These notes are based on the NASB text.
What is the background of Psalm 36?
Psalm 36 is ascribed to David “the servant of the Lord” (see superscription). In this Psalm, the goodness of God is displayed against the backdrop of man’s wickedness.
36:1 Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
The things that govern a wicked man’s life flow from deep within his heart. He listens to the evil whispers of his heart rather than to God. Transgression speaks to him like a prophet and he willingly obeys. The wicked man has no regard for or fear of God. He feels that God is not concerned about nor will interfere with what he does.
Practical Consideration: A man who does not fear God is capable of any evil.
It is important that men have a proper understanding of God because theology has an impact upon decision-making. A man who does not fear God is indeed capable of any evil because his decision-making is neither governed nor checked by a proper understanding of God. Men are emboldened to sin when they do not see God rightly.
36:2 For it flatters him in his own eyes,
Concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.
There is an arrogance which characterizes the life of the wicked man. The wicked man flatters himself in his own eyes. He hates to admit that he could be wrong. He hates to confront his guilt. He thinks that no one will discover his sin and hate it. He is too deluded to detest the evil in his life or to believe that others will detect and detest it. This attitude makes him optimistic and reckless in his sin. This attitude is in contrast to the righteous who see their sins and are grieved.
The wicked man’s eyes are not on God but on himself. The man whose vision is not fixed on God has no absolute point of reference and will think more highly of himself than he ought. Charles H. Spurgeon stated, “He who makes little of God makes much of himself.”
Practical Consideration: A man whose eyes are not focused on God has no reliable reference point.
Men need a moral compass. They need moral reference points. Without them they easily drift into sin and are often shipwrecked and destroyed beyond repair. Men must fix their eyes on God if they are to have any perspective at all. A man whose eyes are not focused on God will think more of himself and less of his sin.
36:3 The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit;
He has ceased to be wise and to do good.
Someone has said that speech is a good index of the soul. The mouth of the wicked utters dirty and deceitful speech.
Practical Consideration: What lies in the well of the heart will come up in the bucket of speech.
Speech is an index of the heart. A man who has no fear of God and who has no moral compass will not hesitate to use his tongue toward ignoble ends.
36:4 He plans wickedness upon his bed;
He sets himself on a path that is not good;
He does not despise evil.
A man’s attitude toward God and toward sin will ultimately be revealed in his social activity. The wicked man is preoccupied with wickedness. He deliberately plots evil upon his bed at night. He stays awake thinking of how to advance his sinful agenda. This is in contrast to the righteous man who meditates and communes with God while upon his bed (see Psalm 4:4).
The wicked man is on a downward path that will lead him to destruction (see Proverbs 14:12 and Psalm 1:1). It is interesting to note that the wicked man despises God (see verse 1) but not evil. The wicked man is comfortable with evil. The wicked man is accustomed to the darkness. He does not blush at the sight of evil.
Practical Consideration: We must not tolerate evil.
Psalm 36:4 states that the wicked man does not despise evil. Men who do not despise evil tolerate it. They see nothing wrong with it. They use it to advance their selfish ends. They treat it as a friend and exploit it. They are comfortable with it. We must, however, not tolerate evil. We must shun it at first sight.
36:5 Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Thy faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Verse 5 at once stands in contrast to the preceding verses. It lists several of the characteristics of God which are a blessing to the godly man. God’s character is altogether different than the character of the wicked man. God’s unchanging love and faithfulness reaches to the heavens. It is boundless, limitless, and inexhaustible.
36:6 Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Thy judgments are like a great deep.
O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.
God’s righteousness is as solid and majestic as great mountains (regarding the phrase, “mountains of God,” see comments on Psalm 68:15). His judgments are always right (see Psalm 19:9b). The rightness of His dealings with us cannot be fathomed. Man can depend on God to always do the right thing. In addition, He cares for man and beast.
36:7 How precious is Thy lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings.
36:8 They drink their fill of the abundance of Thy house;
And Thou dost give them to drink of the river of Thy delights.
God protects those who take refuge in Him. He abundantly provides and cares for His own. Men can find no better shelter than in the shadow of God’s wings. Men can know no better provider than God.
36:9 For with Thee is the fountain of life;
In Thy light we see light.
God is the author of all life. God also “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). Light enables men to see what they would otherwise be incapable of seeing. Spurgeon wrote, “In spiritual things, the knowledge of God sheds a light on all other subjects.”
36:10 O continue Thy lovingkindness to those who know Thee,
And Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.
36:11 Let not the foot of pride come upon me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
36:12 There the doers of iniquity have fallen;
They have been thrust down and cannot rise.
The wicked often seek to injure the good. The hand of the wicked often tries to push the godly from the right path. David prayed that God would protect him from the destructive influence and activity of the wicked.
Practical Consideration: The godly man enjoys the benefits and blessings of God’s character.
The man who is in right standing with God is in a position to enjoy the blessings and benefits of God. He enjoys the blessing of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness. He enjoys the benefit of knowing that God is always right in His dealings toward him. He knows and understands that God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. He enjoys the benefit of God’s protection and shelter in times of difficulty. He enjoys the blessing of God’s provision in times of need.