October 25, 2014

Tom Lowe



Title: The Sinful Man.

A psalm of David.


Part 1 verses 1-4

Part 2 verses 5-12



Psalm 36 (KJV)

(Part 1: verses 1-4)



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

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

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.





David has a half dozen things to say about the sinful man:

  1. The Sinful Man’s Persuasion (36.1)
  2. The Sinful Man’s Pride (36.2)
  3. The Sinful Man’s Policy (36.3a)
  4. The Sinful Man’s Past (36.3b)
  5. The Sinful Man’s Plans (36.4a)
  6. The Sinful Man’s Path (36.4b)

Everyone carries a “sinful man” around inside of them; that is God’s assessment, for He has said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” When a Spanish general told his enemies in Spain that he was going to take over Madrid because he had a large force surrounding the city and a secret force concealed inside, he expressed, in military terms, the moral problem we all face. Our enemy (Satan) has a secret force concealed inside of us. He has sinister allies lurking everywhere deep down in our hearts.


The problem which gave rise to this psalm is probably the presence in the Judean community of a bold group of godless men who are trampling down the righteous and causing some of the Lord’s congregation to waver in their loyalty.





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


Here the poet contemplates the sinful heart of a man who was representative of a section of society at that time, a section which has proved self-propagating in all societies, including ours. We are face to face with one who has sunk as deep as anyone can. Sin has become his oracle[1]. He does not only do wrong, but he interprets the world and its government from the point of view of sin. His conscience no longer troubles him, because “transgression” is in charge of it. This is the picture of the last degradation. We can only hope that in God’s mercy it never completely happens, for that would mean that the spirit of God in the soul is quenched.


The Septuagint translation, which is the Greek translation made by the seventy in Egypt, of this verse reads, “The wicked hath an oracle of transgression in his heart.” What is that oracle of transgression in the heart?  It is the old nature that everyone has, the Adamic nature. In Matthew 15:19 the Lord Jesus Christ says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” It is an ugly brood that comes out of the heart.


The word translated “transgression” is the usual Hebrew word for “rebellion.”The wicked man makes rebellion his inner oracle. In scripture, an oracle is usually an authoritative pronouncement from the Lord; but here it is sin that is speaking an oracle deep in the heart of the sinner. The wicked man gives to the lawless voice of rebellion within his soul the same place that the believer gives to the Word of God. This lying voice, which appeals to all his inner corruptness and lawlessness, becomes a lying spirit within his breast. This is why wicked men go on doing what they do. They are listening to a lying oracle within. It says there is no need to fear God’s punishments. God does not exist, and even if He does, He is not concerned about the plight of men. David found to his horror that there were times when he listened to the same inner oracle.


In Psalm 10, the sinner talks to himself, but here sin talks to the sinner. Sin deceives us (Romans 7:11) and flatters us (Deuteronomy 29:18, 19), giving us the false assurance that our rebellion will go unpunished (Genesis 3:1-5). “Listen to your heart!” the world tells us, forgetting that “The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This self-deception of the wicked is due to his deliberate blindness toward God; he shuts himself within himself, and by listening to the smooth words of his own oracle, persuades himself that he is immune from ultimate disgrace and dereliction. Of course, the sinner’s self-confident arrogance brings tragic consequences, starting with an absence of the fear of God. In this verse, “fear” is not the word for reverential respect of God that all believers should cultivate, but rather the word that means the dread of God and His judgment. Paul quotes this verse in Romans 3:8, along with other Old Testament statements that reveal the wickedness of the human heart. When we don’t fear God, we flatter ourselves, and that flattery gives us more confidence to sin. We don’t really see ourselves as the Lord sees us, and we are blind to our own sins and what they can do to us. This kind of person doesn’t hate sin or despise it or reject it but finds delight in doing it. It is a terrible thing when a man becomes headstrong in wickedness, and does not hate evil.


The word rendered “saith” is far too weak. It is not the word we ordinarily use for speaking, since it means “to speak with authority,” like a prophet. It is commonly used in the Old Testament for divine messages. It is the same word used in “Thus saith the Lord.”


