We are, I think, inclined to define "a wicked man" pretty much in terms of some specific type of sin or the other. You know: a wicked man is a drunk; or a wicked man is some kind of a pervert; or a wicked man is a killer. The list would just go on and on.
But, it just seems to me, as I was thinking about it this morning, that looking at it from our common perspective really doesn't get to the bottom of it. For example, would we be likely to say that a covetous man is a wicked man, or that a proud man is a wicked man, etc.? Just how bad does a man have to be to be regarded as wicked?
As I continued thinking about it, I thought that I would be very pleased if the Lord would give me greater clarity about what it really means to be wicked. So, I began a search on the word "wicked." In the midst of the search I came across the verse above. As I have continued considering it, three significant things just seem to stand out about it.
The first was that at the root of what God sees as wicked is a man's [any man's] pride. Everything else in the latter portion of the verse is rooted in "the pride of his countenance." To be honest, this did not really surprise me, mainly because when I first began studying the Bible back in the 1970s the Bible teacher made the memorable statement that there is no such thing as good pride. That has stuck with me all these years. This verse certainly seems to demand that view of human pride. It was the next two things that have really gotten my attention this morning.
The second truth that stood out is captured in the words: "the wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God." As soon as I read these words my mind just flew to a familiar verse: Romans 3:11- There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. I thought I'd better take a look at the underlying Hebrew words for the verse in Psalms, and for the underlying Greek words for the verse in Romans. Here is what I found out.
Regarding the Hebrew word underlying "seek after God," I found that it includes the concept of "investigating, studying, demanding, requiring." In other words, it is not in any way passive. Regarding the Greek words underlying "that seeketh after God," I found that the Greek verb has about it the concept of a "diligent searching out, investigating, craving, begging, etc." Therefore, it seems that what God is plainly saying is that any interest fallen men have in God is merely passive at best, if any at all.
The correspondence between these statements is clear. So then, it just seemed to me that our verse in Psalms identifies the terrible reality of what true wickedness actually is. It is that condition, common to all men, of not actively seeking after God at all. Since this is at the heart of wickedness, and is common to all of us, then it is clear that we are all "wicked." This clearly substantiates the statement in Jeremiah 17:9- The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Clearly, if God does not come seeking us, not one of us will truly seek Him in the sense in which we have been seeing it.
None of these realities really hit me with great force, simply because I have been acquainted with these sad realities about all of us for many years. This morning I came to these musings already pressed in my spirit about what finally struck me in the last portion of the verse. Let me explain.
What got me started this morning was the consciousness of the prevailing reality of wickedness in the world. For me this has "come home" more emphatically recently, as I have done a bit of research regarding human trafficking, and as the terrible wickedness of the American political scene has come to greater light. It just didn't seem satisfying to me that there is all of this staggering wickedness beneath the surface of life as we know it, and simply explaining it away, more or less, by saying that we are all wicked.
Look again please at the end of our verse from Psalms: "God is not in all his thoughts." Finally, I have come to a small level of satisfaction in my own thinking. I am talking about how our commonly-inherited wickedness can ever become the terrible wickedness reflected in torturing children and seeking to bring down an American President. It is simply this:
Since we are all born into sin, and therefore have these desperately wicked hearts, any one of us could definitely fall into any of the most horrifying forms of darkness. But, God comes seeking us, all of us. As He does, it has the potential to activate us into truly seeking after God in an active personal sense.
This next part is what finally hit me. As God seeks us, through circumstances, through exposure to His Word, through encounters with those that have come to know and seek Him...as He seeks us, we can respond in faith, or ignore Him even more. To the degree that we reject the light that He is seeking to shine in our lives, the final part of our verse becomes true about us: "God is not in all his thoughts." The more we say "No!" to God, the more He gives us over to a reprobate mind. [Romans 1:28]
Are there, then degrees of wickedness? Emphatically YES! Is this grounds for you or me to be proud that we have never manifested the deepest kinds of wickedness? Clearly not, since the seeds of all wickedness lay in the natural hearts we had at birth. If we, any one of us can delight in any degree of righteousness in our lives we KNOW that it is all because of God. After all, we did not seek Him until He sought us!
But, for those that will not [by deliberate choice] retain even the thought of God in their minds, there will be a sure and severe result.
Romans 2:5- But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.