It is uncertain when David penned this psalm, probably when he was struck at by Saul or by Absalom, for in it he complains of the malice of his enemies. But he triumphs in the goodness of God to him. This psalm teaches our hearts be affected with the hatred of sin and the satisfaction of God’s loving-kindness. Man’s Wickedness and God’s Perfections
Psalm 36 – A Psalm of David
An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit and he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed and sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God and Your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast You save, O Lord. How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights.
For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light. Oh, continue Your steadfast love to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright of heart! Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.
It is an honour to be a servant of God
Henry says – David in this Psalm is entitled the servant of the Lord. He was God’s servant, but as a king and a prophet and one employed in serving the interests of God’s kingdom among men. It is an honour, to the greatest of men, to be the servants of the great God. It is the highest preferment a man is capable of in this world.
David here describes the wickedness of the wicked. It is the root of bitterness, from which all wickedness comes. It arises from their contempt of God and the lack of a due regard toward Him. (Ps. 36:1): There is no fear of God before his eyes; for, if there were, he would not talk and act as he does. If he had any awe of His majesty or dread of His wrath, he would not dare to violate his covenants with Him. They may not openly renounce the fear of God, but their transgression whispered it secretly. David concluded that those who live at large, live without God in the world.
In their conceit they willfully mar their own souls (Ps. 36:2): He flatters himself in his own eyes. While he goes on in sin, he thinks he does wisely and well for himself. He either does not see or will not own the evil and danger of his wicked practices. Calling evil good and good evil. He persecutes the people of God and suggests to himself that it is a necessary justice. Sinners are self-destroyers by being self-flatterers. Satan could not deceive them if they did not deceive themselves. But will the cheat always last? No, the day is coming when the sinner will be undeceived, when his iniquity shall be found to be hateful.
The Lord hates iniquity
Iniquity is a hateful thing, that abominable thing which the Lord hates, and which His pure and jealous eye cannot endure to look upon. It is hurtful to the sinner so ought to be hateful to him, but it is not. He rolls it under his tongue as a sweet morsel, because of the sensual pleasure and profit it may gain him. Yet it will be the gall of asps, Job 20:13, 14. When their consciences are convinced, and sin appears in its true colours then it shall make them a terror to themselves. The cup of trembling will be put into their hands and they are made to drink the dregs of it. Then their iniquity will be found hateful, and their self-flattery their unspeakable folly.
If a man defy God what can be expected but that he should all come to nothing? These are those who flatter themselves and have no conscience about what they say whether true of false, right or wrong (Ps. 36:3): The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit. He schemes to do wrong, and then he covers it with pretenses. It is no marvel if those who deceive themselves also deceive all mankind. For to whom will those be true who are false to their own souls?
What little good there has been in them is gone. They have shaken off their religion, and with it their wisdom. Those who have forsaken to do good contrive to do hurt and vex against those about them who are good and do good (Ps. 36:4): He devises trouble upon his bed. When men forsake doing good and attending upon God, the devil easily makes them his agents. He draws them who will be drawn into sin, and to those that will not, he draws them into trouble.
David looks upon the comfort of the goodness of God
The sinner’s heart is fully set in him to do evil. He has entered into the way of sin, the way that is not good. He sets himself to carry out the trouble he has devised. If sinners did not brazen their faces with determination they could not go on in their evil ways. Doing evil themselves, they regard it in others: He does not abhor evil, but actually takes pleasure in it, and is glad to see others as bad as himself.
When God gives someone repentance, they then abhor the evil they have done and themselves because of it. It is bitter in the reflection of it, however sweet it was in the doing. But these hardened sinners have such seared consciences that they never reflect upon their sin afterwards with any regret or remorse. They stand to what they have done, as if they could justify it before God Himself.
Having looked round with grief upon the wickedness of the wicked, David now looks up with comfort upon the goodness of God. He meditates upon the grace of God and sees the world polluted, himself endangered, and God dishonoured, by the transgressions of the wicked. He turns his eye, heart and speech to God “However it is, yet You are good.” He acknowledges, the sublime perfections of the Divine nature. Among men we have often reason to complain, There is no truth or mercy, (Hos. 4:1), no judgment or justice, Isa. 5:7. But all these may be found in God. Whatever is amiss in the world, we are sure there is nothing missing in Him who governs it.
We shall find mercy
God is a god of inexhaustible goodness: Your mercy, O Lord! is in the heavens. Even if we shut up our heart of compassion, yet with God, at the throne of His grace, we shall find mercy. When we cleave closely to God, even if men devise trouble against us, His thoughts concerning us will be thoughts of good. On earth we experience a great deal of disappointment and discontentment, but in the heavens, where the mercy of God reigns in perfection, there is full satisfaction. Therefore let our longings be for heaven. However bad the world is, let us never think the worse of God but reflect upon His purity and admire His patience. For He bears so much with those who provoke Him and causes His sun to shine and His rain to fall upon them.
