Psalm 36: Sin’s Whisper & God’s Goodness

Whisper of Sin

“Sin whispers to the wicked deep within their hearts…” – Psalm 36:1 (NLT)

Sin doesn’t just “happen.” Sin begins, not with an action, event, or shout, but a whisper. There use to be a commercial that started with, “When you want to get someone’s attention, you whisper.” If you have ever tried lowering your voice, rather than raising it, you know how effective whispering can be. Sin wants to get our attention and does so subtly.

Subtle Control

I know the Psalmist refers to the wicked, but I am not immune from the whisper of sin. Sin’s whisper takes a hold of my heart, creating a life of its own. Sin’s icy grip closes tight on my heart and I find myself “set on a way that is not good” (verse 4, NRSV) and my slow descent started with a whisper.

Sometimes sin whispers doubts, sometimes desires, bringing envy, fear, jealousy, greed, lust, pride, thoughts and attitudes vying for my attention and control of my life. If sin would make some kind of frontal attack, I would see it coming, and, hopefully, be able to resist. Sin comes in slowly and quietly, not announcing its presence. Before I am even aware, sin has a foothold in my life. I don’t consider myself wicked, but I have heard the whisper of sin.

Looking Up

I’m glad the Psalmist doesn’t end focusing on sin and the wicked. He raises his gaze and catches a glimpse of the vastness of God’s love. He sees God’s faithfulness, justice, and care. He recounts how God shelters us, feeding us from his abundance and great delights. He basks in the Fountain of life and the light by which we see!

The Psalmist desires that all who love God experience God’s goodness, asking God to pour out his love on all who love him, and protect them from the wicked…could I pray that God would even protect me from myself? Sometimes, I get in my own way and I trip over myself…

The Psalmist knows those who continue to listen to Sin’s quiet whisper will be set against those whose eyes are attentive to God. The wicked will continue to “lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots” never seeking to do good. Sin never takes a day off.

God has already dealt with those bent on evil. The Psalmist celebrates their defeat! We can move forward knowing God prevails! We can move live abundantly knowing that Love prevails!

Abundant Delights

Sin, however, will continue trying to get our attention. Throughout this day, sin will attempt to whisper in our heart, perhaps causing us to question the love of God.

May you remain attentive to God’s goodness that surrounds you. When those, who give into Sin’s seductive whisper, try to “push” you around (verse 11) or trap you in their “sinful plots” (verse 4), may you find shelter in God’s unfailing love, finding delight in the One who is our “fountain of life, the light by which we see.” (verse 9).

God has loved you deeply and continues to give you good things, blessing you over and over again. His love is deeper than the ocean and higher than the heavens. He continues to feed you from his abundance and delights.

May God’s presence be your joy.

Review – The Heart of Religion

The Heart of Religion: Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God's Love

by Matthew T. Lee [Oxford University Press]
Rank/Rating: 2026742/-
Price: $5.30


I received the electronic version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The authors have taken on quite a task. Through qualitative and quantitative statistical methods they seek to understand the impact of experiencing divine or godly love has on benevolence. The quantitative survey served to determine what categories had impact on benevolence. The real treasure, however, is their use of qualitative interviews to put “meat” onto the skeletal bones of the survey data.

The book does not focus on organized religion such as denominations or organizations, but rather “lived” religion which the authors believe, at the source, lies an inner experience of love that provides the impetus for religion. The book is appropriate for wide range of individuals from social scientists to laypersons. While each group will find items of interest, because of its wide audience, there could be disappointments as well. The authors mention that when they shared drafts with people, the scholars wanted it to be more academic and the non-scholars wanted it less academic. Yet, whether scholar or not, people wanted to read the rest of the book, a desire with which I concur.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in how divine love “plays out” in someone’s life. This is a scientific work. The survey data was enlightening, but the interviews and the exemplar’s stories were able to give insight into how one, empowered by divine love, views his or her life and lives in response to that love.

