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Psalm 14 - research

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(ESV)
Title: Practical Atheism - A Foolish
God is no stop gap God - God is to be center of life
Theme: God sees the folly and vice of those who live as though He did not exist and declares His anger at those who abuse His people. To treat people as objects of plunder is to be a practical atheist and to invite judgment.
Summary: After describing the godless and dangerous corruption of mankind, the psalmist declares that God will completely destroy the wicked, a prospect that inspires him to long for the establishment of the Lord’s reign on earth.
God sees the folly and vice of those who live as though He did not exist and declares His anger at those who abuse His people. To treat people as objects of plunder is to be a practical atheist and to invite judgment.
is a powerful description of the godless world in which the righteous live and which poses a threat to them. The deep and universal corruption of mankind is traced to its source in their failure to seek God. Because of this and because the righteous are the target of their destructive ways, the description of the depravity in this psalm refers to unbelievers who persist in living as if there were no God.
Theme: This is a poem of instruction that is influenced by Israel’s wisdom tradition (c.f. ), and it instructs the community of faith about the fool and the fate that awaits those who reject the Lord’s will. It does not necessarily tell one what to do about the fool, but rather constitutes more of a statement of faith encouraging the people to believe that fools will not win in the end.
To the choirmaster. Of David.
{I. Description of the godless (1-3)} (Ross)
[I. The Fool’s Character (1-3)] (Cornerstone)
Vv. 1-3 have an inclusio of “corrupt”
The first half (1-3) is marked out by the fourfold repetition of ’ayin [369, 401] (“there is not”; 2 times in 14:1 and 2 times in 14:3)
Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 70). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
I. Wisdom’s Lament (1-6) (WBC)
A. Fools reject covenant
{A. Practical Atheist (1)}
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.
But far from weakening the psalm’s assertion that only a fool takes this position, when one understands that the psalm is targeting “practical atheism” the psalm packs an even bigger punch. This is so because the psalm’s accusatory finger points not only at non-believers, but also every believer whose daily life is shaped by anything less than total conformity to God’s will.
A fool is not one who lacks raw intelligence , but rather one who decides and acts on wrong assumptions. They are wrong to think that God is not an active presence in the world.
The foundational doctrine of the fool is, “There is no God” (14:1). This is not a confession of theoretical atheism, but of practical atheism. “There is no God” means there is no one to whom the fool is ultimately accountable
Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 70). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
But the fool is not simply one lacking in mental powers; indeed, the fool may be a highly intelligent person. The fool is one whose life is lived without the direction or acknowledgment of God. Thus, the precise opposite of fool and folly is not wise man and wisdom; the opposite of folly in the wisdom literature is lovingkindness (חסד; see Donald, VT 13 [1963] 285–92). That is to say, the fool is defined by the absence of lovingkindness, which in turn is the principal characteristic of the relationship of the covenant; he lives as if there were no covenant, and thus as if there were no God—“There is no God” (v 1). Hence, the description of fools (v 1c) is of a moral nature; they are “perverse, they do horrible deeds” (the Heb. implies deeds which are an abomination in the eyes of God) and do no good; see further the Explanation at .
Craigie, P. C. (2004). (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 147). Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.
They are corrupt. By using the verb hishkhithu [7843, 8845], the psalmist is probably alluding to the use of this verb in the flood story () and the story of the golden calf () to teach that the history of humanity and of Israel reveals the depravity of the race
Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 69). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
B. Fool’s have no understanding of God (2-4)
{B. Lord’s Appraisal of godless (2-3)}
2 The Lord looks down from heaven (contrary to the fool’s belief that God is not actively present, God looks down) on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
The designation “fool” is not a human label, for those so named in the psalms were anything but fools in a human perspective; the ultimate reason for the status of “fool” was provided by God, who “looked down from heaven” and saw the acts of human beings. It was by the measure of divine love and wisdom that human folly emerged in all its tragedy, while to human eyes alone the same person might appear to be wealthy, powerful and successful.
Craigie, P. C. (2004). (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 147). Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
This is the divine evaluation of the people who deny God (not “all” people - believers included). (e.g., Babel and Sodom )
c.f. - the human race apart from God is universally corrupted and depraved.
A fool is not known from his intellectual processes, but by what one does and does not do.
{II. Destruction of the godless (4-6)}
[II. The Fool’s Fate (4-7)]
the second half is marked out by the inclusio formed by the repetition of ‘am [5971A, 6639] (people) in 14:4 and 14:7.
Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 70). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?
To “know (Yada) is more than intellectual ascent to an idea but to embody the idea in one’s being. To know God’s will is to do God’s will (c.f., , 6).
But what fate awaits those who are not part of the people of God, but “who think no more of devouring God’s people than they do of eating bread” (Brachter and Reyburn 1991:130) and who have persuaded themselves that they are not accountable to anyone, not even God, for such actions? The second half of the psalm answers this question.
They will be judged. Their judgment will bring terror and shame to them because of their plans against the poor.
Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 71). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
As we turn to the second half of the psalm, a certain tension arises at this point from two directions: (1) having affirmed that all are in the category of the corrupt, David goes on to speak of God’s people who obey him, and (2) there are those who do “seek” God (9:10; 22:27; 24:6; 34:4; 69:33; 77:3; 78:34; 105:4; 119:2, 10). Aware of this tension, Calvin (1979:195) says,
It is, therefore, to be observed, that when David places himself and the small remnant of the godly on one side, and puts on the other the body of the people, in general, this implies that there is a manifest difference between the children of God who are created anew by his Spirit, and all the posterity of Adam, in whom corruption and depravity exercise dominion. Whence it follows, that all of us, when we are born, bring with us from our mother’s womb this folly and filthiness manifested in the whole life, which David here describes, and that we continue such until God make us new creatures by his mysterious grace.