“There is no fear of God before his eyes” is quoted by Paul in Romans 3:18). This is a description of the wicked. The wicked have an oracle of “transgression” in their hearts. To those who say, “Let your conscience be your guide,” I want to say, “Your conscience is not your guide.” The Holy Spirit is your guide. Your conscience is like a barometer that will let you know if what you have done is right or wrong. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide. Your conscience is that which will prick you after you have done something wrong.



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


He is flattering himself by thinking that he has outwitted God and that his immorality will never be found out. He is ruled by terrible negatives—there is no God, nor is there any accountability for his immorality. He has persuaded himself that God will never interfere with him. By losing the fear of God, a person opens himself up to all kinds of wickedness. Worst of all, he flatters God (or attempts to do so) by openly and publicly making a show of religion, while secretly and inwardly he is projecting wickedness, as if he believed he could deceive and mock God and get away with it. The reality is that he is making himself his own god. Anyone who makes his own desire the criterion of right and wrong does just that. It makes all the difference if we believe that God really hates sin and will have nothing whatsoever to do with it except to destroy it. Here we have the deadly descent into darkness: (a) the whispering of the spirit of evil, deep in the heart; (b) the death of the fear of God; (c) the conviction that there is no appearing before Him; (d) the comfort in evil that there is no consuming fire for it. Of course, in the end man pays for his foolishness because there IS a God and there are absolute standards of right and wrong which are laid down in God’s Word. Man’s desires and discernments, unless curbed by the rigid rules of right and wrong in the Bible soon become blurred.


Today’s society in general, having abandoned the Bible, is now beginning to pay the price for infatuation with man’s own ideas. According to one statistic, one out of ten people can expect to spend time in a mental hospital. Murder, rape, hate, terrorism, and drugs have become norms in our society. Double standards, conflict, and claims of discrimination, bigotry, chauvinism, and prejudice all help build up tension. People have lost their sense of right and wrong, and consequently are being driven to the verge of mental breakdown and insanity.


People today are no longer controlled by the hard, squared edges of God’s moral standards, as revealed in His Word, so they lose their moral compass. The end result of blurred moral standards, watering down divine commands, and eliminating the sharp edges of God’s moral code is disaster both for the individual and mankind in general. People are listening to the wrong voices—to the humanist, the psychologist, the socialist instead of to the Word of God. These false voices appeal directly to that inner voice that says God does not punish sin. Thus we have become a disoriented society. “He flattereth himself” is the Holy Spirit’s cutting comment.


Verses 3 and 4 give the steps by which the wicked man makes his moral descent:

(a)  The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit.

(b)He has ceased to be wise, and to do good.

(c)  He plots mischief while on his bed.

(d)  He positions himself in a way that is not good.

(e)  He does not hate evil.



3 The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.


“The words of his mouth are iniquity (wicked) and deceit (deceitful) is one fruit of practical atheism from David’s day that is still applicable today. Atheism is a form of self-deception. The person who opens his heart to deception and rejects absolute moral standards will see nothing wrong with lying. One of the things that astound and shock us today is the ease with which people lie. They will look you in the eye and tell you, with the utmost seeming sincerity, the most obvious untruths. Once he had some shadows or degrees of wisdom, and sometimes he did some things that were good; but now there is nothing he does that even has the appearance of it, and he has become an open apostate of the religion he once professed.


“He hath left off to be wise, and to do good” has been rendered by one commentator as, “He has ceased to act circumspectly.” In other words, once he did, but now he doesn’t. His behavior is learned behavior adopted as a matter of deliberate choice. There was once a time when he did act in a way which did show he was aware that God had claims upon his life, but no more.


When he loses the fear of God, he starts to lose everything else that is important to good character and conduct. Out of a sinful heart comes sinful words and sinful deeds—“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:34, 35). Instead of acting wisely, they set themselves and are ready to do evil.



4 He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.


“He deviseth mischief upon his bed” implies that instead of meditating on God’s truth, he lies awake at night thinking up evil things to do. He deliberately plans to follow his own desires. It is not that he is suddenly overtaken in an unexpected temptation. He plans out what he is going to do. He can’t relax and go to sleep until he has hatched a new plot—“Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand” (Micah 2:1).


