Satan does not usually try to shout at us and bully us into evil; instead, sin whispers...
Deuteronomy, chapters 3-4; Psalm 36; Mark, chapter 13
Psalm 36 (NLT)
Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good. They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. Their actions are never good. They make no attempt to turn from evil.
Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.
Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts. Don’t let the proud trample me or the wicked push me around. Look! Those who do evil have fallen! They are thrown down, never to rise again.
The middle section of this psalm was the source for Third Day’s song, Psalm 36 (Your Love, O Lord). Whenever I read this psalm, I start to sing that song in my mind! That section – verses 5-9 – are a great source of encouragement to those who seek God. Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds…You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.
Think about that: this is not just a declaration of praise for what God does for those who acknowledge him. All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. The fountain of life – all life comes from God. He is the source of everything that we need to live – food, water, and light – and he provides those things to all humanity. Not just those who serve and acknowledge him; all humanity.
But the state of our world tells us that not everyone responds to God’s graciousness with obedience and surrender. The world is full of wickedness. That is not new; it has been that way ever since our first parents disobeyed God and sin entered the world. What catches my attention today, however, is the psalmist’s statement that sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts.
Let’s be honest: that’s exactly the way that Satan works. He doesn’t shout at us, cannot bully us into evil. He whispers. In fact, I would suggest that he tries to keep us from noticing that he is talking to us at all. He’d much rather have us believe that those thoughts are our thoughts, rather than sin whispering to us. After all – especially for those who are following Jesus – if we recognize that something comes from Satan, we reject it out of hand. But when sin whispers to us, we might even be deceived into thinking that it has come from God.
They have no fear of God
I would suggest that the biggest difference between “the wicked” and “those who love God” is in their response to the whispers of sin. The wicked embrace what sin whispers to them. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good. We can look back to Psalm 1 for a further explanation of the contrast: “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night…But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment…For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction” (Psalm 1:1-2, 4-5a, 6, NLT).
A prayer and a promise
Psalm 36 closes with a prayer and a promise. First, the prayer: Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts. Don’t let the proud trample me or the wicked push me around. I think most of us have probably prayed something like that at some time in our lives! And remember: the fact that the psalmist (“David, the servant of the Lord” according to the superscription at the beginning of the psalm) prays this is a reminder to us that even those who walk closely with God may face those sorts of trials.
Then, the promise: Look! Those who do evil have fallen! They are thrown down, never to rise again. That’s a promise, because we know it hasn’t completely happened yet. But someday, it will! Someday, God will give justice to those with honest hearts. And while we wait for that day, we take heart in the fact that God does pour out his unfailing love on those who love him.
I think we often feel assaulted by sin and evil in our world. It seems to be everywhere we look – and there’s no question that the world has become more and more comfortable with it. Another way of saying it is that people are less and less troubled by things that would have shocked us not too long ago. But I would suggest that we’re not really at risk of succumbing to that onslaught. Our biggest danger is the whisper of sin.
What whispers of sin ought we to be concerned about? The whispers that lead us toward self-righteous smugness and spiritual superiority. While we’re patting ourselves on the back that we don’t “follow the advice of the wicked” (Psalm 1), Satan is whispering to us, trying to cultivate attitudes that push people away from Jesus rather than drawing them to him. Instead of listening to the whisper of sin, we need to eat from the abundance of God’s house and drink from his river of delights!
Father, it is so easy to get caught up in listening to the whisper of sin. Satan doesn’t care how he takes our focus off you, so long as he is successful. Help us not to listen to the whisper of sin; instead, help us to delight in you! Inspire and enable us to fix our eyes – and our ears, and our hearts – on Jesus. Lead us in your way, that we may not succumb to the whisper of sin. Amen.