Psalm 36

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.

I have a message from God in my heart
    concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
    before their eyes.

In their own eyes they flatter themselves
    too much to detect or hate their sin.
The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
    they fail to act wisely or do good.
Even on their beds they plot evil;
    they commit themselves to a sinful course
    and do not reject what is wrong.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast in 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!

What does Psalms 36 mean?

Sin is rooted deeply within the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). That innate wickedness is the source of our evil actions (Matthew 15:18–19). Here, David notes that those who reject God find themselves overtaken by sin. They lose all respect for the Lord (Proverbs 1:7), and all fear of eternal consequences for their actions. Instead, they assume that what they do will never be punished, or never even found out. Sin is so addictive that those who turn from God find themselves constantly pursuing depravity, even when they try to sleep (Psalm 36:1–4).

In contrast, God’s character is flawless and perfect. In mercy, God extends a measure of grace to all people and all animals. This is seen in His continued provision in nature. The Lord’s graciousness is also expressed in His “steadfast love,” or “lovingkindness,” from the Hebrew term hesed. This passage uses the imagery of God’s protection extending like the wings of a mother bird (Psalm 36:5–9).

David closes the psalm with an appeal for God to maintain that “steadfast love” to His people. David uses references to both hands and feet to depict the attacks of wicked people. He prays for God’s protection against those assaults. The psalm ends with David picturing these enemies as already defeated, so utterly conquered that they can never regroup (Psalm 36:10–12).

Verse Context:

Psalm 36:1–4 opens with an ugly but accurate picture of the immoral, evil person. Sin is lodged deep inside them, without respect for God or His will. Such a person lives as if there will never be consequences for their actions; as if no one will even know about their sin. David characterizes this depraved person as plotting sin, embracing evil, and ignoring godly wisdom.

Psalm 36:5–9 comes after a scathing description of the wicked person. David now focuses on the excellent characteristics of the Lord God. This positive focus on God’s character offers deep peace and assurance. He knows he can trust the Lord to keep him safe from the evil schemes of the wicked.

Psalm 36:10–12 closes the song as David offers a prayer. He asks the Lord to continue to show love and righteousness to those who closely follow Him. He asks God to prevent the proud wicked from influencing him or distracting him from his calling. David pictures those who do evil as already defeated and utterly conquered.