Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
Karl Marx, the philosopher whose writings gave rise to communism, once wrote that religion is the opium of the people. He meant that people take religion as a drug to escape the reality of life's hardships, as it gives them the delusion that they will die and go to a place called heaven.
Marx was wrong. Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz, who had actually lived under the atheistic regimes of Nazism and communism, said that the true opium of people is the belief that there is nothing after death. People foolishly pretend that God will not judge them for all their betrayals, greed, cowardice, and murder. In Psalm 36, David reaches the same conclusion as Milosz.
David begins this psalm with an observation about sin. He recognises that the root of all sin is a failure to fear God (v. 1). It is a rejection of the truth that God will judge us. These same words are used to form the conclusion to Paul's devastating critique of human sin in Romans 1-3. Paul demonstrates that everyone has sinned, and therefore everyone needs the salvation that is found only in Jesus. Paul concludes by quoting Psalm 36:1: ″There is no fear of God before their eyes″ (Romans 3:18).
David goes on to say that people not only fail to fear God, but also delude themselves into thinking they are basically good (Psalm 36:2). Nothing has changed. Most people will claim that they are good people, and that their good deeds will save them if there really is a Judgment Day. As David says: ″The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful″ (v. 3).
In Romans 3, Paul moves from the ″bad news″ of human sin to the ″good news″ of God's love in sending Jesus to atone for our sin. Psalm 36 follows the same pattern. The rest of the psalm is a wonderful celebration of God's love and righteousness, which ″reaches to the heavens″ (v. 5). Jesus said that He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). In David's words, we ″drink from your river of delights″ (Psalm 36:8). In his letter to the Romans, Paul goes on to describe some of these delights: peace with God; God's love poured into our hearts; our adoption as sons; and more than conquerors (Romans 5:1, 5; 8:15-16, 37).
Psalm 36 should make us exalt in the riches we have in Jesus, and pray for those we know who don't fear God.
Why do many churches talk so little of ″the fear of God″ when the Bible speaks so much about it? What are some of the consequences of failing to understand the fear of the Lord?
While rejoicing in God's love and justice, why do you think David speaks of God preserving ″both people and animals″ (Psalm 36:6)? Today, make Psalm 36:10 the basis of a prayer for yourself and others.