Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Heart of Transgression

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
(Psalm 36:1 English Standard Version)
David casts this psalm in four parts. The first (vv. 1-4) is about the motivations of the wicked. The Hebrew for the first line of the first verse is somewhat difficult to translate and there is a bit of variation among the existing Hebrew manuscripts. Consequently, there is a divergence among various translations: The NASB, the Amplified Bible, and the ESV render it like the above. The NIV, the HCSB and the NKJV translate it along this line: “An oracle in my heart concerning the wicked …” (NKJV).

Which ever translation is correct, the truth remains: Transgression is a matter of the heart. Neither God nor His precepts, nor anything external to a man cause make him to sin.
Let no one say when he is temped, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is draw away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
Nor can satan make a man sin, for no one could be tempted to do evil unless the desire was already present deep in his heart. Why is the desire for evil so deeply embedded in the heart of the wicked? Because he has no fear of God before his eyes.

The fear of God is regard for God and His ways, respect for the one who made heaven and earth. It is the recognition that life and everything good comes from Him, and that we were created to know and fellowship with Him. It is the dread of missing out on God, the source of all life and goodness.

Our eyes were meant to be full of God, to behold the splendor of His glory. But the eyes of the wicked are too full of himself to see anything beyond himself. He flatters himself too much to understood what is good and hate what is evil, much less to identify and turn from his twisted ways (Psalm 36:2).

The mouth of the wicked is full of malicious lies (v. 3). So also his heart, for as Jesus said, it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). The wicked is indifferent to wisdom and therefore to doing good — the things that lead to stability, success, beauty and bliss (v. 3). Instead, he lies on his bed at night scheming how he might inflict his hate on others and he is intent upon doing what is evil (v. 4). It consumes him.

David begins this psalm very darkly. However, his focus is not on wicked men working evil deeds. They are merely a source of trouble he has identified. He does not allow them to eclipse his view of life. Now, having described the problem, he turns to the solution. The existence of wicked men and evil deeds in the world is a fact of life, at least for now. However, there is a greater truth at hand, which will ultimately prevail: The faithful love of God. That is what the rest of this psalm is about.

The faithful love of God is more powerful than the heart of transgression and the evil deeds of the wicked.