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There is None

As you read the book of Psalms, you will notice that the fourteenth psalm and the fifty-third psalm are nearly identical to one another. Both are psalms of David, and the only significant differences are found in the fifth and sixth verses of Psalm 14 and the fifth verse of Psalm 53. It may seem curious that David would write two psalms that are the same, but perhaps he reworked the first one to add more specific detail to the message, or maybe it was due to a musical design. Regardless of the reason, we should consider that the repetition of this divinely inspired message gives it a certain emphasis that should cause us to take notice. The single message of these two psalms must be important.

The opening words of each of these psalms set the tone for the whole message: "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” This fool sets his heart on the motto of the atheist, who has decided against evidence and nature that God does not exist. Consider Paul's description of the unbelieving Gentiles, who were such fools, in Romans 1:18-23:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Both David and Paul define unbelief in the true and living God as a willful state of denial rather than a reasoned conclusion. A few verses later, Paul said that these men "did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer” (Rom. 1:28), which means that they defied their natural tendency to believe in God and chose instead to abandon Him. God made all men that they would seek Him (Acts 17:26-27), but fools live in opposition to their own creation.

This foolish and false notion of unbelief is countered in Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 with a true and sober statement: "They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; there is no one who does good.” This statement is given emphasis and a fuller meaning when it is further explained in verses 2 and 3 of both psalms:

God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

These verses reveal to us that the fool under consideration in verse 1 is not just the publically confessed atheist. This fool is any man whose unbelieving heart has led him to do evil in defiance of God's will. Sadly, God looks down and sees that every man fits this description, for there is not even one who understands, seeks God, and does good. This may be poetic hyperbole to some extent, but it is literally true in that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Consider the contrast of these two statements from Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1. The first statement is the pure figment of a fool's own delusion and desire to escape judgment. In his heart, the fool tells himself that there is no God so that he may imagine his sins will go unpunished. Every time he sins, he denies the truth of God, deceives himself, and supposes that he will never have to give an account to His Creator. The second statement is the grave declaration of the Almighty God who knows all things and will bring them into judgment. As He speaks, His words pour forth truth that cannot be altered by the desires or opinions of man. Indeed, "the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Man cannot simply wish away the existence of God or the contents of His words.

Thus, we see that the first three verses of Psalms 14 and 53 present a contrast in how the foolish man and the omniscient God view each other. The foolish man thinks of God in his heart and mistakenly says to himself, "There is none.” The omniscient God looks down at the sinful world in search of anyone who understands truth and does good, and He rightly says, "There is none.” Of course, the foolish man is absolutely wrong, and God is absolutely right. Thankfully, God's view of man and His immeasurable love has led Him to extend His hand in tender mercy through His Son, Jesus Christ. Even fools who have lived as if there is no God can find forgiveness from the one they have denied. For those who will repent and faithfully obey the gospel of Christ, God will say of their sin, "There is none.” Let us thank God for that!

Stacey E. Durham




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