The Righteous One Looking up to the God of Grace
from a World of Darkness

a brief study of Psalm 36, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 9 Feb 2007
Psalm 36 is a psalm of highs and lows. In this Psalm, Christ speaking through David brings us into the depth of human depravity and then takes us by the hand and soars unto the heights of God’s mercy and faithfulness.

This Psalm has 3 parts:

1. The Depth of Human Depravity

2. The Height of God’s Mercy & Faithfulness

3. Our Response.

1. The Depth of Human Depravity

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

That is, as one commentator puts it:

“The dictum of depravity concerning the wicked man in my heart is, there is no fear of God before his eyes.”

Or as Hengstenberg puts it—

“Transgression utters its oracle to the wicked in my heart! There is no fear of God before his eyes!”

Herein is the meditation and conclusion of our Lord concerning the wicked. Why does the wicked commit iniquity? Why does he persist to carry out his wicked deeds?

It is because he has no fear of God: For if he fears God, he will know that God will call him to account for his life and God will judge him for his sin.

But because he has no fear of God, he is a law unto himself. He assumes that whatever he does is right. Verse 2—

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

Like the first verse, this verse is difficult to translate and understand at first sight. But the essential point is that the wicked flatters himself in own eyes, and his eyes are blinded so that he does not see that his iniquities are hateful.

The point is: the eyes of his soul does not see God. He sees only himself; and he does not see anything hateful about himself. He sees himself as perfect and right all the time. He may see the fault of others. He may ridicule others. But in his own eyes, he is perfect.

This is the reason why he has no qualms about sinning against God—in words, and deeds, and thought. Verse 3—

3 The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good. 4 He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.

Such is the natural man. Having no fear of God coupled with a high view of himself, he lives a lawless life.

Such a life can be a vexation to the righteous—both to the Righteous One, Christ, and to the saints united to Him.

Such a life makes man the most miserable and abominable living thing around. By such a life, man becomes worse than rats and cockroaches—because these are irrational creatures that sin not against God. Whereas man is made in the image of God and yet rebel against God. How low can man get?

But in contrast to man is the greatness of God. When we are vexed by the depravity of man it does not help to mourn over it or to grumble about it. What does help is to turn our eyes to see the mercy and faithfulness of God.

2. Height of God’s Mercy & Faithfulness

5 Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. 6 Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast. 7 How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!

What a contrast: from the dark and murky depths of human depravity to the bright and clear heights of God’s perfection.

God’s mercy reaches unto the clouds. To save us from our sin, He broke the bounds of human mercy. He sent His only begotten Son. His mercy reaches unto the clouds.

His righteousness is like the great mountain. It is broad and it stands firm. Nothing can shake the Lord’s standard of righteousness. Indeed, to save us and to make us acceptable to Himself, He gave us His own righteousness through Christ.

His judgements and justice is like the immense ocean. It is deep and far-reaching. Our God does not compromise on His justice. To spare us, Christ His Son was punished on our behalf.

And God does not only take care of His children. For the sake of His children, He preserves men and animals. His loving kindness, or as the Hebrew has it, His covenant loving-kindness are excellent.

It was in answer to His covenant loving-kindness that God sent a flood to destroy the world so that His people might not be swallowed up in iniquity. It was also in answer to His covenant loving-kindness that He preserved men and beast in the ark when He flooded the world in the days of Noah.

So deep is the justice and judgement of God; and yet deeper still is His covenant loving kindness toward His own.

Oh how our hearts should resound with praise and gratitude when we think of these things!

And thus our psalm ends with a response.

3. Response

7b Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. 8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. 9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

God is dependable. He is faithful. He loves His people; and He has demonstrated His faithfulness toward them over and over again—at days of judgment and in day-to-day life. He gives us of His Spirit and His Word. In this way we enjoy the fatness of His house, and drink of the fountain of life.

In His light we see light for we are made to glorify and enjoy Him. Man’s greatest joy can therefore be found in Him and Him alone.

But we are dependent upon Him to make His face to shine upon us or our days will be dark and wearisome.

So we join our Saviour to cry unto the Father, verse 10—

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

We know Him because He first knew us. We love Him because He first loved us. We are beloved in Christ. In Christ we have tasted of God’s covenant loving-kindness. But we must not be presumptuous that God will continue to bless us. He will indeed, but we must lovingly and gratefully ask Him to continue to extend His arms of covenant loving-kindness for Christ’s sake.

In particular, in view of the fact that we are in this world, though not of this world, we must ask the Lord to protect us from the wicked.

11 Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me. 12 There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.

The wicked stands in drastic contrast with God. While our hearts are lifted up in praise when we think about God, we grieve when we think about the sorrows and anguish that the wicked bring to our lives.

Thank God that we have recourse, for the wicked is not outside the dominion of God.

And so we can go to the Lord to ask Him to deal with the wicked on our behalf. And He will indeed deal with them, for He is a loving, covenant-keeping God. He will not suffer the wicked to triumph over them whom His Son purchased with His blood.


This Psalm must surely have been one of the psalms that our Lord meditated on as He struggled with the oppression of the wicked. Nothing helps a soul afflicted by anguish on account of the wicked, as to meditate on the greatness of our heavenly Father, and to cast our burdens upon Him.

As the Father strengthens His Son with the Spirit and His Word, and delivered Him; so He strengthens us with His Spirit and His Word, and He will deliver us from all our tribulations. Only trust in Him. Amen. W