Theme: Under His Wings
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 said that the first way in which the righteous are blessed is in being satisfied, or taking joy in, the abundance of God’s blessings.
2. Joy. Our word for the second blessing is joy, though the word David uses here is “delights.” The interesting thing about David’s word is that it is the plural of the word “Eden” and undoubtedly looks backward to the joys of our first parents before the Fall.9
3. Life. Verse 9 adds two more blessings of the righteous, life and light, doing so, as Perowne says, by “some of the most wonderful words in the Old Testament.”10 Their fullness begins to be hinted at by the Apostle John in the prologue to his gospel, when he writes of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). The prologue makes clear that the life spoken of is both physical, since “without him nothing was made that has been made” (v. 3), and spiritual, since “to all who received him, to those who believed on his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (vv. 12, 13). It is hard to doubt that John was thinking of Psalm 36:9 as he composed this prelude.
4. Light. “In your light we see light” (v. 9). Where is the light of God to be found so that we might walk in light and grow as children of light? A glimmer is seen in nature. It is what the heathen have but reject, according to Romans 1. A steady beam is seen in the Old Testament, pointing onward to him who is himself the Light. The full glory of God’s light is in the gospel, which is what we proclaim. Yet the fullest revelation awaits the day when we shall see God in his glory and be like Jesus, whom we will encounter face to face (2 Cor. 3:7-18).
The conclusion of the psalm is a prayer in which David prays for others who know God and are upright (v. 10) and for himself that he may be preserved from evildoers (vv. 11). So confident is he of this final deliverance that the psalm closes with a prophetic glimpse of the wicked who, in his vision, already “lie fallen—thrown down, not able to rise” (v. 12).
What is the final application of the psalm? It is what we have already seen in verse 7. What distinguishes the righteous from the wicked is not the good deeds of the godly, though they inevitably express their right relationship to God by good deeds; but rather that they, rather than the wicked, have taken refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. The words “find refuge” mean to flee for refuge, like a man guilty of manslaughter flees from the avenger of blood. They mean to flee with haste and intensity, stopping for nothing, until by the full thrust of our entire natures we find safety and deliverance beneath the wings and in the unfailing mercy of Almighty God.
That mercy is to be found in Jesus Christ. He said of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Luke 13:34)! The masses of Jesus’ day missed that great blessing. Do not be one of them. Come to Jesus now.
What interesting point is made about the word “delights”?
How do “life” and “light” fit together?
Reflection: In what ways do you need to “find refuge” under the shadow of God’s wings?
9David is probably also thinking of a river (or rivers) in the Garden of Eden, when he writes of “your river of delights.” But this is a multifaceted image in Scripture, and other passages may be in view (cf. Pss. 46:4; 65:9; Ezek. 47:1-12; John 4:13-14; and Rev. 21:6; 22:1-2, 17).10J. J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. 1, p. 312. Original edition 1878-1879.