When God speaks, our attention is demanded. When God wants to emphasize something, he will say it twice. For example, there are many instances where Jesus would say, “Truly, truly, I say to you,” and then expound upon a teaching to the crowds. But when God says something three times, it is evident that God wants to wake up and truly accept the principle of his teaching.
This must be the case as we study Psalm 53. As you read the psalm you may notice that is sounds familiar. It should be very familiar to us because this psalm is very similar to Psalm 14. While not a verbatim repetition, both psalms are very similar in words and teaching. Not only this, but the thrust of this psalm, found in verses 2-3 are quoted by Paul in Romans 3:10-12. Three times God says these words to the human race. Therefore, it is important for us to learn the message being taught. This psalm is a reminder about the portrait of a fool. This is our picture to see the ways a fool acts so that we are not caught up in foolish living.
I. The Folly of the Fool (53:1-3)
A. Declares “no god”
- It perhaps the most foolish statement one can make: “there is no God” or “no God for me.” It is a statement of ignorance. Now, I am not saying that someone is stupid for saying “there is no God” or saying that they do not want God in his or her life. It is a statement of ignorance because the person is choosing to ignore some logical proofs and logical understanding.
- To live a life without concern for God is to ignore that he has created us and has power over us. To choose do things our way and live our lives the way we see fit is to ignore that we are held accountable to a greater being than ourselves, the Creator. To say there is no God is to ignore the complexity of creation. To say that there is no God is to ignore the conscience within us that tells us that there is something after death and that there is a higher power than ourselves.
- No one likes to be called ignorant and no one likes to be called foolish. But when we are choosing to ignore the obvious evidences of the universe, ignore the revelation of the scriptures about God, and ignore our own conscience which seeks out a higher power, then we are being IGNORant. A fool ignores the facts. A fool ignores the evidence and rejects the proof.
- David says that the reason people ignore these evidences and declare within their hearts and by their actions that there is no God is because their ways are vile and corrupt. They want to do things that are right in their own eyes and not right in the eyes of God. Corruption is also the end result of rejecting the existence of God in our lives. By ignoring God, we do not become a better person but a corrupt and vile person. The world wonders why society seems to have more crime and more problems as each decade passes. But I can tell you a reason why: because people are ignoring God. When we ignore God, we do selfish things which hurt other people.
B. The Lord looks down from heaven
- God is pictured in heaven looking down upon the affairs of people on the earth. God wants to find out if there is anyone who gets it. Is there any person who has understanding? Does anyone comprehend that we exist by the power and might of the Lord? God looks to see if people are not ignoring him in their lives.
- Will this world seek after God? God looks down from heaven to see if anyone understands what he requires? The answer is given in verse 3, “Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” The answer is not a good answer. All of us, at one time or another or on a continual basis, are fools because we ignore God in our lives. We choose to live how we want to live and do not place God as the primary importance in our decisions.
- To this, the Lord speaks, “Will the evildoers never learn—those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on God?” God simply shakes his head at us for the ignorance we show as we repeated turn aside from God and plunge ourselves into folly.
II. The Way of the Fool (14:4-6)
A. The fool never learns
- The Lord goes further to describe for us the way of the fool. The first point we see is in verse 4 that the fool never learns. “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools” (Proverbs 26:3). Just as these animals need a continual reminder to go the proper path, so also the fool never learns, requiring a rod for repeated discipline. “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). These proverbs simply prove the point that the Lord makes in Psalm 14: the fool never learns.
- This is a true point that also condemns us all. We never seem to learn either. We are materialists, we take advantage of one another, and in general do not have the Lord as the ruler in our lives. We have not given our lives over to God. We still go down our own paths while we claim to be believers in God.
- We go through life never changing our ways. We continue to remain in our corrupt ways never forming ourselves into the image that God has left for us. Why do we continue in our abominable deeds and not call upon the Lord? We have shown that we are worthy of judgment for our actions. None of us can say that we have learned our lesson. All of us continue to play the fool when it comes to our service and worship to the Lord. How often we accept the blessings of God and yet do not put Him first! How often we will take all that we can receive from the Lord but never offer ourselves in return! We must put God first always and do what He asks.
B. The fool should live in terror
- Further, the fool ought to live in terror. God is with the righteous, but is against those who have not turned their lives over to God. It must be a terrifying thought to our minds to be standing against the Lord. When we noticed Paul’s words concerning the fools who suppress the truth of the knowledge of God, Paul said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18).
- We can see the wrath of God revealed many times in the scriptures. In the days of Noah, the wrath of God was revealed against ungodliness through the destruction of the world with a flood of water. In the days of the Lot, the wrath of God was revealed against evil when it rained fire and brimstone from heaven. The wrath of God was revealed against Nadab and Abihu who were struck dead for not worshipping God as He had authorized. The wrath of God was revealed against Korah who led a rebellion against Moses. God’s wrath has been revealed repeatedly and we must be in fear and trembling that the wrath of God will be against us if we continue to walk the path of fools.
- To the righteous, the Lord is a refuge. If you have been following this series on the psalms you will recognize that this theme has been repeated in most of the psalms up to this point. God is the place that we are to run to. This is one way we renounce our foolish ways: by turning to God for relief and rest. We show that we have gained understanding when we stop turning to the world for relief and start turning to God for all our needs.
III. God Scatters the Bones
A. “God scatters the bones of those who attacked you”
- The Old Testament places relevance on the bones of people. We can see such in this psalm where David declares that God scatters the bones of the attackers. One of the early Old Testament images of judgment regarding bones is found in Numbers 24:8, “God brings him out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox; He shall consume the nations, his enemies; He shall break their bones and pierce them with his arrows” (NKJV).
- Notice this unusual prophecy: “Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bonesshall be burned on you.'”” (1 Kings 13:2, NKJV). God wanted there to be something symbolic when bones were burned and scattered.
- This prophecy was fulfilled in the days of Josiah. “As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, “What gravestone is this that I see?” So the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.” And he said, “Let him alone; let no one move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria” (2 Kings 23:16-18, NKJV).
- We see from these scriptures that the righteous bones were allowed to be at rest while the wicked and immoral had their bones broken, scattered, or burned. This background is important to our understanding about what David is saying about God scattering the bones of the attackers in Psalm 53. In Psalm 14 we read that God frustrates their plans, rather than describing the scattering of their bones. I believe these images of bones are used to describe the end result of people after death. The righteous are at rest with God and cannot be moved from God. However, the wicked are not at rest and are not at peace with God. They are in turmoil and will burn from their iniquities. The bones are picture of the afterlife and what will happen in the resurrection.
- The psalm ends with a call for salvation and restoration of Israel. In the face of the fool, David still puts his hope and trust in God to bring restoration to the people of God. I believe this is an important ending because Psalm 54 shows this faith in action. Psalm 54 is set in a similar time frame as Psalm 52 when David is being chased by Saul.
- Psalm 54 is a straight forward psalm where David calls out to God for strength and help while be surrounded by the foolish. Verse 4 is the pinnacle of the psalm as David declares his trust in God, “Surely God is my help, the Lord is the one who sustains me.”
- David is not a fool. David seeks after the ways of God while being surrounded by fools who give no regard for the Lord. Let us learn from the ways of fool and avoid being ignorant by living with God in our lives. Only the fool says there is no God. Only the fool says there is no room for God in my life. Have faith in God and live your life trusting in him.