Psalm 53 is really a recasting of psalm 14, the difference being verse 5. It appears one of the sanctuary musicians has revised the original psalm to fit a new occasion, perhaps the defeat of the Assyrian army under king Hezekiah. Adapting old songs to celebrate new experiences is not a bad thing. In fact, it shows how God continues to be an active part of this world and our lives. The major change other than part of verse 5 is the name used for the Lord. Psalm 14 used Jehovah and psalm 53 uses Elohim. This is a psalm of David. The structure of this psalm is: an announcement of judgement of the fool, the Lord’s examination of the people, the judgement of the Lord, and a prayer for the salvation of Israel.
David begins by speaking of fools, or the wicked depending on your translation. But fool used here does not indicate mental incompetence. This is moral and spiritual insensitivity. The fool, or the wicked is the one who ignores God. They speak to themselves, think, scheme, and make claims but because they do not heed God’s revelation, they have no understanding. These people willfully ignore God. No one is forcing them to leave God out of their lives. The Latin word for fool means one who bellows, suggesting fools are full of hot air. In Hebrew there are three words used to describe a fool. One means dull or stupid. Another means unreasonable and perverted. And the third word is nabal, the brutish person who is like a stubborn animal. We saw a man named Nabal in 1 Samuel 25. People who say there is no God are not necessarily lacking intelligence. They just lack spiritual wisdom and insight. The nabal fool has a moral problem in the heart, not a mental problem in the head. Nabal fools are self-righteous, and they do not want or need God. They want to live their lives as they please, but this causes not so good consequences in both their character and conduct. By leaving God out of their lives their inner person becomes more and more corrupt…heart, mind, and will. The Hebrew word for this means rotten, putrid, and decayed. David says that there is no one here that does good. It is reminiscent of Paul in Romans 3:10-12. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This is nothing new. It has been going on for a very long time.
The indictment here is universal. None of us can do anything at all that is good enough to merit heaven, no one, no, not one. The only salvation we can possibly have comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. David asked another question in verse 4, will those who do evil ever learn? The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the wicked who stand out as vile sinners. Someone once asked agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell what he would say if he found himself standing before God. His reply was this…you didn’t give us enough evidence. But if the heavens above us and the earth beneath our feet, the wonders of nature all around us and the life and conscience within us isn’t enough evidence then there will never be enough for some people. The time will come when each of us will meet the Lord. David maintains that the evil live at the expense of others, eating up their bread instead of their own. And they have no knowledge or reverence for God. Eating someone else’s bread was a metaphor for exploiting the poor and helpless. So, instead of praying to God, they prey on the godly.
Verse five is where the difference comes. The Lord suddenly appears and causes terror. Those who saw no reason to fear the Lord or be bothered with Him now know great fear. God will come in all His glory and power. And the Lord will identify Himself with His faithful remnant. God will scatter the bones of the enemies of the faithful. This is a prophetic pronouncement of the final judgement of the wicked. For a body to remain unburied or have the bones scattered was a sign of great disgrace in the ancient near East. Even an executed criminal was supposed to have a decent burial. If in fact this is pointing to the defeated Assyrians, the Lord despised their arrogance and put them to open shame. So too He will do to the armies of the world who oppose Him. The wicked will perish but God will be with the Godly.
Finally, in the last verse David asked the question of who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel. God has promised that the redeemer will one day come to axion and deliver His people in mighty power. We read this in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Isaiah 59:16-21. Paul affirmed this at the close of his great discussion of the future redemption of the Jewish nation in Romans 11:25-32. The word captivity in the last verse does not refer to the Babylonian captivity. Instead, it means to restore the fortunes, to radically change circumstances, from very bad to very good. The psalmist prays for the renewal of God’s relationship with His people. We know the day will come when Jesus will return, defeat His enemies, cleanse the nation of Israel, and establish His righteous kingdom here on earth. It will be a time of great joy and rejoicing.
But the wicked? They have no future with the Lord because they chose to have nothing to do with him. They preferred to not know Him or live for Him. Instead, they lived for the desires of their own hearts. Pleasing the Lord was not part of their lives, and they chose not to glorify Him either. Those who reject Jesus Christ will spend their eternity apart from the Lord and will honestly be able to say…there is no God here. Then there will be no more wickedness to contaminate the earth or to compromise the people of God. What a grand and glorious day that will be.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W