A HYMN TO GOD’S MERCY
This beautiful meditation on the excellence of God’s loving-kindness, is encompassed within an oracle concerning the transgression of the wicked. Like a beautiful portrait set against a dark and gloomy background, the centrepiece is highlighted by the use of light, and lively living colours. A string of visual images assists our understanding of the subject.
Psalm 36:5. (a) “The mercy (steadfast love) of the LORD resides in the heavens” - yet it has been made available to men (Psalm 103:11-12). This explains the mystery of the incarnation.
b) His “faithfulness” - whereby the LORD binds Himself to keep His promises and covenants - is not limited by time or space: it “reaches the clouds.” He will not fail to keep His word, and confirms His promise by an oath (Hebrews 6:17-18).
Psalm 36:6. (a) The “righteousness” of the LORD is compared to the great mountains, lofty and inaccessible from the perspective of those who reside upon the earth. Everest has been conquered, but still man (outside of Christ) cannot reach the heights of God’s righteousness (but see Romans 4:22-25).
b) God’s “justice” is as unfathomable as a mighty ocean. He has promised to cast our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). Thus He proves Himself to be both just, and the One who justifies (Romans 3:26).
c) The Creator God is also the One who preserves His creation (Acts 17:28). He provides for (or saves) “both man and beast.” In the meantime, the whole of creation groans, awaiting a fuller salvation (Romans 8:19-22).
Psalm 36:7. (a) The contemplation of the loving-kindness of the LORD leads the Psalmist deeper into awe. “How excellent” - how precious, how wondrous - that God’s mercy should be directed to unworthy men.
b) The correct response to the love of God, is to put our trust “under the shadow of His wings” (Psalm 17:8). This terminology is echoed in Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34).
Psalm 36:8. (a) God’s provision reaches to the whole earth (Psalm 23:5), where Christ has set His tabernacle amongst men (John 1:14). Those who put their trust in Him shall abide in His house for ever (Psalm 23:6).
b) The “river of God’s pleasures” points us back to Eden, which means ‘delight’ (Genesis 2:10). It is also a source of present blessing (Psalm 46:4), and points us toward heaven itself (Revelation 22:1-2).
Psalm 36:9. (a) The “fountain of life” is freely available (Revelation 21:6) to those who thirst for the water of life (John 4:14). It is with joy that we are enabled to draw water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3).
b) “In thy light shall we see light.” The LORD is our light and salvation (Psalm 27:1). Light signifies life. The life of Jesus is the light of men (John 1:4). Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12).
Psalm 36:10. Even though God has already imputed His righteousness to those who know Him, there is the need for daily supplies of grace. Thus the Psalmist prays for reassurances in the face of the very real threat posed by the transgression of the wicked. This is not spoken out of fear or doubt, but out of a faith that trusts in the One under whose wings we reside (Ruth 2:12).