“He setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.” The word “evil” is from a root which means “to break up all that is good” and is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word ponoros, from which we get our English word pornography. The word is connected with corruption, depravity, and lewdness. This man who once knew better, having convinced himself that God can be ruled out, finds nothing wrong with doing vile and filthy things. The corrupt heart has produced a defiled conscience, a confused mind, and a perverted will. Though he sometimes pretends to be remorseful and desists from doing his violent practices against me, as Saul did, yet he does not truly repent of or hate his sin, and therefore he is ready to return to it, when any occasion offers itself. If a man gets into a condition in which no wrong can sicken and disgust him, he is in a perilous state.


David thinks about this sinful man but it is not until the last verse that he tells what happens to this kind of person.


[1] A person who delivers authoritative, wise, or highly regarded and influential pronouncements. Also, any utterance made or received as authoritative, extremely wise, or infallible.


Psalm 36 (KJV)

(Part 2: verses 5-12)



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! 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.

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

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.





There are three parts to David’s depiction of the “The Saved Man” and God’s throne.

  1. The Righteousness of God’s Throne (36:5, 6)
  2. The Resources of God’s Throne (36: 7-9)
  3. The Responsibilities of God’s Throne (36.10-12)





The Righteousness of God’s Throne (36:5, 6)

Notice three things about that “righteousness.”

(1)  It cannot be matched (36:5)

(2)It cannot be moved (23:6a)

(3)It cannot be measured (36:6b)



5 Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.


David did a wise thing when he stopped contemplating sinners (vs. 1-4) and started focusing on the glorious attributes of the Lord and the abundant blessings that come to believers (vs. 5-6). Knowing the character of God is essential to a balanced Christian life, and in verses 5-9 there is a short systematic theology. David’s philosophy of life was based on personal experience of the Lord’s loyal love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice. These attributes are inexhaustible resources for believers. Through them the Lord “preserves man and beast” throughout life.


In sharp contrast to the sinner described in part 1 (verses 1-4) are the perfections of the Lord. His “mercy,” for instance, extends to “the heavens.” God’s love is as high as heaven and His loyalty soars to the skies. In other words it cannot be matched. How high is heaven? Where does the sky end? God would have to betray His own character if he let down even one trusting in His love. That love stands alone, unique and unsurpassed. There’s nothing like it in the universe—God’s mercy and faithfulness reaches to the clouds, that is, it is limitless in its extents. Mercy and faithfulness are often joined (Psalm 57:3; 61:7; 85:10; 86:15), as are righteousness and justice (Psalm 57:3; 61:7; 85:10; 86:15). His mercy is priceless, for it took the death of His Son to accomplish salvation for a lost world: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18, 19).



6 Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.


“Thy righteousness is like the great mountains” He has made—stable, steadfast, immovable, and thoroughly dependable. The mountains are the exact symbol of things that are immovable. We could bring our picks and shovels, even our trucks and tractors and how long would it take us to shovel the Rocky Mountains into the sea? That is what God’s righteousness is like. It cannot be moved. He can always be depended on to do the right thing. This was perfectly shown at the cross. God’s righteousness demands that sin be punished. If we were to be punished for our sins we would perish eternally. This is why Jesus took our sins upon Himself. So unbending is God’s righteousness that when He saw our sins upon His Son He poured out the torrents of His judgments upon Him. Now God has a righteous basis upon which He can save ungodly sinners—the penalty has been paid by a worthy Substitute.


“Thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.” Go down to the ocean, take your sounding line and drop it down. Get more line! More, more, more. As the children’s chorus puts it:


Wide, wide as the ocean

High as the Heaven above;

Deep, deep as the deepest sea

Is my Savior’s love.


As David discovered, it is a love backed by a righteousness, just as high, just as wide, and just as deep as the ocean. The saved man, then, rests in a loving-kindness that is backed by the righteousness of God’s throne.


“Thy judgments are a great deep” means that His decrees, decisions, thoughts, and plans are wonderfully profound, complex, and wise. When contemplating this attribute of God, Paul exclaimed: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).


“Thou preservest man and beast.” Here David speaks of physical salvation—of the providence of God preserving His creatures. And what a great mercy this is. Think of all that is involved in caring for so many human beings and so many animals, birds and fish. As for man, God numbers the very hairs of his head; as for the insignificant sparrow, not a single one falls to the ground without your heavenly Father! There is not a man or beast in all the earth that is not cared for by the Lord.




