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Psalm 14: Humanity Without God Print E-mail
Sunday, 16 October 2011

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The psalms are full of doctrine. As I have noted before, they are the songs of praise for Israel, but this does not mean that they are not full of deep, doctrinal truth. In fact, if you asked the question: ĎWhere did Paul get his doctrine of manís depravity?í You would have to include in your answer the psalms. Paul was not the first to speak of manís complete rebellion against God and desperate need for a Savior. No, the Old Testament writers make that abundantly clear. As we saw this morning with our reading from Romans 3, Paul was aware of the psalms teaching on the depravity of man (and other doctrines as well). Thus, as we seek to understand biblical doctrine more and more we cannot afford to ignore the psalms (or any other portion of Scripture.)

Psalm 14 is almost identical to Psalm 53, which I preached here in February of 2010.  In that sermon I simply asked what the psalm taught us about human depravity.  This morning I want to take a little different approach.  The psalm teaches us about humanity without God and speaks particularly of their relationship to God and their relationship to Godís people.  Thus, I want to divide the psalm along those two lines.  Thus, letís consider first how humanity without God relates to God.

Their relationship to God (v. 1-3):

The psalmist identifies who he is addressing in verse 1.  Look at that with me.  Who is the fool?  The term is not a reference to ignorance or unintelligence.  Rather, it is the term used to counter a person who is wise.  It is the person who ignores the truth about God.  It is the person who says in his heart: There is no God.  They may not say it out loud.  They may not be a professing Ďatheist.í  But their actions reveal what is going on in their heart.  Through their actions, their disobedience to God and His law, they make it plain that even if they do believe in ĎGodí, they do not feel that He has any importance for their life.  They may not be Ďprofessing atheistsí but they are Ďpracticing atheists.í  They live as if God does not exist.  God does not matter to them.  They have no fear of God. 

How does this belief in their heart manifest itself?  David says: They are corrupt.  Look at verses 2-3.  The Lord looks down upon the earth (like He did in the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah).  He looks for any who are wise and understanding, any who seek after Him.  And what does He find?  They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.  Over and over again David describes humanity without God as corrupt and rebellious.  They do not follow Godís law.  They do not do good to one another.  The idea is that humanity has become spoiled or ruined like milk left out in the heat.  Calvin comments: ďDavid declares that all men are so carried away by their capricious lusts, that nothing is to be found either of purity or integrity in their whole life.Ē 1  It is not a pretty picture.  The idea that men are Ďpretty goodí is denied.  Rather, the truth is that man, apart from God, is depraved and full of rebellion.

Of course, we might be thinking to ourselves at this point: ĎThatís right, all those sinners out there really need to know what the Bible says about them, namely that they are corrupt and rebellious.í  The problem with such a statement is that the language that David uses is all inclusive.  He is not just talking about sinners Ďout there.í  He is talking about us all.  Notice the inclusive language: all turned asideÖnone who does good, not even one.  This is not a psalm about the Hitlerís and Mussoliniís of the world.  This is a psalm about us all.  Paul uses this psalm to support his point in Romans 3 that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin (3:9).  The Jews in Paulís day were alright with him describing the Gentiles as sinners, but Paul makes the point in the first three chapters of Romans that all are sinners.  We might be comfortable concluding that people Ďout thereí are really sinful and rebellious, but itís a little bit more troublesome when we realize that the Bible is talking about us too.  Again Calvin comments: ďWhence it follows, that all of us, when we are born, bring with us from our motherís womb this folly and filthiness manifested in the whole life, which David here describes, and that we continue such until God make us new creatures by his mysterious grace.Ē 2

Such teaching on humanity might seem harsh to us, but it is important for us to understand what the Bible says about humanity without God.  Our relationship to God is spoiled, broken.  We have turned aside and gone our own way.  We have sinned and rebelled.  When we understand these truths from the Old Testament, it prepares us for the cross.  We should not be surprised the awful payment that had to be made for our sins.  It should not shock us that Godís wrath against our sin had to be dealt with justly.  The cross itself should not surprise us, for our sins made it necessary.  What should shock us and overwhelm us and drive us to our knees is the One who died upon the cross.  That Jesus, Godís own Son, would come and die for us rebels is absolutely astounding.  Such love has never been known, nor will it ever be matched.  Davidís words about humanity without God prepare us for the cross, but nothing could fully prepare us for the grace that God showed us there. 

