Psalm 36 Wicked!

Questions: Why does David dwell on the wicked? Is that fair? Should we? How does wickedness co-exist with the holiness of God? How can we avoid falling into wickedness ourselves?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 36:1-12

[[To the chief Musician, [A Psalm] of David the servant of the LORD.]]

An intriguing superscription. David isn’t often called a servant, and I wonder if it is to explicitly contrast with what he knows of the wicked:

The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart


* [that there is] no fear of God before his eyes.

* For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful

* The words of his mouth [are] iniquity and deceit

* he hath left off to be wise, [and] to do good.

* He deviseth mischief upon his bed

* He setteth himself in a way [that is] not good

* he abhorreth not evil

While much of this is no doubt Hebrew parallelism, there also appears to be a definite progression (whether causal or chronological, I’m not sure). Perhaps something like:

1. Not fearing God’s justice
2. Thinking ourselves God-like
3. Speaking evil
4. Thinking of evil things to do
5. Actually doing those things
6. Not being ashamed of the evil we’ve done

So, why does David use his ink to paint such a dark picture? Is he merely taking the opportunity to blacken the image of some unnamed rival? Or is there some crucial lesson about wickedness that God wants us to learn from this?

The first thing I notice is that — at times — I find myself uncomfortably close to David’s description of the wicked. Oh, sure, I never plot “great” injustice, like murder or robbery. But, I too lose sight of the fact that God’s justice applies to me, and justify my own “acting out” in response to the slights I have received. Leading to a slippery slope, that only the cross can save me from.

Still, I think the larger purpose in David’s depiction is simply to remind us that there truly are such wicked people in the world. It sounds silly, but there are many philosophies (and theologies) that are completely incapable of dealing with this basic (one would think obvious) fact. Either they deny that true wickedness exists, or find it impossible to defend goodness in the presence of such wickedness.

Not so David, who immediately turns around to sing of God’s glory

* Thy mercy, O LORD, [is] in the heavens;

* thy faithfulness [reacheth] unto the clouds.

* Thy righteousness [is] like the great mountains

* thy judgments [are] a great deep:

* O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.

* How excellent [is] thy lovingkindness, O God!

I wonder how much of this is merely to contrast God’s goodness with the wicked — and how much is as a corrective to his own soul, lest he fall into the trap of failing to fear and honor God.

I must confess, even my petty wickedness is typically driven by a failure to appreciate God’s goodness. Which is perhaps why David dwells on His sufficiency at such length:

* therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

* They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house

* thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures

In fact, I wonder if the crux of the whole message is simply that:

For with thee [is] the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

Perhaps it all simply comes down to that one brute fact: do we trust that God alone is the source of life and light, or do we ignore God and strive to create our own light, making ourselves into gods — or should I say devils?

These meditations lead David to some very specific requests, one general:

O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

One personal:

Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.

And ends on a positive, if slightly morbid note:

There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise

I must confess, I’m not sure I understand everything that David was saying. But, it is important to remember that David is speaking to — and from — the heart, not (just) his head. And in my heart, I know he’s speaking a profound truth about who God is, and how we can experience His goodness amidst the wickedness of this world. I don’t so much need to understand it — as to grasp it!


God, I want to take hold of your goodness. I confess that you alone are God, the source of all life and light. I praise you for your mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, justice,and lovingkindness. You have truly blessed me with every good thing. Teach me to be fully satisfied by the fatness of your house, and yet simultaneously make me hunger for the river of your pleasures. For I know that only in desiring You — and You alone — can I escape the despair of the wicked. I ask all this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is an allusion to the hit musical.