A WEEKLY WALK THROUGH THE PSALMS
In studying these psalms, I discovered something I had not realized before – Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 are the same psalm. There are a few minor differences, but in substance the psalms are identical. I guess that is one of the things that happened when various sources that each included this psalm were put together. Perhaps a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing? Maybe they thought it was so good it was worth repeating – but I doubt it. However, it is worth at least one reading.
It begins with a familiar line: “The fool says in his heart – ‘there is no God’. A fool is probably one of the worst things you can be in scripture. This is the person who thinks of God, if he thinks of God at all, as an absentee landlord who may be safely disregarded. We can imagine that there are a lot of such ‘fools’ in our world today, though we probably don’t think of them in that way. The psalmist walks through three stages of such a person. The first is that ‘they are corrupt; they do abominable deeds’. Admittedly, that’s a pretty broad statement that may not be true of everyone, but the psalmist does not have time for subtleties or nuances. So let’s just go with this for now. His point is that the further you get away from some connection to God, the more likely is a person to do those things that they once would have shuddered at. No longer are we shocked at the evil that men do – and if we are not shocked at it, we are more inclined to participate in it. Perhaps the phrase ‘left to our own devices’ applies here?
So God looks down to see if there are any that do seek God. As if we are looking out a window, our attention riveted on something below, God focuses in order to find something that is pleasing. And, hard to believe, God doesn’t see anyone – ‘they have all gone astray; there is not one that does good – no, not one.’ I suppose we can hear Paul’s words here: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. This leads us to the second stage, which is that if the person is poisoned, then their actions are poisoned too. We know that humanity acting on its own can do unspeakable things to others. “They eat up my people as they eat bread”. Humanity acts with total disregard for fellow human beings. The result of all this is the third stage for the psalmist: “There are they in great fear.” Perhaps the psalmist saw a great storm cloud approaching and thought of the wrath of God. You might imagine those huddled in a shelter waiting for bombs to fall or in the interior of a house hoping the tornado blows over. Should we fear more God’s anger against injustice, or should we fear that we may come to the point where we do not care what God thinks nor fear God because we think so lightly of God. Or perhaps we can get to the place of the New Testament which says there is a ‘perfect love that casts out fear’.
The psalm ends with hope. This psalmist clearly is no fool. He believes God; he believes God will restore the fortunes of God’s people. We all need that hope. Without hope, we easily despair that anything will change. With hope, we can have courage and strength; we can be renewed to do what needs to be done. We shall rejoice; we shall be glad! Keep that hope ever before you.
PRAYER: God of wisdom and truth, without you our lives go astray, and we face corruption within and around us. Show your mighty presence among us, that we may joyfully proclaim your deliverance in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.