In a similar manner Mays (1994:83) says,
Who would claim exemption from the psalmist’s “all” by pretending always to live as if life were accountable to the Lord? Yet precisely for those who know they have come short, the Lord opens up by grace the way of taking refuge in the Lord and seeking the Lord.… Paul … maintained the tension: “All have sinned, but those who believe in Jesus Christ are justified by grace.”
Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 71). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
The problem was not mental deficiency or lack of intelligence; it was lack of understanding (“Don’t they understand?” v 4) of the fundamental principle of human life, namely that it should reflect loving kindness, not folly, just as God loved and was the antithesis of foolishness. The absence of understanding culminated in evil acts against the people of God (“my people,” v 4a), which in turn transforms the wisdom reflection into lament. The psalmist does not simply reflect on the sad fact that there are fools in the world, but laments the grief and oppression which such fools bring down upon the righteous. The fool’s lack of understanding is such that his priorities in life are entirely wrong.
Craigie, P. C. (2004). (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 148). Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.
5 There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.
6 You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.
seems to say (5-6) that faced with a warning of judgment for their sins, these fools do not repent but turn with great rage to humiliate the righteous that they have afflicted.
The meaning of vv 5–6 is difficult to determine; see further the Notes. It is probable that the psalmist contrasts the passive and active estates of the wicked with those of the righteous. To paraphrase: “the wicked lived in a state of fear as a result of their folly, but the righteous had peace of mind (greater than their oppression) as a consequence of God’s presence in their midst. The fool attempted to do ill to the righteous, but found that the righteous benefited from the presence of God as a refuge.” It is this contrast and reflection that leads naturally to the prayer with which the psalm concludes.
Craigie, P. C. (2004). (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 148). Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.
c.f., ps. 2 & 110 that tells of the sudden wrath to come when the Lord’s anointed will come to destroy the wicked with sudden terror.
II. Anticipation of deliverance (7)
{III. Anticipation of the godly (7)}
7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
The psalm, which began as a meditation and turned to lament, now concludes as prayer with anticipation of hymnic celebration of deliverance. The psalmist prays for deliverance from the work of fools and their oppressive folly; Mt. Zion, the place where God’s presence with his people was symbolized most forcefully, would be the place from which deliverance would come. In other words, for the righteous, God’s presence among his people could not be merely a passive symbol, but must become an active force in securing real deliverance from actual trouble. That deliverance, when it came, would result in the joy and exultation of the people of God.
Craigie, P. C. (2004). (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 148). Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.
God’s presence has always been with his people, but the psalmist longs for the day of his manifestation.
God is to be the center of everyday life, not a part of everyday life. “He is not to be recognized only when we are at the end of our resources (deitrich boenhoffer).”
APPLICATION/SUMMARY
This psalm is aimed at the practical atheist, whether they are Christians or not.
Paul’s use of () provides an appropriate context for the contemporary reading of the ancient psalm. It is too easy for the modern reader to identify quickly with the oppressed and to think always of the “fool” in terms of other people. But Paul uses the passage to establish beyond any theological doubt the universal evil and folly of mankind. The fool is not a rare subspecies within the human race; all human beings are fools apart from the wisdom of God. And the works of the fool can never secure justification in the sight of God, devoid as they are of that lovingkindness which is of the essence of God. The fool has neither love nor righteousness; for such, he must seek the wisdom of God. And though wisdom speaks of love, insight and morality, in the NT context, wisdom has a more profound component; the ultimate wisdom of God is to be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ (), which from a certain human perspective may appear to be foolishness, but in reality it is the power of God in deliverance or salvation. Thus, whereas in the original psalm, there is a gap between the fool and the righteous, from a NT perspective the entire psalm may be read as a spiritual pilgrimage. The reader begins, standing where the fool stands, but as he continues to read he perceives and laments the nature of folly and its consequent evil. And, with the psalmist, he must pray for deliverance from that folly.
Craigie, P. C. (2004). (2nd ed., Vol. 19, pp. 148–149). Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.
Today, fools still think there is no ultimate authority to which they are accountable. But there is. Practical atheism often leads to moral corruption and violence in practice. But there is a better way. If “foolishness is … a failure to acknowledge God in trustful obedience” (McCann 1996:729), then wisdom is the sincere acknowledgment of God in trustful obedience. The Lord Jesus Christ has shown us this better way, as he has become the wisdom of God for us (). Christ lived in constant submission to the Father’s authority and consequently lived a life without a trace of moral corruption. Rather than devouring God’s people, he was devoured in our place that we might be restored. Having experienced restoration in part, we can now live not as fools but as wise people, acknowledging the Lord’s authority with trustful obedience, even as we wait for the fullness of our restoration.
Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 72). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
the exposition of this passage will include the powerful revelation of the godless world that is antagonistic to the faith, but it will emphasize the folly of that lifestyle in view of the certain judgment of God
We may have to live in a godless culture for a while, but a glorious day of reckoning is coming. This should inspire us to live faithfully in a fallen world (c.f., , ), as well as warn us against practical atheism.
(ESV)
To the choirmaster. Of David.
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?
5 There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.
6 You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.
7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
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