Wickedness vs. Righteousness
(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David, the servant of Yahweh. (1) An oracle regarding the transgression of the wicked (is) within my heart. (There is) no fear of God before his eyes, (2) for he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity will not be found out and hated. (3) The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit. He has ceased to act wisely and do good. (4) He plots wickedness while on his bed. He sets himself in a way that is not good. He does not reject evil. (5) Yahweh, your steadfast love (is) in the heavens. Your faithfulness (reaches to) the clouds. (6) Your righteousness (is) like the mountains of God. Your judgments (are) like the great deep. You preserve humans and animals alike, Yahweh.
In this first half of the psalm, David meditates on the contrast between wickedness as manifested in the behavior of sinful men and righteousness as displayed in the character of Yahweh. He uses several synonymous phrases to describe the unforgiven: they are wicked, they commit transgressions, they manifest “no fear of God" (vs. 1), and they are filled with “iniquity” (vs. 2). “Wickedness” is mentioned twice for emphasis (vss. 3 & 4) along with “deceit” (vs. 3). David sums up their malevolence as pursuing nothing good nor rejecting what is evil (vs. 4).
On the other hand, Yahweh’s character exemplifies steadfast “love” and “faithfulness” (vs. 5) as well as “righteousness” (vs. 6). His judgments and his care for all that he has created show how wise and gracious he is (vs. 6). The disparity between good and evil could hardly be more obvious.
I. Wickedness: displayed in the behavior of the godless (1-4)
II. Righteousness: displayed in the character of Yahweh (5 & 6)
Yahweh’s righteousness is manifested and valued even more highly when contrasted with the depravity of the wicked.
Philosophers call it the problem of evil, an issue that has been discussed and debated for many centuries. Ever since the days of Job, whose account may be the most ancient book in the Old Testament, humanity has wrestled with the dilemma of a righteous, omnipotent God allowing evil to persist in his creation. The first six verses of Psalm 36 hint at one answer to this problem. Simply stated, apart from the presence of evil, we would never fully appreciate the perfections of our great God.
An illustration of this truth is seen in a jeweler’s use of a black, velvet background and a strong light to display the brilliance and beauty of his precious diamonds. Not until I actually experienced this when I was in the process of buying an engagement ring for my fiancé did I realize the effectiveness of such a demonstration. Against the dark background and under the focused light, the small diamond I was barely able to afford sparkled brilliantly. I immediately appreciated that this diamond, worn on my wife’s finger, would effectively symbolize the beauty and steadfastness of our commitment to love one another until death should separate us.
Only against a background of evil and wrongdoing can we grasp the power and majesty of God’s holiness and steadfast love for those who are his. This is certainly not the only reason why Yahweh allows evil to continue for a time in his universe, but it is at least one good explanation among others for the presence of corruption in the creation.