Psalm 39 Commentary

Let’s turn to Psalm 39.

When it comes down to it, Psalm 39 is a lament psalm. But it’s a lament that was almost not given.

David’s going to explain some realities that discouraged him from speaking truthfully about his problems. But then we’re going to see him overcoming that as he considers how temporary this life truly is. From there, he eventually launches into his lament – in which he reflects on how his sin has resulted in unpleasant circumstances in his life. Then David finishes in a fairly melancholy way by asking God to give him some amount of joy before he dies.

That’s Psalm 39 in a nutshell. Now, let’s look at the details.

We’ll start with the superscription.

KJV Psalm 39:1 <To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.>

Jeduthun was the name of a Levite whom David appointed to lead one of the Temple choirs.

So, David is writing this psalm for the chief musician – in this case, this man named Jeduthun. That’s what we gather from the superscription.

Now, David begins the body of this psalm by rehearsing something that happened to him historically in verse 1.

I said,

I will take heed to my ways,
that I sin not with my tongue:

I will keep my mouth with a bridle,
while the wicked is before me.

Take heed and keep are both the same word in Hebrew. So, David is emphasizing his silence.

At some point in the past he determined that he would be silent.

Why? Well, he was concerned that he might sin with his tongue. And we all know how easy that is. The tongue is a fire – the very world of iniquity. If anyone doesn’t sin with his mouth he’s a perfect man.

So, David’s concern seems to be legitimate.

And he also tells us the kind of person he especially didn’t want to sin with his tongue in front of. It was the wicked.

And I think we all know what that’s like. Which one of us wants to make misstatements – even sinful statements – in front of a lost person? We’re trying to win them to Christ. So, I think we all tend to be pretty careful about what we say when they’re around.

And David was the same way. He was going to watch his ways and try to not sin with his tongue in front of people he knew who didn’t know the Lord.

And we’ll see later on in the development of this psalm that David really wanted to issue a lament – but he felt like that would be inappropriate to do in front of wicked people.

Why is that? Well, you and I have seen David’s lament psalms. And sometimes we can be almost shocked at how he complains to the Lord – sometimes he complains even about the Lord. And that’s not typically the message we want lost people to hear, is it?

You might know what it’s like to be going through some tremendous personal upheaval that is a direct result of how God is treating you as his child. And a lost person simply would not understand. In fact, if they knew of your bitter complaints about how God is dealing with you, you’re afraid that they might have even more reason to reject the Lord.

But then that lost loved one or friend comes up to you in the middle of your struggling and says, “So, how are you feeling?” And you want to pour out your bitter complaint to them – but you know they would have no ability to comprehend the true nature of your struggles.

I think that’s David’s concern here. He is struggling with God and would give his lament. And yet, he doesn’t want to make God look bad.

His concerns are appropriate. His heart is in the right place. But it’s not easy to refrain from issuing your laments about life – no matter how hard you try, as we see David relating his experience with trying to keep silent moving on into verse 2.

 2 I was dumb with silence,
I held my peace, even from good;

So, he was able to do this – to keep quiet in front of the wicked – even when he felt like he needed to express his great difficulties.

And what happened? End of verse 2.

and my sorrow was stirred.

Sorrow is also translated as grief or pain. So, he is now incredibly grieved with having to keep in his complaints.

And it gets worse for David in verse 3.

 3 My heart was hot within me,
while I was musing the fire burned:

So, he’s mulling over his difficulties. He’s thinking about them and brooding over them. And he feels restrained from speaking of them to the Lord – because he doesn’t want to make the Lord look bad in front of lost people.

But as he does this, it feels like a fire inside of him is burning. His heart is hot. He can’t hold this in any longer.

And so he finally speaks – as he admits at the end of verse 3.

then spake I with my tongue,

And so the following is what he ended up saying to the Lord.

And the first thing that David requests of the Lord is that God would help him to remember how temporary both he – and the wicked men whom he was concerned about – really are.

 4 LORD, make me to know mine end,
and the measure of my days,

what it is; that I may know how frail I am.

The word Know is used twice in this verse, as you can see. So, David is wanting God to impart knowledge to him.

And the knowledge he’s looking for has to do with his own mortality. He wants God to keep before his eyes the fact that he will someday die. David is asking God to help him remember that he is weak and needy.

And then it seems as if in the next verse David has indeed come to know those realties.

 5 Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth;
and mine age is as nothing before thee:

So, David understands these things.

He knows that his days are like a handbreadth – the distance from one side of your hand to the other. If we’re talking about length – how long is that? Somewhere between 2 and 4 inches. That’s not very much.

And that’s how David perceives his life. In light of eternity, a person’s life is so short. This is what David wanted to be reminded of – and it’s what God apparently did remind him of in light of his prayer in verse 4.

So, that’s David looking forward – he wants to know that the days he has left are few.

But he also wants to look back and see how brief his life has been thus far. He has come to realize that his age and the life he’s lived out thus far are nothing in God’s sight.

For a being who is eternal and has always been and will always be – you can imagine that the age of even the oldest living person in the world is unimpressive.

And we might tend to think that these details are morbid. We might try to actually avoid these realities and try to keep them out of our mind. But David here wants to ponder them. He wants to consider them.

And it’s not simply that David wants to know his own temporary nature. But we see him start at the end of verse 5 to consider the fact that everyone is like this.

verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.

Selah.

Literally – “Surely all breath all man standing.Man – even those who stand strong and mighty are merely a breath – a vapor that passes away.

And I think that David at this point – after the beginning of the psalm in which he was so overly concerned to keep his emotions hidden from wicked people – now David is starting to wonder how important it really is that he tries to make himself look good in front of them.

After all – these guys – and David himself – are all just going to pass away rather quickly. Why be so concerned about what others think about you – when both you and they are so temporary?

And why be so concerned about what the wicked think about God – if what you’re saying is truth? That’s I think what David delves into now in verse 6.

 6 Surely every man walketh in a vain shew:
surely they are disquieted in vain:

he heapeth up riches,
and knoweth not who shall gather them.

Now, the words “surely” and “vain” appear 3 times in this one psalm – verses 5, 6, and 11. In verses 5 and 11 the phrase “every man” also appears in the Hebrew. And even though the phrase “every man” shows up in verse 6 in the KJV, in Hebrew its simply “man.”

So, three times in this psalm, David is having to remind himself that “man” – “every man” even – is empty, is vain, is a vapor that passes away.

And these were the very men that he was so concerned about not offending. He was so concerned that the wicked ones among these men would take the opportunity to impugn God’s character based on the truth that David was wanting to speak.

And so, I think David is now saying – “Forget it! I’m sick of putting on a show for these men who are just temporary – like a cloud passing by.”

And the phrase vain show paints the picture even more vividly of how to think of these people. That Hebrew word in the KJV is translated once as vain show and the other 16 times it appears, it’s translated “image.”

Now, an image of something is not the thing itself. It’s a representation – but it’s not the substance. And so, David is saying that these men whom he was fearing are just like that – no substance, a temporary image. Not to be feared.

And these people are oftentimes wealthy in this world because they’re unscrupulous and have no fear of God that would curtail their unbridled pursuit of wealth-at-all-costs. And that’s what David is acknowledging at the end of verse 6. They do heap up riches.

