The World-View of the Wicked: Psalm 36


October 22, 2017

A note to readers: Today’s post is part of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Psalms, beginning to end, by focusing on a Psalm each Sunday. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.

Psalm 36 (NIV)

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 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.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
    your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
    nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
    thrown down, not able to rise!


We are accustomed to psalms exploring or reinforcing the world-view of righteousness. However, the psalms not only set forth the way of righteousness, they often go to great lengths to help us understand the world-view of those who stand opposed to God’s rule and reign in the world. This psalm, as we have already seen in Psalms 2, 10 and 11, actually places us into the inner mind and thoughts of the wicked and unbelieving person. There are five key features of the unbelieving world-view which David explores. Remarkably, despite having been written almost three thousand years ago, they remain as relevant and insightful as they were when they were first penned.

The five attributes of the wicked set forth the broad contours of all those throughout every age who reject God’s will and purposes in the world. First, they have no respect for God or His Word. Verse 1 says, “There is no fear of god before their eyes.” Second, they believe that they are good and are not cognizant of the depth of our sinfulness before God. Verse 2 says, “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.” Third, they have no regard for truth, and put their trust in their own words. Verse 3 says, “The words of their mouth are wicked and deceitful.” Fourth, the wicked are convinced that their plans will succeed, not God’s plan. Verse 4 says, “Even on their bed they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course.” Finally, they actually admire evil rather than despise it. Evil is called good and good is called evil. Verse 4 goes on to say that the wicked “commits themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong.” These are the broad contours of the world-view of the wicked. We should remember these attributes and be ready to identify them when we encounter them. This is the necessary life of those who occupy the disputed ground between a world of evil and the persistent plans of God for His people.

In contrast to the wicked, we have entered into a covenant with God (vs. 5). We live under his righteousness and judgments (vs. 6a). We affirm that he is the creator and sustainer of the universe (vs. 6b,7) and that he provides for all of our needs (vs. 8). Finally, we live and walk in the light of the revelation of God (vs. 9). In this day when the ways of righteousness and the ways of wickedness seem so blurred, it is helpful to be reminded anew through this psalm the dramatic separation which exists between the Two Ways (See, Matt. 7:13, 14). Truly we can affirm with the psalm, “in your light we see light” (vs. 9) and with the Apostle John, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5).


Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.