How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Ps. 36:7)
The Scriptures often contrast the righteous with the wicked. Psalm 1 for example, contrasts the character and practices of the blessed man with those who follow the path of evil. In the events leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion, the character and actions of humanity (Judas, Peter, Pilate, the Jews, the Romans) are contrasted with those of the God-man, Jesus Christ (John 18). The greatest contrast in Scripture, is not found amid human beings but between man and God. It is this infinite contrast that Psalm 36 features. While verse 1 of the Psalm has been historically difficult to understand, what is obvious to all translations and commentators is how the Psalm is divided. In verses 1-4 we see the character of those who follow evil; in verses 5-9, the infinitely opposite character of God; and in verses 10-12 an urgent prayer for God’s steadfast love to prevail over evil.
V. 1-4: Human beings, by nature, are born under transgression. Due to original sin, and our desperately wicked hearts, we are all bent toward sin. Take note of the progress of sin in the life of the wicked described in these verses. He begins by listening to the voice of evil in his heart. Sin then averts his eyes away from God. It then moves to the mouth as malice, slander, and deceit. From there, sin occupies the mind, so that even the night hours are consumed with plotting evil. And finally, evil is carried out, as he sets himself in a way that is not good. By verse 11, we see the foot and hand of the wicked set against God’s people.
V. 5-9: By contrast, God is infinitely magnificent and gracious. His steadfast love and faithfulness are vast and unsearchable, His righteousness impregnable and justice unfathomable. Besides being immense, God’s attributes are also intimate. His steadfast love is precious to God’s people. Those who find their refuge in God’s presence and provision find a haven as well as abundance of joy and life.
V. 10-12: These verses tie together the previous seemingly disparate sections in an urgent prayer for the steadfast love of the Lord and His imputed righteousness to reach the place of human need. Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! (v. 10) In His infinite mercy, God extends His attributes toward His people and saves them from their enemies who are left powerless and vanquished.