Introduction: This psalm records David’s praise for God’s mercy and grace. His psalm inspired Paul to later preach the truth of universal sin and Jesus’ limitless mercy and grace in response to it. Through this psalm, God reveals that in response to (1) mankind’s sins, He offers: (2) mercy, (3) provision, (4) salvation / light, (5) longsuffering patience, (6) protection, and (7) justice.
First, David referred to mankind as “ungodly” and separated from God through sin. Paul later applied this psalm to reveal that all mankind is sinful and separated from God. No one is righteous before God based upon their actions. Second, in response to the wicked state of mankind, David praised God’s limitless mercy. You can also give thanks that God’s mercy is greater than your sins. Third, David praised God for providing for His people despite their terrible sins. You too can praise God that He graciously provides despite your sins. Fourth, David praised God for offering sinners the fountain of life and light. You can also praise God that He offers you salvation and His light through Jesus. Fifth, David praised God for his ongoing mercy in response to sin. You too can praise God for being longsuffering and patient when you sin. Sixth, David further praised God for offering protection and deliverance to sinners. You can also praise God for His protection and deliverance in your life. Praise God that He provides protection and deliverance. Finally, David praised God for being just and fair in response to evil. You too can praise God because He is just and fair when you are wronged.
1. Mankind’s Sin: All Mankind in Sinful and Separated From God. Ps. 36:1-4.
David described the depravity of an evil person in God’s eyes. As a comparison to the goodness of God, David first described the heart and actions of an “ungodly” person: “For the music director. A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord. 1 Wrongdoing speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. 2 For it flatters him in his own eyes concerning the discovery of his wrongful deed and the hatred of it. 3 The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. 4 He plans wickedness on his bed; he sets himself on a path that is not good; he does not reject evil.” (Ps. 36:1-4). David revealed God’s Word about the heart of the ungodly as His “servant.” (Ps. 36:1). A typical person will read David’s psalm and state, “Thank goodness that is not me. That must be someone else.” But Jesus said that this type of belief is found in the Pharisee’s prayer: “The Pharisee stood and began praying this in regard to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, crooked, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”’ (Lk. 18:11). Paul later referenced David’s psalm to describe the sinful heart and depraved mind of mankind.
Mankind’s failure to fear God. In regards to the ungodly person, David stated: “there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Ps. 36:1). This was similar to a prior psalm: “The wicked, in his haughtiness, does not seek Him. There is no God in all his schemes.” (Ps. 10:4). Moses also used similar words to describe the evil Amalekites, who tried to kill the Jews after they fled from Egypt (Dt. 25:17-19). Paul later quoted David to apply this psalm to all of mankind: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Ro. 3:18). Mankind glorifies its wisdom over God’s wisdom: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools,” (Ro. 1:22). “Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). You may see your works as good. But they are but “filthy rags” before God (Is. 64:6).
Mankind’s deceitfulness. Regarding the ungodly person, David also stated: “The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.” (Ps. 36:3). David previously made a similar observation regarding a wicked person: “His mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; under his tongue is harm and injustice.” (Ps. 10:5-7). Paul later quoted from David’s earlier psalm as further evidence of mankind’s universal sin: “Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; (Ro. 3:14). You may see yourself as free from deceit. But there is deceit hidden in everyone’s heart.
All have fallen short and are in need of salvation. David stated that everyone is corrupt in God’s eyes: “They have all turned aside, together they are corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Ps. 14:3). David also proclaimed that mankind is evil from birth: “The wicked have turned away from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.” (Ps. 58:3). He further proclaimed that none were righteous before God: “And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for no person living is righteous in Your sight.” (Ps. 143:2). Through his mistakes and his God-given wisdom, Solomon also declared that all have sinned: “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20). “When they sin against You (for there is no person who does not sin) and You are angry with them and turn them over to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, distant or near;” (1 Kgs. 8:46). “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (Prov. 20:9). Indeed, God only spared Solomon from eternal death out of mercy and to stay faithful to His promise to David (2 Sam. 7:14-15). Paul later quoted from Solomon’s end-of-life revelations to form two of the central tenants of universal sin and the need for salvation (Ro. 3:23). The prophet Jeremiah made a similar revelation about our sinful hearts: “For My people are foolish, they do not know Me; they are foolish children and have no understanding. They are skillful at doing evil, but they do not know how to do good.” (Jer. 4:22). If you believe that you are without sin, the truth is not within you: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). Do you confess your sins to let Jesus cleanse you (1 Jo. 1:9)?
Acknowledge that your salvation is not earned according to your works. Moses was a murderer. He was a sinner who did not deserve to be God’s Lawgiver. Likewise, David, Solomon, and Jehoram were also murderers, and every king from Solomon to Jehoram either tolerated or practiced idolatry. They were all sinners, and none of them deserved to be king. But God used these sinners out of mercy and grace. You also did not earn your salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (Eph. 2:8). “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (Acts 15:11). “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” (Ro. 3:24). If you feel that you will to be saved based upon your good works or for being a good person, “then Christ died needlessly” (Gal. 2:21).
