Psalm 36 - overcomer - Transgression speaks within my heart

This is a wonderful sweet Psalm. The negativeness of the 1st 4 verses meets me right where I'm at and exposes. From there it lifts up to the sure mercies of God and the enjoyment of His life and light. It leaves with a sober prayer to continue in.

Verses 1-4 are the condemning speaking of David's conscience. Verses 5-9 are the enjoyment of the Lord  in contrast to and concurrent with the sinful nature within. Verses 10-11 are a prayer as the result of enjoying the Lord. Verse 12 is a watchful observation as a result of the prayer.
v1 - There are only 2 Psalms that have in the heading, "to the servant of the Lord". (It could also be translated "by the servant of the Lord".) The other is Ps 18. To be a servant of the Lord, we need to know our own sinfulness, yet at the same time enjoy the Lord's mercy, faithfulness, judgment, house's fatness, life and light. This psalm to the Lord's servant does not contain anything about working for the Lord, but to live in and enjoy His light. This is to be an overcomer (Zech 12:8). This is in contrast to the "workers of iniquity" in the last verse of this psalm.

The verb for "speaks" here, naum, is used exclusively for the speaking of God or of a prophet, hence it means to speak as an oracle.

The Hebrew in v1 literally says:
Transgression speaks as an oracle to the wicked in the midst of my heart, There is no terror of God in front of his eyes.

Most translate it, "The transgression of the wicked speaks ...". This is wrong. The word "wicked" has the preposition "le", which means "to the wicked", not "of the wicked". There are 99 occurrences of "of the wicked" in KJV. Not one of these has the preposition "le". There are 16 uses of "le" prefixed to "wicked" in the Hebrew Bible, and in none of these does "le" mean "of". When used with a verb that means "to speak", this preposition means that the speaking is directed to the object of the preposition "le" (Ex 2:13; Pr 9:7; 24:24; Isa 48:22; 57:21; Ezek 3:18; 33:8,14).

The speaking in vv 1-4 is the speaking of David's conscience, which is one with God (1 Jn 3:20-21). His heart condemns his thought as being someone else inside his heart (Rom 7:15-25). This wicked one in his heart does not have the fear of God before his eyes.

The pronouns in verses 1b-4 are 3rd person masculine singular. These can be translated into English as "he", or with the indefinite pronoun, "they".  Translated as "he", David is referring to the sin within him as someone in him that is not himself as Paul did in Romans 7. Rom 3:18 translates it as "they", referring to all human beings.

The worst thing you have to fear is the treachery of your own heart. - Charles Spurgeon
v2 - Lit. - For he flatters himself in his eyes so that his sin is found to be hateful.

When we have thoughts, particularly of self-justification, we need to ask: Is the fear of God in front of the eyes that produced this thought, or is it flattering myself in my own eyes?

To flatter yourself in your own eyes is to reason away the speaking of the conscience and the Word. (Rom 2:15; 12:16; Lk 16:15)

If we do not keep the dread of God in front of our eyes, we will flatter ourselves in our own eyes instead. Keeping the dread of God in front of our eyes keeps us from such self-deceiving thoughts.
v3 - Our sinful nature speaks sin within us and deceives us (Rom 7:11). It goes against the wisdom we know in the Word (Rom 7:10-14). It deceives us into thinking we will do good, but we actually don't do the good (Rom 7:15).
v4 - The servant of the Lord and the overcomer must realize he is like this (Rom 8:5-8).

It is not good to stay in bed too long in the morning. Our mind will think up mischief. Go to bed and wake up early the same time every day. This is a way to refuse to be wicked. To sleep late will cause you to tread on a not good road the whole day.
v5 - As we listen to our conscience, we turn our eyes to the Lord, His mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, judgments, salvation, protection, satisfaction, abundance, richness, house, enjoyment, life and light.

I love this verse. If this Psalm started off with verse 5, I would not appreciate this verse so much. When I am suffering, the 1st 4 verses meet me where I am at. They remind me of who I am. Then verse 5 gives me such hope.  I realize how much I need the Lord's mercy and how wonderful the Lord's mercy is and how faithful He is to bestow it.

The 1st 4 verses of this Psalm remind me of Ephesians 2:1-3. Verses 5-10 of the Psalm remind me of Ephesians 2:4-10.
v6 - The Lord saves both man and beast. He takes care of all His creatures. (Matt 10:29; Luke 12:6; Jonah 4:11)

The Lord's judgments are very deep. When we are suffering, we may not understand why because the Lord's judgments are a great deep. It is for our own best interest as well as His (Rom 8:27-39).

The Lord even saves the beasts. Surely He will take care of our need.
v7 - Lit. How precious is Your mercy, O God! And the sons of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

 Appreciating the Lord's mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, judgments, and salvation and taking refuge in the shadow of the Lord's wings are things we must do for ourselves individually. These lead us to the Lord's house, the church in the next verse.

Starting in the middle of verse 7 the pronouns in this psalm change from 3rd person singular to 3rd person plural. Realizing our sinfulness is something individual. Enjoying the Lord is much richer together with God's people.
v8 - This experience of being abundantly satisfied with the fatness of the Lord's house requires the Lord's house, which is the church.  This requires other believers to enjoy the Lord with.

The river of Your  pleasures could also be translated "the river of Your Eden". The river of God's delight flows in the church where there is the freedom of the Spirit (Ps 46:4; Rev 22:1-2; John 7:38-39).

Our experience of Christ is much richer in the church than individually (Eph 3:18-21), however there is no substitute for our individual experience of Him. Our individual experience is the basis for our corporate experience.

The river of God's delight is Christ (Matt 3:17; Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22; Matt 12:18; 17:5; 1 Pet 1:17). Drinking of the river of God's delight in the church causes God to delight in us (Ps 18:19; Lk 2:14; John 4:14; 7:37-39; Eph 1:5-9; Phil 2:12; Heb 10:38; 11:5-6).
v9 - The fountain of life and light is also much richer in the Lord's house, the church (1 John 1:7).

When we walk in the light, then we receive light from the Lord in the word and concerning our life.

"We see light" here refers back to our "eyes" in verses 1-2.
v10 - The abundant enjoyment of the Lord's house should cause us to soberly pray to continue His mercy to all those who know Him, and His righteousness to all the upright in heart.

The Lord's blessing often departs because we get proud and do not realize that it is the Lord's mercy. We forget to be upright in heart, and think that if we do religious things for the Lord then we are righteous. It is a mercy of the Lord for us to be upright in heart.

We also need to have the view to pray for all those who know the Lord and all the upright in heart, not just for those that have the same view as we do or those who are in our group.
v11 - I would have ended the Psalm with verse 10. Verse 11 is a prayer that I not be led into temptation by the proud or the wicked. This includes a proud or wicked person coming to deceive me as well as myself becoming proud or wicked. I would like to end with the high enjoyment of Christ, but the Spirit tells us to be watchful in prayer.
v12 - This is serious because the workers of iniquity cannot rise after falling here by stumbling those who love the Lord (Matt 18:6; Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2). "There" refers to the works mentioned in v11.

The workers of iniquity are in contrast to the servant of the Lord. The workers of iniquity do not keep the fear of God before their eyes but succumb to flattering themselves. At one time they may have had the enjoyment spoken of in this Psalm in vv 5 - 9, but did not continue in the Lord's mercy. This should be a warning to us. We can all become "workers of iniquity".

No Christian today would end a hymn in this way. We want to always end with something positive. The divine way usually ends with a positive, but not infrequently, as here, with a warning. This way we do not forget the warning.

3/27/09 copyright Steve Miller
updated 6/23/09
updated 9/11/09