In his masterpiece, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote perceptively about pride. He said, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
In a similar way, the wicked have a skewed view of themselves and of God. The psalms often paint a contrasting portrait of the righteous and the wicked. The main difference is not that one is sinless and the other sinful. In fact, the righteous often openly confess their sin to God. Rather, the main distinction between the two is that the righteous fear God and recognize their dependence upon Him; the wicked do not.
Psalm 36 focuses on the contrast between the wicked and God. Because the wicked do not fear God, they look to themselves as the most important reality in the universe. This leads them to flatter and deceive themselves (vv. 2–3). Their willful self-deception results in failure to “act wisely or do good” (v. 3). Instead, they become busy plotting and scheming against others (v. 4).
In marked contrast, the Lord’s attributes of love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice are celebrated (vv. 5–6). They are as important and as impressive as the “heavens,” “skies,” “highest mountains,” and “great deep” (vv. 5–6). Instead of plotting the destruction of others, the Lord preserves “both people and animals” (v. 6). The Lord provides food, shelter, and protection to all who take refuge in Him (v. 7). The proper response to the Lord’s remarkable care and provision is one of humility, gratitude, and trust. This sense of dependence on God is beautifully stated in verse 9: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”
It bothers us when we see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. But Psalm 36 encourages us to focus instead on the greatness of God. Reflect on ways in which you have experienced God’s faithfulness, love, care, and provision. Celebrate your dependence on Him and remember that one day, God’s justice will be accomplished (v. 12).