John T. Willis

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No Human Being is Good--Psalms 14 and 53

Psalm 14 is essentially a doublet of Psalm 53. The only real differences are the superscriptions and slight differences between Psalm 14:5-6 and Psalm 53:5. The superscription of Psalm 14 is: "To the leader. Of David." The superscription of Psalm 53 is: "To the leader: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David." The meanings of "according to Mahalath" and "Maskil" are debated and uncertain. Psalms 14:7 and 53:6 assume that God's people are in Babylonian exile and seek God's deliverance. "Restore the fortunes" is an idiomatic term alluding to God bringing his people back to Judah to rebuild the temple, restore the law, and rebuild the wall. But there is little evidence of the historical setting of these psalms. Psalms 14 and 53 fall into three parts.

I. All Human Beings are Sinners. Psalms 14:1-4; 53:1-4.
    a. The psalmist begins by declaring "FOOLS say in their HEARTS, 'There is no God.'" In a context like this, the word "fool" does not mean "ignorant," but "spiritually separate from God." Such people feel self-sufficient. They think they need no help from others or from God. Consequently, they are corrupt--they feel they can think, say, or do anything they wish; hence, they do abominable deeds-- ungodly things which sensible, godly people would never consider; there is NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD. This is very pessimistic, but very realistic. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). 14:1; 53:1.
    b. Yahweh is not on earth, but dwells above somewhere in heaven. He looks down from heaven on all human beings to see if there are ANY who are WISE, who SEEK AFTER GOD. The concept "wise" in this verse stands in bold contrast to "fools" in verse 1. This shows that to be wise does not mean to be intellectually smart, but to be subservient to God. James 3:13-18 emphasizes the nature of genuine wisdom, "the wisdom from above." 14:2; 53:2.
    c. Verse 3-4 are essentially a repetition of verse 1: ALL human beings have gone astray, they are ALL alike perverse; there is NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE. Have they no knowledge [knowledge here is not IQ knowledge, but spiritual knowledge], all the evildoers who eat my God's people as they eat bread, and do not call upon Yahweh? [To call upon Yahweh is to pray to Yahweh and depend on him in all aspects of life]. All of us are in the very same boat. We are all sinners, and can never be saved without God's grace. See Ephesians 2:8-10. 14:3-4; 53:3-4.
II. Yahweh Protects those who turn to Him in Faith. Psalms 14:5-6; 53:5.
     a. Evildoers, those who are hard-hearted and refuse to come to Yahweh, will be in great terror, because God is with the company of the righteous. "Righteous" does not mean sinless, but humble and dependent on God. 14:5. This terror is great, in terror such as has not been. 53:5a-b.
     b. Evildoers would like to confound the plans of the poor, but Yahweh is their refuge or protection. God as our refuge is a common metaphor in the Psalms (see for example, Psalms 46:1; 62:7-8). 14:6. God will scatter the bones of the ungodly, they will be put to shame for God has rejected them. 53:5c-d.

III. The Psalmist prays that Yahweh will deliver His People from their Present Affliction. Psalms 14:7; 53:6.
      a. The psalmist cries out: "O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!" Israel must be delivered from some difficult situation. It seems most likely that this is the Babylonian exile, but this is uncertain. 14:7a; 53:6a.
      b. The psalmist proclaims that when Yahweh restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad. The idiom "restore the fortunes" is the primary theme in Jeremiah 30-33 with reference to the return of faithful Judeans from Babylon to Jerusalem: Jeremiah 30:3, 18; 31:23; 32:44; 33:7, 11, 26. 14:7b-c; 53:6b-c.

Share YOUR concepts and transformations and nuances and joys and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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