Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 27 2019 - Psalm 14 – The fool and his heart

The "fool" spoken of in this psalm is not someone lacking intelligence. Indeed, there are many highly intelligent people possessing many academic qualifications whom the psalmist might characterise using this uncomplimentary term.

The "fool" makes frequent appearances in the book of Proverbs as well as in this and several other psalms. The term is used to mean the opposite of the "wise" person. Wisdom is knowing how to live well in God's world and begins with the fear of God – reverence for him and a desire to learn of him and submit to him. The fool, on the contrary, "says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" This does not mean that such a person is an atheist; they may even profess to believe that God exists. Rather, it means that they live their lives as if there were no God – they are practical atheists. They do not believe, or perhaps do not wish to believe, that they are accountable to anyone other than themselves and so they are determined to live to please themselves. Their verdict on their own lives would be, "I did it my way."

This is the sin that entered the world through Adam and Eve. They refused to listen to God, wanting rather to be gods to themselves. And this is the evil that tears apart the world that God made for our enjoyment and our blessing. Paul quotes verses from this psalm in Romans 3:10-12 as part of a catalogue of quotations designed to show that the whole world has gone its own way in rebellion against God. When the Creator is not honoured, created life becomes the sphere of disorder and chaos. Life is then often marked by fear and terror (v.5).

But God is still on his throne (v.2) and he is at work to redeem and restore precisely such a messed up world as this. He had been at work through the children of Israel, the descendants of Jacob, at work to fulfil his promise of raising up from Abraham's descendants a Saviour in whom all peoples on earth would be blessed. At last God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to be its Saviour and to lay down his life as a ransom for sinners.

And now God is at work in and through us. Jesus took pity on us in our folly and confusion and came to our rescue. He has become our wisdom, righteousness and redemption. It is our delight to learn of him, follow him and serve him.

We may sometimes fear the scorn of those who do not share our faith and may even unashamedly assert that "There is no God." We may feel ill equipped to respond to them. But there is no reason for us to fear for we have God's own promise and assurance that he is with us (v.5). We need rather to turn to him in heartfelt prayer like that in the final verse of this psalm:

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the LORD restores his people,
    let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! 

We need to plead with God that he would strengthen and revive his church so that God's saving power may flow from us to touch and transform our needy world into one in which the strong no longer oppress the weak (v.6) but where all honour God and care for one another.

Shine, Jesus, shine,
fill this land with the Father's glory;
blaze Spirit, blaze,
set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow,
flood the nations with grace and mercy;
send forth your word, Lord,
and let there be light.  [Graham Kendrick]

Peter Misselbrook