March 25th – Les Kovacs Psalm 36
Observe: Psalm 36 is a wonderfully odd little Psalm from David. It has all the elements of a lament, but it isn’t dragged down with the deep sorrow usually associated with his laments. He starts by saying that he has a message in his heart from God about wicked people, not so much as specific enemies, but as the usual fallen sinners doing things in their own way for their own desires. They are so wicked their pride prevents them from acknowledging their own sin, and so they think that God can’t see it either. They speak what is evil, do what is wicked and plot what is sinful, with no thought for the Lord.
Then David contrasts these wicked ways with the Lord’s goodness, in superlatives to His love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice. The people God has saved can lean into to Him and be filled with all good things because of His great love for them.
David closes the Psalm by asking God to continue pouring out His lovingkindness to all those who know and love Him. He asks that God protect them from the prideful evildoers, whom He will eventually cast down, never to rise again.
Interpret: Scholars are not sure under what circumstances David wrote this Psalm, but it contains elements of both lamentations and praise. It is a concise study in contrasts between the wickedness of sinful humans, and the unassailable goodness of God.
David lays bare the truth that not only are the acts of sinful people sin in and of themselves, but that same sin blinds people to their sinfulness, and therefore they continue to commit sinful acts. They fail to see the wickedness of what they do and so they fail to fear the righteous judgment of the Lord. It’s the ultimate vicious circle.
From these dismal depths, David then soars in his praise of the Lord, delightfully meditating on His glorious majesty. The Lord preserves all creation out of His love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice, all of which are the exact opposite of the sins of the people. However, says David, those who love the Lord, those who are called His people, take refuge in Him and are blessed with an abundance of provision for the necessities of life. And more, David asks God to protect His people from the evildoers, from those whom He will ultimately cast down.
Application: In the title of this Psalm, David calls himself “servant of the Lord”. A servant is one who serves another, one who does the will of his master. As servant is one who listens for the voice of his master and answers the call. A servant is one who takes direction from their master and follows their instructions. A servant always comes second to their master. That’s how David saw himself, regardless of his position as King of the Israelites; he was a servant of the Lord.
In our world today, with its emphasis on achieving material success, on amassing as much wealth as possible, and on striving to get ahead, it’s hard to place yourself in a position of servitude and still be content. I once heard this philosophy summed up this way, “He who dies with the most toys, wins”. When you buy into this worldview, sin takes a backseat to everything else. The line between right and wrong is continually blurred until it eventually becomes obliterated altogether, all in a vain effort to satisfy our own wants and desires. Sin becomes our master, and we no longer recognize sin in its various forms as being wicked when we see it or commit it. And when we no longer recognize sin, we forget that despite our blindness, God’s eyesight is perfect, and He is an eyewitness to everything we do.
David spends far more time extolling the splendors of the Lord than he does dwelling on the sins of the wicked because he, as a servant of the Almighty, knows that God’s holiness is so much more powerful than our sins. His glorious attributes triumph over all our sinful endeavours. As our creator, it is the Lord who truly and deeply satisfies all our needs. He knows us better than we know ourselves. It is He who gives our life meaning. It is He who fills us with lasting joy. It is He in whom “we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.
If we need more convincing, we have only to look at the ultimate Servant and King, Jesus Christ. There is no greater King than Him. His throne is in heaven. The stars are His crown. The earth is His footstool. Everything in heaven and on earth belongs to Him. Yet He came down to earth, “not to be served, but to serve.” Matthew 28:20. He forsook His rightful high eminence to serve us by preaching the Good News, healing the sick in body and in spirit, and sacrificing Himself for our sins. He served us by bridging the gulf between us and our Heavenly Father. If we are to emulate the qualities of our saviour Jesus Christ, the Servant King, we should always ask how we can serve others.
Rather than fame, wealth or power, our greatest aspiration should be to live as a “servant of the Lord”.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know that it is our sin that traps us in our station. Help us overcome our earthly desires and live a life of service to our fellow brothers and sisters. This we pray in the merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: The Servant king – Graham Kendrick
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.