Psalm 36:5–6 (NKJV)
5 Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. 6 Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast.
Last week Bob read this psalm for our Old Testament Scripture reading. As he read, I was struck by the psalmist’s declaration that God’s “judgments are a great deep” and so wanted to take a moment to meditate upon that today.
The psalmist likens God’s judgments to the deep places of the earth. This would include the depths of the ocean or the depths of a cavern in the earth or the depths of a cliff’s edge. The deeps are associated with darkness, with mystery, with awe, or with wonder. Recently my mother-in-law moved into her new condo in downtown Coeur d’Alene. She is 17 floors up and so the distance to the ground is considerable, a great deep. I went out on her patio and, of course, the first thing to do is to go up to the railing and look over the edge.
Deep places are like that, aren’t they? We find ourselves on the edge of a cliff and we want to know how far down it is. So we glance over the edge – or perhaps, if we’re more skittish, we look back to where we were once we’ve returned to the bottom. Whether we’re talking about the depths of the ocean or the depths of the Grand Canyon or the depths of a dark cave – the deeps are scary but they are also alluring. On the one hand, they frighten us and drive us away – sometimes irrationally! But, on the other hand, they also cause us to marvel and draw us in – sometimes irrationally!
The psalmist is telling us that God’s judgments are like a great deep. So what does this mean? First, it means that God’s judgments are mysterious. We cannot hope to understand them completely. So, for example, Paul concludes his discussion of God’s predestination, the judgment of God as to whom He will save, with these words, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:33) God’s judgments are mysterious. He has His own reasons for what He does and how He does it. Hence, His judgments often baffle the greatest minds. Who are you, O Job, to demand an answer of God?
Second, that God’s judgments are like a great deep reminds us that peering into the judgments of the Lord requires great caution. The deeps draw us in; we long to look over the edge. But what often happens when we look over the edge? We lose our balance. Many a man has lost his life glancing over the edge of a cliff; and many a professing Christian has fallen from grace trying to plumb the depths of God’s mind. Why is it that God grants some men eternal life and condemns others to eternal death? Why is it that good and faithful men suffer while the wicked strut about? Why is it that little children suffer with terrible diseases? Why is it that God uses the wicked to overthrow one more righteous than he? Why?
We find ourselves on the cusp of a national election. The outcome is in the hands of God. He rules through good and evil men to accomplish His holy and righteous judgments. Are you prepared to worship the Lord and to praise His Name regardless the outcome? Have you settled your heart in the Lord’s Sovereign power leaving to Him the mysterious ways of His Providence? Or are you demanding of God that He rule in accord with your desires?
Beware lest you stare too deeply into the judgments of the Lord for they are a great deep. Reminded of this, let us confess that we often try to pry into those things which God has not revealed to us and dictate to God how He must rule the world. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.