As we read through the Psalms, we catch a glimpse of the hearts of people that were responding to God. 73 of the psalms in this book are attributed to King David. David was known as a man after God’s own heart and, in many of his psalms, he shared the distress of his heart. In Psalm 14, our text for today, David cries out to God wondering why nobody else seems to call upon the name of the Lord.
My heart resonates deeply with David’s. As I look around, my heart is so burdened. I feel, many times, like I am striving to live life according to God’s instruction. It is such a good instruction to follow! Then I see others who have access to the very same instruction from the all-wise God of the universe and choose not to follow it, but follow their own preferences and their own wisdom instead.
Just as a point of context, I want to look at the end of David’s reign as God’s leader over the nation of Israel. 1 Chronicles 21:1 reveals to us that Satan actually stood up against Israel, moving David to take a census. In 2 Samuel 24:1, we see God stirring David against Israel, moving David to take presumably the same census of the people. Here is one of the instances our previous discussion on worldview comes in. Someone who already believes that the Bible is truthful will reconcile the two versions of the story and someone who already believes the Bible to be false will claim that there is a contradiction. It may be the case, here, that God was hardening David’s heart and that David’s sinful choice was to take a census. Satan took advantage of that opportunity and moved David to respond to God’s work (the hardening of David’s heart) in a way that was not honoring to God. If this is the case and if this is the proper way to look at this part of history, then we can notice something very important about the way Satan works to turn the people of God against God.
Satan inserts himself during times of transition. David’s reign was about to end and he was about to pass his kingship to his son, Solomon. David was trying to prepare the people for the transition and he even began laying the foundation of the Temple that Solomon would be responsible for completing (1 Chronicles 22). Because Satan inserted himself and people allowed him to deal damage, there was division among the people of Israel. Joab opposed David in the first part of 1 Chronicles 21. If we are pursuing what God wants us to do, then the church is always in transition, always growing more mature, always learning to serve and love more people. If the church is always growing in a variety of ways, then there is always an opportunity for Satan or Satan’s army to insert itself in the life of the church and cause division where division makes no sense. Satan will stir in our hearts, create thoughts within us that we will dwell on, and use those to turn brothers and sisters in the faith against one another. We recognize that God is the ultimate determiner of all things and that it is God who hardens hearts and who safeguards His people. Still, we must be vigilant and be aware that Satan will take every opportunity to insert himself in our church body and in our lives, especially during any time of transition. As with David, God will at times hand us over to our sin for the purpose of the salvation and sanctification of His people.
Satan will tempt us to respond to God’s working out of His own mission and vision on our own terms. This contributed to the conflict between David and Joab. When someone has a different way of doing things than we have or uses different tools than we would use, Satan will draw our attention to those trivial differences. When we focus on those differences, Satan gets exactly what he wants because we stop focussing on God’s mission and vision for our churches and for our lives. We must not focus on differences between methods and tools. We must focus on the mission of God and be aware that Satan will use anything he possibly can to distract us from that mission.
Satan’s objective most often is not to attack God’s people in an obvious way, but to sneak in and turn the people against one another and against God using the vision that God has provided. This means that if Satan is attacking and trying to cause division, we must be on the right track because God has provided vision and we are pursuing it!
It is within the context of David’s life, and all of the division that Satan caused (within the confines of God’s providence) in these ways, that Psalm 14 is written. Why did the people of God not seem to call on God? This is the question David continually asked through many of his psalms, especially this one.
Psalm 14:1-8 HCSB
The fool says in his heart, “God does not exist.”
They are corrupt; they do vile deeds.
There is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race
to see if there is one who is wise,
one who seeks God.
All have turned away;
all alike have become corrupt.
There is no one who does good,
not even one.
Will evildoers never understand?
They consume My people as they consume bread;
they do not call on the Lord.
Then they will be filled with terror,
for God is with those who are righteous.
You sinners frustrate the plans of the afflicted,
but the Lord is his refuge.
Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come from Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
What it means to be foolish
We live in a world where there are many people who will claim that there is no God with their mouths. They will claim that scientific discovery has made it possible for people to believe that things have come into existence without the need for a creator. We learned something quite different as we talked about whether or not evolution or the age of the earth could possibly disprove God. We learned, together, that if any theory of evolution were true, it would be so miraculous that it would demand the existence of a creator.
Here, we might just imagine what creation actually has to say about God’s existence. Scientific evidence seems to suggest that the universe had a beginning, so we can draw a certain conclusion:
Whatever begins to exist has a cause
The universe began to exist
Therefore the universe has a cause
This is a simple argument known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument. If we continue to follow this line of thinking to its natural conclusion, there is either an infinite regress of causes or one single uncaused cause of everything. That uncaused cause would be God.
There is a second argument as we examine human morality. There are not many people on the face of the planet that would claim there to be no objective morality. Those who claim that there is no objective morality (that there is not one moral standard that applies to all people) would have to claim that it is morally right to treat all subjective morals as right, which is an objective moral claim. If there are objective moral values, there has to be a standard for those values. That standard would need to be God.
