Psalm 36 - The Blindness of Sin and the Hope of the Gospel

Text: Psalm 36:1-2

1 Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.


Penned by David, Psalm 36 is, in the words of Derek Kidner “a psalm of powerful contrasts, a glimpse of human wickedness at its most malevolent, and divine goodness in its many-sided fullness. . . . Few psalms cover so great a range in so short a span.” The Psalm opens with a condemning and all-encompassing indictment of the wicked. Vv. 1-4 explain that evil infects not only the deeds and desires of the ungodly, but their heart, their eyes, their self-appraisal, their words, their will, their deeds, and their plans. Not just part but the whole of our being is consumed, given “over” and “up” (as the language of Romans 1 puts it), to willfully embracing the native desires of our fallen hearts. This corruption is so complete that transgression itself speaks “deep in his heart.” The picture here is one of a conscious turned in on itself: warped and mangled.

How very contrary is this to the messages we hear in literature, music, art, and entertainment? Again and again we’re told: “Just listen to your heart. Follow to the still, small voice inside you. And above all, be true to yourself.” Such is the power of sin that even our most inward part, the very center of our being, tells us to abandon God and live for our selves.

Interestingly, the psalm goes on to explain that the reason there is “no fear of God before their eyes” (v. 1) is because they “flatter [themselves] in [their] own eyes” (v. 2a). Pride blinds us, in other words, so that our iniquity literally “cannot be found out or hated” (v. 2b). As long as we oppose humility—defending ourselves and minimizing what we think, feel, and do—not only can we not dislodge and do away with sin, we cannot even see it. What possible hope is there if the entirety of our being, every faculty of mind and body, has been captivated by this self-glorifying addiction to love ourselves first?

Implication (Gospel):

Our hope comes from the gospel. As John Piper put it most recently, “There is no other object of knowledge in the universe that exposes proud, man-exalting thinking like the cross does. Only humble, Christ-exalting thinking can survive in the presence of the cross. The effect of the cross on our thinking is not cut off thinking about God, but to confound boasting in the presence of God.”

The cross exposes us simultaneously to the horrific depths of our sin—this is what it took for God to save us—as well as to the breath-taking depths of God’s love—this is what God was willing to do to save us. The cross humbles us by saying, “You are not loveable; but you are loved.” The gospel proclaims to us, in a single, unbelievable breath, that we are both more warped and sinful than we ever dared think and yet more loved and accepted that we ever dared dream. In this way, the gospel exposes to us how oppressive, disgusting, and ultimately suicidal our self-centeredness really is not by condemning us for it but by confronting us with the absolute and utter selflessness of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Application (Life):

Today I will distrust my natural instincts, thoughts, and feelings and instead focus on giving up my life in the pursuit of loving God and others.

1 comment:

Daniel Swofford said...

I found and began perusing your blog today. I had not anticipated finding such a powerful first post to read as I found here. Thank you.

I think I will add a quote from one of my favorite books related to your topic: 'By faith fill your soul with a due consideration of that provision which is laid up in Jesus Christ for this end and purpose, that all your lusts, this very lust wherewith you are entangeled, may be mortified. By faith ponder on this, that though you are no way able in or by yourself to get the conquest over your distemper, though you are even weary of contending, and are utterly ready to faint, yet that there is enough in Jesus Chhrist to yield and relief (Phil. 4:13)' - John Owen, The Morification of Sin.