Spurgeon said this Psalm might be entitled Concerning Practical Atheism; it portrays and describes the way natural man thinks - as if God is not. The occasion for David's writing it is not known, but the truths revealed are universal, so the reasons are endless. Spurgeon said, "David has given us in Psalm 53 a second edition of this humiliating psalm, being moved of the Holy Ghost thus doubly to declare a truth which is ever distasteful to carnal minds." As the state of New York reminded us this week, God’s truth goes against the grain of natural man, it “is ever distasteful to carnal minds”. We who in Christ need to see His truth as precious and good for our souls, even as we weep for those who are captive to sin.
I am taking as my outline the breakdown found the Miles Coverdale Bible, printed in 1535 and based largely on Tyndale's work. Psalm 14 looks at natural man, ending with a plea for God's mercy. Psalm 15 is the answer to that plea! This evening, it's mostly bad news.
I. vs 1-3: The Natural Man.
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.
2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
We don't lightly call a man a fool. Here we see YHWH's definition of such a man - he says to himself there is no God. He may make a public profession of faith, may be a seminary grad, preacher, deacon, accepted by all the saints who know him. But in his heart, he says there is no God; he thinks he is an atheist. God doesn't believe in atheists - see Romans 1:19-21. Such men, the unregenerate, are fools. And many local assemblies allow people to join them without any judgment find themselves overrun with professing Christians who deny God exists; and the majority rules in most local churches. When the majority knows not God, majority rule is dangerous.
To say there is no God, however, goes far beyond alleged atheism. It is the ultimate of self-rule, for the fool is actually saying there is no ruler, no governing authority. It harkens back to the garden where the serpent tempted Eve by telling her she would be as God. This is what the fool believes – that he is in the place of God, determining what is good and what is not.
When you watch or read the news – the fool is on display! He or she declares homosex and the marriage of any two people is good; that gender is fluid and gender specific pronouns (he and she) are evil! The fool says the infant might be a boy or girl or something else – we must wait and see what the toddler will decide. New York state says the murder of babies is a good thing. Evil is called good. All this is the natural condition of man. And God is not mocked. His justice WILL prevail!
Verse 2 says YHWH looked down from heaven to see if there were any who understand – just like He did before the flood. Gen 6:11-12. Has man changed? Can he change himself? Can the leopard change his spots? The flood wiped out humanity, save eight souls, from the face of the earth because man rebelled against God. Noah was a righteous man, blameless, walked with God. And as soon as the ground grew grapes, Noah was drunk. Mankind wasn’t not changed by the flood; sin was not abolished.
Wicked men are allowed to live because there are no other kind. This is what verse 3 tells us. We who are redeemed were as they are, we see this Eph 2 (We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.) and Col 1 (Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions.). We are not better than them, we are better off, having been brought near to the Father by the blood of Christ. Even wicked men benefit from God’s mercy towards His elect. Read Gen 9:8-17 to see the covenant God made with this earth to provide times and seasons for men to live and die, until the last sheep is brought into the sheepfold of Christ.
This is why Paul used this passage and several others in his letter to the Romans. In chapter 3 Paul quoted from this passage; 5:9; 10:7; 36:1; Ecc 7:20; and Isaiah 59:7-8. The ancient preacher said, Eccl 7:20, Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. see Rom 3:9-18
The verdict is in; it’s irrefutable and final. Man in his natural state is more like an animal than a creature made in God’s image. What can we expect from natural man other wickedness?
II. vs 4-6: God convicts the wicked by the light of their conscience.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?
5 There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
6 You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is his refuge.
David saw that evil people, those who do not call upon the Lord, consume and dominate the covenant people of God. They have no knowledge of God – none that would strike fear in their hearts. These are those who say there is no God, their thoughts and imaginations are only evil continually. They have no regard for others. When you see people rioting in the streets, stealing from stores, robbing people – they are consuming people like they eat bread. When a load of sour dough bread comes out of the oven, it is not possible to resist. Evil doers who consume God’s people (that is who David is mentioning here) like a hungry man grabbing fresh bread do not call upon the Lord. If you study the line of Christ back to Adam, you will see that Seth, born after Abel’s murder, is the godly line. Gen 4:26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD. Godly people, such as Seth’s son Enosh, called upon the Lord.
Matthew Henry said, “While Cain, the head of the apostacy, is made a wanderer, Seth, from whom the true church was to come, is one fixed. In Christ and his church is the only true settlement. Seth walked in the steps of his martyred brother Abel; he was a partaker of like precious faith in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and so became a fresh witness of the grace and influence of God the Holy Spirit. God gave Adam and Eve to see the revival of religion in their family. The worshippers of God began to do more in religion; some, by an open profession of true religion, protested against the wickedness of the world around.”
When God's people live as though we've been raised from spiritual death unto life everlasting, those who are His enemies will not be at peace with us. As we love one another and proclaim Christ, without the fear of what man can do to us, those who are of the world will not know what to think. Like all of us, they will fear what they do not understand, even though they can see enough to know He is.