God is a god of blessed truth: Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Though God is long-suffering toward wicked people, yet He will be faithful to his threats against sin. There will come a day when He will reckon with them. He is faithful also to His covenant with His people, which cannot be broken. This is matter of great comfort to all good people, though men be false, God is faithful. Men speak vanity, but the Words of the Lord are pure Words. God’s faithfulness reaches so high that it does not change with the weather, as men’s does, for it reaches to the skies.
He is a God of incontestable justice and fairness: Your righteousness is like the great mountains, so immovable and so evident to all the world. For no truth is more certain than that of the Lord who is righteous in all His ways. He never did, nor ever will do, any wrong to any of His creatures. Even when clouds and darkness are round about Him, yet judgment and justice are the habitation of His throne, Ps. 97:2. He is a God of unsearchable wisdom and design: “Your judgments are a great deep, not to be fathomed with the line of any finite understanding.”
He does all wisely
As His power is sovereign so His method is singular and mysterious, which cannot be accounted for by us: His way is in the sea and His path in the great waters. We know that He does all wisely and well. But what He does we know not now, there will be time enough to know in the hereafter.
God gives extensive care to us: “You preserve man and beast, not only protecting them from trouble, but supplying them with all that is needful for the support of life.” The beasts, though not capable of knowing and praising God, are yet graciously provided for. Their eyes wait on Him, and He gives them their meat in due season. Let us not wonder why God gives food to bad men, for He feeds the brute-creatures. So let us not fear that He will not provide for good people. He who feeds the young lions will not starve His own children.
God shows peculiar favour to His saints. They are allured by the excellency of God’s loving-kindness and so put their trust under the shadow of His wings. God’s loving-kindness is precious to them. They relish it and taste the sublime sweetness in it. They admire God’s beauty and goodness above anything in this world. There is nothing so amiable or so desirable. Therefore they rest their entire confidence in Him. They put themselves under His protection, and find themselves safe. They find themselves at ease, as the chickens under the wings of the hen, Matt. 23:37.
He will gather those who are His
It is the character of disciples that they come to trust under the wings of the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). Those who are drawn by love will cleave to Him. He will gather those who are His by the excellency of His loving-kindness. Happy and thrice happy are the people whose God is the Lord, for in Him they have complete happiness. (Ps. 36:8): They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Your house, their wants shall be supplied. In the all-sufficient God they shall have enough, all that an enlightened soul can desire or receive. The gains of this world and the delights of the senses will never satisfy, Isa. 55:2. But connections with Divine favour and grace will always satisfy.
A gracious soul may still desire more of God but will never desire more than God. I have all, and abound, Phil. 4:18. With the goodness from God’s house they are abundantly satisfied. They desire nothing more in this world than to live a life of communion with God and to have the comfort of His promises. But the full and abundant satisfaction is reserved for the future state, the house not made with hands but eternal in the heavens.
Every vessel will be full there and their joys shall be constant: You shall make them drink of the river of Your pleasures. First, There are pleasures that are truly divine. “They are Your pleasures, not only which come from God as the giver of them, but which terminate in Him as the matter and centre of them.” Being purely spiritual, there they will be of the same nature with those of the glorious inhabitants of the upper world, and bear some comparison even to the delights of the Eternal Mind.
By His Spirit He fills their souls
Secondly, There is a river of these pleasures, always full, always fresh, always flowing. There is enough for all, enough for each; see Ps. 46:4. The pleasures of senses are putrid puddle-water, but those of faith are pure and pleasant, clear as crystal, Rev. 22:1. Thirdly, God has not only provided this river of pleasures for His people, but He makes them to drink of it, works in them a gracious appetite to these pleasures. By His Spirit He fills their souls with joy and peace in believing.
In heaven they shall be forever drinking of those pleasures that are at God’s right hand, satisfied with a fullness of joy, Ps. 16:11. Life and light shall be their everlasting bliss and portion, Ps. 36:9. They have God Himself for their happiness, First, In Him they have a fountain of life, from which those rivers of pleasure flow, Ps. 36:8. The God of nature is the fountain of natural life. In Him we live and move and have our being. The God of grace is the fountain of spiritual life. All the strength and comfort of a sanctified soul, all its gracious principles, powers and performances are from God.
He is the spring and author of all the sensations of divine things. God quickens whom He will and whoever may come, and they take from Him freely of the waters of life. He is the fountain of eternal life. The happiness of glorified saints consists in the vision and fruition of Him, and in the immediate communications of His love, without interruption or fear of cessation. Secondly, In Him they have light in perfection, wisdom, knowledge and joy: In Your light we shall see light.
We shall see light in all His perfection
This means “In the knowledge of You in grace, and the vision of You in glory, we shall have what will abundantly satisfy.” That divine light which shines in the scripture, and especially in the face of Christ, the light of the world, has all the truth in it. When we come to see God face to face, we shall see light in all its perfection, 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2. “It is in the communion with You now, the communications of Your grace to us and the return of our devout affections to You that we shall have a complete happiness and satisfaction. In Your favour we have all the good we can desire.”
