The Man (or Woman) in the Mirror

August 26 — Psalm 36:1–12

May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
See how the evildoers lie fallen –
thrown down, not able to rise.
(Psalm 36:11–12)

Psalm 36 is a psalm of extreme contrast. In verses 1–4, the “sinfulness of the wicked” is portrayed. Then, beginning abruptly in verse 5, the love and care of God is described. The psalmist concludes his thoughts in verses 10–12 with a plea for God to continue His love and righteousness toward those who know Him and maintain an upright heart. He also prays that he not be affected by the proud or wicked. It is again, though, the abrupt change in direction between verses 4 and 5 that captures my attention.

Why would the psalmist do this? As I examined the passage, the thought occurred to me that, while there is an abrupt shift in focus, the line separating the “sinfulness of the wicked” and the goodness of God — or of the godly, for that matter — is a very thin line. In our rationale, we may like to differentiate between the two in terms of degrees. We tend to like areas of “gray-ness” when it has to do with us. We want to put our sins on a graduated scale where we can compare our sin with the much “darker” sins of others. In this way, we can see ourselves in a better light as “good people”.

But the reality of scripture is this: The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a). That means all sin — even those we would deem lesser sins! There is no gray area of sin. All sin separates us from God. All sin thus brands us as sinners — wicked, if you will — ones who have separated ourselves from God by our choices, attitudes and actions.

Why am I making such a strong statement as this? It is because we tend to “self-deceive.” We can tend to “overlook” our sin and pretend we are “good” when we are actually not unlike anyone else in our need of God’s love, forgiveness and help. Our Christian pride can cause us to forget this and become numb to the reality of our lost state if we are not in constant communion with the Lord.

The psalmist paints this contrast and then concludes with a heartfelt prayer:

Continue your love to those who know you,
Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
May the foot of the proud not come against me,
Nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
(vv. 10–11a)

In my own words, I would echo these words, recognizing as I do that I can be my own worst enemy — the proud and the wicked person I pray God would protect me against! I would thus echo these words of Annie S. Hawks:

I need Thee every hour, Stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee, O, I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now my Savior, I come to Thee!

To this I would simply add, “Amen.”