But since these men are a mere breath – someday they leave their riches to others. And those riches might go immediately to someone they don’t know. Or maybe the riches get passed on to children. And then maybe to grandchildren. But even if that’s the case – eventually those riches go to someone they never knew.

And so, even when these people are worked up or disquieted – it’s nothing to fear.

Even though this kind of thing can honestly be rather frightening for the righteous. Does it frighten you when you read the news and some powerful politician is speaking of curtailing freedom in this country for Christians? Maybe he doesn’t come out and say that that’s his plan. But you can connect the dots and you know that what he’s proposing will result in injury for us.

I remember the morning when I read the news and discovered that our country’s Supreme Court had made it illegal to forbid the marriage of homosexuals. I felt as though I had entered a new age in this nation. Like – the day before that, the US was one thing that it would never be again. And I knew and still know that – apart from God’s undeserved mercy – this will cost us. And it will cost us because a majority of the 9 very powerful people on the bench of the Supreme Court decided to rewrite history at the disquieted urging of these men who are just an image and who – despite their disquietedness and raging – will ultimately pass away.

And when you find yourself in a situation like that with these disquieted vain people all around you gathering up their riches and intimidating you from speaking the truth, you have no one to whom you can turn – but the Lord. And that’s just what we see David doing in verse 7.

 7 And now, Lord, what wait I for?
my hope is in thee.

The psalmists often speak of waiting for the Lord. What he’s communicating is that he’s waiting for the Lord to come and rescue him or give him a swift answer or something like that. So, really what it is to wait for the Lord is to hope in him taking some sort of action – to confidently expect him to come through for you.

And that’s just what David says as he follows up the question he posed to himself regarding what he’s waiting for. He answers that question with the response that he’s hoping in the Lord. He’s waiting for the Lord to take action on his behalf.

And it’s interesting that in the next verse it seems as if the wicked are out of his mind now as he’s focused on the Lord alone.

In fact, this might be the lament that David wanted to give at the start but was hindered by the presence of evil men.

 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions:
make me not the reproach of the foolish.

So, David is saying that if God allows the natural consequences of his sin to catch up with him, that things will get so bad for him that even fools will insult him.

And, think of this. It seems quite likely that David was personally embarrassed – and that’s maybe why he didn’t want to speak of these things in front of the wicked. He didn’t necessarily want them to know how bad he was and how God was chastening him for his sin.

And so, that’s why we saw him reflecting on his own transiency and that of the wicked as well. It’s like he had to come to the point where he’s realizing in a new way that he’s not going to live forever in his current body. He is frail and weak – so why pretend like he’s not? To gain the respect of wicked men – who themselves are so temporary?

The alternative? Pour out your heart concerning the fact that you have sinned and that God is chastening you. If the wicked don’t like it – or they use it as an opportunity to discredit you – who are they, anyway? And how insignificant is their opinion?

Yes, David sinned. Yes, he was being chastened. No, he shouldn’t feel compelled to hide the fact that God was dealing with him about it.

And those consequences of David’s sin had quite an impact on him, as David testifies in verse 9.

 9 I was dumb,
I opened not my mouth;

because thou didst it.

David is going back to the beginning of the psalm where he felt compelled to not speak of God’s chastening of his sin in front of the wicked.

Why was he silent? It’s because God was chastening him. God did it.

So, we see that David is now owning up to this. “Yes, I’m being chastened. Yes, it’s God who’s doing it.

So, what did God’s chastening feel like for David? Verse 10 begins to fill us in.

 10 Remove thy stroke away from me:
I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.

The word translated here as stroke is translated that way 4 times in the KJV. But 65 times it’s translated as plague. So, David has been experiencing something that he considers a plague – a sickness, a disease – something like that.

And it’s God’s plague. God sent it. God did it to David. David perceives that it is from God’s hand. This plague-like blow is from the Lord. And as we saw earlier, it’s a result of his sin.

And this blow is consuming. It makes David feel like this could be the end of him.

And then David seems to broaden his consideration of the effects of God’s chastening of his own sin – to thinking more broadly of how God deals with everyone for their sin in verse 11.

 11 When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity,
thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth:

It’s as if David is kind of removing himself from the situation and speaking to God very calmly and rationally about the way that God deals with people because of their sin.

I think he’s using this consideration to help him deal with that initial reticence to confess that God was chastening him for his sin. Sometimes we can feel almost like we’re the only one that knows what chastening for sin feels like. But David here is reminding himself that God deals with others the same way. He’s not alone. He’s not the only one who knows what this is like.

Even the wicked – whom he was so ashamed of knowing of his chastening – they typically experience hardships as a result of their sin.

Now, David says that God is like a moth. Moths are ravenous creatures – considering how small they are. And yet, they don’t eat everything quickly. It takes time for them to consume what they’re devouring.

And yet, eventually, if you leave a garment in a place where there’s a moth – maybe in the basement of your home or somewhere like that – you’ll come back to a garment that’s full of holes.

And that’s how David pictures God. As he chastens us it’s like he’s a consuming moth. He will eat up what is beautiful – covetable, delightful, pleasant.

And I don’t know about you – but when a person considers what God does in response to his sin – how he takes away the stuff that’s most delightful to him – you might get a little angry.

Your response to God’s chastening might be questioning God about his ways.

And yet, that’s not David’s response. Look at what he turns to when he considers God’s chastening of people. He says…

surely every man is vanity.

Selah.

So, instead of getting angry at God and reflecting on God in response to his dealing with sinners, David looks at and considers the nature of the sinner.

We’re all vanity. We’re all a mere vapor. We’re a cloud blown through the atmosphere.

We’re vulnerable to moths – both literal and metaphorical!

But David turns now from considering the destructive nature of the Lord when it comes to dealing with sin – and the transient nature of sinners – and now he’s going to petition the Lord in verse 12.

12 Hear my prayer, O LORD,
and give ear unto my cry;

hold not thy peace at my tears:

So, this is very serious to David. He’s praying and crying and he has tears about his sin and the consequences that it’s produced in his life.

And then David launches into picturing himself as a stranger and wanderer in the rest of verse 12.

for I am a stranger with thee,

and a sojourner,
as all my fathers were.

We are strangers in this world. This isn’t our permanent home. We don’t derive ultimate satisfaction from the stuff here. Neither did David.

He sensed that he was in an alien environment – a foreign place – where he could just not ever feel at home.

And that sounds all very sad and woeful. But notice what David says. Yes, he’s a stranger – but he’s a stranger with God.

David’s not saying that he’s a stranger to God. But that somehow God is a stranger with him.

And isn’t that comforting to know? You and I feel like we don’t belong here. But – you know what? God feels the same way.

When he looks at this world and its systems that are set against him, he feels just as estranged from it as we do.

And I think that David is again reminding himself of the fact that revealing the fact that God is chastening him for sins is not something that he needs to hide at all costs. It might damage his reputation with some – but honestly, David is a stranger in this world. Why should he be so concerned about his reputation?

Then David has one last request of the Lord.

 13 O spare me, that I may recover strength,
before I go hence, and be no more.

So, David is asking God to spare him. Another way that’s translated in the KJV is to turn away. And obviously, David values God’s fellow-alienship with him. He’s not asking God to stop looking favorably upon him. Rather, David is asking that God turn his angry destructive gaze from him.