Seek to do good by hating evil. Regarding the ungodly person, David stated that his mind is constantly plotting to do evil things: “He plans wickedness on his bed; he sets himself on a path that is not good; he does not reject evil.” (Ps. 36:4). “Hate evil, you who love the LORD, . . .” (Ps. 97:10a). Solomon added to David’s psalms by revealing that “hating evil” is the very definition of fearing God: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride, arrogance, the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). Paul also referred back to David’s psalms to urge believers to resist the evil found in their hearts: “Love must be free of hypocrisy. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Ro. 12:9). “but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good,” (1 Thess. 5:21). Recognizing that your heart has evil does not mean that you are unable to do anything about it. You are a “new creation” in Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17), and He can “renew” your mind daily (Ro. 12:2). Are you praying each day to renew and purify your mind?
2. Mercy: Give Thanks That God’s Mercy Is Greater Than Your Sins. Ps. 36:5-7.
David proclaimed God’s mercy. In the face of mankind’s wicked and depraved hearts, David praised God because His mercy and forgiveness exceeds our wickedness: “5 Your mercy, Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like the great deep. Lord, You protect mankind and animals. 7 How precious is Your mercy, God! And the sons of mankind take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.” (Ps. 36:5-7). “The translation of mercy here is inconsistent, for the same Hebrew word hesed is translated as lovingkindness in both Psalm 36:7 and 36:10. This wonderful word speaks of God’s love and mercy, especially to His covenant people. . . There are two main ways that commentators understand the figure shadow of Your wings. Some take it to mean the wings of the cherubim represented in His tabernacle and the later temple. Cherubim wings were depicted on the lid of the ark of the covenant, which was the representation of God’s throne. Others take it in the sense that a hen covers her young chicks under her wings to protect, hide, and shelter them.” (David Guzik on Ps. 36).2 Once David realized that he was worthy of death for his sins of murder and adultery, he appreciated more God’s limitless love and mercy. If you fail to recognize your sins, you will never appreciate the true value of God’s great mercy and forgiveness in your life.
Give thanks that God is merciful. God is filled with mercy each time you repent and return to Him: “The Lord’s acts of mercy indeed do not end, for His compassions do not fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23). “Then you will say on that day, “I will give thanks to You, LORD; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.” (Is. 12:1). “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you.” (Is. 54:7). He is merciful in the face of our sins because he is filled with compassion and love: “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not abandon you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” (Dt. 4:31). God loves you and does not want you to suffer from your sins. Thus, He deserves your praise.
You can trust God’s promises of mercy. David stated that God’s “faithfulness reaches to the skies.” (Ps. 36:5). “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.” (Ps. 103:11). “For His mercy toward us is great, and the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 117:2). “For Your goodness is great to the heavens and Your truth to the clouds.” (Ps. 57:10). You can give thanks that His mercy knows no bounds. “Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Ro. 1:33). The enemy will put thoughts in your head that your sins are too big to be forgiven. But God is faithful to keep His promises of mercy and forgiveness.
3. Provision: Praise God that He Graciously Provides Despite Your Sins. Ps. 36:8.
God’s goodness includes provision for sinners. In addition to the blessing of mercy, God’s blessing to sinners includes His promised “abundant” provision in His house: “8 They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You allow them to drink from the river of Your delights.” (Ps. 36:8). The “they” in this sentence references back to the godly persons in Psalm 36:1-4. Thus, this blessing is based upon God’s grace.
Through Jesus, God offers you living water. David praised God for allowing the ungodly to “drink from the river of Your delights.” (Ps. 36:8). This is in reference to God’s living waters that flow from Him: “There is a river whose streams make the city of God happy, the holy dwelling places of the Most High.” (Ps. 46:4). “For My people have committed two evils: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living waters, . . .” (Jer. 2:13a). This living water comes from Jesus alone: “Jesus replied to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”’ (Jo. 4:10). In heaven, the living water will flow from Jesus to all who believe in Him: “And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” (Rev. 22:1).
God also provides for your physical needs. David previously proclaimed “I will not be in need” because of God’s gracious provision (Ps. 23:1). While in the wilderness for 40 years, God provided for all of His people’s needs (Dt. 2:7). Jesus also provides the physical needs of His flock. He directs believers to find their provision by seeking first the Kingdom of God: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.” (Matt. 6:33). “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19). “The LORD will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked.” (Prov. 10:3). “Fear the LORD, you His saints; for to those who fear Him there is no lack of anything.” (Ps. 34:9). But there are exceptions to every rule. God may sometimes withhold a blessing or allow the righteous to suffer as part of His greater plan (Ro. 8:28). Thus, you should be thankful for any blessing that you receive as an undeserved gift: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (Jam. 1:17). Are you giving thanks for God’s provision in your life? Are you tithing back part of His blessings?
