Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, Iowa on 7/9/2017
Open your Bibles to Psalm 14. Today we are examining perhaps the most repeated set of verses in the Bible. Why do I say this? Because Psalm 14 is almost identical to Psalm 53. Likewise portions of Psalm 14 are quoted in the New Testament in Romans 3, which we will examine the connection later this morning, God willing. Needless to say, it seems that the Holy Spirit who inspired all Scripture desires the people of God to know the truth that is contained in these verses. So with that, let us not waste any time in studying this important passage.
“To the choirmaster. Of David.
1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
2The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
4Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?
5There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
6You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is his refuge.
7Oh, 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.”
As might be expected, this Psalm is written by King David. As I have stated previously, a majority of the Psalms are. We are told that is a Psalm addressed to the choirmaster, which means that it was a congregational song for the people of Israel; which to us in our current Church culture may seem strange. Typically, the songs that we tend to listen to on Christian radio and sing in Churches don’t focus on these topics, but perhaps they should.
As we look at this Psalm, let’s begin by putting ourselves in the shoes of David as he penned these words, for to understand the true meaning of this text, we need to know what David meant when he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
As many of us know, David was the King of Israel, God’s chosen people. Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” The question is for what purpose did God choose Israel? Exodus 19:6 tells us, “and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” What does that mean? It means that the way in which God sovereignly chose to display his glory to all nations was through his chosen people. Israel was to be a nation “holy” (set apart), not common, unique in their display of who God is. As a nation they were to display Yahweh to the people of this world, as a priest in the Old Testament manifest the glory of God to the people. The people of God were, and are still, revealers.
So how was Israel to display the glory of God to the nations? First, they displayed it by their covenant community. Israel began with Abraham, but did not launch as a nation until they were called out of Egypt as a singular force of about 2 million people. It was at that time, God entered into a covenant agreement, which was ratified by a covenant document (The Bible as it existed at that time), which created a covenant community.
Second, this covenant community displayed God’s glory by living life differently than the nations. Leviticus 11:44-45 says, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. 45 For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Primarily, the way that Israel displayed this holiness was through the moral law and the Levitical law. The moral law would include, things like the ten commandments. Levitical law would include things like circumcisions, animal sacrifices, feasts, and dietary laws. No other nations did what Israel did.
The third way, and perhaps the most significant as it relates to this Psalm is that Israel was a means to display God's judgment against the sinful world. If you recall, during the days of Noah, God looked down on the earth and said in Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It was because of the universal sin in every man's heart that God brought judgment and killed millions of people with the flood. After that event, he made a covenant not to deal with evil by means of a flood again. So the question is how would God display this judgment against sin? Israel. Israel became the instrument of God's wrath.
We can see this right out of the gates with the launching of Israel as a nation. While Israel was in bondage to Egypt, God brought plague after plague after plague, until he finally killed all the firstborn males of Egypt. After this final, devastating plague, Pharaoh finally let Israel go, but Pharaoh quickly changed his mind and chased Israel to the Red Sea. And Moses says these words in Exodus 14:13, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.” And as the most powerful army pursued Israel into the riverbed of the sea, God withdrew his mercy and drowned the most powerful army on the planet at that time. This judgment event upon the most powerful nation on the planet, through God's people, was a display of God's glory.
In fact, after Israel had wandered in the dessert for 40 years and they finally crossed the Jordan, God directed them to attack Jericho. And a few spies were sent into Jericho, and while they were there they hid at Rahab's house, and listen to what Rahab says to them in Joshua 2:9-11, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.”
Why did Rahab know that the God of Israel was the God of the Universe? Because through Israel, God had unleashed his wrath for the sins of the nations. And just as Egypt was not the end of the story, Jericho was not the end of the story. Little by little Israel overthrew nation after nation, and the Author of Psalm 14, David played a significant role in overthrowing nations. Israel, under the leadership of David became the greatest nation on the planet, and it was because the Lord used Israel to subdue the nations.
A World of Fools
That is a long introduction to this text, but I think it helps us in understanding what David means in verse 1 when he says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” The phrase, “There is no God” is not describing an atheist, it is describing a person who does not believe that God will hold them accountable for their sin. He is describing a person who does not believe that God is a Righteous Judge. And as David pondered the nations that surrounded Israel, and how they continued to stand in direct opposition to God and his will, only one word described them, fools. Why? Because God had repeatedly displayed his judgment upon the nations over and over and over again and they still continued in their defiance of their Creator.
The description of fools reminds me of Psalm 2 which states, beginning in verse 2, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 3“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” Standing in opposition to a God who has the power to create all things is a joke.