And if God does that, David says that he will recover strength. That can also be translated as be comforted or even smile. So, David wants to be comforted – even to the point of smiling.

And he wants this to happen before he dies. That’s what he means by saying that he wants these things to happen before he goes hence and is no more.

It’s a fairly negative note to end this psalm with. And yet, it’s just one more instance of David coming to terms with his temporary nature on the earth. And it’s that temporary nature that he’s reflecting on to not make such a big deal of what others think of him.

David here is like the Syrophoenician woman in the Gospels who would be happy with the crumbs from the table. David will take anything he can get.

At this point – after being reduced to a moth-eaten garment – after trying to hide his pain and chastening by the Lord from the wicked around him – all David wants is to simply be able to smile before he dies.

He’s hoping for more. That was evident from what he’s said previously in this psalm. But he at least wants to be able to smile once more in this life.

May the Lord be at least that gracious to us – and to anyone who’s experiencing whatever level of chastening for our sin. May the Lord spare us and comfort us once more.

Psalm 38 Commentary

Let’s turn to Psalm 38.

Psalm 38 is a lament psalm. In it, David is rehearsing the fact that his sin has caused God to attack him. As a result, David is suffering physically and emotionally. Add to that – his friends are leaving him and his enemies are increasing in number and in power.

So, let’s look at the superscription of Psalm 38 first.

KJV Psalm 38:1 <A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.>

And the question here is – Who or what is to be brought to remembrance? Is it David’s sin? Is it God’s mercy?

I think the remembrance that this psalm is referring to is God remembering – taking note of – David in all of his trouble. In other words, David is writing this psalm with a view to getting God’s attention – having him remember David in that way.

Chastened by God for Sins

Why does David need God to take note of and remember him? That’s where we start in verse 1.

O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath:
neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

And what we discover throughout this psalm is that these things were already happening. David was already being rebuked and chastened in God’s wrath and hot displeasure.

So, Davis is saying to God “please stop doing these things to me.”

Well, what makes David think that God is actually doing this to him? What is coming across to David as rebuke and chastening? Verse 2.

 2 For thine arrows stick fast in me,
and thy hand presseth me sore.

Now, we can point out that God has not literally taken a bow and arrow and shot them into David. Neither did God literally take his physical hand and press it down on David.

So then, what is David communicating?

David is saying that God – in his eyes – has become his enemy. God has attacked David – as if he were an archer with bow and arrows.

God is like a giant whose hand he is using to press down upon the helpless David. He feels pressured in life and he knows that he is in danger – and he is recognizing it as all God’s doing.

But he’s not claiming that God’s actions are unjustified. No – God has reason for doing what he’s doing – as we see in verse 3.

 3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger;
neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.

God is responding to David the way he is because God is angry because of David’s sin.

And God’s righteous anger toward David’s sins has some very unpleasant results. David reports a lack of soundness in his flesh and no rest in his bones. He is physically suffering as a result of his sin.

And yet, it’s not that David is focused solely on God’s punishing his sin. In verse 4 he actually recognizes that it’s not the punishment of his sin that’s the most overwhelming reality – actually, his sin itself is.

 4 For mine iniquities are gone over mine head:
as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.

So, it’s as if David pictures himself in a sea of his sin. It’s gone over his head. He’s drowning in it. That’s how he feels. It’s overwhelming for him.

And if he were to try to lift his sin and put it somewhere else – so to speak – that would be an impossible task. It’s too heavy for him to lift or move or bear.

But now that David has considered the horrible nature of his sin once more, he turns back to consider its consequences in verse 5.

 5 My wounds stink
and are corrupt because of my foolishness.

And so, my question at this point is – is David really saying that he has literal wounds that are literally stinking and rotting?

I hate to over-emphasize the metaphorical nature of the psalms. I want to be careful not to interpret something as figurative and poetic when perhaps it was meant to be understood as literal.

And yet, we’ve already seen David speaking in highly poetic terms – God’s arrows are stuck in him. God has a hand that is pressing down on him. These images are very metaphorical and non-literal.

They communicate truth – but the truth is indirect – it’s represented by the pictures that he paints.

And I can kind of struggle with this. As I’m studying through this psalm and other lament psalms, I find myself wondering why David needs to be so imaginative in his description of his suffering as a result of his sin. And I think I’m not alone.

So, here are a few thoughts to help explain why we tend to be so puzzled over how the psalmists tend to be highly imaginative in the way they describe their situation – especially in lament psalms.

First, let’s look at ourselves. The way we describe our pain and suffering as a result of our sin or for any other reason can be so… bland and colorless. Have you ever been experiencing chastening for sin? You might say, “I hate this” or “God, please help” or “God, please stop” or whatever else.

Well then, how is saying those things any better than praying to God and speaking of God’s arrows being shot into you and causing your flesh to rot? The way the psalmist paints his suffering is so much more vivid and expressive and emotionally accurate than our rather timid and unexpressive verbal statements.

So, I think the big problem here in interpreting lament psalms for us is that when we’re lamenting to God, our laments are so bland. We’re not thinking of expressing our difficulties and struggles with such vivid pictures. But David is and he does throughout the book of Psalms.

I’m not saying that we need to express ourselves in the exact same ways as David does. But neither would I discourage a little emotional maturing on the part of all of us by means of really vividly describing our suffering in concrete word pictures.

Don’t worry of overstating things. David is obviously doing that here in this psalm. It’s a poetic device called hyperbole.

Hyperbole is not lying. Hyperbole is stating emotional truth. Now, emotional truth may not be – and usually is not – factual truth. For example, God was not really shooting arrows at David. And yet, that’s exactly how David felt – as if God was shooting arrows right into his body.

So, as we bring our laments to God we can use hyperbole. It’s OK.

But even if you continue to prefer speaking of your trials in terms of “I don’t like this” and “God, please stop” – at least we are – I trust – coming to terms with how and why David is expressing himself the way he does in this psalms.

So, stinking and rotting wounds? Yes – that’s how David is feeling about the whole situation.

And no doubt there was some disease that David is experiencing as a result of God’s chastening.

And so that leads to one more thing we ought to consider. Do we think that sickness and disease is ever a part of God’s chastening of us?

I think sometimes we look at the book of Job – for example – and we think that Job’s friends were wrong for thinking that everything Job suffered was a direct result of Job’s sin.

We hear Jesus in the Gospels tell his disciples that neither this man nor his parents sinned to lead him to be a paralytic.

And so, we start thinking that sickness can NEVER be a result of personal sin. But then we have statements that balance that view out – like the fact that some in the church at Corinth were SICK because of their sin of divisiveness.

So, it’s an unscriptural stretch to think that every sickness or disease or trial is a direct result of someone’s sin. And at the same time, it’s also unscriptural to think that God never uses sickness or disease to chasten his people because of their sin.

One commentary I read by a man named Derek Kidner put it something like this –  to think that sickness is never the result of sin is as unwise as thinking that it is always the result of sin.

So, David has been describing his physical difficulties that he connects to his sin. But now in verse 6 he will speak of his emotional difficulties.

