************ Sermon on Psalm 14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 2, 2003
"Fools and Other Sinners"
Introduction to the passage:
If you will compare Psalm 14 to Psalm 53 you will notice they are almost word for word the same. There are, however, two important differences between the two Psalms. First of all, the name of God: the Hebrew of Psalm 14 uses "Yahweh" whereas the Hebrew of Psalm 53 uses "Elohim." Second, the purpose: Psalm 14 was written to assure a people facing their sin whereas Psalm 53 was written to assure a people facing a national calamity – that's why the two Psalms differ at verses 5 & 6.
I Atheistic Fools are Lost in Sin
A In the 1960s thousands of Christians the world over were stunned and outraged. We were told by ministers that God is dead. These theologians told us that in a modern, technological world God has become culturally irrelevant and has outlived His usefulness. Can you imagine a minister and the church teaching this?
When we turn to Psalm 14 we find that this is nothing new. A thousand years before Christ there were also some who dared to proclaim that God is dead. The psalmist says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" (vs 1). In his heart, in the center of his being, the fool denies that God exists. In the Ancient World, just like today, there were people who said there is no God.
Scripture has the last word against these atheists, though. The Psalmist calls them "fools." And, in Romans 1:22 the Apostle Paul can say, "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools." Paul calls them fools because they ignore what creation so plainly shows – that there is a divine being with eternal power (Rom 1:20). The evidence stares them in the face – that there is a God – yet, they deny His existence.
Topic: AtheismSomeone once said the best reply to an atheist is to give him a good dinner and ask him if he believes there is a chef who prepared it.
This reminds me of the evening a minister went for a walk down the beach with an acquaintance, a rather well-known atheist. They came across an intricate series of sand castles. "I wonder who made these?" said the atheist. The Christian's masterful reply silenced the atheist's godless talk: "My dear man, no one made them; they simply happened."
B The atheistic fool's actions are in accordance with his thoughts. He not only thinks there is no God, he also acts or lives like there is no God. Scripture tells us, "They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good" (vs 1b).
Just as faith in God necessarily is accompanied by good works, so unbelief is accompanied by all sorts of evil deeds. When the tie between God and man is severed, man falls from one wickedness into another. Romans 1 tells us the sad progression:
(Rom 1:25-31) They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator ... (26) Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts ...(29) They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, (30) slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; (31) they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.It is only by the grace of God that not every atheistic fool ends up this way.
Today, there are very few people who claim to be atheists. Most of our fellow citizens claim to believe in God and even in Christ. Yet the vast majority of them, like the atheistic fool of Psalm 14, live like there is no God. I call them practical atheists. They live without church, without Bible reading, without prayer, without Christian fellowship, without the sacraments, without obedience to God's law. They live and breathe and plan without ever once thinking of God and His ways. They say God exists but He certainly does not exist in their lives or their thoughts or their hearts. They are atheists, but of a different sort. They, too, have to be called fools.
C "Will evildoers never learn?" asks the psalmist (vs 4). Will atheistic fools never realize the consequences of their foolishness? Won't they ever consider the terror or "dread" that awaits them (vs 5). The prophet Isaiah speaks further of their dread:
(Is 2:12) The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled) ... (19) Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.Both the psalmist and the prophet speak here of the Judgment Day. Imagine the irony: on that day the atheistic fool will try desperately to hide from the God he says does not exist.
"Will evildoers never learn?" No one can escape from the reality of God. Sooner or later there comes a time when everyone meets God face-to-face. It is too dreadful to contemplate what happens then with those who think and act like there is no God. Perhaps you have heard the saying: "There are atheists here (that is, on earth), but there are none in hell." Or, as another saying puts it, "There are no atheists in fox holes." It is hard to be an atheist when you are at death's door.
Title: Advice of an Infidel
Colonel Ethan Allen, leader of the Green Mountain Boys, was a notorious atheist. His wife was a pious woman, and taught their daughter the gospel. This daughter sickened, and her father was sent for to hear her dying words. "Father," she said, "I am about to die. Shall I believe the principles which you have taught me, or shall I believe what my mother has taught me?" After waiting a few moments to calm his extreme agitation, he answered, "Believe what your mother has taught you."
William Moses Tidwell, "Pointed Illustrations."
"Will evildoers never learn?" Try to imagine the life of an atheist. They deny reality. They have no religious holidays. They call and no one answers. Life and death are void of meaning and purpose and comfort.
