The Great Goodness of Our God - Psalm 36
Topic: Goodness of God Passage: Psalm 36
Summer in the Psalms
Grace Community Church
August 18, 2021
The Great Goodness of Our God
Turn in your Bibles to Psalm 36 or you can follow on the screen. Several years ago I attended the Together for the Gospel conference and some friends and I went out to lunch and I ordered something called the Trainer Burger. I don’t know what it was meant to train me for, but it was the heaviest burger I’ve ever eaten. It was big and it was dense. Then they threw a fried egg on it and surrounded it with fries and onion rings. Listen, I’m no lightweight when it comes to eating, but this burger did me in. I was stuffed! So when the waitress asked if we wanted dessert, of course I said…yes!
They had something on the dessert menu that I had never seen before and have never seen since. They offered fried twinkies. Who could pass that up? So out came two fried twinkies complete with ice cream. It was actually pretty good.
By the time I left that restaurant, I was not only really full, I felt terrible. Like unhealthy terrible. That doesn’t happen to me very often but I guess my stomach said enough is enough. When dinner came around I wasn’t hungry and I still felt terrible. After the conference evening meeting, when it was time for the obligatory post-meeting meal, all I wanted was something light and healthy so I ordered a salad and some fruit. I craved good and healthy.
I share this to let you know why I picked psalm 36. With the news out of Afghanistan being so bad and so sad my heart has been heavy. I put myself in the position of the Americans who are stuck there, or the Afghani’s who are looking at the complete loss of their freedom and the probability of atrocities being committed against them and their loved ones and I just don’t know what I’d do. I think of the women who have experienced the freedom to go to school and not be forced to wear burkas, I think of the children who will grow up in such an oppressive culture, I think of the parents who are so desperate to give their children a better future that mothers were handing their babies over the fence to give them to American soldiers.
I wonder, how men can be so evil and so devoid of compassion or love? How twisted must their hearts be to be so evil and think it’s good.
And so, as I contemplated what psalm to consider this morning, my heart craved the healthy, good, and loving. My heart craved God. My soul wanted to think less about people and more about God and His greatness and His goodness. And it’s a logical next step because over the last couple weeks we’ve been talking about growing our confidence in God and being confident in God requires that we know who God is and what He’s like. Our confidence in God is directly attached to our knowledge of God. If we don’t know much about God we won’t be very confident in Him.
Psalm 36 tells us about who God is, but first it tells us who man is. The psalmist, David, wanting to contrast the heart of man with the heart of God, begins by giving us a window into the heart of the wicked person. Let’s take a couple minutes for that and the remaining time considering the greatness of our God.
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.3 The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. 4 He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil. Psalm 36:1-4
When we hear the word “wicked” we might immediately think it’s referring to terrible people like the Taliban and certainly it is. But the word translated “wicked” actually means ungodly and refers to all unbelievers, all who try to live life without God.
That might seem harsh and unfair to call someone “wicked” just because they don’t believe in God. We see goodness and kindness and nobility in so many people who aren’t Christians (and sometimes we see unkindness and mean-spiritedness in people who say they are Christians, but that’s for another message) and it seems wrong to call them wicked just because they have detached their lives from God.
God created mankind in His image, which means He created man to be good and kind and noble, and those qualities still reside in our hearts. The problem is that God alone is the source of love, goodness, and nobility, so when the human heart is disconnected from God those good qualities will eventually die (like a cut flower retains its beauty for a while but inevitably wilts and dies).
God is like the sun, mankind like solar panels. If a solar panel said, “I’m going to accomplish all I need to accomplish without the sun” it might have some solar power saved in its banks, but it would quickly run out. We still have some goodness, kindness, and nobility left over in our banks from creation, but apart from God it will quickly run out. He is the source and apart from Him we can’t produce genuine love, compassion, and integrity on our own. We have varying amounts saved in the banks of how God created us, but we are recipients of those qualities, not the source of them. We can receive and reflect love, compassion, integrity, our hearts can’t manufacture them.
Verse one says that sin speaks deeply to the human heart causing us to reject God and flatter ourselves. That word flatter literally means to smooth. We smooth out what we do so it doesn’t seem that bad. We give ourselves a pass. That’s why we see other people’s sin as much more serious than our own. When it’s “them” we judge. When it’s us we fudge. We excuse ourselves for the very things we condemn others for.
Over time sin speaks louder and louder to our hearts and God’s voice and the God-like qualities God put in us gets quieter and quieter. The Taliban’s heart is just further down the road than sweet Aunt Millie’s heart, but all of our hearts are going in the same direction. We’ll come back to this in a minute.
In contrast to the wickedness of man’s heart, David sings the praises of God’s heart!
5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord. Vv. 5-6
In Psalm 90, Moses focuses on the attribute of God’s timelessness. From everlasting to everlasting you
are God. David focuses on the attribute of God’s character in four aspects: love, faithfulness,
righteousness, and judgments and he uses earthly measurements to give us an idea of how vast and great and good God is. Of course, earthly analogies must always fail at some point, but they help us get a handle on who our God is.