 6 I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly;
I go mourning all the day long.

And even in this verse you see the wedding of the physical and emotional. His emotional sorrow creates a physical response. He mourns and is troubled emotionally and that causes him to be bowed down physically.

And don’t we know what that’s like – to have our emotions affect our physical appearance?

Well, then David returns to the physical results of his sin in verse 7.

 7 For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease:
and there is no soundness in my flesh.

8 I am feeble and sore broken:
I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.

So, with his physical and emotional condition laid out before himself and the Lord, David turns his thoughts toward God with an appeal to him in verse 9.

 9 Lord, all my desire is before thee;
and my groaning is not hid from thee.

So, David is confident that the Lord understands all of his desires. In that sense they are “before” the Lord.

And so, David seems to take some comfort in the knowledge that God knows all about his suffering. And yet, he doesn’t stay there very long because in verse 10 he returns to his physical struggles.

 10 My heart panteth, my strength faileth me:
as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.

So, we have here the picture here of David’s heart beating quickly. That’s how it can be said to “pant.”

And then, the light of David’s eyes would be his physical energy, his life, or his sight. And so, he’s saying that at least one of those things is leaving him.

So, David made a brief appeal to God in verse 9 and then here in verse 10, he’s right back to highlighting his physical problems that have resulted from his sin.

It’s like David can sort of lift his head and put his focus on God for a brief moment. But when it comes down to it, of these first ten verses of this psalm, David’s attention is mainly on his own suffering as a result of his sin.

And that’s probably what makes it so difficult for David to focus on God for very long. Because every time he does, he’s reminded of the one who is chastening him over personally offending this loving God – who loves his people too much to let us continue in our sin.

So, David has so far been very focused on his own physical and emotional state.

Forsaken by Others

But David’s problems aren’t limited to his physical and emotional state. He said that the “light of his eyes” had gone away in verse 10. But that’s not the only thing that’s leaving him.

All of these problems of his have caused his friends to leave him as well. We see that in verse 11.

 11 My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore;
and my kinsmen stand afar off.

The word translated “sore” is far more often translated as “plague” in the KJV. In other words, David’s manifold physical ailments are keeping his friends away. Even his family isn’t going to get close to him.

And who else in this life do you have that will tend to stick with you beside these people that David mentions? Those who loves you – your friends – your kinsmen – these are the people who – if anyone is going to stick with you – it’s them.

But even these are leaving David. And they’re leaving because they see how afflicted he is by God.

Pursued by Enemies

Now, it’s one thing for friends and family to forsake you. But David’s problems are going a step farther. His enemies are pursuing him at the exact same time as all of this other stuff is happening, according to verse 12.

 12 They also that seek after my life lay snares for me:
and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.

So, these folks are planning to kill David.

Personal Helplessness

And meanwhile – as all of the enemies gang up on David, as all of his loved ones abandon him, as all of his physical and emotional difficulties crowd around him – he acknowledges his own personal helplessness before all of it in verses 13 and 14.

 13 But I, as a deaf man, heard not;
and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.

14 Thus I was as a man that heareth not,
and in whose mouth are no reproofs.

So, basically he says in those two verses, “Verse 13I didn’t hear. I didn’t speak. Verse 14 – I didn’t hear. I didn’t speak.

He’s picturing himself as helpless to return any defense against these realities. It’s as if he’s in a court of law as the defense – but he can’t hear any of the arguments and he can’t speak in his own defense. He’s helpless to defend himself.

Hope in the Lord

And so, David is left in this really awful position of not being able to defend himself. And yet, it’s at that point when he breaks out in verse 15 with a declaration of confidence in the Lord.

 15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope:
thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.

So, even though David himself is pictured as not being able to hear – he knows one who can hear – the Lord his God. And for that reason – even though David can’t see the end to this trial – he is going to hope in the Lord. He’s going to confidently expect the Lord’s help.

Then David rehearses the fact that he did seek the Lord in prayer about all of his awful problems in verse 16.

 16 For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me:
when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.

So, David did pray to the Lord about his problems.

But immediately it seems that David slips back into thinking about his problems once more in both verses 16 and 17. Even David’s remembrance of praying for deliverance from these troubling realities brings back to his mind those very same troubling realities.

 17 For I am ready to halt,
and my sorrow is continually before me.

David says he is ready to halt – that is, he’s ready to stumble and fall. He feels that close to the brink.

He’s constantly mindful of his sorrow – or even his pain is how that can be translated.

Repentance for Sin

And even though David’s mind sucked him right back to his problems in this life – David once again has his eyes on his relationship with the Lord in verse 18.

 18 For I will declare mine iniquity;
I will be sorry for my sin.

So, when it comes down to it – what was responsible for David’s numerous difficulties? Was it ultimately the enemies? Was it his physical and emotional pains? Was the reason for all of this simply due to his friends forsaking him?

No. David was suffering all of these things – as he admits – because of his sin. And that’s why we just saw him vowing to confess and sorrow over his sin.

He wouldn’t treat his own sin as a light matter. He wasn’t going to be ambivalent toward it. He was going to own it and confess it and sorrow over it.

Remembrance of Enemies

And you’d like to think that that would solve all of David’s problems. And yet, that would mean we’d need to ignore the next two verses where David returns to lamenting his enemies who are multiplying.

 19 But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong:
and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.

20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries;
because I follow the thing that good is.

And I think what David is experiencing here is this. When we sin and confess it to the Lord, we might think that that will fix everything. And yet, it sometimes just doesn’t. Our sin can cause irreversible damage sometimes.

And so, even though David has now confessed his sin and sought to do good – well, his enemies are still there and they’re not just going to magically disappear.

Plea for Help

And that’s why David sees the need to end this psalm in a kind of unsettled and open-ended way – seeking the Lord’s continued help for the lingering effects of his confessed sin.

 21 Forsake me not, O LORD:
O my God, be not far from me.

22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord my salvation.

Have you ever found yourself ending your prayers like this? No clear resolution to your problems? All you have to rely on is the Lord ending his silence and coming to your aid.

So, may the Lord not forsake a single one of us. He has promised to never leave or forsake us. So, let’s not be ashamed to pray that promise back to him.

May the Lord not be far from any one of us – just as in truth he is near to each of us – and will draw near to us as we draw near to him.

May the Lord – who alone is our salvation – be swift to help us in every trial, problem, and difficulty each of us is experiencing and wrestling with today.

Psalm 37 Commentary

Open to Psalm 37.

I want to start this lesson by asking a question.

To what or to whom are you called by God in this life?

Are you married? You’ve been called by God to be in that marriage.

Are you employed? Then you are called to that occupation.

Are you a member of a church? God has called you to that very church.

There are other things that God has called each of us individually to do in this life. But those three things are a pretty good start. Family, work, church.

Now, let me ask – are there things that cause you to want to abandon these entities to which you are called?

For instance, is your marriage hard? Do you live with a sinner? In your less guarded moments, you might shamefully want out of that institution to which you know that God has called you.

How is work for you? Do you deal with any sinners there? Do you run into opposition? Are there thorns and thistles – as it were – in your job? You have probably wondered sometimes if you should just leave and pursue something else. But God has called you there.

And how about your church? Are there sinners here? Have we had difficulties? Have people disappointed you? And you wouldn’t be alone historically – whether in this church or any other – if you want to leave the church to which God has called you.

