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Psalm 36 contrasts the heart of the wicked with the heart of God. The description of the wicked in verses 1-4 give a picture of utter selfishness and self-centeredness. Before pointing fingers and throwing stones at these “wicked,” we need to pause and look at our own self-centeredness that our culture has conditioned into us from birth. We hear “You deserve it,” “You’re worth it,” “Do you,” and many more catch phrases so often it has become the air we breathe. While these feel innocuous, no one can deny how “me first” we live today in our individualistic society. The collateral damage of emptiness in us and brokenness in those around us is just as undeniable.
In Psalm 36, this “me first” lifestyle was incompatible with faith in God. God couldn’t be God because “self” was already god. There was no fear of God in their eyes because their eyes were already busy flattering themselves.
This lack of fear of God, this lack of awe, reverence, and respect for God’s commands and authority turned society into a no-holds-barred of immorality. Deceit won the day because that’s what you needed to get ahead. Often times today, the path to getting ahead is the same.
Verse 5 turns on a dime from describing the sinner’s heart to describing God’s heart. Instead of finding a black hole of self, consuming anyone who gets in the way, we see the exact opposite. We see a giving heart of love. We see a heart of justice. We see a heart who doesn’t seek to profit on the oppressed, stomping on their heads so it can rise higher up the ladder. Rather, we see a heart who cares for the oppressed. We see wings of strength and love spread wide for hurting people to take refuge in. We see a feast of abundance offered to the hungry and a river of delight for the thirsty.
So often God gets this rap of wanting to deprive people of delight. People choose a path far from God because on their own, they can seek delight after delight without God’s restrictions. But these delights aren’t much more than the momentary firing of brain chemicals. Quick hits of a quick high. And the longer you go down this road, the more of a black hole it becomes. You end up looking back and seeing all the collateral damage your self-seeking delights caused. Rather than a feeling of satisfaction, you feel the emptiness of wasted and harmful years.
Meanwhile God isn’t trying to deprive people of delight, he’s trying to draw us toward real delight. He’s trying to draw us toward a solid foundation that doesn’t eventually evaporate. I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-29. Psalm 36 takes it up to an even more worshipful notch though. It lays out the path of the sand, the path that evaporates, and it lays out the path of the rock. The path that holds up when life’s trials come. The path that holds up for all of eternity. But then it uses these two paths to lead us into worship. It leads us to praise God for his love and faithfulness that reaches to the skies, his righteousness that’s like the highest mountain, and his justice that is deeper than the ocean. What imagery! What beauty. It leads us to his unfailing love. His priceless, unfailing love. There is no better picture than this in all of Scripture. God loves you so much. His love for you is worth more than all the money, gold, and treasure in the world. And his love for you never, ever fails.
His wings are wide open for you to take refuge in.
There is a seat open for you at his feast.
Bring your hunger and thirst to him. Experience his unfailing love.
Invitation to reflection:
Prayer for the day: Lord, thank you for your self-giving heart. Thank you for your love for me. Thank you for saving a seat at your feast for me. Please help me to model your self-giving love and not take after the self-consuming pattern of this world. Remind me that your commands bring life. That putting others above myself brings life. That putting you first brings life. When I’m tempted to chase after the instant gratification of sin, remind me of your unfailing love. Remind me that your love endures forever and your faithfulness reaches to the sky. Thank you that you love me. Thank you that I can experience in you the acceptance, love, and value that I will never be able to find anywhere else. Help me to soak this in. Help me to fuel my life off of experiencing your love.
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