God knows that we all need to make sense out of the world we live in. He has designed us to be interpreters of reality, so that we bring honor to him by sharing his joy. Many events are difficult to explain, especially as they upset our personal part of the world. You can observe this daily as people gives their opinions in social media, in the mass media, in small social circles, in one’s family, or person to person. The issue might be as small as someone’s illness or a family’s interpersonal struggles, or as large as a blizzard or an earthquake. We all want to make sense of the world around us.
This psalm is given to help us. It does not explain everything, but zeroes in on God and wicked people in the events. David wrote that he had received an oracle or revelation about people who live in sin and for sin. We should remember that sin is rejection of God, refusal to love God, and rebellion against God and his ways. So, David tells us more about how sin affects people. Then he brings in a dramatic contrast with the goodness of God, because we also need to know about the true God to interpret life. This will lead him to respond to both truths. Let us listen to what the Spirit of the Lord says through him.
David spoke of the character of the wicked. I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong (36:1-4 NIV).
A wicked person is anyone who is not rightly related to God by faith. They live according to their own ideas and reject being personally involved with the living God. They do not fear God (36:1b). There are only two ways to live. Either God is in your thoughts and you deeply respect him, or you have no room for God in your worldview and have no fear of him. These are two opposite ways of looking at life. The wicked person laughs off any ideas of God and responsibility to him. This is the characteristic of all sinners (cf. Romans 3:9-18).
They have wrong perceptions of reality (36:2). Two factors in the inner person of their hearts drive how they look at the world.
- Conceit – The wicked person practices self-flattery. “How wise I am! I can see things that others can’t. I can handle this!” With a million such thoughts their view of self is warped. Oh yes, some do this in a more refined and sophisticated way, as they listen to counselors, coaches, colleagues or college professors. But each one deeply believes that he or she is the final judge of right and wrong, good and evil.
- Deceit – This produces self-deception. When your world and life view blames everyone and everything but yourself, and when you’ve set yourself above everything, how can you be helped or corrected? You are right by your own definition—even if your personal world is collapsing.
Wicked people wreck their world (36:3). They do it by distorted communication. As Jesus told us, people communicate out of their hearts (Luke 6:45). So out of their mouths come deceit, blame shifting, bitterness, anger, hate, impatience, profanity, vulgarity, etc. They also do it by refusing to act wisely or to do what is good. Here is fanatical devotion to evil. How can you help someone who knows they are destroying their life or the lives of others and don’t care? Why not? Because they would rather enjoy evil than good.
They are devoted to evil (36:4). They hatch plots on their beds (cf. Micah 2:1). As they review their day as they get ready to sleep, their thoughts relentlessly pursue how tomorrow can bring more personal pleasure, without regard for God or others who might get in their way. They fail to reject what is wrong. They might know something is wrong, but they just can’t stop pursuing it. All sin is addictive. The sinner believes that the next experience will be a better and longer lasting buzz.
No sinner wants to hear this about himself or herself. It isn’t flattering. We all want a mirror that will make us look great, instead of flabby, pale, wrinkled and overweight. The truth hurts, but we need to know it. We need to know the truth about ourselves and others. That is why God gives us this revelation—to help us. Are you listening to God? This weekend, read God’s word and listen to what your Creator says to you!
Grace and peace, David