Now, Israel in King David’s time was evidently experiencing these same realities. God had called them to inherit the land. He took them out of Egypt, brought them to Canaan, and had them possess that land.

But they never drove out the wicked Canaanites. And as a result, those Canaanites influenced Israel to sin even worse than those Canaanites.

And so, a righteous man living in the midst of this sin would be tempted to abandon the land that God had called him to. David himself did that temporarily when he fled from Saul to the king of the Philistines. It wasn’t pretty.

Others throughout Bible history have discovered that leaving the land was not a good thing for them – Naomi and her family come to mind.

So, in the midst of the temptation to leave the land, David pens Psalm 37 to encourage his fellow-Israelites to Stay Put and Do Good. Don’t abandon what God has called you to – even when there are evil people there who would destroy you.

So, let’s allow Psalm 37 to instruct us on staying put and doing good in every place that we’ve been called by God to occupy in this life.

Now, Psalm 37 is laid out as an acrostic poem. But there are only 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and 40 verses in this psalm. That’s because it’s generally every other verse that starts with the next Hebrew letter.

And Psalm 37 is also a meditative or reflective psalm. David is leading us to meditate on and reflect upon the fact that they ought not abandon the land simply because they are running into trouble.

So, let’s start by reading the superscription and verse 1.

KJV Psalm 37:1 <A Psalm of David.>

Fret not thyself because of evildoers,
neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

OK, so why should we not fret over people who do evil – or even go a step farther and envy them? Verse 2.

2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
and wither as the green herb.

Evildoers and workers of iniquity are limited in their duration. Their time to do what they’re doing – evil – is short. It’s temporary.

Just like grass that’s mowed down. I mow my grass about once a week in the summer. And even then I should be doing it more frequently – to avoid my yard becoming a jungle!

And even though I might think of a week being a long time when it comes to cutting grass – compared to the duration of one’s lifetime – and certainly in light of eternity – a week is short.

And that’s what we’re to remind ourselves concerning evildoers and workers of iniquity.

Don’t fear and don’t envy them. They won’t last. They’re not permanent.

And when David speaks of them being cut down – he doesn’t state the actor of that verb. Who’s doing the cutting down of evildoers eventually?

The Lord will cut down the workers of iniquity.

And so, we shouldn’t fear them – but rather we should fear the Lord, as we’re encouraged to do in verse 3.

3 Trust in the LORD,
and do good;

Well, what happens when we trust in the Lord and do good rather than adopt the actions of evildoers?

so shalt thou dwell in the land,
and verily thou shalt be fed.

It seems from this verse and others that part of why David wrote this psalm was to encourage God’s people of that time – the Israelites – to stay in the land of Israel. That’s where God had called them. He gave them that land as an inheritance and he wanted them to stay there and dwell in it.

But apparently, the godly struggled to know if they really ought to stay there. They thought that maybe they ought to leave. Why? Because of the prevalence of these evildoers and workers of iniquity.

Perhaps even, David wrote this psalm when he personally had to flee from Absalom his son – but he advised others to stay in the land.

Or it could be that David wrote this psalm after he was influenced by Saul to escape Israel and go to the Philistines. That situation was a pretty embarrassing mistake for David – and so perhaps he wrote this psalm now to warn against that kind of mistake for others.

Whatever the backdrop to this psalm – the message is clear. Stay where God has placed you, generally. And if evildoers in any way threaten you in that place, and you can’t understand how you could possibly stay put when so much seems to be wrong – then the answer that we’ve seen already is “trust in the Lord.”

If you do – the promise is that you’ll be fed. You’ll be provided for and taken care of.

And as you’re staying in the place that God has assigned you, your attitude is not to be grudging and brooding and sorrowful. Even if your situation is not as cheery as you’d like – there is always one reality that you can delight you – according to verse 4.

4 Delight thyself also in the LORD;
and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

There are two ways to think of this verse.

The first way is to take this to mean that God is going to reward you for delighting yourself in him. That is, if you consciously enjoy the Lord he will respond to that by giving you what you desire.

Another way to think of this verse is to recognize that as you intentionally enjoy the Lord – his word, his fellowship, etc. – then he is actually going to change your desires to the point where your desires are his and he will be pleased to grant them.

I think that the second way of reading this verse is correct.

5 Commit thy way unto the LORD;
trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Literally, “Roll your path upon the Lord. And trust in him and he will do.” Our life is like a path that we walk on every day. For the person who feels stuck in a bad situation like David’s audience was, that person is still on a path – but the path can be heavy and burdensome. That’s why we’re told to roll that path upon the Lord – to commit it to him in that sense. To place it in his hands and no longer carry that burden.

And as we do this – rolling our path onto the Lord – and as we trust him in that way, then “he will do.” He will take care of you. You don’t need to worry. Yield everything to him and he’ll take care of the rest.

Stay on the path – but roll that path onto him. You have your part to play – don’t get off the path. Don’t stop being faithful and doing good. But then the Lord has his part to play of taking care of you as you do his will – even in uncomfortable situations.

And here’s more of what the Lord will do for you – verse 6.

6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light,
and thy judgment as the noonday.

When David speaks of bringing forth righteousness and judgement – what he’s talking about is this. As you keep yourself in a high-pressure situation for the Lord’s sake – you stay in the land, as it were, even when it’s full of evildoers. When that happens it’s very likely that you’ll look like the bad guy. People will question your character. You might be falsely accused – because quite honestly, this is what wicked people like to do.

But don’t let that stop you from going on and doing good and trusting the Lord. If you do trust him like verse 5 spoke of, then he will vindicate you – bring forth your righteousness and judgement. And he’ll do it publicly – as the light and as the noonday. Your vindication will be unavoidable. Everyone will know it.

Now, we understand that sometimes in this life vindication doesn’t come. And yet, in God’s kingdom when it comes you and I most certainly will be vindicated.

And of course, waiting for God’s kingdom to come might take a while. That’s why we’re given the next two commands in verse 7.

7 Rest in the LORD,
and wait patiently for him:

Rest and wait. He doesn’t act according to your timeline. But he will most certainly act.

And while you’re waiting for God to act, don’t do this…

fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way,
because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

And actually, from the middle of verse 7 to the end of verse 10 we have several ways that we should respond to and think about these wicked people that make staying put where god wants you to be so hard.

So, don’t fret. In Hebrew that word fret means to become angry or inflamed even. Don’t get fired up about this kind of person. Even though it looks like he’s winning. God’s counsel – his loving command to you – is to not get angry about him.

And the next verse actually concedes that you probably are angry about him. And God gently commands you to stop that.

8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:
fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

Anger against wickedness is such a natural reaction. God himself is angry with the wicked every day.

And yet, God is also patient with the wicked every day. He’s slow to anger. And we need to be, too – which is what this verse is urging on us.

But does that mean that evil people will just go undealt with? Well, that’s what verse 9 anticipates you asking. And David responds…

9 For evildoers shall be cut off:

They will perish – both now and in eternity. They are separated from God both now and eternally.

But in contrast, for you who know and love the Lord…

but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

The same Hebrew word is translated in the Old Testament as both earth and land. So, again, in context this verse is speaking of Israelites who would have been tempted to leave God’s promised land to them because of the presence and influence of evil men.

