:18; Acts 24:25
The 12th-13th century French Rabbi known as Radak wrote that the villain of Psalm 36 is “Evil Inclination,” which convinces the wicked person that there is no God, or if there is a
God, He will not bring about consequences for sin. The 16th century Italian Rabbi known as Sforno connected Psalm 36 specifically to Absalom and Achitophel. According to Sforno, Achitophel personifies the Evil Inclination, whereas Absalom is the wicked sinner who permits himself to be seduced by that inclination into committing sin. The Apostle Paul (who, but for the remarkable occurrence on the road to Damascus, might have been referred to as the 1st century Cilician rabbi known as Saul) quoted Psalm 36:1 in his indictment of the sinfulness of all mankind (Romans 3:18).
Think About It: Comedian Flip Wilson, in the persona of “Geraldine Jones,” used to do a routine where every bad behavior was explained with the excuse, “The devil made me do it.” According to Psalm 36:1, why is that not a valid excuse? Where does “Evil Inclination” originate and where does it operate? What attitude allows the thought of transgression to flourish? Why is fearing God important to right actions? How can I cultivate fear of the Lord?
Prayer: Lord, I stand in awe of Your holiness and tremble at the thought of Your righteous judgment.
Read: Psalm 36:2; Deuteronomy 29:19; Revelation 3:17; Romans 6:23; Galatians 6:7 – 8
David continued his description of the wicked sinner in Psalm 36:2 by saying “he flatters himself in his own eyes that his sin won’t be found out and hated.” There are three parts to this description: the self-deception of flattery; the belief that no one will find out; and the belief that the sin won’t be hated. The Laodicean church provides a sad example of self-deception (Revelation 3:17). The belief that no one will discover sin is a flat contradiction of Scripture (Numbers 32:23, 1 Timothy 5:24). The belief that sin is not hateful is an essential component of temptation. De-emphasis on the hatefulness of sin minimizes the seriousness of sin’s consequences. The Evil Inclination says not only “no one will know,” but “it’s no big deal.” Satan said to Eve, “You will not surely die.”
Think About It: According to Isaiah 59:2, Romans 6:23, Galatians 6:7 – 8, and James 1:15, what are the consequences of sin, both short-term and long-term? What might help me remember the seriousness of the consequences of sin when I face temptation?
Prayer: Lord help me to remember that sin pays a deadly wage.
Read: Psalm 36:3; Luke 6:45; Psalm 5:9; Psalm 12:2; Jeremiah 4:22; Micah 2:1
David’s description of the wicked sinner continued in Psalm 36:3 with the observation about his speech and his actions. David’s observations about the speech of the wicked were echoed by Jesus: “…the evil man out of the evil treasure (of his heart) brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45), and “but what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:18 – 19). David also observed the connection between the wicked sinner’s heart and his speech in Psalm 5, Psalm 10, and Psalm 12; Paul reiterated this connection in Romans 3:13 – 14, quoting from the Psalms. Achitophel certainly personified this aspect of wickedness in the advice he gave to Absalom (2 Samuel 16:21), the unrighteous goal of which was to drive a permanent wedge between Absalom and David, which would make Achitopel’s position more secure. The wickedness of the heart that expresses itself in speech comes to fruition in the actions of the wicked person – “he has ceased to act wisely and do good.” Wickedness stands in contrast not only to goodness, but to wisdom as well. The Hebrew of the second half of Psalm 36:3 can also be translated, “He has ceased contemplating to do good.” The 11th century French rabbi known as Rashi observed that this meant the evil person does not permit himself to draw any moral lessons from anything he observes, lest he become convicted and moved to mend his ways. The 19th century Russian rabbi known as Malbim observed that what the wicked person fails to contemplate is “God’s awesome sovereignty,” and especially he fails to consider that what God commands is for our good. Romans 8:28 is an aspect of God’s awesome sovereignty that is always good to think about. In Ephesians 4:18 – 19 Paul warned of the dangers of the “darkened understanding” and the ignorance that results from a hardened heart, which have disastrous spiritual consequences, beginning with alienation from the life of God. The Greek word for alienation includes the concept of being excluded. The hard-hearted, ignorant person may be self-alienated from God, but he is also destined to be excluded eternally by God
Think About It: What do I like to talk about? What does my speech reveal about what is in my heart? Do I strive to learn moral lessons from my life experiences? Does the wicked person necessarily perceive alienation from the life of God as a problem? What does being alienated from the life of God look like in the world today? What is it going to look like in the world to come? Can we help unbelievers understand the seriousness of their plight? If so, how?
