Over several months I had conversations with a man I will call Tim. He was trying to leave behind a life that had led him to prison and a reliance on drink and drugs because he now had a child that he was not allowed to see because of his life style. It was an internal struggle but it was also a battle against the deliberate temptations placed in his way by those who encouraged him to continue with his previous life. There were texts from drug dealers extoling the virtues of their new batch from county lines, people knocking on his door and the offers of superficial friendship in the midst of loneliness and depression.
David, in Psalm 36, recognizes this battle for the soul and he concludes the psalm with a prayer that he is not drawn into the ways of the wicked. ‘Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.’ v11 Translators place different interpretations on the opening verse as to whether it is a message from God or wickedness in his heart, but whatever the source, sinfulness personified is calling to him. The overriding attitude of sin is arrogance. Arrogance expressed as no fear or respect for God and a conceited belief that that sin will not be exposed. ‘There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.’ vv1,2 It was Tim’s experience that even as he was trying to leave a corrupt life behind so others were thinking of ways to tempt him back. We should not underestimate the deliberateness of criminals or even our peer group to encourage us in living a godless life. Once those decisions have been made it becomes increasingly hard to change direction. David expresses the personification of sin as, ‘The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.’ vv2,3 David makes clear that simply not rejecting evil amounts to complying with evil.
In contrast choosing good over evil is not so much choosing good as the source of goodness in the person of God. He is love and righteousness, vv5,6 as well as where we find refuge from sin and temptation. v7 At that point we find a truly satisfying life. ‘They feast on the abundance of your house and you give them drink from the river of your delights.’ v8 David then prays that he will continue to choose God’s life over death. vv10-12
The battle for the soul is a battle that can be won but only by Christ within us. Paul summed that up, ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ 2Corinthians 5.17
He’s a chain breaker – Zach Williams