No Judge Causes No Restriction
This belief that their was no consequence for sin has an effect. If you believe that you will not be judged for your sins, what will you do? You will sin. And that is exactly what David saw as he looked over the landscape of the world. Verse 1 tells us that these worldly fools acted out their foolishness and were corrupt; that they did abominable deeds. What might these deeds be? We don't know for sure, but a good guess would be deeds that were violation of the ten commandments. Worshiping false Gods, making idols, taking the Lords name in vain, dishonoring your parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting. Believing that there is no God who judges produces immorality.
And it wasn't only David who saw the Universal sin of the world, it was also God. Verse 2, “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.” The transcendent God was not oblivious to the waywardness of man.
Therefore, the same problem that existed in the days of Noah still existed in the days of David, the children of men were still evil. And Psalm 14 leaves no wiggle room in this discussion, verse 2 says, “there is none who does good, not even one.” Zero.
Someone, however, may argue that David is just using hyperbole? That he is just being extreme for the sake of making a point in this song that he has written. Perhaps that would be a good argument if Jesus wouldn't have said the same thing in Luke 18:19 when he said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus states it negatively, no one is good. And he states it positively, God alone. No wiggle room.
No One Does Good, Not Even One
But it doesn't end there, as I stated earlier, Psalm 14 is also quoted in Romans 3 by the Apostle Paul. Starting in verse 10 he writes, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. 13Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. 14Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. 15Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16in their paths are ruin and misery, 17and the way of peace they have not known. 18There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
The apostle Paul uses Psalm 14 and a few other Psalms to paint the exact same picture that was painted in Noah's day, David's day, Jesus day, and now the last days. Every child of man is corrupt, doing abominable deeds. As it says in Romans 3:18, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Paul is saying the same thing as David when David writes, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Humanity is blind to the truth that there is a God who judges. The world forgets that God flooded the earth because of sin. The world forgets that God reigned down fire upon Sodom for their depravity. The world forgets that God brings plagues to a hard hearted Egypt. There is a God who opens up the earth to swallow sinners who covet and lie. There is a God who wipes out entire nations because they rage against the will of God.
This is one of the purposes of the Old Testament, to give us historical account of God's judgment upon sinful man. As we read page after page of Scripture, there can be no mistake that the God of the Bible is a God who punishes sinners.
And not only have we read about a God who judges, we have also been warned repeatedly that some day all humanity will stand before the God of the heavens and be judged based upon everything we have ever done.
Isaiah 66:15 says, “For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. 16For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many.” The problem with the world is that they don't believe it, therefore there is no fear of God in them, and this makes them fools.
The Name Above All Names
So what is the answer? If all humanity is by nature children of wrath, what are we to do? Look at verse 4, “Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?” If not calling on the name equals evildoers, then what does calling upon the name of the Lord equal? Look at verse 5, “There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.” Calling upon the name of the Lord, turns an evil doer righteous? How does this work? Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Who is this Holy One? Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The name of the Lord that we must call upon is the name Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:11-12 says, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus is the only answer for the universal problem of sin and coming judgment. Is not A way, He is THE way.
Paul writes in Romans 7:24-25, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
To Proclaim His Excellency
The purpose of the Old Testament is to reveal to us who God is. The God that is revealed is a God who judges the nations. However, the events of the Old Testament point us to the greater judgment that is to come. We, the Church, are the new Israel. Peter, writing to the the Church in 1 Peter 2:9 writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Our purpose on this side of the cross is not to be a means of God's wrath, but we are to be a mouthpiece for God's mercy.
We have been chosen by God to proclaim the truth that the day of Judgment is coming, and the only answer for the Lord's fury is Christ. How will this message be received? Not well. Those who love the darkness, want to put out the light. In our text today we see this reality for Israel in verse 4, “all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread.” The nations hated Israel. This is also true for us. Jesus spoke of this in Mark 13:13, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” We also saw this today in our study in Sunday School of Revelation 11. The two witnesses in Revelation 11 represent the Church, commissioned to go out and testify of the coming judgment of the Lord, and what does the world do to them? The world kills them.
Likewise, as we go out in the world, we should not be surprised when our fate is the same. We should not be surprised when we hear people say “Don't judge me.” Or call us self-righteous, or bigots. The fools of this world desire to eat us like bread, they desire to kills us in the streets and rejoice in our death. But as we also saw in Revelation 11 today, the persecution of the Church is not the end of the story. For we are God's chosen, and he will restore the fortunes of his people on the day of judgment. For on that day we will be rewarded for out witness. And at the moment of the Great Day of the Lord, we will all clearly see who were the fools and who were the wise.