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
Read: Psalm 36:4; Proverbs 4:16; Isaiah 65:2; Micah 2:1
David’s description of the wicked sinner continued in Psalm 36:4 with the assertion he devises iniquity on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good. What begins as wrong priorities, evil thoughts, and bad words, ends with carefully devised plans to carry out evil deeds. The mind of the wicked sinner is always at work devising new kinds of wickedness (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Further, the wicked sinner will not reject evil. Even if his evil plans fail to come to fruition, he remains open to any further opportunities to do evil that may come his way. The exact opposite of the wicked sinner was embodied in Daniel, who “resolved that he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). An early 3rd century rabbi named Akabya wrote: “Reflect upon three things, and you will not sin: know where you came from, where you are going, and before Whom you will in the future have to give an account and reckoning.” Daniel’s name means “God is my Judge.” Daniel lived up to his name, in awareness that he would have to give an account of himself to God. Therefore he made up his mind never to defile himself.
Think About It: In contrast to the wicked, whose mind is churning over evil plans, the Christian is exhorted to set his mind on things above (Colossians 3:1 – 2). I might well contemplate: What is my heritage in Christ? Where is God leading me and what is He leading me to do? Am I living in the awareness of the coming judgment?
Prayer: Lord, please help me never to plot evil, and please help me to think about whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent, and whatever is worthy of praise.
Read: Psalm 36:5 – 7; Romans 11:33; 1 Timothy 4:10
After having carefully considered the despicable character of the wicked sinner, in Psalm 36:5 – 7 David turned his thoughts to God. The answer to man’s sin problem is found in God, whom David described in Psalm 36:5 – 7 with the terms steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, judgment, and salvation. The Hebrew word translated “save” in Psalm 36:6 is yasha, from which the name Yeshua (in English, Jesus) is derived (Matthew 1:21, Acts 4:12). While David’s intent in Psalm 36:6 was simply to point to God’s salvation, the Christian reader of the verse cannot help be reminded that God’s provision for man’s salvation was made in Yeshua. The mention in Psalm 36:6 that God saves both “man and beast” is not merely a mention of God’s providence to the animal world; “beast” also refers also to the lower, sinful nature of man. We are all both “man and beast.” Psalm 36:1 – 4 provides a description of the wicked sinner so graphic as to produce a shudder of revulsion, and perhaps a response something like this: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” The reference to “man and beast” in Psalm 36:6 reminds us that we are like those other men, and apart from the salvation God provides because of His steadfast love, faithfulness, judgment of our sin on the cross of Christ, and salvation by grace, we would be utterly, eternally lost.
Think About It: What is the essence of the “beast” within me (Romans 7:18 – 23)? What is my only hope (Romans 7:24 – 25; Romans 8:1)?
Prayer: Thank You God, that though I am a wicked sinner, I can be saved by Your grace through faith in Christ.
Read: Psalm 36:8 – 10; Isaiah 25:6; Jeremiah 31:12 – 14; Ephesians 1:3; Revelation 22:1; Acts 26:18; 1 Peter 2:9
David’s consideration of the blessings that God bestows on those whom He saves by His grace (in Psalm 36:8 – 10) is of practical assistance to the believer in fighting temptation. Temptation involves taking a moral shortcut in defiance of God’s law in order to gratify a desire of the flesh or of the mind. But temptation is a lie; the result of yielding to it is not fulfillment, but deprivation and ultimately death. In contrast, God offers goodness to those who take refuge in the shadow of His wings.
Think About It: What are the terms David used to describe life with God in Psalm 36:8 – 9? Who gets to enjoy those benefits according to Psalm 36:10? How does a person come to know God (John 14:6)? How does a person get God’s righteousness (Romans 9:30; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38)?
Prayer: Praise the Lord for the joy of salvation.
Read: Psalm 36:11 – 12; Psalm 140:4; Isaiah 26:14; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Revelation 20:14 – 15
In Psalm 36:11 – 12 David prayed for God to deliver him from anyone who would drive him away from the blessings God provided. David then concluded the psalm with a reflection on the fate of those who do not enjoy God’s salvation. This final reflection is an additional help in dealing with temptation. In the Orthodox cathedrals of Russia a picture of the last judgment is always found painted above the sanctuary door, so that it is the last thing worshipers see when they leave the church. This serves as a reminder of what happens to those who do not avail themselves of God’s grace. Psalm 36:12 serves much the same function as a “last judgment” picture in an Orthodox cathedral. Remembering the fate of the wicked should help us to resist temptation.
Think About It: What are some ways that wicked people try to trip up believers? What do I find is the most frightening aspect of the fate of the wicked?
Prayer: Lord, help me to avoid the snares of temptation and the wiles of the devil.