Psalm 14 is an incredible song. In some ways it reminds me of the best of fantasy/dystopian literature. It’s dark, frightening, and borderline hopeless. In fact, if it weren’t for verse 7, you’d wonder what good Psalm 14 can accomplish besides, at best, just stating the facts. Well, every verse matters, because when God’s mercy is the subject, one verse can change everything.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
As evangelicals, we are quick to affirm verse 1. We see it all the time. Even this week, it’s come to light that Planned Parenthood was caught on video boasting in its selling of fetal tissue, otherwise known as human body parts. While the legality is questioned, the atrocity is not. We see in the headlines, and in our mind’s eye (if we’re honest), the evil of men’s hearts, revealing a denial of the existence of God.
It’s foolish to deny the existence of God, but it’s the only explanation for the evil that men do. It is clear in these first three verses that NO ONE is exempt from doing evil deeds…no one. There is no one good. Do you see the question (behind the statement) of verse 2 and the answer of verse 3? The Lord gazes upon mankind to find that not ONE seeks (on his own) after God.
It is God’s gaze, alone, that ultimately matters. We live in a society that denies that gaze, opting instead for the gaze of one another. This works, because no one is without sin, so who’s to say what “sin” (if we even call it that) is to be condemned? So, we remove God from the “gazing” equation…we have to, because He is perfectly holy, without blemish, and can take issue with us and our sin.
If you remove God, you remove the sinfulness of sin, then people are justified in their own eyes.
This is likened to our understanding of total depravity (or complete inability). We are sinners by nature and by choice. Not only is it a philosophic mindset to say there is no God, it is also the evidence of pervasive sinful thinking and action. People sin, and keep on sinning, because they do not believe there to be a holy standard, only a relativistic perception of what is “good.” Then, should there be an afterlife, there is the hope that there’s been enough goodness to outweigh the badness.
There’s also the idea that people believe in a god, but he/she/it is not the God of the Bible, and therefore deny the existence of God. Some have such a view of God as the cosmic, absent-minded grandfather or a divinely sweet, but uninterested, deity. Either way they emasculate God of any real power or authority, relegating him to omniscient nods of approval. In reality, however, not only are some not approved, NO ONE lives an approved life before God’s perfect holiness.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the Lord?
There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is his refuge.
Those who presume to be so smart, so wise, and so “evolved” in their thinking turn out, in the end, to reveal a complete lack of knowledge. Since God is the creator, sustainor, and completor of all things, only knowledge of Him produces knowledge that matters. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are many atheists who are brilliant in their fields of study. However, when there is an unbelief in the God of the Bible that knowledge is rooted, and results, in real foolishness. For example, we can see some great advances in science, in adaptation of species and bacteria, that greatly enhances our wonder of the universe. But in the absence of a knowledge of God, the evolutionist says that all of this wonder, this beauty, this ridiculous level of order started with…stuff blowing up. Stuff. Blowing. Up…in a complete vacuum no less. As well, the result of all of this order is radical insignificance and temporality.
By exalting the human as the nearest thing to “divine” humanity puts itself in grave danger. Denying a sovereign, holy God puts people squarely in the crosshairs of the God they deny and reject. Only the righteous prevail. Who are these righteous? They are the ones who take refuge in God.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
In the midst of all of this despair and doom, you might think that survival would be an acceptable chief end. But it’s not. David says that the result of the hope of taking refuge in God, who will deliver His people in the future, is present joy and gladness. No immediate payoff or relief is in sight. Some will die waiting for something better. However, the charge is to rejoice and be glad. That really is astounding. Our hope in the future deliverance by a gracious God is to be so fixed on the promise-keeping nature of God, that it produces joy when there’s nothing circumstantially occuring that would give cause to celebrate.
This means that our gladness is not in our deliverance, rather the Deliverer.
Just two Psalms later, in Psalm 16:11, David says/sings…
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The path to joy and gladness is not found in navigating out of difficult circumstances. You will not find real joy that way. Real joy and gladness is seeing the sovereign God of the circumstances, in the middle of their difficulty, and believing that He is worthy of praise and trust, even should your deliverance not occur until you pass from this earth (eternity is longer, right?).
There is only one “path of life” that leads to rejoicing in the presence of God and that is through the ONE who is at God’s right hand…God the Son, Jesus Christ. In Matthew 1:2, you see in Christ’s lineage the person of Jacob. Back up in Psalm 14:7, David says that the Lord will restore His people, and Jacob and the people will be glad. Ultimately, the restoration of God’s kingdom people is through the person of Jesus Christ.
It’s not really “irony” but it is important to remember the beginning of our Psalm 14. In order to know this joy in the Deliverer, one must acknowledge that God exists, that He is holy and that they are sinners, unrighteous and separate from God. This is the beauty of salvation. While we were separated, without hope, God fulfills all of His promises to bring mercy to His own through the person of Jesus Christ. He lived perfectly righteous (to satisfy God’s righteous demands). He died perfectly (to satisfy God’s wrath against sin for those who would believe). He rose (to secure forever the sufficiency of Christ’s work in saving His own). None of this is natural to our beliefs, because, like David said (and Paul later in Romans 3), we are naturally evil and wicked.
Praise God that He disrupts our natural course to awaken us to His righteous provision in Christ alone!
One more word…
I believe it’s important to note that while, as believers, we trust Christ to save, that when we drift back into sinful practices we are practially denying there is a God. It’s not simply that we so believe grace is free and good that we sin, knowing we can’t mess up our salvation. What we forget is that this grace trains us to renounce ungodliness (Titus 2:11), and when we forget this we forget, in those sinful seasons, that God is God. Certainly we cannot lose authentic salvation, but there is a reason we have intense warnings in Hebrews and a charge to avoid temptation in James 1. Difficult circumstances tempt us to disbelieve like nothing else. I have seen it time and time again in ministry, that those who experience tragic difficulty often abandon sound doctrine, if not the faith altogether. Sometimes these are people you never thought in a million years would walk away. In some of these cases, its momentary and they’ll repent in their sorrow. In other cases, it’s proven they were never truly believers in the first place.
So, dear believer, take caution in your difficulty. Make sure that you focus on the Deliverer for hope and joy, not just wait on deliverance.