Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Cry of the Foolish Heart

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, No, not one (Psalm 14:1-3).

I have too often seen Psalm 14:1 applied only to the atheist. If I'm not mistaken, one snide bumper sticker calls April 1st "National Atheist Day" in reference to Psalm 14:1. Such an understanding does violence to the meaning of this Scripture in two ways: (1) It gives the impression that this verse was written to atheists exclusively, (2) It puffs up pride to believe that this verse does not speak about the "Christian" person flaunting the bumper sticker.

In truth, this verse and chapter speaks to anyone who says in their heart that their is no Elohim. In other words, they are denying the God of Israel, not that there is/are no God/gods period. In recognizing this, and by looking closely at the Psalmists application, we find, to our shame, that each and every one of us fit into this category.

Notice the words of the Psalmist: "There is none who does good...They have all turned aside...There is none who does good, No, not one." Will our pride allow us to see ourselves in the category of those who deny the God of Israel? Paul says that this is our condition, and he uses this Psalm to demonstrate our depravity before God in Romans 2:10-18.

Friend of God, don't you see that every time you sin you functionally profess that there is no God of Israel who takes note of every deed done in the flesh? Isn't it important to understand that when we linger over an underwear advertisement to lust, or dishonor someone with our lips, or covet possessions with our eyes that our heart is pretending that there is no God to whom we must give an account?

In a terrible irony, this very pride is the same pride that moves us to gloat over the atheist when we paste such rubbish on our bumpers. Can't you see the smugness of thinking that calling April 1st National Atheist Day puts the atheist in his place? Can't we see the self-righteousness of believing that God's rebuke to us is really a rebuke to someone else? How miserable we are in our folly.

So what can we say to such an indictment? We say what the Psalmist said. "Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!" Oh, that God would continue to deliver a prideful worm like me from the clutches of my own delusions of granduer. And don't forget to look at the words of Paul again, and to feel their power deeply. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith" (Romans 3:23-25). Salvation has come from God in Jesus Christ. May our foolish hearts cry to Him for rescue from sin.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"In other words, they are denying the God of Israel, not that there is/are no God/gods period."

Is that something that you've gleaned from the text or is that more of a cultural call?

Sojourner said...

Jonathan,

Good question. I can't say that this is an explicit understanding of the text, so I'll give you my thought on why I understand it this way and you can let me know what you think.

1. I have never seen atheism addressed in the Bible. Every culture that surrounded Israel had a god or multiple gods.

2. Even in modern times with atheism in its heyday, I think that a fairly small percentage of people claim to be atheists. That's a rather small pool of folks for David to be specifically addressing.

Finally, how I understand this text doesn't exclude an atheist. They are simply part of the larger category.