Sit with a Psalm: Psalm 36
Before we dive into the meat of this article, I’m going to ask you to do a few things for me. First, get comfortable. Make sure that you’ve situated yourself in a comfy chair with a fuzzy blanket nearby. Pour yourself a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate. Grab a slice of pumpkin chocolate chip bread. Once your physical environment is ready, work on the emotional/mental/spiritual. Let go of your to-do list, all of the things that went wrong today, your dinner plans. Bring your heart and your mind to that comfy chair. Allow them to rest easily. Now that we’re settled into this, let’s begin. We’re going to sit with Psalm 36 today. As I read these words by David, I see them falling into three sections. Before I tease apart those sections and what they mean for us, I want you to read the chapter. Go ahead...start reading. I’ll wait.
An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.
The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.
Even on his bed he plots evil;
he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.
O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
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.
See how the evildoers lie fallen--thrown down, not able to rise.
Take a moment and jot down your thoughts. Did you write down some ideas? Good. Now, here is mine.
This psalm is like chocolate chip pumpkin bread. The first four verses are a little spicy. They hit you with some brutal honesty about the world. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger...in bread, they add a nice element of warmth. In this psalm, the words burn with a certain fierceness.
The next section of verses (vs. 5-9) is pretty sweet, like chocolate chips. These verses are full of goodness and leave you wanting more! And in the end, there’s a satisfaction. You know that you’ve really found something with meaning, to tie everything together. These last verses, the pumpkin if you will, give us something to take away. Let’s little a little closer.
Spices: Reality Check (v 1-4)
These verses hit you hard...just like a spoonful of cinnamon or nutmeg or ginger. I am and have been acquainted with the Lord for quite some time now. To fathom a life in which my eyes are closed to his greatness and my sin is impossible! It’s scarier than eating a spoonful of cinnamon! And yet I know that I am surrounded by people who believe in their own goodness above the existence of a Creator.
When David describes these people who are wicked, I don’t think we have to picture witches with warts and pointy hats or even terrorists. Instead, just think about people in your life who don’t acknowledge a Creator. Those who find worth in the works of their hands and refuse to credit anyone else. Ones who can’t see past their own needs long enough to extend love to those who are hurting. If we are to be the kingdom of God on earth, it is important that we learn to differentiate his goodness from human goodness. But...what exactly is so good about God?
Chocolate chips: Praise (v 5-9)
This sends us straight into the next section that I call “Praise”...it’s the sweet stuff. Verses 5-9 are all about God and the goodness that he offers to us. Love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice! He’s a refuge. Abundantly generous. Light.
So, when it comes to differentiating the Lord’s goodness from the humanity’s goodness, think about these aspects of his character. Especially when you’re trying to figure out what to do with your own life. It can be hard to answer the big questions like, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” And asking God for direction can seem like such an unsubstantial solution. The answer seems intangible. So maybe, instead of asking God and sitting around and waiting for some “sign,”. Let's seek the fruit of his goodness: love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice. Is the work that you seek to do going to pour out those good fruits into the world? If so, you’re probably on the right track. But there’s still nothing wrong with asking...
Pumpkin: Petition (v 10-12)
And here we are at the closing of this psalm, “The Petition.” This is the meat of the psalm--we get something to take away. In this section, having acknowledged the bad in the world and the good in God, David asks God for the chance to be part of something more. He wants to stick with the good and be protected from the bad. If you ask me, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing for us to ask on a daily basis.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread: Putting it Back Together
There we are. Having been overwhelmed by the darkness of the world wrapped up in the knowledge of the Lord’s goodness, and left with a simple prayer for more. Now, I don’t want you to be done with this psalm. Continue to sit with it and ponder these questions:
- How do we maneuver a world that doesn’t detect sin?
- In what ways does God’s love save us?
- How do we live in a way that reflects our belief that God preserves us against evil?
You can start by asking yourself these questions...but then try asking God. I find that his ideas tend to be better than mine, anyway.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread Recipe:
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. melted butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2/3 c. milk
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 c. chocolate chips
Grease and flour two 9 x 5 in. loaf pans.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugars and butter. Add in eggs, one at a time.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.
Alternately, add milk and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well after each addition.
Gently stir in pumpkin puree and chocolate chips.
Pour into loaf pans.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes, till a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Leave to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and leave to cool on wire racks.
Recipe adapted from https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/classic-pumpkin-bread/