Their relationship to Godís people (v. 4-6):

David goes on in the psalm to describe humanity without God and their relationship with Godís people.  Look at what he says in verse 4.  The idea being communicated here is constant persecution of Godís people.  Eating bread is something we do on a daily basis and the wicked persecute Godís people as often.  It is hard to know exactly what this might have looked like in Davidís day, but it seems likely that he is making a general statement about how humanity without God treats Godís people.

But David also records Godís response to such treatment.  Look at verses 5-6.  The Lord is with the righteous.  He protects them.  Likewise, He is refuge to the poor.  Humanity seeks to persecute and shame Godís people, but the Lord responds with judgment.  At times, this judgment comes in particular ways.  At other times, the judgment is delayed.  But either way, David makes it clear that even thought the wicked seek to persecute Godís people, the Lord will be their protection and will have the final say.  Thus, the implication is that Godís people should always trust in the Lord and depend upon Him for justice.  He will see His people through.
So then, how should Godís people respond to humanity without God?  They should trust in the Lord to deliver them.  They should not be surprised by persecution and difficulty.  They should not be surprised when the wicked harass them and mock them.  Godís people have always been treated in that way and they will always be treated that way until the Day of judgment, when God makes all the wrongs right and judges the world justly.  Until then, Godís people are to always remember that the Lord is our refuge.

Of course, this begs the question: who are Godís people?  In general in the Old Testament we could answer that Israel is Godís people.  In this psalm they are described as the righteous and the poor.  All of this points us forward to Godís people today.  The glorious good news is that the gospel is not just for Israel.  No, as Paul goes on to argue in Romans 3, Jesus came and died for the sins of both Jews and Gentiles.  In other words, Jesus died for all people.  The New Testament also teaches us that God continues to show mercy to the poor and the needy.  You cannot come to Christ in faith unless you first recognize your need for Him.  You must be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).  Likewise, Godís people in the New Testament are to be righteous. 

Yet, if we have already concluded that all are under sin and all are rebellious, then how can any of us be righteous?  How can any of us be a part of Godís people?  The answer lies in the life and death of Jesus.  He came and lived a completely righteous life.  Unlike us, He never sinned.  He never rebelled.  Rather, He obeyed the Father in every way.  He even obeyed Him by dying on a cross for our sins.  And the good news is that if we turn from our sins and believe in Jesus, we can become the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21ff).  Thus, we can be a part of Godís people by turning from our sins and trusting in Christ. 

David prays for such a salvation in verse 7.  Look at that with me.  Some apply this verse simply to Israel conquering over their enemies or to their return from Exile.  But surely it points to more than just land and money.  The psalmist prays for salvation.  The psalmist prays for God to deliver his people from humanity without God and from being humanity without God.  We should long for the same.  The truth is we are all born as part of humanity without God.  We are born rebels and sinners.  But through the work of Christ, through His death and resurrection, at least part of Davidís prayer has been answered: we have been saved.  And the good news is that through our repentance and faith in Christ there is coming a complete fulfillment of Davidís prayer when all our enemies will be silenced and all of our fortunes restored. 

So then, let me close with two points of application.  If you are here and you have never turned from your sins and trusted in Christ as your Savior and Lord, then I plead with you to do that today.  You are part of humanity without God and the only solution to that problem is believing in Christís work at the cross.  Do not delay.  Do not believe the lie that you are Ďgood enoughí or Ďnot that bad.í  No, you, like all of humanity without God, are desperate for a Savior.  And the good news is that He has come.  Second, if you are here and you are a believer in Christ, then in light of our salvation, may we rejoice and be glad.  Yes, the psalmist paints a bleak picture of humanity.  We are corrupt and spoiled apart from Christ.  But that is exactly why Jesus came and died.  He died for the corrupt.  He bled for the broken.  He was raised for rebels.  And through faith in Him we have been saved.  So let the Enemy come.  Let humanity without God continue to mock us and persecute us.  We will trust and rejoice in the Lord our God, who sent His Son to make us His people.  Amen.

1 John Calvin, Calvinís Commentaries, vol. IV (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), p. 193 (on the Psalms).
2 Ibid., p. 195.

~ William Marshall ~

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