For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David.
The fool says in his heart,
‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!(Ps. 53:1-6 NIV)
When God restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
This Psalm closely resembles Psalm 14. The fool denies the existence of God, or if he does not openly say that there is no God, he lives as if God did not exist. The wicked believe that there is no limit to their personal power or control. They have wrested control from God and given it to themselves. They now become the standard to which they will live. Without God there is no objective right or wrong. On the law of averages, we might expect a reasonable amount of good behaviour, but no, without God behaviour is corrupt and vile. They never choose good.
God is the unseen listener and viewer of all this evil behaviour. The evil people may not believe in God, but their biggest problem is that God believes in them. God is judging their level of understanding and watching to see if any of them will seek God, but they all have become corrupt.
They become a difficult group of people to reach with the Gospel, they have what is described as ‘biblical illiteracy’. They don’t understand the concept of sin, so, when you say that they need to be saved, they have no idea of what they need to be saved from. They have drifted so far from the truth that they no longer have knowledge of God. In the past in this country we had many Christians, and most other people were god-fearing people. But now there is no knowledge of God, no fear of God, no standard to live by, other than their own thoughts or the latest fad that gets published on social media.
They say there is no God or live as if there is no God, so, you might expect that they would just ignore the people who claim to be the people of God. They are not relaxed about the people of God. They devour the people of God like somebody gobbling down bread. Bread was part of the everyday diet for the people then. As they casually ate their bread every day, so casually without a second thought they had a habit of devouring the people of God. Why this angry reaction? Why do they hate with such anger the people of God? They are also overwhelmed with a sense of dread, but if there is no God what have they to fear? Every person has eternity written into their being. He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.(Eccl. 3:11 NIV)
John Calvin called this the ‘sensus divinitatis’ which is Latin for the ‘sense of the divine’. We all have a sense of the divine within us, and as hard as we try, we can never rid ourselves of that innate thought.
Their ethical and moral decisions are made without reference to God. The fool is not lacking in intelligence; the corrupt action that follows from their folly is not a result of ignorance, but a result of their decision that God has no effective role to play in their lives.
The scattering of bones depicts God’s judgement. To despise God is one thing, but to have God despise you is quite another thing. Meeting God is everyone’s destiny, a destiny that we cannot avoid.
The Psalmist is rightly dismayed by the activity of these evil people, but now that he has prayed he longs for salvation to proceed from the presence of God so that all the people can be glad and rejoice.
Lord God we are thankful for Your great salvation. It adds salvation to our souls and a meaning to our lives. Help us not to live like practical atheists; to live as if You did not exist. We thank You that You have given us reason to be glad and rejoice. We pray for our atheist friends. They mock what we believe, and they are angry with You even though they say You are not there. They are able to compose some very clever rhetoric to express their unbelief, and they do not realise that they are merely ‘clever fools’. Lord it offends us when they mock the Saviour who means so much to us. Please help to keep in perspective that one day every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Sustain us through the encouragement from Your word for Christ our Saviour’s sake in whose name we pray. Amen