And, God says that those who wait on the Lord to take action and don’t take it upon themselves to leave when the going gets tough – those people will inherit the land. Obviously, if you leave the land you can’t inherit it.

So, God’s command to them and you is – stay put.

And David gives more reason to stay put in verse 10. Namely. the wicked are temporary.

10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be:
yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.

Evil men don’t stick around forever. Outlast them. Do what you know to be right and know that they will eventually be taken away. You don’t know how that’s going to happen. But that’s why you keep being admonished to wait and watch for what God is going to do.

And in contrast to the wicked – who do not get the land – they’re going to be no more and basically seem to disappear from the land – in contrast to them…

11 But the meek shall inherit the earth;
and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

There’s peace coming. Just wait for it. Wait for… the Lord.

Then David really shines a light on the nature of the wicked and what God is going to do to them, starting in verse 12.

And actually, from verse 12 on to the end of this psalm, David employs these short sayings that sound a lot like proverbs to describe the reality of the wicked, the righteous, and how God reacts to both of these groups.

Verses 12 and 13 speak of the terrible actions of the wicked against the just – and then how the Lord reacts to those actions.

12 The wicked plotteth against the just,
and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.

That sounds unpleasant. Literally, David is having us picture the wicked grinding the just with their teeth. Picture that literally happening. Ouch!

And the first line is no better. The wicked plans to destroy the just.

But who cares? Because here’s what God is going to do to those wicked scheming cannibals…

13 The Lord shall laugh at him:
for he seeth that his day is coming.

There is a day of judgement coming for the wicked. They can do their worst to God’s people in this life. But God is not threatened by them. He knows that he’s going to judge them soon.

Then in verses 14 and 15 we see the devices of the wicked being turned back on themselves.

14 The wicked have drawn out the sword,
and have bent their bow,

to cast down the poor and needy,
and to slay such as be of upright conversation [lit. those who are on the straight road].

Yikes – that’s terrifying! Picturing people lined up with swords and bows and arrows to shoot innocent people down!

But those very weapons will eventually be used against the wicked to destroy them.

15 Their sword shall enter into their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

It will happen. The wicked will get their just desert soon enough. Wait for it.

Then in verses 16 and 17 the Lord compares the poverty of a righteous person with the riches of a wicked person and concludes that the righteous are better off.

16 A little that a righteous man hath
is better than the riches of many wicked.

Why is this? This sounds wrong. All else being equal, we want more than less. Doesn’t it seem like the wicked are in the more enviable position here?

Yes, it does – from a physical, earthly standpoint. But that would be to leave God out of the picture.

17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken:
but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.

Arms being broken of course can literally happen – but it’s often a metaphor for a person’s power being curtailed. So, the wicked will have whatever power he has taken away from him.

In contrast, the righteous man who may have very little in this life will receive this incredible blessing – the Lord upholding him. The Lord destroys the strength of the wicked – but he is the strength of the righteous man.

Then verses 18 through 20 highlight the permanency of the righteous and the temporary nature of the wicked.

18 The LORD knoweth the days of the upright:
and their inheritance shall be for ever.

So, the Lord cares for the upright in this life – he knows our days. And beyond that, he has given us an inheritance that is permanent and eternal.

19 They shall not be ashamed in the evil time:
and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.

And in this life – even in times of famine and leanness he will see to it that we’re taken care of.

That’s not the case with the wicked.

20 But the wicked shall perish,
and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs:

they shall consume;
into smoke shall they consume away.

So, note the contrast here between the permanence of the righteous and the temporary nature of the wicked. They perish and will be burned like the fat of the Hebrews’ sacrifices. They’ll go up in smoke.

Then verses 21 and 22 have another contrast between the righteous and the wicked.

21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again:
but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.

22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth;
and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.

I think what’s interesting in that last proverb is that you have in verse 21 the way that the righteous and the wicked deal with material possessions in this world. The wicked take and don’t give. The righteous give mercifully.

And then you see that God responds to the giving of the righteous with more giving – he gives them the earth – or the land. Again, David is probably dealing more with the idea of God giving the land of Israel as an inheritance to those who are righteous.

The wicked – on the other hand – get nothing. They are stingy and so God is stingy with them. He cuts them off from the land.

Then verses 23 and 24 contain a fairly well-known proverb that most of us are familiar with.

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:
and he delighteth in his way.

24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:
for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

And you can see that the word good in verse 23 is actually italicized. That means it’s not there in the Hebrew text. But the KJV translators put it there to make it clear that we’re talking about the righteous here.

God orders the steps of that man. God makes sure that he gets where he should go.

And then it says that “he delights in his way.” And the question is “to whom do these two pronouns refer?” Is “he” God or the righteous? Is “his” God or the righteous?

And it’s really a toss-up. And both work perfectly. God delights in the way of a righteous man. And the righteous man delights in God’s way.

And the Lord acknowledges that there will be failures in the life of the righteous. And yet – he won’t be cut off like the wicked. No – he has God holding his hand and ready to pick him back up and dust him off, as it were.

And then in verses 25 and 26 David relates his life-long experience of God providing for the righteous.

25 I have been young,
and now am old;

yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken,
nor his seed begging bread.

26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth;
and his seed is blessed.

And so again we have this interesting view into how the Lord provides for the righteous and how they in turn provide for others. God is generous with them. They are generous with others. God is merciful to them and they return the favor to others.

And ultimately this results in their children – their “seed” – not lacking what they need but rather being blessed.

And then verses 27 through 29 might be something of a call to the wicked or those who are tempted to be like them.

27 Depart from evil, and do good;
and dwell for evermore.

28 For the LORD loveth judgment,
and forsaketh not his saints;

they are preserved for ever:
but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

29 The righteous shall inherit the land,
and dwell therein for ever.

Again, we see this theme of inheriting the land. And this privilege comes from departing from evil and doing good.

So, this may be a call to the wicked to abandon what they’re currently doing in light of the fact that their seed – unlike the seed of the righteous in the last proverb we saw – will be cut off if they continue in their ways.

But then it’s like God holds up for the wicked the example and end of the righteous and says “wouldn’t you rather be like this? Inheriting the land, preserved forever, never forsaken?”

Then in verses 30 and 31 we have a proverb that extolls the speech of the righteous that comes from a good heart. And the proverb asserts that this man’s speech and heart lead to a stable life.

30 The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom,
and his tongue talketh of judgment.

31 The law of his God is in his heart;
none of his steps shall slide.

And yet, a stable life is no guarantee of a life free from threats and danger – especially from the wicked, as our next proverb in verses 32 and 33 tells us.

32 The wicked watcheth the righteous,
and seeketh to slay him.

33 The LORD will not leave him in his hand,
nor condemn him when he is judged.

So, there is constant danger for the righteous from wicked people – especially in the context of ancient Israel. And yet the Lord will protect his people. And even when we’re judged by others – the Lord won’t allow our condemnation to be ultimately upheld.

And this takes patience – to endure the persecution of wicked men and expectantly wait for God’s deliverance – especially when it appears that godly people are being victimized by evil men.

And that’s why David comes back in verse 34 to remind God’s people to patiently keep doing good with an eye toward the Lord.

