Lessons from the fool’s heart (Psalm 14:1-3)

In meditating about the first three verses of Psalm 14, I have been struck by how much these verses teach us about the sinfulness of man and about how justly he deserves judgment from the Lord.

These verses teach us about the willfulness of unbelief. The fool (‘nabal’ in Hebrew, which can also be translated ‘godless one’) has defiantly rejected the one true God in a willful act of rebellion. That is, the fool is not neutral or passive in this situation. A fool is not a fool because he is ignorant, but, in the Hebrew mind, a fool was a fool because he was not obedient to the LORD. The psalm reads, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’“ Notice that he has said “in his heart.” For the Hebrew, the heart was where the will and the emotions dwelt. So out of his wicked heart, the fool’s will and emotions rebel against the authority of the LORD and the mouth then shouts its godless defiance: “There is no God!” But again this is not the shout of ignorance, but is the defiant rebellion of a sinner. The fool’s unbelief is first willful.

Next the psalm instructs us about the consequences of unbelief. “They are corrupt; they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.” When a person choose to reject God, they necessarily discard all moral restraint in the same moment. As a result, they become corrupt in their mind and heart and then inevitably become corrupt in their behavior. Having abandoned the only authority of moral right and wrong, the godless one “commits abominable deeds” with apparent impunity. Right and wrong are removed and there is nothing that prevents the most heinous wickedness. These are the consequences of unbelief.

Thirdly, this psalm teaches is there is a motivation for unbelief. What I mean is that the fool enjoys the personal benefits of his unbelief and so, to keep receiving those benefits, the fool is motivated to reject God and refuse His rule and reign. By “benefits” I am referring to the rewards of sin which accrue to the fool from his iniquity. Having tasted the pleasures of sin, the fool craves more and he knows that bowing the knee to the LORD in obedience will put an abrupt stop to his pleasure from sin. Therefore, the fool does not “seek after God (14:2),” for this would threaten his sin. “They have all turned aside (14:3),” and have turned away from the path of righteousness, for there is no pleasures of sin on the highway of holiness. So the fool is motivated to remain in his unbelief to indulge in the wicked pleasures of sin.

And so the word of God presents us with man, the planet’s great, dominant biped. Created to be God’s vice regent and to spread the glory of God throughout the earth, because of sin he has been rendered a fool who commits abominable deeds and who, in his natural, fallen state, is unable to do good. The Bible is remarkably consistent in its description of man after the Fall. This short paragraph from a psalm echoes what the Scripture teaches throughout its pages, that man is morally ruined and has turned aside from God to pursue his sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” In fact, these three verse from Psalm 14 are quoted by Paul in his epistle to the Romans as he summarizes his prosecution of mankind (3:10-12) and declares “There is none righteous.” As we have seen from this short study, man is in his unbelief by willful choice and he remains in his sin because the natural man loves his sin.

It is from this miserable state that all mankind must be rescued if men and women are ever to stand before the Holy One, God the Almighty. But how could this ever take place? Where is the Champion, the Rescuer, the Redeemer, the Savior who has the power to change this situation and who, having the power, is willing to pull men and women from the pit of destruction?

But this is exactly how the Bible describes Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ declares that Jesus is mighty to save and that, if a man or a woman will confess their sins and will repent of them and will forsake their love of sin and will bow the knee to Jesus Christ as Lord and will trust in Jesus, then the Lord Jesus will save them and will change them. The Lord Jesus left heaven and came to earth to die on the cross to take away sin, so that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life. The fool has said in his heart that there is no God, but through faith in Jesus Christ, even the fool can be saved and can go to heaven.                     SDG            rmb     1/10/2017

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