Life is a challenge. It involves choices, and sometimes conflict. You cannot take good fortune or good character for granted. You need to look to God for protection in your days and progress in your discipleship. Faithful living is the pattern to aim for. But other sorts of values and lifestyle are available – selfish, scheming, complacent and careless.
That’s the message of Psalm 36 as a whole. The upbeat section in today’s reading is the middle of the Psalm (vv.5, 6, 8 and 9 in my Bible). But the opening and the ending have a more sober and shadowy mood. There are tricky and troublesome people at large in the world – the meddlers, manipulators and mafia of their day. Our Psalmist is clearly wary of their wiles and anxious not to follow their ways.
So the middle of the Psalm is a moment to re-focus our vision and recover a wide perspective. Here are major landmarks on the path of faith, big realities to trust. God’s ‘steadfast love’ (vv.5, 7 and 10) is the main theme. God is faithful, true, just, and mighty to save. Like the expanse of the skies, the strength of the hills and the depths of the sea, grace reaches around us, above us and beneath us. This is a welcoming, hospitable God who longs to meet us with open hands, and to show us the world in its truest glory: ‘in your light our souls shall see’.
Look to God, and you will see more clearly the care in which you are held, the choices you are called to make, and the character you are meant to be. As with many an old psalm, the message is still fresh.
God of light and strength, please help us to walk humbly and honestly in the world, to steer by the landmarks you set before us, and to tackle the journey ahead with purpose and hope. For Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
The Rev’d John Proctor, retired minister, member of Downing Place URC, Cambridge