Psalm 53: a psalm restated
There Is None Who Does Good
To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.
(1)The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.
(2)God 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 fallen away; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good, not even one.
(4)Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?
(5)There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror!
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame,
for God has rejected them.
(6)Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
Read Psalm 14.
Psalm 14: The Fool Says, There is No God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
Psalm 53: There Is None Who Does Good
To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.
These two songs are almost identical; both written by David, and both given to the choir director to be sung during worship.
Bible scholars believe Mahalath is a musical term. A Maskil or Maschil means a meditative poem.
"It is not a copy of the fourteenth Psalm, emended and revised by a foreign hand; it is another edition by the same author, emphasized in certain parts, and rewritten for another purpose."
--Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Nothing in God's Word is an accident. Nothing is accidently said twice. God wanted this Psalm restated and placed in His Word again. And seriously, when God says things twice, we probably better pay close attention!
Will we ever know why? Or does that even matter? Maybe what's more important is just that He meant for us to take a closer look...
Some commentators suggest that David rewrote the song for a special occasion, maybe a celebration or maybe a national emergency.
"This psalm is essentially a repetition of Psalm 14, with a few small modifications, probably intended to give faith and courage to Israel in the midst of a national challenge, such as the threat of an invasion or a siege."
--Pastor David Guzik, www.enduringword.com
Only fools say in their hearts, "There is no God."
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!
Psalm 53:1 NLT
The Hebrew word for "fool" is nabal. This word signifies someone who has chosen not to believe, not someone who is "foolish" or just doesn't understand God. After all, no one is capable of understanding God. Those of us who love the Lord and have chosen to have faith and believe know there are many things that we cannot explain, we just "know." That is faith.
The Old Testament story of David's interaction with someone named Nabal really helps us understand the meaning of this word (1 Samuel 25). Nabal, of the Old Testament, was a "fool" filled with pride. He made a number of stupid decisions that almost cost him and his family and servants their lives at David's hand. And it wasn't because Nabal was incapable of knowing right from wrong. The man chose his foolish behavior.
"Only fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God.'"
How does someone not see a Creator in the design of the universe? How does someone not see God in the complexity of mankind? How does someone not see God in morality and the human conscience?
It's simple: they have chosen not to. Nabal. A fool.
Paul says something similar in his letter to the Christians in Rome,
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.
Romans 1:20-22 NLT
A fool says in their hearts, there is no God! This isn't just a rationing away of God in the mind, it's a choice of the heart. To have faith when it's hard to understand, is to give God our hearts. This is why Jesus said we must receive God like a child:
But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
God knows our hearts, and He desires a devotion of the heart. Children give their hearts easily. With joy, they just believe in stuff. Faith like a child...
God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!
Psalm 53:2-3 NLT
Paul repeats these words again to the Romans,
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."
Romans 3:10-12 NIV
But Paul goes on to explain these verses with a New Covenant understanding,
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. Romans 3:20
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24
No one is "good enough." All have sinned and fall short in the sight of God.
"There is none who does good, no, not one: When God finds none who does good, it is because there are none. It isn't as if there were some and God couldn't see them. David here observes and remembers that man is truly, profoundly, deeply fallen."
--Pastor David Guzik, www.enduringword.com
When God looks down from heaven...what does He see? Brokenness, sadness, pain, sin. These are not things that He wants for His children.
Will those who do evil never learn? They eat up my people like bread and wouldn't think of praying to God. Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
Psalm 53:4-5 NLT
Here, the song shifts from the brokenness of us all, to the undisputable fact that God will come to defend His children. God looks down from heaven and watches over all. He sees sin and sadness and pain. Not one who does good.
But He also see His children. The ones who acknowledge Him with their hearts. Those are the ones He watches over; those He rescues; those He defends.
This is the Good News and message of Jesus Christ:
If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Those "fools" who chose otherwise will experience terror. They will be scattered and broken. Make no mistake, that is a scary thought, and one that we want to make sure and be on the right side of.
There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them.
Psalm 53:5 KJV
Verse 5 is one of the differences between Psalm 14 and Psalm 53. Some Bible commentators suggest that Israel was being attacked or threatened in some way because of the wording of this verse.
David calls upon a promise God made to His people when they were following Him and being obedient. God promised to "create fear, where there was no fear" in their enemies. It happened many times in the Old Testament.
And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape the sword, through none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies.
Leviticus 26:36-37 ESV
Was Jerusalem under attack at the time David rewrote this Psalm? Or maybe were they celebrating a time in the past when God had done this? Create fear, where there is no fear (see Joshua 10; 2 Kings 18-19). 1 Samuel 14 is another story of a great victory won by Jonathan and his men where God "created fear where there was no fear." Jonathan was King Saul's son and David's best friend. Was David remembering the friend of his youth when he rewrote this song?
Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When God restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.
Psalm 53:6 NLT
The "restoration of Mount Zion" is ultimately the return of the Savior to His people. God's people have always rested in the fact that God will return. He has not abandoned us. He will come back and claim what is His. God will restore His people, and we will shout for joy upon His return.
"Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
"Look, he is coming with the clouds," and "every eye will see him, even those who pierced him"; and all people on earth "will mourn because of him." So shall it be! Amen.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
Father in heaven, you are good and faithful and merciful. May your words bring us peace and hope and joy. Thank you for your promises given long ago, that are still true today. Thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you for the New Covenant through Jesus's life and death and resurrection. Thank you for forgiving our sins. We look to you for our strength and peace today. Help us to face all that this world throws at us today, and help us to remember that this is not our home. Our home is with you. Let us run the race of faithfulness today. Amen.