When Joshua led Israel into the promised land, God conquered all the kings of the earth therein and the fear of God was known far and wide. As of Joshua chapter 10, numerous cities had fallen to the small nation; the sun stood still in the sky all day; and the kings of the earth feared. See Josh 11:1-6. These kings feared being conquered by the God of Israel, so they mustered as many warriors as they could. Reminds of Pharaoh chasing the Hebrews after they left Egypt. Like a weiner dog chasing a car, once he catches it he knows not what he'll do. These kings, just like Pharaoh, had too high an opinion of themselves. YHWH tells His people, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.” Just as He had caused Egypt to give riches to Israel as they left, just as He cause Jericho to fall, just as He had conquered all the other kings in the land, He delivered these self-important rulers of this world over to His people for destruction. This is the Lord's doing and it was marvelous in the eyes of His people!
This is why David could proclaim vs 5 & 6. He is faithful to His people to bring about His purpose and plans! Those would take advantage of the poor (as national Israel did throughout her history!) would be held to account and His people, even the poorest soul that belongs to Him, will find refuge in Him.
III. vs 7: David glories in the salvation of God.
Ps 14:7 Oh, 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.
Here’s where the tide turns; where we get a preview of Psalm 15. In the face of all the bad news about man's war against God and His people, David knows the only answer, the only relief is for God Himself to save!
Here's where our rule for interpreting Scripture will impact us. Does the king of Israel speak of the salvation for that people only, or does he intend us to see Israel and Judah as typical for the sheep within the sheepfold of God and the sheep not therein, which Christ will seek out and bring in? Is Zion earthly Jerusalem or does it represent the heavenly place from whence our help comes?
Two old time Baptists, John Gill (17th century) and Charles Spurgeon (19th century) were historic premillennialists. Both of them saw Israel and Judah as the full number of God's elect and Zion as referring to where Christ currently sits. As an amillennial, I agree completely. Since this Psalm is not couched in a specific event in David's life, but is a general commentary on the problem mankind has and the only hope there is; it makes the most sense - I say it only makes sense - to see this as our old Baptist brothers did, with the focus on Christ and His salvation of His people.
Gill said Zion refers to "the Messiah, the Saviour of Israel, of all the elect of God, whether Jews or Gentiles; and who is so called, because the salvation of them was put into his hands, and he undertook it; and because he is the Captain and Author of it, and it is in him, and in no other. He was to come out of Zion, out of Judea, from among the Jews."
The middle part of this verse says "When God restores the fortunes of His people"; in the context of the kingdom of God, refer to the bondage of sin man is in and the action that God alone can take to remedy that situation. Again, from Gill: "The people of God are, in their unregeneracy, in a state of captivity to sin, Satan, and the law; the work of the Messiah, when he came, was to proclaim liberty to the captives, to set them free, to deliver them from their spiritual bondage: and this Christ has done; he has redeemed his people from all their sins, and from the curse of the law, and from the power of Satan, and has led captivity captive; and which has justly occasioned great joy in the redeemed ones,".
All this was done according to His eternal plan to redeem a people for Himself, a people from every nation, tongue, and tribe - not only from ethnic Israel.
Jacob and Israel shall rejoice when they see this great salvation. Gill said that the Jews refer to this as the time of the Messiah. They were right in that! Gill finishes by telling us it is "the posterity of Jacob and Israel; not his natural, but spiritual seed, such who are the true sons of Jacob, Israelites indeed; these having faith and hope in the plenteous redemption of Christ, rejoice in the view of their interest in it; they the song of redeeming love now, and these ransomed ones will hereafter come to Zion with joy, and everlasting joy upon their heads."
Now that's something to rejoice over!
What does all this mean?
The political rulers in New York give evidence that what David wrote so long is still true. To make their position clear: It’s illegal to give the death penalty to a murderer; but it’s legal and encouraged to murder a helpless person.
Does this wreck our world? It shouldn’t – God has told us people left to themselves do horrible things. What we need to keep in mind is that we were cut from the same cloth as these evil people in New York. If not for the mercy of God we would not understand His ways, be outraged for the right reasons, or have reason to cry out for Jesus to come quickly. We should be praying for these wicked people to come to faith in Christ, to repent of their sin and repeal this horrible law. If they do not, they will be filled with terror on the day He returns to judge all flesh.
When the state, even one such as New York, declares murder a health care right, we do not lose hope. Yes, our heart breaks that evil men prosper and rule over others – some of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ. But this wicked world is no longer our home. Our hearts should ache to be done with sin and home with our Lord, even though we recognize that as long as He gives us breath we will serve Him.
So let us pray for those who are as we were, let us encourage one another to not grow weary in doing well, let us love one another in word and deed, and let us keep our eyes fixed on the unseen things so we don’t get dragged into the muck of this world.
Isaiah 26:3-4 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
This is our Lord's promise - we fix our minds on Him, trusting Him when the world is evil. And He will keep us in His peace, for He is our rock of refuge.