Theme: Abandonment to Evil
In this week’s lessons we are given a stark description of the wicked, while the contrasting attributes of God reveal what God will do for those who belong to him.
Scripture: Psalm 36:1-12
Yesterday we looked at the first three steps in the wicked person’s decline. Today we begin by giving the last two.
4. Without any restraining influence from what is good, the wicked person becomes so abandoned to evil that he plots it by night as well as day and becomes thoroughly committed to an evil course. At this stage of his or her fall the evil person is not merely drifting into evil ways. He is plotting it, in contrast to the godly who spend the wakeful night hours meditating on God and his commandments. Psalm 1:2 says of the righteous man, “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” David wrote of himself in Psalm 63:6, “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”
5. In the end the wicked person cannot reject what is wrong, even when it is apparent to everyone that it is wrong. This is the closest equivalent to the point Paul reaches at the end of Romans 1, where he shows that the person who has been abandoned to a “depraved mind” (v. 28) comes at last to approve only evil. This means that in his depraved thinking the good becomes evil and the evil good. Black is white, good is evil, truth is error, peace is turmoil, joy is misery. Our word for a person whose thinking is twisted like that is crazy. It is correct to say that such a person is out of his mind. He is spiritually insane.
Progression into increasing abandonment to evil is marked by the verbs used to describe the wicked person’s actions. First, he “flatters” himself. Second, he “ceases” to do good. Third, he “plots” evil. Fourth, he “commits” himself to a wicked course. J. J. Stewart Perowne traces this flow similarly, concluding that the wicked person’s “very conscience is hardened, so that he does evil without repugnance or misgiving.”5
Abruptly, so abruptly that liberal scholars speak of two independent compositions awkwardly put together, the psalmist turns to contemplating the attributes of God and the blessedness of those who find refuge in him (vv. 5-9). He lists four attributes of God, followed by four blessings of the godly. In between he indicates how the goodness of God embraces everyone. First we see the attributes.
1. Lovingkindness. The most important of the attributes from the perspective of this psalm is hesed, usually translated “unfailing love” or “lovingkindness.” It’s important because the word begins the list of attributes (in v. 5) and closes it (in v. 7). It also reappears in the closing prayer (in v. 10). Alexander Maclaren has a sermon on this psalm in which he unfolds the meaning of the term, calling it goodness, mercy and grace: “All his goodness is forbearance, and his love is mercy, because of the weakness, the lowliness, and the ill desert of us on whom the love falls…. The first and last, the Alpha and Omega of God, beginning and crowning and summing up all his being and his work, is his mercy, his lovingkindness.”6
Describe the last two steps of the wicked.
What are the four verbs that describe the decline of the wicked?
How does the second half of the psalm contrast with the first part?
Reflection: How has the Lord showered you with his lovingkindness? Do you regularly praise him?
5J. J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. 1, p. 310. Original edition 1878-1879.6Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol. 3, The Psalms, Isaiah 1-48 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), part 1, pp. 229, 230.