Wait! What? That’s not right. Wicked people are chaff driven by the wind. They are not green trees, spreading out and growing. Just reread Psalm 1.
Yet, David has seen wicked trees. They look a lot like the fruitful trees of the blessed. They have their eye on the blessed, the righteous. They are doing what they can to afflict the righteous, to cut them off, to put them to death. All the while parading about like blessed trees. However, they are diseased.
David’s wise lesson on this? Don’t fret. They may look like a tree for a short time. But give it some time; the wicked tree will disappear. That is, though it appears to be a solid, stable tree, it will demonstrate that it is actually no more substantial than the chaff the wind blows away.
In fact, we Christians might remember Jesus’s own teaching here. You will know the tree by its fruit. And the tree that doesn’t produce healthy fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire (see Matthew 7: 17-20).
When you see the wicked looking like the blessed, don’t get bent out of shape. Just wait on the Lord. He’ll set things to rights in His time. And those who are His will be the ones truly blessed.
While it is perfectly legitimate to pigeonhole the genre of a psalm as you start to study it, if you forget that the labels we attribute to psalms are not God-inspired, you can miss the trees for the forest. This happens for many with Psalm 36. Is it a wisdom psalm? Is it a praise psalm? Is it a lament? There are elements of each of these genres in this psalm. These attempts to pin down a genre cause some to suggest this psalm is a hodgepodge of multiple ancient psalms thrown together without unity.
That, however, misses the big picture of what is going on here. Once again, we are being taken back to the very first psalm. However, this time there is a twist.
In Psalm 1, the two people being counseled are contrasted: the blessed and the wicked. The blessed listen to God, the wicked listen to…well…other wicked people. In Psalm 36, the two counsellors are contrasted: God and sin.
In this psalm, David personifies sin much like Paul does in Romans 7. Sin counsels and leads. But sin’s counsel is deceptive and destructive. On the other hand, God also calls to David. David knows God’s counsel is anchored in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is no fool. He chooses God to be his counsellor. More than that, he chooses God to be his defender against Sin and those who heed its counsel.
In Psalm 1, we had a choice between ways. In Psalm 36, we have a choice between guides. Choose wisely!
The apostles didn’t get it. Their eyes should have been opened to exactly who Jesus is and what He could do. They shouldn’t have been at all confused by His warning about the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. However, despite having witnessed 5 loaves feeding 5000 and 7 loaves feeding 4000, they thought Jesus might be concerned that they only had 1 loaf between the 13 of them. Then He heals a blind man. But shockingly, it doesn’t quite take the first time. Is that because Jesus didn’t turn on all the juice? Was He working at half power? No. Actually, He is giving an object lesson. This is exactly where the apostles are. They are starting to see who Jesus is, but He is blurry to them. The blind man in the midst of the process of his healing saw men, but they were blurry and looked like walking trees. However, as Jesus continued to work with him, his vision completely cleared. The apostles didn’t understand yet, not fully. But this is Jesus’s promise to them. They will. And that is Jesus’s promise to you. Hang on to Him. You don’t see clearly yet, but you will.
Consider this your exhortation for today. Don’t wait until tomorrow, find someone to exhort today. Discipling and disciple making is not just about getting lost people to become Christians. It is also about growing those who are already disciples to be more like Jesus. This is so important because disciples are like trees. We are either growing, or we are dying. Satan is trying to cut down our brothers and sisters at the knees. So let’s exhort one another today, encouraging one another to continue in the faith. Today is the day of salvation. Let us hang on to our hope in confidence firm to the end. Let’s encourage and exhort one another today.