Yesterday we considered the first few verses of Psalm 36 in my post – A Revelation of Wickedness. Picking up where we left off, we take a sharp turn away from the wickedness of humanity to the wonders of our gracious God. Perhaps the psalmist – King David – was hoping to convey the absolute contrast between the evil of men and the goodness of God.
5 Your loving kindness, Yahweh, is in the heavens.
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God.
Your judgments are like a great deep.
Yahweh, you preserve man and animal.Psalm 36:5-6 WEB
Verses five and six begin to compare some of God’s attributes with features of the physical world to provide a sense of scale. Sometimes, when my children take a photo of an insect or similar, we encourage them to add something else to the background to show the size of the object in question. In a similar way, King David is trying to convey the magnitude of these characteristics of God. He begins with loving-kindness.
Verse 5 in the WEB is perhaps not the most helpful rendering. It says that God’s loving-kindness is in the heavens. The NLT puts it like this: “Your unfailing love O Lord is as vast as the heavens.” Which I feel is a much clearer picture. God’s love is so vast that it reaches from the depths of the earth to the highest heavens. God’s love, which never fails, is as big as you can imagine. This is, of course, poetic language, as love cannot be measured by volume or distance. Instead, God demonstrates His love for us in the form of a rugged cross and a suffering Saviour. As John states in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.” That’s the size of God’s love!
With poetic emphasis (and particularly in the Hebrew style), God’s faithfulness is now compared to the height of the skies. Faithfulness is not something we see a great deal of in our world today. It means to be steadfast and loyal, to keep to our word no matter the circumstances and to remain at a friend’s side in the bleakest of trials. God will never leave you. He will never forsake you. God is faithful, meaning what He says and saying precisely what He means. We can trust God because we can trust His word.
We can #trust #God because we can trust His Word – that is, the #BibleTweet
Verse six compares God’s righteousness to the mountains of God. There are few geological features as impressive or even breath-taking as a mountain. To us mere humans standing at their foot, a mountain seems an almost eternal object. Often, from the base, the top is obscured by cloud and we can only imagine how high it extends. Likewise, God’s righteousness is seemingly unending.
The word righteousness here is integrity, or moral uprightness. God is righteous; He is morally perfect and without fault. God is both pure and just, and He is blameless and holy. As we stand before a mountain and feel rather small, we ought to stand before God and feel wholly inadequate before Him. Our righteousness is like filthy rags in comparison, and we dare not hope to approach Him without the cleansing work of Christ. Thanks be to God who no longer sees our sinfulness, but instead sees us as pure and righteous as His Son through the shed blood of the cross!
Verse six then points out another massive geological feature – the great deep. Indeed, the psalmist compares God’s judgements to the depths of the mighty ocean. I do not mind admitting to you that I have something of a fear for the ocean. Partly due to its size and partly owing to its power, I rarely venture into the waves. I recall a story my wife tells of a time when she was swimming over a coral reef. The water was perhaps a few feet deep, but as she swam out further over the edge of the reef, the ocean floor dropped sharply away and there was apparent nothingness beneath her. Rather unsettled, she returned to the relative safety of the reef. The thought of it sends shivers down my spine! It is not only the imagined creatures lurking in those depths, but also the vast volume of water and absence of light that disturbs me.
The deep, here, is perhaps not meant to be so terrifying as I’ve made it out to be! Put simply, it is a huge mass, and again gives us a sense of scale to the judgements of God. I read this as God’s ways being higher than our ways, rather than God’s judgements being harsher or harder than ours (although perhaps that is also true?)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV
Verse six concludes by noting that God preserves both man and animal alike. We could spend a long time considering the preservation of man at God’s mighty hand, but I rarely pass a verse like this without pausing at the inclusion of animal kind. While we know that humans are far more valuable than animals, God is not dismissive of His Creation and willing to care for animals of all kinds as well. I recall a poorly dog we once had, and reading closing words of the book of Jonah where the city of Ninevah is spared. The book of Jonah includes concern not just for the people of Ninevah, but also the animals that live there too (see Jonah 4:11).
God is indeed a saving God; a Rescuer! He is able to preserve our life on this dangerous world but also to save us from sin and its consequences in the life to come. I have only managed two verses today, and perhaps this isn’t the longest of posts, but this seems a good place to pause. I rejoice that despite my failings, and my disturbing familiarity with the first four verses, that God is able to save me. Despite my wickedness, and that of the world around me, Jesus was willing and able to step down into the mire, live the perfect life, and suffer the consequences of sin which was alien to Him. He paid the penalty for me and for you. He died a brutal death, physically and not to mention the spiritual element, in order that you and I might go free.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in the preservation business. God sees the trap we find ourselves in, a pit of our own making, yet He is not content to leave us there. Giving up His most precious Son, God paid the price for each of us. If we call on Him today, trusting in what He has done and letting go of our pitiful efforts, we too can be saved – preserved – for all eternity. It is not a mere nod to Jesus that is enough, we must give Him our entire lives and learn to live for Him, and learn to let Him live through us.
As you stand before God today, is it a mountain of righteousness you see, or a righteousness which stretches to the heavens above? Do you feel small before Him, aware of your own failings? I know I do at times! Yet, as we put our faith in Jesus, we are cleansed and made new. Do not let this moment pass you by! Make a commitment today, and begin to follow Jesus. Learn His ways, and rest in Him. If you make that choice today, I’d love to hear from you.
We will return to the rest of this psalm another day. Blessings on you!