The Resources of God’s Throne (36:7-9)

Notice three things about the “Resources of God’s Throne.” Because of them men are:

(1)  Wonderfully sure (36:7)

(2)Wonderfully satisfied (23:8)

(3)Wonderfully saved (36:9)


That throne is great enough to meet our every need, no matter what that need might be. Whatever else may fail, that throne cannot fail. That is the best security we can ever have. It is better to be backed by the resources of God’s throne than by the resources of all the banks in the world.


But suppose all the vast resources of the largest bank were placed as a guarantee behind some great need of mine. It still would be a finite sum and it still would be subject to the financial and economic tremors that from time to time shake the business world. The financial world is so delicately balanced that the slightest tremor in one place would cause an upheaval somewhere else.


What a blessing that our most essential needs are not backed by banks but by the resources of God’s throne.



7 How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.


David uses the name Elohim here, not Jehovah. Jehovah was the covenant name, used especially in God’s pledges and promises to Israel. Moreover, he has been comparing God’s loving-kindness to the sea, the sky, and the towering mountain peaks.His illustrations are drawn from creation. He speaks of God as the Creator, as Elohim. The God who can create galaxies is a God of whom we can be wonderfully SURE. We can trust Him implicitly. He cannot fail! God is not an idea to inspire terror, but a thought to be taken comfortingly into the mind and heart of people who need a refuge in the“shadow of [His] wings.”


“The children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings,” says David. He may have been thinking of a mother hen. She is the biggest, kindest object in the universe to a dozen little fluffy chicks. When danger threatens they come scurrying to her and crouch beneath her wings where it is warm and safe.


Nothing that enters human life is more precious than the loving-kindness of God. It is eternal, sovereign, infinite, causeless, and unchanging. And nothing can ever separate the child of God from it. This is why the people of God find refuge “under the shadow of His wings.” Unfortunately, not all men choose to enjoy God’s loving protection. But the privilege is available to all, and people from every nation, class, and culture have found rest, refreshment, and safety under those incomparable wings.


How much better are the wings of the almighty! We know only too well how feeble a mother hen is. But God!—we can be wonderfully sure if we are safely gathered beneath the shadow of His wings. God’s “shadow” offers us better protection than the world’s armies. If you want men to leave other refuges to shelter under the wings of God, begin to talk of His love; that will draw them


What blessed, wonderful words these are. This is the God that man rejects. This is the God whom men do not fear. The wicked do not know this God, and they have no idea what it is like to be under His wings. That is the place where the righteous take refuge. In Exodus 19:4 God told Israel, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself.” Under His wings there is protection, security, rest, and the warmth of God’s love. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).This is the God that many people reject today.



8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.


Not only is there protection, but abundant provision as well. “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” What food can match that of the house of God in quantity and quality? And what pleasures also? It has been said, “God gives sorrows by the cupful but pleasures by riverful!” The priests received portions of some sacrifices for their own use and would feast in the sanctuary (Leviticus 6:14-23; 7:11-38; Deuteronomy 18:1-5; 1 Samuel 2:12-17). But David sees all of God’s people enjoying a feast in God’s house where there is an abundance of the best food and cool water (Psalm 63:1-5; 65:4). God gives to his loved ones the best parts of the sacrificial animal, although the best parts are meant to go up to God (Leviticus 3:11). The image of the Lord’s “satisfying river” is found often in Scripture: Psalm 46:4; Isaiah 8:5-8; Jeremiah 2:13-19; Ezekiel 47; John 4:1-15; 7:37-39; Revelation 22:1. It reminds of the rivers in Eden (Genesis 2:8-14)


The word for “pleasures” is edene, which means “delights,” a reference to the pleasures of Eden—to what men enjoyed in paradise before the fall. Man sinned and was cast out of Eden, but through faith in Christ we have access into God’s presence and can delight in His blessings. God wants to restore the “pleasures” of Eden for the believer. Pleasure, after all, is God’s invention. The devil has never been able to invent one single pure and satisfying pleasure. The devil’s formula, a characteristic of the artificial amusements and pastimes he concocts for men and women is a deadly one—an ever increasing dose required for an ever-diminishing return.