- God loves with a loyal love
5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens(vs 5)
The Hebrew word for love, hesed, carries the sense of a faithful or loyal love. The ESV adds the word “steadfast” to convey God’s love being a loyal love. Our hearts crave a love that is loyal, that doesn’t abandon or give up on us because we mess up or let someone down.
It’s common in this fallen world for our relationships to become transactional in nature. When we are afraid of losing a friendship if we say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, or don’t measure up in some way, then know it or not we are relating on a transactional basis. If we are quick to break off relationships when they mess up or don’t measure up in some way we are relating on a transactional basis. I give you the right things, you give me love. You give me the right things, I give you love. Transactional.
God’s love is hesed, not transactional. He loves us with a loyal love and that love reaches to the heavens. That’s David’s way of saying it is inexhaustible, limitless, everywhere.
All of God’s qualities flow from His love. Nothing God is, and nothing God does, is separate from His love. As John writes, God is love. God doesn’t just have love, He is love. Loyal love. And every other quality He has is motivated by perfect love.
- God is faithful to keep His promises
your faithfulness to the clouds. (vs 5)
God keeps His promises. In this book we find promises. Hundreds of massive, glorious promises. Promises like, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “I am with you always.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And so many other promises.
A promise is only as good as the character of the person giving it. We see broken promises all around us, but God never breaks His promises. In all of eternity, God has never, and will never, break one single promise. That’s why the strongest rock we can stand on is the rock of God’s promises.
- God’s righteousness is as solid as a mountain
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; (vs. 6)
God does what is right always. He is righteous – right and wrong are literally defined by Him. That’s why
those who deny the existence of God have a hard time explaining why something is right or wrong, good or evil. If there is no absolute Right, then who’s to say what’s right or wrong?
Mountains are a symbol of strength and majesty, but I’m glad this verse doesn’t say “Your power is like the mountains of God”. God is powerful – all-powerful. But infinite power without perfect righteousness would be a terrible thing. If God were evil, if He had all the power and authority He has, but had the character of a Taliban soldier, how terrible would existence be? The greatest curse possible would simply to be born because there’d be no place to run, nowhere to hide, no good to cling to, no hope to cling to. Thank God He is righteous, with a righteousness that is immovable and majestic and strong.
But having said that, God’s righteousness would still be terrible news for us if not for God’s loyal love because we are not righteous. The Bible says there is none who are righteous, no, not one. Sin’s venom flows in all our hearts, from the worst Taliban terrorist to sweet Aunt Millie. It flows in your heart, and mine. God in His righteousness must punish our unrighteousness and that punishment is eternal death which is being separated for all eternity from God Himself, the source of all goodness and love and life.
The gospel is that on the cross Jesus took our unrighteousness upon himself in order to give us his righteousness. All those who trust in Christ are robed in white robes of righteousness that belong to Jesus. When we stand before God on Judgment Day, if we have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, our righteousness will be like the mountains of God, for our righteousness will be God’s righteousness.
- God’s judgments are as deep as the ocean
your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord. (vs 6)
It’s interesting that God’s righteousness, love, and faithfulness rises up into and above the skies, but His judgments run deep. The ocean depths are deep, not only in physical depth, but also in their hiddenness. To this day the most unexplored places on earth are the ocean depths.
God’s judgments are good and right, but the Bible also tells us His judgments are beyond our tracing out. “Why” is a question we ask about a lot of things. Why does God allow this to happen? Why did God allow that to happen? Why didn’t He stop this? Why didn’t He make that happen? Why does He allow the atrocities that we see going on in Afghanistan right now? Why such heartache and suffering? On any given day I could go through the news and point out a dozen things I would, in my wisdom, do differently. Why doesn’t God do something about it?
Next week I think we’re going to look at Psalm 73 and Asaph begins the psalm asking “why?” Atheists often support their rejection of God’s existence by pointing to things that don’t seem to make sense and ask why? If there is a God, why would He let this happen?
The Bible gives us a robust framework for understanding why God has allowed evil and suffering, but it isn’t comprehensive. God doesn’t explain everything. Far from ignoring evil and suffering, the Bible tells us that Jesus accomplished the greatest good in history through the evil actions of evil men and through excruciating suffering. We are given understanding and wisdom but not exhaustive understanding and wisdom.
But we’ll never be able to trace out all the “whys”. The deeper judgments of God are as far beyond our understanding as a nuclear physicist’s knowledge is beyond an ant’s ability to comprehend. God’s judgments are deep, beyond our tracing them out, but we can know and trust that God’s loyal love and faithfulness and righteousness reaches into the sky, so when we don’t understand what God is doing or why He’s doing it, we can trust His character and wisdom. When we can’t see His hand we can trust His heart.
The deepest currents of God’s judgments flow in the direction of love, and with the impulse to save: man and beast you save, O Lord.
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. 10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! 11 Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. 12 There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise. Psalm 36:7-12
There’s a lot more that could be said about these closing verses, but I’m going to bring this in for a landing by summing it up as David saying, let me treasure your love O Lord, and let me not align my life with those who reject you and fall, unable to rise.
Whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, what our hearts crave most is God and His great goodness. Let’s pray.