There’s a lot I could say about this book. While there have been religious surveys in the past, this is perhaps the first one to truly look behind the data. There were surprises and confirmations. What I appreciated the most was the authors commitment to digging under the surface of assumptions to understand what happens in a person’s life when they experience divine love. One of the great takeaways for me was their heuristic of “The Process of Participating in Godly Love” which, I believe, could be used to undergird a mentoring or discipleship process. At the very least, the heuristic gives insight into how one’s life is affected by godly love.

I did have some struggles while reading the book. The authors sought to discover “how Americans wake up to the reality of divine love in  a Christian context and then attempt to express that love to others through benevolent acts.” Yet, many times I felt the accounts of the exemplars were more from outliers than normal everyday Americans. The exemplar’s whose stories were told ran complex and extensive ministries, put their lives or livelihoods on the line, or were instrumental to social change. I wanted more data from everyday people who were trying to live life and how divine love impacted their benevolence.

I started wondering if that wasn’t part of the point. When someone’s life has been overtaken by an experience of divine love they do become an outlier. Their lives are turned completely upside down. They become somewhat consumed by love which is lived out in ministry to the world. Or, perhaps they authors believed that looking at exemplars gave greater insight into the effects of godly love than the live’s of non-exemplars would have. In all fairness, the authors did mention several times that the book represented a small part of their research. With the size limits of the book, it would not be possible to include data from all of the individuals interviewed.

Because of the extensiveness of the findings the authors had to choose to focus on a small part of the results, choosing to focus on those more pentecostal (as a worldview rather than denomination). I would have liked to see a broader address of other non-pentecostals and perhaps even faiths other than Christian. Given the choice to focus on pentecostalism, I found it interesting that at least one of the authors had already written several books about pentecostalism. It doesn’t seem that was the reason for the pentecostalism focus, but rather that those more pentecostal, or open to experience of God’s spirit, also tend to experience godly love more often.

As it stands, the book is over 300 pages (with endnotes), so including more data, more interviews, more stories, would have made the book too large. I, for one, look forward to seeing more results from this research.

One surprise was how this book has caused me to reassess some of my prejudices and piqued my interest in alternative expressions of Christianity. The book contains enough statistical data that to plumbs its depths would take more than a single reading. I thank the authors for their work and pray for their continued success and insight.

A Lenten Sacrifice

Over the past month or so I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to deny myself during Lent. In the past, I’ve given up chocolate, pizza, pop (soda), or other things I’ve enjoyed. This year it has been a difficult decision. I haven’t been eating that much chocolate. I stopped drinking soda (pop) over the summer. I’ve slowed down on the pizza intake. So, what should I give up?

Well, there really was only one thing left and it is going to be difficult to give up. I’ve posted before about my love of McDonald’s Sweet Tea. It is the nectar of heaven and I’ve realized after much thought that it is the only thing that would be a real sacrifice (as far as food and beverages go).
Continue reading “A Lenten Sacrifice”

Morning Reflection 2/21/12 – Psalm 7

 Some rights reserved by Nick-K (Nikos Koutoulas)http://biblia.com/bible/nrsv/Ps7

Plea for Help against Persecutors
A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjaminite.

1 O Lord my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,
2 or like a lion they will tear me apart;
they will drag me away, with no one to rescue.

3 O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
4 if I have repaid my ally with harm
or plundered my foe without cause,
5 then let the enemy pursue and overtake me,
trample my life to the ground,
and lay my soul in the dust. Selah

6 Rise up, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake, O my God; you have appointed a judgment.
7 Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered around you,
and over it take your seat on high.
8 The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.

9 O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
but establish the righteous,
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God.
10 God is my shield,
who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
and a God who has indignation every day.

12 If one does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and strung his bow;
13 he has prepared his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 See how they conceive evil,
and are pregnant with mischief,
and bring forth lies.
15 They make a pit, digging it out,
and fall into the hole that they have made.
16 Their mischief returns upon their own heads,
and on their own heads their violence descends.

17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

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Where do you turn when the world caves in around you? Maybe you turn to your family, or friends, or maybe you look to yourself? David found his refuge and hope in God. When his enemies were closing in on him, David turned to God. Continue reading “Morning Reflection 2/21/12 – Psalm 7”