34 Wait on the LORD, and keep his way,
and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land:

when the wicked are cut off,
thou shalt see it.

The wicked haven’t been cut off yet. But when it does happen, the righteous will be there to see it.

But we don’t see it yet – at least we don’t see it universally – and we never will in this age. But David in verses 35 and 36 relates the fact that he has seen this happen – the wicked being cut off – in individual cases. And that’s reason to hope for the time when all of them are dealt with finally.

35 I have seen the wicked in great power,
and spreading himself like a green [i.e., luxuriant/fresh…] bay tree.

36 Yet he passed away,
and, lo, he was not:

yea, I sought him,
but he could not be found.

Wicked men can have great power in this life. But thankfully they’re temporary and so is their evil.

So, that’s the end of the wicked – kind of an anticlimactic disappearing. On the other hand, David speaks in verses 37 and 38 of the end of the righteous.

37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright:
for the end of that man is peace.

38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together:
the end of the wicked shall be cut off.

And finally, David ends this psalm speaking of how the Lord saves or delivers his people from their enemies. And he does this because they trust in him.

39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD:
he is their strength in the time of trouble.

40 And the LORD shall help them,
and deliver them:

he shall deliver them from the wicked,
and save them,

because they trust in him.

So, the righteous are saved by faith. See that? Here in the Old Testament – the righteous are saved or delivered because they trust in the Lord.

So, may the Lord help us to Stay Put and Do Good in the places to which he has called us as we wait for his Son to return for us.

Psalm 36 Commentary

Open your Bibles to Psalm 36 for this Psalm 36 commentary.

Psalm 36 Commentary | Genre

Psalm 36 is kind of a cross between a lament psalm and a meditative psalm.

It has all the five ingredients of a lament psalm – the lament, where David reveals the problem he needs God’s help to work through, then there’s praise to God, invoking God for help, asking God for whatever the psalmist needs, and then expressing confidence in the Lord. We’ll see all five of those components in this psalm.

But if it is a lament psalm, I think you’ll agree that it about the most upbeat and positive lament psalm we’ve ever seen.

The mood of a lament psalm is so often dark and brooding and sad. But this psalm doesn’t seem to display that tone.

So, I think of Psalm 36 as maybe a “happy lament” psalm or a “dispassionate lament” psalm. And you can see for yourself as we study through this psalm if you agree with that assessment – that there’s just something different about this psalm than what we’re used to seeing with other lament psalms.

Psalm 36 Commentary |

Superscription

KJV Psalm 36:1 <To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD.>

Often the word “servant,” “David,” and “Yahweh” appear in 2Sa 7 and the Davidic Covenant. Look that up…

Psalm 36 Commentary | The Wicked | 1-4

The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart,
that there is no fear of God before his eyes.

That first line there is fairly awkward and puzzling as we have it in the King James Version. I’ll read what it says very mechanically in the Hebrew – “An utterance/oracle of transgression to the wicked man [is] in the midst of my heart.

In other words, David has an oracle or an utterance from the Lord. And it’s concerning transgression – sin. And this oracle that’s about sin is directed to the wicked man – the individual who as a practice and way of life practices this sin. And this oracle comes from the Lord – yes – but it’s also coming through David. It’s coming from the midst of his heart – from his innermost being for this kind of person.

So, David has a message to communicate to the typical wicked man about his sin. And this message is from the Lord.

And here is the start of the message – there is no fear of God before his eyes. He has not set reverencing God before him. It’s not a priority in his life. He simply ignores God and his righteous character and demands. If he wrongs his neighbor, it’s not a big deal – because after all – in his mind – God’s not watching. And if he is watching, he’s not going to do anything. This is what’s going through the wicked man’s mind.

And, so, since the wicked man’s eyes lack the fear of God before them, he replaces that fear with something else, according to verse 2.

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

That first line reads, “Because he makes smooth to him in the eyes of him.” Making smooth is often the way that flattery is portrayed in the Old Testament. The idea is that you’re using your tongue to smooth over the rough realities of the situation. The rough reality with the wicked is that he’s abhorrent to God and man. And of course, that’s not a pleasant reality – and so he smooths it over with lies and misrepresentations concerning himself.

And in this case, the wicked man isn’t just misrepresenting himself to others. Others aren’t even in view yet here in David’s oracle. The wicked man deceives his own self about his own nature. The wicked man speaks lies to himself. He flatters himself in his own eyes.

And this involves a great amount of deceit. Self-deceit. Because, of course, the reality of the wicked man is much less positive and encouraging than he would like to believe.

And even though the wicked man is able to trick himself into thinking he’s fine, he really can’t deceive others indefinitely.

That’s why that second line of verse 2 reads in the Hebrew that he engages in this flattery… “Until his sin reaches the point where it’s unable to be put up with.”

That’s where others come in to the picture. He’s been flattering himself in his own eyes. He’s been able to make himself look better to himself than he really is. However, who is not tricked by his self-flattery? Others.

Other people will eventually not be able to put up with the deceitful flattery of the wicked man. His sin – that he glosses over in his self-deception – will reach the point where others just simply cannot put up with it any longer.

He might be able to – without limit – speak deceit to himself about his true condition before God – that he is a sinner. But those around him eventually won’t be able to stand the nonsense.

But the wicked doesn’t care. Others can leave him if they wish. He’ll keep going on deceiving himself, as verse 3 continues.

 3 The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit:
he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.

The wicked man’s words are corrupt. They are characterized as iniquity – sin – and deceit – like what we’ve seen him doing in verse two – deceiving himself about his sin.

What the wicked speaks is lying sin – deceptive sin. Sin that isn’t always brash and bold and in your face. Often that makes sin unpalatable. No – you need to make the sin look good sometimes for others to embrace it. And that’s just what the wicked is doing here. His words are sin – and deceitful.

And the wicked man’s works are corrupt. Not just his words, but his works. Because both his words and his works come from his wicked heart.

He is pictured as completely stopping living in a wise manner. He doesn’t care about that anymore.

With the phrase left off it makes it sound as if this man had at one point been wise. He was engaged in living wisely at one point – at least to some degree. But now this man has just completely quit living according to God’s wisdom altogether.

And when you abandon God’s wisdom – as the wicked man does – then there’s ultimately no reason for doing good. That’s why the wicked man ceases to do good also.

And then David finishes his assessment of the wicked man in verse 4.

 4 He deviseth mischief upon his bed;
he setteth himself in a way that is not good;
he abhorreth not evil.

Mischief in verse 4 is the same word as iniquity in verse 3. And it’s actually the first word of the sentence in the Hebrew. Oftentimes when that happens, the writer is trying to emphasize that word. So, MISCHIEF/INIQUITY/SIN (!) he thinks of and devises and plans upon his bed.

The bed is a place of rest. But not for the wicked. There is no rest for the wicked. No, instead of resting in bed, the wicked man is portrayed as planning evil in bed. Thinking on evil things in bed. When the wicked man’s body and mind are at rest – wickedness is where his mind immediately turns.

So, that’s his thoughts. But his actions aren’t any better. He sets or stands himself in a bad way. As if there’s a road full of evildoers and he takes his stand right in that road to go wherever it leads him with whomever he meets there.

