Psalm 36 presents a great contrast between the depths of wickedness humans can fall into without God (verses 1 to 4) and the fathomless resources available to them with God in their lives (verses 5 to 10). Left to themselves, people’s words are full of “mischief and deceit” that comes from “deep in their hearts,” and even when they lie down at night, they’re dreaming up more “mischief” to get into. But when they turn to God, they find “steadfast love,” “faithfulness,” safety and salvation. The quality-of-life contrast couldn’t be greater.

For me, the high point of this psalm is
    How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
       All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
    They feast on the abundance of your house,
       And you give them drink from the river of your delights.
    For with you is the fountain of life;
       In your light we see light.  (verses 7-9)

All the words in this poetic expression speak of affluence. God is not miserly with his grace; he lavishes it on those who turn to him. In the absolutely safe refuge of his steadfast love, a “feast” is laid before them. I like the old King James translation here: “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house.” And  the phrase “the river of your delights” adds to the sense of indulgence.

The image of the “fountain of life” adds even more to the sense that God’s spiritual provisions are bountiful and never-ending. The life flowing from this fountain is the eternal life promised in the early pages of the Bible (Genesis 2:9), brought into focus in the coming of Jesus Christ (John 1:4), and assured in the last pages of the Bible to those who embrace his salvation (Revelation 2:7). This fountain never stops flowing, so that  those who trust in God can count on an inexhaustible supply of spiritual vitality.

This effusive description of God’s steadfast love ends with a somewhat enigmatic statement: “In your light we see light.” Humans have a longing to understand, to “see” the meaning of their lives. What’s it all about? Philosophers, poets, novelists, theologians and astronomers are all involved in the search. We put together everything they tell us, and this becomes the “light” of understanding we have in our time and in our culture. But when we finally encounter God in the way the psalmist describes, his light reveals the true meaning we’ve been searching for, the true meaning of human history, the true meaning of the universe, the true meaning of our personal lives. In your light we see light.

— Pastor George Van Alstine