God is not against pleasure, He is just against “sinful pleasure”—the kind the devil supplies.


God offers us “rivers of pleasures”—the pleasures invented and produced in Heaven that flow from the paradise of God. We can be wonderfully SATISFIED. The resources of heaven cannot fail.



9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.


The psalmist had found that to worship God in the Temple is to drink from what Jeremiah has called “the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13)The worship of God gives him new life, spiritual life quickened by living water from holy springs. He found too that worship illuminates his problems and his daily walk with a light never seen on land or sea. It is that moral and spiritual light which has its fountain source in God, who Himself “is light, and in Whom there is no darkness at all.”


Life and light go together (Psalm 49:19; 56:13; John 1:4; 8:12), and the Lord is the source of both. These are the two essentials of a genuine Christian experience, the exact opposite of darkness and death. God is life and means life; the knowledge of Him and His Son is life eternal.


In Christ is the fountain or source or life. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). “In thy light . . . we see light.” Just as natural light reveals things in their true form, so the light of God enables us to see things as He does. It enables us to form correct appraisals of spiritual realities, of the world, of others, and of ourselves. To see the light is to live (to be SAVED). The dead do not see the light (Psalm 49:19). The deepest teachings of the Apostle John lie in this marvelous verse (John 1:1-16; 1 John 1:1-7).



The Responsibilities of God’s Throne (36:10-12)

Those responsibilities, as David sees them, are twofold. If I make you a promise I am responsible to keep that promise. If I break it then I do you harm, but I also do myself harm for I do damage to my character. The same is true of God. God has a responsibility, based on His character and His Word.

(1)  To justify the saint (36:10-11)—verse 11 explains verse 10

(2)To judge the sinner (36:12)



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

11 Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.


David now asks God to justify the saint permanently: “O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.”  One of the most satisfying aspects of our salvation is that it is permanent. What assurance would there be for the believer if salvation, once bestowed, could be snatched away by God as though He was some irate parent. Certainly, God will prolong His loving-kindness. Calvary guarantees it, the throne of God guarantees it, and that throne has its responsibilities clearly spelled out at the cross.


This is David’s prayer for protection here and now, not just in eternity. We are living in a dangerous world. Indeed, we are living in occupied territory. The invader is here with all his might to harass the saints of God and to stir up against them all kinds of trouble. David prays that God will protect His people from all that and one day judge the wicked. The way in which David asks God to continue His “loving-kindness” and deliverance is by giving His mercy and grace to him, and by restraining the foot of arrogant men from trampling him down and “the hand of the wicked” from driving him far away. Only if God keeps on showering us with His grace can we ever hope to be the servants of the Lord. The “word of grace” is far more powerful in the world today than cynics and pessimists think.


What a privilege it is to be God’s children! We are resting safely under His wings, feasting joyfully at His table, drinking abundantly from His River, and walking confidently in His light! God will bless us if we love Him, get to know him better, and walk in obedience to His will. David knew that the enemy was subtle and that he dared not become overconfident, so he prayed for protection from their hands and feet.


In verse 11, David prays for his own escape from two evils to which the godless are prone, arrogance and violence. The phrase “the foot of pride” is most likely military imagery referring to the practice of a victorious king-general putting his foot on the neck of a prostrated, defeated king-general.



12 There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.


The poet has been thinking of God, and then glances back at those who deny Him. They are flat on their faces now, with no hope of getting up again—unless!


David didn’t want to be knocked down and trampled upon and forced to leave his own land. He is so sure that the responsibilities of the throne will be asserted in this way for his protection that he speaks of it in the past tense as having already been done! Faith enables the psalmist to see the wicked “fallen” down and powerless to rise again. By faith, he looked ahead and saw the enemies of the Lord completely defeated, and on this confidence he continues to serve the Lord.


The sinner may think that everything is going his way as he plunges into sin, seeking those tasteless, disappointing pleasures offered to him by the evil one. But that is because, having dethroned God from his thinking, he cannot reason correctly. In the end the Christian gets the best of it because he gets the best of both worlds. He has the righteousness, resources, and responsibilities of God’s throne to back him up down here and then light and life for all eternity.


Faith carries us forward to the end of time; it shows us the Lord on His throne of judgment, the empire of sin fallen to rise no more.