And on that road, he abhoreth not evil. And when you abhor something, you basically reject it. What David is saying here in this verse is that there is no evil that the wicked man rejects. He’ll never turn down any sort of evil. He will embrace it all.

So, that’s David’s oracle of transgression to the wicked man. As we saw in verse 1, that oracle or utterance from God started in David’s heart. And now he’s fully vented God’s message to the wicked man concerning his transgression.

Psalm 36 Commentary | God | 5-10

But now, David is done dealing with the wicked for the next six verses. In verses 5-10 David wants to meditate on God’s character. Not the debauched character of the wicked man anymore – but on God’s holy, loving character.

 5 Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.

And so, David is not just meditating on what God is like. He’s actually speaking directly to God about what he’s like. You see the pronoun thy twice in this verse. And David in this section refers to God directly no less than a dozen times. He’s praying to God – communicating back to God. He was thinking about the wicked man. Now, he takes a step back and wants to communicate directly with God about what God is like.

And so, David starts with two attributes of God that are key to understanding the Lord.

The first is his mercy. That’s the Hebrew word chesed. That’s God’s loyal covenant love. It’s the devotion he extended to the nation of Israel that he didn’t show to others who weren’t in covenant with him.

And that mercy is in the heavens. And of course, that’s not saying that God’s loyal covenant love is inaccessible and distant. I think it’s describing the both the unchangeableness and the abundance of that love. It’s in heaven – the wicked man can’t get his hands on it to ruin it. It’s in heaven – it looks down from there – as it were – and is able to reach anyone on earth.

And then God’s faithfulness is in view in the next line. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t go back on promises – and in the context of covenant/promised love – he doesn’t withdraw his covenant love from those whom he’s set it upon.

And this faithfulness reaches unto the clouds. Again, you get this picture of this attribute of God towering high into the sky. It’s immense. It fills the earth!

And David continues to consider the enormity of God’s wonderful attributes in verse 6.

6 Thy righteousness is like the great mountains;
thy judgments are a great deep:
O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.

So, we have immense height and depth in this verse.

On the high end is God’s righteousness. That is, he keeps all of his promises and fulfills all his requirements. And in the context of covenant love – I think especially in view here is his keeping his covenant promises with his people.

Then on the very low end are God’s judgments. Oftentimes that word is used to describe legal decisions. But there are instances where the word simply means justice. I think that’s more likely the case here.

He is righteous – he is just – he does right constantly and consistently. And the extent to which he is these things is practically immeasurable. It’s higher than anything else. And at the same time, it’s lower than any in this world.

And then David reflects back to God the fact that the Lord preserves or saves man and beast. Interestingly enough, this is the only place in the Hebrew Old Testament in which the word save is applied to the word beast or this word for man – (adam). When the psalms speak of adam they are looking at humanity very broadly – not just faithful Israelites – all of humanity.

And so, again you can sense the broadness in this verse. God’s righteousness is so high. His justice is so deep. He physically delivers from danger on the one hand all humanity and on the other hand all sorts of animals.

And this makes me wonder if perhaps the event that prompted David to write this psalm could have been some sort of deliverance from a famine. Perhaps, David perceived that God was showing his commitment to his covenant by stopping the famine. But not only that – when God stops a famine, it’s not as though only his covenant people enjoy the benefits of that. No – everyone in that area and every animal in that region experience the blessings of that.

And as long as we’re looking for the context of this psalm – then we might imagine that David’s oracle of the wicked at the start of this psalm is a recognition that God was withholding rain and food because of wicked people.

But whatever the context of the psalm, David returns to the idea of God’s loyal covenant love in verse 7.

 7 How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

The word excellent is the same word used in Scripture to refer to the precious stone that was in the crown placed on David’s head in 2 Samuel 12:30. God’s loyal covenant love is like a precious, rare, unique jewel. To find it, is to find something far better than any perishable stone in this life.

And because that’s the case – the children of men – the sons of adam – those ones whom the Lord saved in verse 6 – when they see the Lord protect them and provide for them – their response should be to take shelter under the wings of the Lord – like a young bird would do under the wings of his mother.

And again, if the context of this psalm is God’s reversing a famine, then verse 8 shows how much goodness is available with the Lord.

8 They [the sons of adam…] shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house;
and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.

I mean, to a group of individuals who just came out of a famine – these images would have been appropriate. To go from having nothing for whatever period of time to having something once more would be fatness. To go from nothing to drink to having something to drink would be like drinking from a river!

And these sons of men (they) are still in view – the ones that God preserves through drought and famine – and therefore, come to take their refuge under the shadow of God’s wings.

The word satisfied is also translated as watered, made drunk, fill, satiate, and bathe. Pretty descriptive picture of what these individuals feel as God discontinues the famine and allows food to be abundantly available once more.

And these people drink from the river of God’s pleasures – God’s Eden – that’s the word. And this isn’t a river like the Jordan River which constantly had water flowing through it. This is a wadi. Often it would run dry. But when it was rainy season it would be filled with water.

God’s blessings could have been viewed like that by these folks. It was absent – probably because of the sin of the wicked that the psalm speaks of earlier. But when God’s blessings are unleashed – watch out! It’s like a torrent of water streaming through a dry river bed.

And David continues the water motif into verse 9.

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

Where’s all of that water coming from that we heard about in verse 8. Here’s the fountain – with thee. The Lord provides this fountain.

And it’s a fountain – that produces not merely literal physical water – but God’s fountain sends out life. Of course, without water for a while, life starts to dwindle on this earth. So the two ideas are related. No life without water. And God has sent to David and the people of his day both water and therefore an ability to keep living.

But what about seeing light in God’s light? What does that mean? Well, several times in the Old Testament, “seeing light” is a metaphor for living. Which makes sense here in the context of verse 9.

So, God provides a fountain of life. He provides light for us to see. In other words, he gives abundant life to those whom he showers with his grace.

And with these kinds of benefits afforded to those who have experienced the Lord’s loyal love – we just don’t want God to stop doing this for us! And that’s David’s heart cry in verse 10.

 10 O continue [draw out/prolong…] thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee;
and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

So – to those sons of men who have come to know the Lord, David asks that God would draw out his loyal covenant love to them – and the meeting of his righteous obligations which such a covenant entails… To these men that are now characterized as upright – or straight or right – in their heart – in their thoughts and affections.

Psalm 36 Commentary | God’s Protection from the Wicked | 11-12

Then David ends this psalm with one verse of direct request to the Lord and then a reflection on God’s defeating his enemies.

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

So, David’s mind is brought back from God’s awesome attributes – the best of which is his loyal covenant love – and he remembers the wicked from earlier in the psalm. And so, he asks God to extend his loyal covenant love to him in this tangible way – by protecting him – not just from drought and famine as we saw earlier – but that he would protect David from these wicked men.

God protected him and his people from the natural elements that are dangerous. And that leads David to pray for protection from his dangerous enemies – these wicked men.

He asks protection from their foot and hand. He doesn’t want them to remove him in the sense of making him a vagabond with nowhere to go.

And then David expresses his confidence that God will deal with his enemies in the last verse.

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

It’s as if David can see God’s triumph over his enemies – “There! Over there! I can see it!

And may the Lord help us to see more of his loyal covenant love in our lives.