Through the years, Adolf Hitler has become the figurehead of true evil in our culture. The atrocities that the Nazis committed during their reign of terror were so reprehensible that we are still shocked beyond belief when we watch Holocaust documentaries. Because of the almost universal acceptance of Hitler’s evil, he is often used as a point of reference to show how wicked someone/something might be. For example, in current political discussions, whenever someone wants others to see how objectionable an opponent or idea is, they might refer to them as a Nazi (I don’t agree with this practice, but simply using it as an example). At other times, we like to excuse certain behaviors by contrasting it with ultimate evil; saying things like, “They aren’t Hitler!” Certainly not—but they still could be wicked.
The Psalmist understood good and evil can only be determined by comparing such to God himself. It is only when we use the measurement of God’s righteousness that we can understand the depth and depravity of our sin and the sin of others. We witness this contrast in Psalm 36:
“Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
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….
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord.” (1-2, 5-6)
We can only see the truly horrible nature of sin when placed in contrast to the truly holy nature of God. Notice the sweeping declarations of God’s character: his love is unlimited (extends to the heavens); his faithfulness is limitless (to the clouds); his righteousness is impregnable (like the mountains); his judgments are unfathomable (like the ocean depths). When witnessing the perfection of beauty (Psalm 50:2) we see how vapid and pointless sin really is. You must intentionally and habitually look away from such wonder in order to reject God for the passing nature of sin—sadly, many do.
Yet, the Psalmist doesn’t stop there. He goes on to show how God not only possesses absolute goodness but that he shares it with us:
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind 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 do we see light.” (7-9)
Notice the words used to describe God’s desire of humanity: love, security, abundance, delight, life, and light. All of these words paint the picture of who God really is and what he genuinely desires for each of us. Again, in comparison to this, what can sin truly offer? Pain, guilt, and suffering? Truly, as we look to God’s light, we see true light and life.