Living By Looking At The Light
1. Before enrolling in seminary to become a pastor, there was a time when I was taking a university course related to mining. There were numerous occasions when I had gone underground for my course work. The purpose of going below the earth was for study, observation and practicum. The first time I went on location was in the summer of my freshman year. It was a coal mine in Hokkaido. We strongly asked the coal mine company to let us get into the mine for observations. My first experience of going down under the earth for several hundred meters was intense. Try to imagine it. Deep under the earth, I was for hours and hours on location in a pitch dark coal mine with coal dust flying about me. What would you be thinking [in a place like that]? It's embarrassing to say, but as a young man not knowing better as I went underground I couldn't help it but I missed the dear sun so much. After a while I finished my observations and headed for the surface and I was so happy when I saw the sun light shining in from the distance!
2. When I read Psalm thirty-six, I am reminded of the contrast between the darkness under the earth and the brightness above it. In [this scripture] we have a very deep darkness experienced by people. But, in [this scripture] we also have a very bright light experienced by people. "In your light, we see light," (verse ten). We are reading together a prayer of a person who was living as he looked into that light. In addition, I would like for us not to just read this person's prayer, but for us also to look up into that same light and keep our walk up as we look. I pray we would respond to this One who invites us to this light and would join our hearts together with this saint from antiquity.
Darkness In The Whispers Of Sin
3. With that, let's read five verses starting from verse one, [which includes the superscription and may vary from your own versification and numbering].
4. "By The Musical Conductor. A Psalm Of the Lord's Servant. A Psalm Of David."
I can hear inside my heart
What sin is saying to the one in rebellion against God.
There is no fear of God before him.
Since he lies to himself in his own eyes,
He neither recognizes his own evil
Nor is he able to hate it.
His mouth speaks evil and deception.
He will never come to his senses or practice good.
He plans evil even on his bed
He places himself regularly on unjust paths
He will not back off from doing wrong.
(verses one through five)
5. There are times we feel like we are in the darkness several hundred meters underground. There are times it seems as if we are walking deep inside a narrow tunnel depending on the meagrest of light to illuminate ahead of us. We feel in the dark in times when things don't go well, we blow it big, or when the way we'd like to progress is shut tight, when we come under an unexpected illness, or when we get into trouble in [some kind of] people related entanglement. We are envious of those who have everything going well, those who proceed along so full of life and so boldly, and those who live without any hindrances of any kind. They all seem to be in the light. At times we may feel like everyone but us is in the light.
6. But, it seems that the perspective of the psalmist is different from our own particular perspective. He lived looking at the light. However, he first spoke of the darkness in life. As he thought of the darkness in life, the first thing he recalled was a certain voice. It was the voice that came whispering to his humanity. It was "sin" speaking to him. It is not the aftereffects produced by a conduct that was rebellious against God that is most dreadful. It is the talking of "sin" [that is most dreadful]. To whom was it speaking? It was addressing itself to the one rebelling against God. As God spoke to the prophets which appear in the Old Testament, so sin speaks to rebels against God.
7. A rebel against God is nothing but one who does not fear God. In this world strong people are given honor. The fearless get all the respect. So, the average person wants to be one of "No Fear." Some want to become people who don't even fear God. They may brag about themselves as people with no fear of even God. But, it is disastrous not fearing the One who truly ought to be feared. Because God's voice is inaudible to such a person. A different voice comes whispering to him or her. It is [the voice of] sin that addresses itself to him or her.
8. Also, the dread for the whispering of sin does not lie just at the invitation to evil. It lies in causing one to lose sight of one's self. Because when sin speaks to a person it comes as if our actions were wonderful and righteous. As a result, for example, it is regarded as a true freedom to fulfill our lusts and desires. We consider the lifestyle in which a person has rebelled against God to be as if a person were set free. We end up believing that not fearing God is a human strength.
9. So without realizing it a person will come to live in self-deception. While they say, "I am living with integrity!," they start to live a life of self-deception. The way they start to live in self-deception is by justifying their actions, explaining things away to themselves, and talking themselves into doing [certain things]. But, as long as they do that they will not be able to see through to their own sinfulness. They hate the effects of their sin and the calamities that befall them, but they are not able to hate the sin itself. Therefore, sadly enough, they go back to doing the same sin. In addition, the person to whom sin has spoken itself without his or her really noticing it becomes a person who will speak wickedness and deceit. Deceit does not leave his or her mouth. Wickedness and impropriety do not leave his or her day to day life. It doesn't leave when they are asleep or when they get up. It becomes the basic truth of their every day living. They become such that they can no longer repel evil.
10. Here is where the pitch darkness lies. The darkness is not caused by the calamities of this world. A person who lives without hindrance of any kind is not necessarily in the light. The darkness is caused in the small, small whispers of sin. Sin directs its whispers to the rebel against God and the person who has no fear of God. When they block their ears to the voice of God, only the whispers of sin are audible. That is where the darkness lies.
Seeing Light In Your Light
11. As we continue, let's read from verse six to verse ten.
O Lord, your lovingkindness [fills] the heavens
Your truth fills the skies.
Your gracious works [are] like God's mountains
Your judgment [is] a great ravine.
O Lord, you save both man and beast.
O God, how precious is your lovingkindness!
