Morning Pages: Psalm 14
Psalm 14, written by David, is a psalm of complaint or lament. There are echoes of this psalm in Romans 1 and 3, which Paul must have had in mind as he wrote his letter to the Roman churches. And Psalm 53 is almost a replica, with only a few minor differences. In each of these passages, an indictment is proclaimed against those who willfully reject the Lord.
Vs. 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.
Verse 1 is, perhaps, the crux of the indictment, with all else flowing from it. They are full of unbelief, saying, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1, Ps. 53:1). The issue isn’t that they don’t have knowledge of God. They do. The problem is that they are unwilling to acknowledge, seek, or follow him, which, according to David, is the epitome of foolishness. As a result, they are corrupt, arrogant, and do grievous things.
And, as David surveys the world around him, the picture is grim—none do good. It might be easy to relegate this to David’s day or to dismiss it as hyperbole—David exaggerating to prove his point. However, if we are willing to live in the tension this creates for us rather than rushing to resolve anything that makes us uncomfortable, we may find something profoundly hopeful and freeing in it—something this psalm eventually leads us to.
Vs. 2-3 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.
Again, a grim proclamation. But this time, from Yahweh. The Lord looks down on humanity. And what is he looking for? For any who seek after him. But he doesn't find even one. Instead, Yahweh sees that all have turned aside. They have no desire to know him or be in relationship with him. Instead of receiving the gift of knowing and being known by Yahweh, they reject him. Perhaps, worst of all, they are united in their corruption and rejection of the Lord; it's their central rallying point.
David further exposes their foolishness,
Vs. 4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?
Here David poses a rhetorical question: Have they no knowledge? He uses the Hebrew word yada for knowledge, which goes beyond an abstract awareness of God. Yada is a deep, experiential knowledge, which implies they aren't ignorant; they just don't care. They do not call on him because they feel they have no need for him. And worse still, they plunder, oppress, and feast on God's people—those he loves and calls his own.
David continues the indictment,
Vs. 5-6 There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.
Where they have previously rejected God, feasted on God's people, and failed to call on him, now they reap the consequences. They are in great terror because Yahweh will rise up and care for those who are his. Unlike many of David's psalms of lament, this one seems to come from more of a place of confidence! Rather than questioning God's delay or presence, David appears to be mocking those who oppose Yahweh and harm his people. They are fools because, in their arrogance and unbelief, they forget that:
There is a God, and they are not him (vs. 1)
The Lord is watching and sees the ways of all mankind (vs. 2)
God is with the righteous (vs. 5)
The Lord is a refuge for those who are his—especially the powerless, poor & oppressed (vs. 6)
God will see to it that their plans will fail (vs. 7)
Yahweh will restore the fortunes of his people (vs. 7)
They have opposed the Lord and the Lord's people, and their days are numbered. Yahweh is a refuge for his children, and he will rise to protect, defend, and eventually restore.
All of which leads David to cry,
Vs. 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.
David, having reminded himself of the truth that Yahweh has covenanted (promised) to be the deliverer of and refuge for his people, now cries out for that salvation to come to fruition.
While this is a psalm of lament, it is also full of hope—for David and even more so for us. The central hope of this Psalm is found in three key ways:
First, God is not absent, nor is he blind to the world's brokenness, injustice, and evil. On the contrary, he is keenly aware of it all. Nothing escapes his sight. This truth can not only steady us when we wonder if God sees what is happening around us, but it can also free us from seeking justice and righteousness in unjust and unrighteous ways. Because the Lord sees. And a righteous God will bring forth righteousness and justice in his time and his way. He will one day restore to you all that evil plundered from you.
Second, God is our refuge. A refuge provides shelter, protection, and rest. We are sojourners in this world—traveling through on our way home. But the journey is, at times, treacherous, and we will face trouble along the way. When trouble assails you, God's invitation is to come to him in faith, knowing that it is only in trusting him you will find peace and rest in this world.
Finally, God is WITH us. In verse 5, David says the Lord is with the righteous. The Lord promised in Genesis 3 to send one who would one day conquer sin and death, and that one is Jesus. Jesus is our righteousness which ensures that God is with us. More than that, he who used to dwell from above or confined his presence to a particular place (the temple) and a particular people (the Israelites) now dwells IN us. He is here—now—at this moment, in this space. He is as close as your breath. He is for you. He is with you. He is in you. And, as your refuge, he surrounds you.
May these truths bring us settled confidence and peace.
Until next week.
All my love,
Poor Bishop Hooper's song for Psalm 14: