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Psalm 14 & 15

June 23, 2024

Psalm 14 & 15

Passage: Psalm 14-15
Service Type:

Unfortunately, we apparently don't have our audio issues solved from last week. Please forgive the poor audio quality. Our apologies for the inconvenience.


Psalm 14 & 15


[ 002 ] PSALM 14 For the choir director. Of David.

Once again, we’re looking at a song of David that is meant to be sung in corporate worship. And Psalm 14 is a bit of a lament. If this were a song in our music today, it would probably be a little slower, in a minor key, maybe a little mournful even. If you’re not familiar with lament, it’s a song of grief and sorrow. Lament is when we pray those prayers that say, God, I believe you are the king and you are sovereign and you have promised to make all the wrongs right, but what I see in my life and in the world around me does not line up with what I know to be true. God, how long until you do what we all know you can do? How long until we see the world the way it’s meant to be, with tears wiped away, no more sin, sickness, or death? 

Psalm 14 is not so much a personal lament, but something more corporate. Large scale. A lament that looks at the state of the world and finds it to be troubling. David begins with an overall summary: 

[ 003 ] The fool says in his heart, “There’s no God.” They are corrupt; they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good.

When David uses the word “fool” he doesn’t mean someone who is intellectually lacking – this person could actually be very intelligent. Here’s what he means:  

  1. Says “in his heart” there is no God. 
    1. For us in Western culture, the heart is the factory of affection and emotion. I love you from the bottom of my heart, we say. When we’re sad, my heart hurts or I’m heart-broken. We send heart emojis to convey affection and love for people. In Hebrew culture, that was the kidneys. The heart was the home of the will. That’s where desire lives. It’s the “want-to” of a person.   
    2. So another way to read verse 1 is this: The fool says “with his will” that there is no God – in said still another way: The fool doesn’t want there to be a God. 
    3. [ 004 ] The late pastor AW Tozer said famously, “What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” The fool thinks of God as distant and uninvolved, not close and personal. So the fool said last week, “Great! No accountability for my actions, God’s not interfering with me, I did some bad things and God didn’t stop me, so I guess I’m free to do what I want here” – and he or she lives out whatever they want to live out. Nothing will come back to haunt me later in life, Don’t tell me what to do, I am my own. 

[ 005 ] David points out here in verse 1 that all of the corruption and vile deeds you see happening in the world are spiritual problems that happen as a result of that person’s view of God. Romans 1:18 calls this “suppressing the truth.” 

And most of us would confidently say this morning, we are not in that category. After all, we are here to worship God, and we want to be here. No one is forcing you to come to church today. So, we would say we’re not the fool. 

But as David looks at the world around him, the conclusion he comes to is that this is how everyone lives at a base level. [ 006 ]  2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. 

David uses a figure of speech here to help us imagine this scene from God’s vantage point, where, when he looks down from heaven on the human race, he’s looking for one person who is not a fool. Looking for one person who is wise. One person who seeks God. It’s a flashback to a story from Genesis 18, where God is planning to destroy a city that has been exceedingly foolish in their rejection of Yahweh, incredibly corrupt and vile, and Abraham intervened, saying, Would you spare the city if I can find 50 people who are righteous? God answers yes. Would you spare the city if I can find 45. Again, yes. What about 40? Yes. 30? 20? 10? Would you spare the city if I can find 10, and God says yes, and since there weren’t 10, there were only 4, he made provision for that one family to escape, and then destroyed the city.

But now here in verse 2 of Psalm 14, David seems to be implying God isn’t looking for 30, 20, 10 or even four – he’s looking for one. Just give me one person who seeks me with their whole heart. Is there one person who knows what wisdom is, one person who understands the covenant promise and fears the Lord? One person who wants to walk in my ways? 

And David repeats his sobering conclusion here in verse 3. As the Lord looks down from heaven on the human race, what he finds is that [ 007 ] 3 All have turned away; all … have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one. 

The emphasis is on ALL. NO ONE. NOT EVEN ONE. And this seems to be what it seems David is lamenting – that humanity in general is corrupted so deeply, so completely, and has turned away from God, living as if he doesn’t exist. [ 008-1 ] Verse 4 …They (the fools, the evildoers) consume my people as they consume bread; they do not call on the Lord. [ 008-2 ] 5 Then they will be filled with dread, for God is with those who are righteous. [ 008-3 ] 6 You sinners frustrate the plans of the oppressed, but the Lord is his refuge.

Now, David is probably referring to the pagan nations or kingdoms around Israel, and he calls people who live like God doesn’t exist “evildoers” and “sinners” and “corrupt.” They take advantage of God’s people as easily as eating bread, and they don’t call on the Lord, they don’t honor him or worship him, they certainly don’t rely on him for life. 

But in these verses, another group of people are introduced. “My people.” Those who are righteous. The oppressed. And David says God is with those who are righteous. Now, in David’s day it was obvious to know the Lord was with them. The people of Israel coming out of Egypt way before David was born worshiped God in a portable building or tent called the tabernacle. The last several chapters of the book of Exodus talk all about God’s design for this, how it was to be made, how it looked, and how to use it for worship. And behind the purpose and design of the building is that God wanted to dwell with the people of Israel. They all lived in tents, so he instructed them to make a tent for him where his visible glory would stay in a cloud round the clock. They would be his people, he would be their God. Only a fool could ignore the reality that God was present with them. 

But David looks around him, and says everything is just falling apart. It’s not political. It’s not social. It’s not educational. The trouble with the world is that No one seeks God. No one does good. Not even one! Then he closes in a prayer of faith and longing: [ 009 ] 7 Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come from Zion! In other words, David prays that God himself would send salvation and deliverance from his very presence. And David is so anchored in God’s covenant promises of a Coming messiah that he closes with, When (not if – when) the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. But even in David’s lament, there is still hope. There is a group of people who stand out.

It appears to be a contradiction of sorts, right? How can there be no one who does good, and yet God has a people who are righteous who belong to him, whose refuge is the Lord, and he has a tent set up in the middle of them? A group that God calls his own. A group that he is actively working for to restore their fortunes and bring about joy and gladness. How is that possible if no one seeks God, everyone has turned away, and no one does what is good? 

[ 010-1 ] If we were to read Psalm 15, you’d see David saying Okay, Lord, how does a person move from “no one does good” to “those who dwell in your tent”? Or what are the requirements to be in your presence? [ 010-2 ] The one who lives with integrity and righteousness, they treat others fairly and with respect, they keep their word, they don’t take advantage of each other, and God welcomes them into his home. He lives with them and they with him.

In David’s mind, he’s referring to the Hebrew people, the people of God that come from Abraham’s family, who trust Yahweh and his promises. They have anchored their lives in him and his coming messiah. Psalm 15 makes it look like God welcomes them because they keep the law and do good. But the apostle Paul says something else in the book of Romans. He says it’s by their faith in the coming messiah that God declares them righteous. 

[ 011 blank ] Paul begins his letter by saying people are living as if God doesn’t exist, even though God has made it very obvious in creation, and one of the most prevalent ways humans live as if God doesn’t exist is in their sexual relationships. As Paul looks around he sees people taking their sexuality, and doing whatever they want with it. And he sees that God’s judgment for sexual sin is to just let it run its course. You want to put men with men, women with women, go right ahead. But it’ll always play out with harmful consequences. You want to take advantage of each other, indulge in pornography, and have casual or hook up sex that’s not in the God-ordained confines of marriage? God’s not going to stop you or even make it unenjoyable. It might be great! But it will come at the cost of a corrupted mind, physical and emotional consequences, and degrading themselves. That’s chapter 1 of Romans, and it’s easy for religious folks both then and today to say, AHA - those are the fools who live like there’s no God. Those people. The trans-people. The abortion doctors. The evolution scientists… those are the fools that live like God doesn’t exist. 

In Romans chapter 2, however, Paul calls out the religious Jews who didn’t make those kinds of choices, but are really judgy toward those who did. In chapter 2, he basically says, oh, so you think you’re better because you didn’t make those choices, because you’re NOT sexual revolutoin activists – you’re just as self-seeking as the people in chapter 1! In fact it’s worse because you have the law of God in your hands and in your hearts, and yet you still sin against it. You still live as if God doesn’t exist, even though you’re a good religious Jewish person. 

And then Paul goes on in [ 012 ] Romans 3 to quote Psalm 14 where he says NO ONE does what is right in God’s eyes. ALL have become corrupted, either by sin or by works based religion. NO ONE is righteous. NOT EVEN ONE. Both Jews and Gentiles. [ 013 ] All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 

This is what really smart people call the doctrine of total depravity. It’s the idea from Romans 3 and Psalm 14 that every human being is more sinful than we could ever imagine. That we are corrupted in every way - in our mind, our heart, our will - it’s all corrupt. 

But while this lays us all out in a sort of depressing way, this is also where our question gets answered: How do you move from being in the “no one seeks God” category to the “welcomed by God” category, especially if there’s nothing good in me? Paul answers that question in Romans 3. He starts by quoting Psalm 14 saying no one does good, and then a few verses later says, “and keeping the law isn’t what does it.” It’s not that you were bad, and now you need to just work harder to be good. 

[ 014-1 ] Romans 3:21 – but there is now a righteousness on the table that isn’t based on how well you follow the law, but it’s actually the righteousness that all of Scripture has been pointing to all along. [ 014-2 ] It’s the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ! Yes we’ve all sinned and fallen short – we’ve all started out in the “not even one” category. [ 015 ] But those who have fallen short of God’s glory are justified freely by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! 

Anyone who actively believes in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection, is now counted righteous, and welcomed into the presence of God right here and now as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in you. 

And for most of us, though, we look at Psalm 15 and see all the good things the righteous are supposedly doing and we go, man. I’m still not that. I want to be. But I find that I’m still sinful. I think it was the theologian RC Sproul that said the closer he gets to Jesus, the more sin he finds out he still has!

That’s what Paul says in Romans 7. He says it like this: [ 016-1 ] I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  [ 016-2 ] [18]...I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't. [ 016-3 ]  [19] I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 

Anyone else ever felt like that? Paul admits that Psalm 14 isn’t just for Gentile unbelievers – it applies to the sinful nature that still exists in Christians who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, like himself. Our sinful nature has nothing good in it at all. It’s all been corrupted by sin. And both David in Psalm 14 and Paul in Romans 7, two of the godliest people to ever have lived, both look you in the face and say you don’t have what it takes to be a good Christian..  

And I get it! I get so frustrated with myself. I want to share my faith with people easily and openly, courageously, boldly, and yet when I’m in those situations, I can’t get the words out. I hesitate and wait and then the opportunity is gone, and I kick myself the whole way home, saying to myself, “you’re an idiot! You say you love Jesus, you preach about him, but here in Walmart or at the gym or meeting someone on the sidewalk, you’re like a newborn deer trying to walk. It’s not every single time, but it’s way more than I am happy with. And I don’t get it! 

Not only that, I confessed my pride to my wife, I confessed it to the Leadership Team, tell you all about it, and yet sometimes – even as recent as this past week – I think I’m more proud than ever! What gives! Why is it that the closer I get to Jesus, the more sin seems to be right there!? Paul goes on in Romans 7 to describe that internal struggle that Christians live with from time to time – 

 [ 017-1 ] [22] I love God's law with all my heart. [23] But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.  [ 017-2 ] This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. [24] Oh, what a wretched man I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 

And we’re right back to the cry for deliverance from Psalm 14:7 – Oh that deliverance or salvation would come from God’s presence. 

The answer to that cry cannot be Psalm 15, that in order to be free from this body of death, and welcomed into the tent of the Lord I must be a better Christian, try harder, do better, be more. Paul is already saying that’s not possible for us.

The answer is only Jesus. Jesus is the one Psalm 15 points to - the only one who lived blamelessly with perfect integrity. The only one who didn’t have a sinful nature that always wanted to serve itself. The only one who knew and lived the truth perfectly, never told a lie or half truth, never slandered or gossiped, never accepted a bribe or took advantage of others, never loved something that God hates or hated something God loves. 

 [ 018 ] Romans 8 says God sent his own son to be sin offering so that all the requirements of the law would be met, not BY us, but IN us as we stop depending on our own ability to be a good Christian, and depend instead on the Holy Spirit that has taken up residence in this tent.

Jesus is the true deliverance that comes from the presence of God - the one who truly puts an end to the captivity and misery of his people and brings joy and gladness to the hearts of those who fear the Lord. He alone is the refuge of our souls.

His life looked like Psalm 15, but he died the death that Psalm 14 deserves. God raised Jesus from the dead to prove that he really was the one with clean hands and a pure heart. he raised Jesus and welcomed him back to heaven where he was crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. and anyone who is united to him by faith is given the welcome of the Father - not starting when you get to heaven, but starting right now, as the Holy Spirit moves in. 

Hebrews 12:28 says that when you come to Jesus by faith, admitting with Paul that you are Psalm 14 and he is Psalm 15, that his life is counted to you, and his death is counted to you, and his resurrection is counted to you, then you are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And because you belong to that kingdom that you may serve God acceptably with reverence and awe. You are no longer in the no one does good category — you are in the “the righteous shall live by faith” family. 

[ 020 ] According to Romans 7 and 8, there is only one difference between a born again, kingdom-entered Christian and a fool – It’s not that they sin and you don’t. It’s not that you know doctrine and they don’t. It’s not that you believe God exists and they don’t. It’s not that you are wise and they aren’t. The difference, Romans 8:9 says, is that true believers have the Spirit of Christ in you. It is not our efforts to be better that earn us entrance into the grace and forgiveness of God – it is the washing and regeneration of the Spirit in us that is the difference – God once again, not standing far off watching from a distance, but moving in. Taking up residence. Living with us. Those who are led by God’s Spirit, Paul writes, are God’s children, proving the adoption has gone through. 

So, finally this – Paul warns us in Romans 8 – if you keep on living by the flesh, you will die. You will never get out of the “no one does good” category. But if the blood of Jesus has cleansed you of all your sin and you live by the Spirit, then take comfort today. The Spirit gives you life because your righteousness came from Christ and not yourself – and if God is for you at that level – who can be against you?