If God does not exist, objective morals and duties cannot exist
Objective morals and duties exist
There are other arguments (of which the Ontological is my favorite), but these will suffice for the purpose of insisting that our belief that God exists is not only valid, but more likely the case.
When we read the first verse, here, we read that it is a fool who says that there is no God. If we observe the world today and observe the human condition, our observations cannot lead us to believe that there is no God. In fact, observations of the world lead us to the truth of God’s existence.
It is so weird that we actually celebrate Atheism in the United States. Christians get Christmas and Easter. Atheists get to celebrate on April 1st! All joking aside, God loves the atheist and desires the atheist to come into a relationship with Him just as much as He wants us and wants to bring us to our dwelling place with Him. When David writes about the fool saying in his heart that there is no God, we have to think about David’s context. First of all, He doesn’t say that the fool says with his mouth that there is no God. He specifically refers to the heart (the seat of the emotions and of thought). David was the King of Israel. He had many struggles, as we see above. Satan was moving in the hearts and minds of the people of Israel and David was perturbed by the tendency of God’s people to practice such Godlessness. Here, the Hebrew word for fool specifically refers to someone who acts in a morally detestable way. David is writing about his own countrymen and people who outwardly profess to be God’s people.
So, when we think about foolishness, we can know that it is foolish to say that there is no God (because God’s existence seems obvious to us when we examine the world and the human condition), and we can know that it is foolish of people who claim to be God’s people to live a life where God is virtually ignored. David wept at this tendency within the nation of Israel and we should weep when God’s people today are only His people by proclamation and not by lifestyle.
What it means to become corrupt
In this psalm, David pours his heart out saying that God has looked down to find who was wise, and everyone was found to be corrupt and to have turned from God. The Israelites claimed to be God’s people, yet in their action they were corrupt. Jesus comes close to quoting this psalm in Matthew 10, when the rich young ruler came to Him and asked “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by asking, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Jesus went on to point out the fact that the rich young ruler claimed to be part of God’s people, but he had ignored the poor (which was an action in opposition to God). Foolishness, then, leads people into corruption. Foolishness is proclaiming with our mouths that we are God’s people and then still believing that we are actually our own. This belief leads to action. To be corrupt is to confess with our mouths that we are God’s people and then to let our belief in self lead us to act in a way that completely dishonors God, who we confess with our mouths.
This is not difficult for us to understand in the world today. We confess that exercise is good for us, but we believe in our hearts that we would rather sit on the couch and eat cake (I am guilty). This belief leads to the action of sitting on the couch and eating cake. Only with God, the consequences are much greater than just being out of shape. If we are foolish, that foolishness can develop into corruption very easily and this is all too real in the western church.
David refers to those who have become corrupt as workers of wickedness who eat up or devour the people who eat bread. Those who are corrupt and have turned from God because of their foolishness actually drain the energy from those who remain faithful to God. When anyone in the church is concerned only with self instead of the things that God is concerned with, that person usually causes more conflict and causes the church body to fracture and fall. We see this over and over again in the church. Sometimes it happens slowly and sometimes it does not wait. Again I will insist that the people of God must be vigilant in a world where Satan works in the ways that he does.
What it means to be righteous
David doesn’t only mention a corrupt people within the nation of Israel. He also mentions a righteous generation (v. 5). I do not know which generation this might have been because David could have penned this psalm at any point during his reign. He describes this righteous generation as afflicted and accuses those who are corrupt of constantly making endless arguments against the righteous generation in order to keep them down. I have no doubt that David probably felt as though he was a part of this righteous generation. Even though there was no end to the complaints of the corrupt, the righteous generation found their refuge in God.
To be righteous, then, is to experience this conviction, burden and affliction that David describes; seeking to always go through the process of honoring God better with our lives rather than confessing God and trying to stay the same. Those who confess God and then live according to self are corrupt according to David’s psalm. They are the ones who will usually make empty accusation and criticisms that are not God honoring and that do not promote the things that God is primarily concerned with. When we are the object of empty accusation and criticism, we can know that our refuge is in God and not in people.
What it means to be delivered
Verse seven helps us to realize that it is not the responsibility of the righteous to restore the corrupt. It is a responsibility that God reserves for Himself. Only God has the power of deliverance and only God has the power of restoration. This means that instead of lashing out against those who afflict us and those who proclaim with their mouths that they are God’s people but live in contrast to Him, we simply pray for them and become content in our affliction. When the Lord restores us, there will be great rejoicing!
Now to answer our apologetics question for our current topic, Can we know that there is a God? The answer is this: Creation points us to God; Scripture leads us to God; We can know God and act with Him as our King. Evidence suggest that we are valid in our belief of God. Our relationship with God causes us to know God because He has revealed Himself.