In the final analysis, the psalmist's message about atheistic fools is that they are lost in the foolishness of their sin. And, for that sin they will one day be called to account by God.
II There are Other Lost Sinners too
A The psalmist now switches his and our attention away from atheistic fools on earth to the Father's throne in heaven. He says,
(Ps 14:2) The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.God sits on His throne and looks down upon the earth. Because God is all-knowing and all-seeing nothing that happens on earth is hidden from Him.
Many times Scripture pictures God as looking down upon the earth. At the time of Noah the Lord looked over the earth (Gen 6:5). At Babel the Lord looked over "the city and tower that the men were building" (Gen 11:5). And, to Abraham, God announced His intention to look over Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:21). In each instance, God looks over the earth because man's wickedness has become such an odious offense to Him.
B According to the psalmist, who are the evil ones God is looking at this time? Is He looking at corrupt politicians and corrupting lobbyists in Washington? Is he checking out the homosexuals of San Francisco? Is He inspecting rapists in New York City? Is He peeking inside the walls of one of our state prisons? Is He combing the earth for all atheistic fools?
It may appear at first glance that Psalm 14 is an attack against atheists, murderers, homosexuals, rapists, and the like. It may appear at first glance that this psalm does not speak to us because none of us are atheists or murderers. But God doesn't just look at atheistic fools. He also looks at you and me. Did you hear what the psalmist said? Let me read it for you: "The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men." "Sons of men" – that includes you and me and all of mankind. The Lord looks down on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
C What does God see? At the time of the flood "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time" (Gen 6:5). This time is no different: God sees that
(Ps 14:3) All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
Instead of limiting his attack to atheistic fools or murderers, the psalmist also attacks us. It isn't just atheistic fools and murderers who are wicked and perverse. We also are.
I am sure that you, like me, are outraged by those fools who claim "there is no God." Like me, I am sure you condemn their unbelief. Like me, you probably feel righteous about God's anger against those fools. But now our mouths are stopped. Our feelings of smugness and righteousness have been washed away. We are told that we too are wicked and perverse.
The fool, do you know what he is? He is nothing but an example of what we ourselves are.
D God has the right to expect better than sin and evil from mankind. After all, God has made humankind good and in His own image (Gen 1:27,31). Furthermore, after having eaten from the forbidden tree each person knows the difference between good and evil. On top of this, every person is born with a conscience, the requirements of God's law being written on their hearts (Rom 2:15). So God has every right to expect good, not evil, from us. Yet, what He finds is sin and evil.
E One implication of the psalmist's words is that we must stop dividing the world into "good guys" and "bad guys." The world is not just wicked fools on the one hand and righteous believers on the other. For instance, we can't think of ourselves as good and all Communists or Muslims as bad. Nor can we say the U.S. and its allies are good while Iraq and all those who support Saddam are bad (along this line, did you know that Iraq has the largest Christian community in the entire Middle East). Nor can we think of ourselves as being better than the prisoners at one of our area prisons. The Biblical message is that all people, not some people, are sinners and in need of salvation – that includes little children like Kendall Diane Houtsma. All human kind are separated and alienated from God. Man's condition on account of sin is like Israel's condition on account of the exile in Babylon – both are apart from where they really belong.
III A Cry for Salvation
A In such a situation the psalmist cries out, "Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!" (vs 7). The psalmist knows that man is lost in sin and remains in a state of exile or alienation from God unless help comes. Furthermore, he knows that the help we need can only come from God. Only God can save from sin.
B What is the salvation for Israel that comes out of Zion? Who will return us to God? Who will change us from aliens to citizens?
We all know. Jesus is the Savior. He is the One Who comes out of Zion. He is the One Who returns us to God. He is the One Who changes us from aliens to citizens.
C There are two possible responses to this good news of the Gospel about Savior Jesus. Those who persist in their sin and unbelief will one day be "overwhelmed with dread" (vs 5) when Jesus returns to the earth as the Judge of the living and the dead. Those who repent and believe will find that "the Lord is their refuge" (vs 6).
This coming week, congregation, in preparation for the Lord's Supper, you are asked to consider your sin and the wrath of God on it. Don't make the mistake of thinking everyone but you is sinful and in a state of exile from God. In preparing for the Lord's Supper confess your sin, believe in the Lord Jesus, and walk a godly life.
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