“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.””
At first glance Psalm 53 looks to be simply a repetition of the 14th Psalm. When we look at it more carefully however we see several subtle changes to it, which are very instructive to us as we are living as Disciples of Christ. The first is that a musical tune is specified in the introduction to the Psalm. We are not absolutely certain of the tune specified here but there are some clues as to its meaning. The word is mahalath and it is found in the title of one other Psalm the 88th where it is translated as affliction. Charles Haddon Spurgeon in his Treasury of David calls this tune “The Song of Man’s Affliction”. He then goes on to write that the 53rd Psalm points to the great disease that we all must deal with, sin.
Dr. Karl Menninger in an interview with Dennis Farvey in the Wall Street Journal in January of 1986 describes the reality of sin this way. “Some great impulse toward self-destruction lurks in our hearts, ever threatening to overwhelm the forces of life and renewal.” The Psalmist begins this song of affliction with these words “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to translate the Psalmist’s words in this way. “The fool says in his heart, no God.” The word fool here is nabal which means a person who is pursuing a course of action which is based upon a wrong assumption. The Biblical illustration is the man Nabal in 1 Samuel 25 who comes to ruin on account of his wrong assumption about David the King. The fool is a person who refuses to know and live in the presence of the absolutely Holy God who has reached out to redeem us in His infinite mercy and compassion in the LORD Jesus Christ. Such a person has made certain assumptions about life and as a result refuses to hear and obey the Word of God spoken to us in the LORD Jesus Christ. Therefore they go wrong in every part of their lives because they are acting upon a wrong assumption about God.
In reflecting upon this in a series of sermons from the Old Testament entitled And God Spoke to Abraham Fleming Rutledge writes the following thoughts on the subject of our great need focuses our attention upon the essential message of the Bible. Her text is found at Psalm 130:1-4.
“The fear of the LORD is founded on His absolute goodness. The fear of the LORD arises out of the discovery that He is a God of infinite mercy and compassion. Notice the surprising order of the words: “There is forgiveness with you; therefore you shall be feared.”” The forgiveness of sins does not leave us with a cheerful, domestic idea of God. Rather, it calls forth from us a new respect for the humanly incomprehensible majesty and greatness of the God who can redeem humanity from so grave a predicament.”
To see God as He really is in all of His Holy splendour is also to see ourselves in the depth of our sin. When this happens for us we recognise that we are not just good people who occasionally make mistakes, we are fundamentally wrong in the depths of our being. As G. K. Chesterton once wrote “The problem with the world is me.” It is not the problem with others so that they must get their act together. The problem is me and God’s call to me, in His infinite love and mercy is for me to repent and receive the cleansing grace which comes through the cross of the LORD Jesus Christ.
If we have failed to see our need for forgiveness we will also fail to come to the LORD for real forgiveness. What about you? Have you seen your need for real forgiveness in Christ?