FACTORING GOD IN
Lord, keep me in Your camp.
Read PSALM 53
For the director of music. According to mahalath.[b] A maskil[c] of David.
1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
4 Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.
5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
a Psalm 53:1 In Hebrew texts 53:1-6 is numbered 53:2-7.
b Psalm 53:1 Title: Probably a musical term
c Psalm 53:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
New International Version (NIV)
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“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Psa. 33:18).
The description of the fool in this psalm well represents the Assyrians’ arrogance in 2 Kings 18. In the ancient world, theoretical atheism was virtually unheard of and the envoys certainly did not deny the existence of gods. Rather, they found Israel’s God negligible. Similarly, the psalm reflects a kind of practical atheism: the notion that God is not involved in human affairs and so he could very well be non-existent as far as everyday life is concerned. Many today likewise may embrace a vague belief in God or gods without letting this belief impact on their lives.
The psalm portrays the extreme end of such a disposition, leading to outright corruption and evil (1,3) because there is no accountability to anyone. We may think of many who ignore God and yet demonstrate admirable integrity and morality, but it is worth remembering that didactic psalms tend to operate in black and white categories to make a point. Here the implication seems to be that true goodness must have God as its reference point, otherwise it will get twisted. Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden was not a moral issue (their sin was disobedience); nevertheless, choosing moral autonomy (we get to decide what is right and wrong) ultimately results in escalating moral evil in the world. Likewise, in the west today, many decisions are made using happiness and self-fulfillment as a guide. Yet, if my happiness causes you pain, on what basis should it be given priority over yours? Such thinking will lead to deep moral confusion.
Whether we have forgotten to factor God into our lives or are suffering abuse from those who have, the challenge and encouragement of this psalm is that God sees and knows, and he will protect his own and judge oppressors (5,6).
Lord, teach us to live with the awareness of Your presence, accountable to You. May You always be our reference point for making decisions.
Lord, I dread even the thought of denying Your existence or Your sovereignty over the entirety of Your creation.