The Book of Psalms Chapter Fourteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Be Glad And Thank Him
Verse 1: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;" There is no one who does good." Labels are important, for they tend to somewhat define who and what we are. If you've ever earned the right to carry a badge for your wallet, you know something of what the power of it can be because in carrying it, you are labeled and perceived differently. When stopped while driving, you likely won't get the traffic ticket. Instead the traffic officer will probably say something like, "Drive slower next time," as he or she returns to the police vehicle, hoping the next car they stop won't have a driver with a badge. Almost everybody has a name, which is not really "you," but like a social security number or other identification, it says something about who you are. The "atheist" and his cousin, the "agnostic," label themselves with words revealing a choice to believe that the God we see in the Bible does not exist. In communication, differing people utilize different labels, depending on their perspective, and God applies labels also. He calls the atheist (and the agnostic) a "fool." Let's look at His response this way: If someone or a group of people publicly decided you don't exist, how would that make you feel? And that's exactly what the atheist attempts to do to the living God. Some years ago, a lady in a Bible study I was teaching came to the class in shock—She had been receiving Social Security benefits because of her disability, and suddenly the checks stopped coming! Worse, the Social Security Administration took all the money from her checking account! Somebody had notified the Administration that she was dead! But she was very much alive! It is more than just irrational for the "fool" to say, "There is no God." The God they don't believe in applies labels also, declaring them to be "DEAD in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). The Ephesians verse also says much more—it calls those who have trusted in Christ, "you He made alive." We are taken from death into new life. The lady who lost her benefits had a lot of problems in convincing the U.S. government that she wasn't dead. Mercifully, she finally did it and her income was restored. We don't have to prove we are alive to God, for He SEES His Son in the center of our being. Our heavenly benefits last forever! In faith, we are no longer fools in His sight. Be glad, for He is rescuing you.
Verse 2: "The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God." This Psalm and Psalm 53 were both written by David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel, and it's interesting that the two Psalms are so similar. Both begin, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" And each presents God's perspective, through His prophet, David, that such people are "corrupt," doing no good for anyone in this life or in eternity. One way to regard people who do not "seek after God" is that they simply don't "understand." And there is truth in that statement. I was a young person, several decades ago, who decided I was an atheist. God proved His effectiveness by breaking down the emotional walls I had surrounded myself with, and He rescued me from my foolishness. A number of times since then I have had the opportunity to talk with a number of people who call themselves atheists and have noticed about myself in those years, and about them—atheists are true believers. The typical atheist really believes their position, even though it's a lie. Here's what likely happens, in this and in similar situations: The person sees something negative in life, causing them to decide that God either does not care or He does not exist, and he opts for the latter. "How could God allow my loved one to die?... A good God would not do that?..." and more. What we don't understand is that God's "good" is much higher and more complex than we know. God tells us clearly that, "My ways (are) higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9 & context) but we typically don't get it. Such statements about Him in Scripture are not "pride" speaking—it's simply the truth. "Good" is more than just the individual circumstance involved—instead "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28) because God weaves all things everywhere into something beautiful, bringing people like us into the wonder of faith. Note, by the way, that the similarities between Psalms 14 and 53 are because God repeats Himself when something is this important. He'll tell us and show us over-and-over, with the intent that we will finally trust in the Son, our Savior.
Verse 3: "They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." A key Scripture in relation to this verse is Romans 1:18, where the "corrupt" are revealed as those "who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." In other words, these are not people who are merely deceived, though it's true that they are—these are people who participate in the problem, making it worse by becoming deceivers themselves. They deceive others by repeatedly telling lies, ending up fooling even themselves. Inveterate liars eventually don't really know what's real and what's not anymore, slipping out of deception and into an illness of the mind. Notice that "there is no one who does good, not even one." To some extent, everyone has "turned aside," as observed in Romans 3:23, that "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God." It's like we have fallen off the ship into the middle of the ocean, but the good news is that an effective Rescue Team has been launched on our behalf. Yes, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal LIFE in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). You have fallen, but because of God's grace through faith in the Lord, He will lift you up. You are given salvation, rescue in Christ Jesus, and the Bonus is that God's Holy Spirit is placed deep within your very soul, keeping you safe and delighting you—forever.
Verses 4-5: "Do all the workers of wickedness not know, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord? 5 There they are in great dread, for God is with the righteous generation." Beneath the deception promulgated by the "workers of wickedness," is an underlying awareness of what they are doing. The deceiver is himself deceived, but deep within himself, at some level, he and everyone else knows who the Lord is. We all do. While gaining notoriety by denying the Lord, he secretly is terrified, knowing that Jesus Christ is exactly who Scripture says He is—and even more. The arrogant person who lords it over others and insists that their own position is the only right one, is afraid. Fear produces pride. At some level, the "great dread" mentioned here is deep in the heart of all who "do not call upon the Lord." The world doesn't see it this way, but God loves "the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek... those who hunger and thirst for righteousness... the merciful,... the pure in heart... (and the) the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:3-10). He calls such people "blessed." It isn't what we get in life—it's Who we trust. He is with us, which frightens those who choose to deny and defy the holy and righteous Lord.
Verse 6: "You would put to shame the counsel of the afflicted, but the Lord is his refuge." The cross of Jesus is scorned by many in various religions of the world. But think about it—as a member of the human race, you are part of the group that rebelled against the Lord almost from the beginning. Therefore, what works can you do that will satisfy God? Will continuously attending religious services satisfy Him? What about giving your money to help somebody? Will that do the job? We could say more, but God makes it clear for us, defining His requirements for humanity in a variety of ways, such as Matthew 5:48, where He said, "You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." That's sobering because, behind the face of every religious or "good" person is a flawed human being. We are NOT perfect, we have flunked the course, which is the reason why God, through the prophet, said in Isaiah 64:6—"all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." That means we're in trouble—we need the Lord God or we won't make it. What "works" can we do that will help? Jesus was asked that question in John 6:28-29, and here is His answer: "This is the work of God, that you BELIEVE in Him whom He sent." Look around the world, take a comparative religions class—which religion is right? The true answer is "None of the above," for religion is not the answer... you are to finally BELIEVE in Jesus Christ who was sent by the Father to rescue us from sin and death.
Verse 7: "Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad." It's important to note that David, the human author of this Psalm, wrote hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ on this earth. David mourned the state of humanity at that time just as concerned people are worried today. The Temple in Jerusalem constantly issued visual and auditory prophesies that the Messiah, the Christ, the Lamb of God, would die for the sins of the people. The bleating of sheep and their innumerable deaths "spoke" continually that a Substitutionary Death was needed for our salvation from sin. Here in this verse is David's prayer that "the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion," and it did! Jesus died for us, and not only did many in Israel "rejoice" at this amazing opportunity, but people all over the world have been exceedingly "glad" ever since. Give yourself to Him in faith, be "glad," for He has rescued you, and thank Him who truly loves you and me.
Father, I turned away from You, trying to live life on my own terms. It didn't work out well at all. Please forgive me. I see now that I always need the Lord. I trust in You, Lord Jesus. I am Yours. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.