The children of man put themselves under the shadow of your wings
The grace flowing in your house benefits us
Our thirst is quenched by your sweet flow.
The fountain of life is in you
In your light we see light.
(verses six through ten)
13. He shifts his eyes to the light, which he used to have turned toward the darkness. He begins to speak here about the One who is that very light. No, to put it more accurately, he directs his speech to Him. He says, "In your light we see light."
14. Just as the darkness in life is not merely the same thing as worldly misfortune or troubles, living in the light does mean a painless peaceful life. Also, just as living in the darkness does not mean just living as an evil doer, so does living in the light not mean living as what might be called "a righteous person." The psalmist was not illustrating the figure of a righteous person nor was he trying to make a contrast of him in these five verses. No, what he was trying to do was to call out [in prayer] "O Lord" and to record the words of [his] praise to the Lord. Because in such a place as that, while looking at the light, is where the figure of the person is who is living within the light.
15. He praises and extols the lovingkindness and the loyalty [or truth] of God. That which is expressed by the phrase, "[they] fill the heavens and the skies," is the height [of God's lovingkindness and loyalty]. Its height is immeasurable. God is intimately concerned to no end about the covenant in which he is bound to his people. God intends to be true in the bond he has given to a person. Humans are not true. But, God is. And he deals with us who are untrue with his truthfulness. He deals with us with his long-suffering patience and loyalty. There is where the immeasurable lovingkindness of God is. He is singing of the height of the lovingkindness and loyalty of God which wraps around this disloyal world and clings to the earth.
16. Furthermore, he turns his thoughts to the work of God's grace which is unchanging and as unshakable as the mountains. This temporary world of man and woman drifts and changes. The things we have thought to be certain crumble to nothing. But, God is the unchanging One. His "works of grace" do not change either. The works of God's grace penetrate history. Soon time will be fulfilled, Christ will be sent and the work of his unchanging grace will be perfectly revealed. Then, the work of grace will penetrate by the coming of the kingdom of God and the finalization of salvation. Based on the work of his grace God will do [his] business. What God does is unfathomable and deep and surpasses our imagination. Also, the width to which the lovingkindness of God extends exceeds our thinking. He praised the God of salvation with the words, "O Lord, you save both man and beast."
17. And he places himself before God. It is a blessed thing knowing where one should place oneself. Being able to place oneself before God is not based on one's righteousness or achievements. He knew that. It is based on solely the lovingkindness of God. Therefore, he speaks with joy and deep emotion of the preciousness of his lovingkindness.
18. He places himself before God and takes part in his abundance. He does not seek to satisfy himself from the fleeting abundance of this world. Nor does he seek to quench his thirst from the water of this world. Because the wellspring of life is really in God. However much one may participate in the abundance of this world yet apart from God, one's soul will grow thin and worn out from being so selfish. As [people] draw water from the stagnant tanks belonging to this temporary world apart from the wellspring of life, the fact of the matter is this: how many of them are there gasping with thirst! The wellspring of life is really in God.
19. Living in the light does not merely mean a painless and peaceful life. Living by turning ones thoughts to the lovingkindness of God and his work of salvation, placing oneself before God, and taking part in the abundant life of God, this is really and truly exactly what living in the light is. As I mentioned before, a life in darkness [was given] as somewhat of a contrast. But there is no real comparison to the brightness of the light on earth with the darkness several hundred meters under the earth. There is a darkness and a light which make a big difference in our lives and our destinies. Also, God wishes that we would stand in the same place as this person and live looking at the same light.
That There Might Always Be Lovingkindness And Your Work Of Grace
20. At last let's read beginning with verse eleven.
On those who know you
May [your] lovingkindness always be.
On the upright in heart
May your work of grace always be.
But as for the hands of those in rebellion against God
Do not allow them to drive me away
As for the feet of the haughty
Please do not permit them to draw near to me.
The worker of evil will surely fall down.
They will be cast down
They will not get up again.
(verses eleven through thirteen)
22. The figure of this person is one of living by looking at the true light. Yet, he knows that surviving on by faith is never easy. He knows that living by looking at the light is not just a temporary thing, and its becoming something that permeates throughout the length of life is not some simple thing at all. There are "hands of those in rebellion against God" and "feet of the haughty" which are really causing him trouble. There are "workers of evil" all around him.
23. Consequently, he prays for himself and for all those who would live in faith. What does he pray? Was it for strength to be able to resist and defeat the hands of those in rebellion against God? Was it for an ability to outdo them when the feet of the haughty drew near? Was it for power to overcome unjust oppression, strife, and the many different kinds of obstacles that crowd us in and make a faith life impossible for us? No, he didn't pray like that. It was for the lovingkindness of God that he first sought for in his prayer. It was for the work of God's grace. He prayed that there might always be the work of God's grace [available for him]. Because it was only through God's never ending lovingkindness and work of grace that he could be made to live in a never ending relationship with God.
24. Also, as seen above, he prays in specific that the day to day life in which he lives with God be preserved. Based on his unchanging lovingkindness he lives believing that God is alive and at work in the day to day realities of his life. Not from his own struggles does he think he will preserve himself. He doesn't even feel hate for the workers of evil or want revenge on them. He just turns things over into God's hands. The person who lives looking at the light truly in God's light remembers that his own life is under the support of God, and he only trusts in God, and lives seeking in prayer for God's rule of righteousness.