4. Salvation: Praise God That He Offers You Salvation Through Jesus. Ps. 36:9.
David also proclaimed that God’s goodness includes the blessing of salvation. Also in reference to the ungodly, David revealed that God offers both eternal life and His light: “9 For the fountain of life is with You; in Your light we see light.” (Ps. 36:9). Jesus fulfilled David’s psalm: “Jesus offers to shelter His people under His wings (Matt. 23:37; Ps. 36:7 [MT 36:8]). He offers living water to all who thirst (John 4:10-14; 7:37-39; Ps. 36:9 [MT 36:10]). He is the light of the world that gives light to every man.” (John 1:9; 8:12; Ps. 36:9 [MT 36:10]).” (James M. Hamilton Jr., Evangelical Bible Theology Commentary Psalms (Vol. I: Psalms 1-72) (Lexham Academic 2021) p. 400).
Through Jesus, the fountain of eternal life is available to you. David praised God for being the “fountain of life” (Ps. 36:9). This again speaks to the “living water” that is only available through faith in Jesus (Jo. 4:10; Rev. 22:1). “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind.” (Jo. 1:4). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies,”’ (Jo. 11:25). “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”’ (Jo. 14:6). “but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Tim. 1:10). If you are grateful for the sacrifice that made this gift possible, how are you thanking Jesus?
God’s holiness guides you when you are in darkness. God’s holiness includes a beauty that is unlike anything human eyes have seen: “The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the LORD has clothed and encircled Himself with strength. Indeed, the world is firmly established; it will not be moved.” (Ps. 93:1). Because He is holy, Jesus’ light can also guide you in darkness. When you feel trapped in darkness, He wants you to call Him to be your light: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” (Jo. 1:4). “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”’ (Jo. 8:12). “I have come as Light into the world, so that no one who believes in Me will remain in darkness.” (Jo. 12:46). When you feel trapped in darkness, cry out to Jesus for His light. Also, when others are trapped in darkness, let Jesus’ light shine through you.
5. Longsuffering: Praise God For Being Longsuffering When You Sin. Ps. 36:10.
David prayed for God to prolong His mercy for His people. Because mankind’s sin is ongoing, David prayed for God’s ongoing mercy toward His people: “10 Prolong Your mercy to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright of heart.” (Ps. 36:10). You can also praise God for being long suffering when you lapse back into sin.
Give thanks that God is long suffering. God revealed to Moses that He is slow to anger: “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth;” (Ex. 34:6). Thankfully, God’s mercy is not a one-time-event. Any honest believer will acknowledge that they have lapsed back into sin after promising to never do that again. God deserves your praise because His mercy and forgiveness is ongoing when you sin.
God is patient and long-suffering with mankind. God also won’t condemn because of the many times that you will backslide during your lifetime. He does not want any to perish: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). Peter denied Jesus three times during a crisis in his faith (Matt. 26:57-75; 27:1; Mk. 14:53-72; 15:1; Lk. 22:54-71; Jo. 18:13-27). God saw Peter not as the sinner that he was but as the hero of the faith that he would become. God is also patient with you and sees you as the person of faith that you will become through your trials. This is one of the many reasons to stop and praise God for being patient and long-suffering with you.
6. Protection: Praise God That He Provides Protection and Deliverance. Ps. 36:11.
David prayed for protection from those who sought to destroy him. For David, the ungodly were not an abstract philosophical problem. They also sought to destroy him: “11 May the foot of pride not come upon me, and may the hand of the wicked not drive me away.” (Ps. 36:11). God can also deliver you from evil when you turn to Him.
Praise God for the blessings of His deliverance. As our example, David repeatedly cried out to God for His protection and deliverance from evil: “A Mikhtam of David, when Saul sent men and they watched the house in order to kill him. Rescue me from my enemies, my God; set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me. Rescue me from those who practice injustice, and save me from men of bloodshed.” (Ps. 59:1-2). “Save me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the wrongdoer and the ruthless,” (Ps. 71:4). “For the music director. A Psalm of David. Rescue me, LORD, from evil people; protect me from violent men . . . Keep me, LORD, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from violent men who intend to trip up my feet.” (Ps. 140:1, 4). When God does deliver you, you should then praise Him for doing so: “He rescues me from my enemies; You indeed lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from a violent man.” (Ps. 18:48). “Who also brings me out from my enemies; You also raise me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent person.” (2 Sam. 22:49). If God has delivered you from a trial, never forget to praise Him. One way to do this is by making this part of your testimony.
7. Justice: Praise God Because He is Just When You Are Wronged. Ps. 36:12.
David professed confidence in God to be faithful and judge evil. Instead of taking matters into his own hands, David gave thanks that God would judge his attackers: “12 Those who do injustice have fallen there; they have been thrust down and cannot rise.” (Ps. 36:12). You can also trust God to be just and right any wrongs against you. But you need to be patient and trust Him to act in His timing for His perfect plan.
God is just and fair with everyone. God is filled with compassion and divine justice: “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Is. 30:18). “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24). God will eventually right every wrong committed against you and reward your secret good deeds of faith. But you must be patient for His perfect timing (Ro. 8:28). God gives every sinner many chances to repent and turn to Him. Are you praising God for His just and righteous character?