Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. (Psalms 36:6, ESV)
I still remember the first time I saw the Rockies. I was traveling west with a friend of mine in his old Ford pickup one summer. We had just finished crossing through Kansas. It was a good thing he was an agriculture major. At least he could tell me what the different kinds of cattle were, because other than the few slightly rolling hills, Kansas is mostly flatness and livestock. (Sorry, Kansans.) When we finally crossed into Colorado, I was a little disappointed. Because the eastern part of the state looks a bit like the flat lands of Kansas. And then we saw them. As if they were pop-ups in a children’s book, the Rockies just suddenly appeared on the horizon. I said, “John, look! mountains!” John looked, but he did not immediately comprehend. “Naw!” he said. “Them are clouds.” I answered, “No, John, those are ‘purple mountains majesty’ like in the hymn!” When it finally registered with him, John exclaimed: “Them are honkin’ big mountains!” They certainly were. You couldn’t miss them even if you wanted to. Even on the distant horizon they looked huge and they only got bigger the closer we got.
The psalmist compares the righteousness of God to great mountains and his judgments to the deep and powerful oceans. He says this in contrast to the attitude of the wicked. In verse one he says: “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Psalm 36:1, ESV) It’s not that God is invisible to the wicked. It’s just that he refuses to see Him because his heart rejects God but does not reject evil (v. 4). Because God is so big and and unavoidable, the wicked must constantly distract himself with evil. So, he makes it is his driving motivation: “He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.” (Psalms 36:4) It’s the only way you’re going to miss seeing God. So, I have to ask myself: “What distractions am I allowing in my own heart that are obscuring my view of God?” When we saw the Rockies for the first time, John and I had to discard our preconceptions and really take in their majesty for what it was. If I want to see God as He is, I have to abandon my distractions and preconceptions. (See Hebrews 12:1) Like the psalmist, must be thankful, not just for God’s blessings, but for Who He is. The writer of this psalm isn’t offering a perfunctory prayer of thanks over a meal. He is praising God in deep meditative thought over His power and majesty. In his praise he is making a habit of seeing God anew, just like seeing the Rockies for the first time.