This is a dark world, we see little comfort in it, but in the heavenly light there is true light, and no false light and light that is lasting. In this world we see and enjoy God by creatures and means; but in heaven God Himself shall be with us (Rev. 21:3) and we shall see and enjoy Him intimately.
David here intercedes for all saints, begging that they may always experience the benefit and comfort of God’s favour and grace, Ps. 36:10. He prays for those who know God and avouch for Him as theirs—the upright in heart, who are sincere in their profession of faith. He begs that they should have the blessing of God’s loving-kindness (that is, the tokens of His favour towards them) and His righteousness (that is, the workings of His grace in them).
Let it be drawn out
His loving-kindness and righteousness are part of His goodness according to the promise. O continue to draw it out, as a child draws out the milk from the breast. Let it be drawn out equal to the time of eternity. The happiness of the saints in heaven will be in perfection, and yet in continual progression. The fountain there will always be full and the streams always flowing. In these is continuance, Isa. 64:5.
David prays for himself, that his integrity and comfort would be preserved (Ps. 36:11): “Do not let the foot of pride come against me, to trip me up. Do not let the hand of the wicked, which is stretched out against me remove me from that purity and integrity. Let it not be by temptation, by trouble to steal my peace and comfort.” Do not let those who fight against God triumph over those who desire to cleave to Him. Those who have experienced the pleasure of communion with God cannot but desire that nothing may ever remove them from Him.
David rejoices in hope of the downfall of all his enemies in due time (Ps. 36:12): “Where they thought to gain the point against me, they have fallen and been taken in that snare which they laid for me.” There, in the other world where the saints stand in the judgment, and have a place in God’s house, the workers of iniquity are cast into judgment. They are cast down into hell, into the bottomless pit, out of which they shall never be able to rise up from under the weight of God’s wrath and curse. Whilst we are not to rejoice when any particular enemy of ours falls, the final overthrow of all the workers of iniquity will be the everlasting triumph of glorified saints.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
True Satisfaction Men and animals are in Your care. All find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. How precious O Lord is Your constant love That delights to give us all things. We feast on the abundant food You provide. From Your great storehouse of treasures And You shall cause us to drink Of the river of Your pleasures. Let us always live in the abundance Of all that You bring. We must not build our satisfaction, Our happiness, on any earthly thing. The invisible rather than the visible Must be the foundation of our happiness Never in doing what our flesh may want Will we find spiritual success. Our satisfaction is with Him He is the true source of our living; His will, His providence, His provision, His withholding as well as His giving. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer for the Day
Father, I come to You. It is an honour to be Your servants. The world is polluted, and I am prone to danger and Your name to be dishonoured. Yet however it is, yet You are good. In You are the sublime perfections of the Divine nature. Even when I shut up my heart of compassion, yet at Your throne of grace, I shall find mercy. Help me cleave closely to You. Even when men devise trouble against me I know that Your thoughts concerning me are thoughts of good.
On earth I experience a great deal of disappointment and discontentment, but in the heavens, where Your mercy reigns there is full satisfaction. Therefore let my longings be for heaven. However bad the world is, cause me never to think the worse of You, but reflect upon Your purity and admire Your patience. Though men be false, You are faithful. Men speak vanity, but Your Words are pure Words.
You do all things wisely and well. I will not fear that You will not provide for me. For You who feeds young lions will not starve Your own children. Your loving-kindness is precious to me. I relish it and taste the sublime sweetness of it. I admire Your beauty and goodness above anything in this world. There is nothing more amiable or desirable. Therefore I rest my entire confidence in You. I put myself under Your protection, and find myself safe.
I shall have enough
In the all-sufficient God I shall have enough, all that an enlightened soul can desire or receive. The gains of this world and the delights of the senses will never satisfy. May I still desire more of Your for I desire nothing more in this world than to live a life of communion with You and to have the comfort of Your promises. Work in me a gracious appetite for Your pleasures. By Your Spirit fill my soul with joy and peace in believing.
In You I live and move and have my being. You are the fountain of all life. All the strength and comfort of a sanctified soul, all its gracious principles, powers and performances are from You. Quickens me to come to You and may I take from You freely of the waters of life. May I have the vision and fruition of You, and immediate communications of Your love, without interruption or fear of cessation. May I have that sweet communion with You now, the communications of Your grace and may You have the return of my devout affections to You. For in that I shall have a complete happiness and satisfaction.
May I always experience the benefit and comfort of Your favour and grace. May I have the blessing of the tokens of Your favour towards me and the workings of Your grace in me. Let them be drawn for all eternity. May my integrity and comfort be preserved. Do not let the foot of pride come against me or to trip me up. Cause me not to be tempted with trouble to steal my peace and comfort. For I have experienced the pleasure of communion with You and desire that nothing may ever remove it from me. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.