Psalm 14: Don’t Be a Fool

The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven
    on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.

Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread;
    they never call on the Lord.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
    for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is their refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores his people,
    let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

– Psalm 14

The term ‘fool’ in verse 1 is more than someone who’s a sandwich or two short of a picnic.  The word has a moral connotation and reflects the arrogant person who disregards God in the way they look at and treat others (they are the same type of people we met at the beginning of Psalm 12).

Such a person is ‘foolish’ not because they are an intellectual atheist with genuine doubts but because they are an immoral atheist who treats people badly (vv. 2–4).

Recently I read Simon Sebag Montefiore’s wonderful biography, The Young Stalin. The Soviet dictator (who once was a trainee priest) would surely have been a fool in the Psalmist’s eyes. ‘Uncle Joe’ was responsible directly or indirectly for the deaths of anywhere between twenty and sixty million people, and in rejecting God Stalin also rejected the sanctity of those who were made in God’s image. Thankfully not everyone who has the same outlook on human life as Stalin has access to the same power!

What the fool doesn’t get is that God, in spite of appearances to the contrary, isn’t absent from those situations and he sees what is going on (v. 2) and will take action (v. 5).

In the meantime, although it’s not easy, we wait. We trust in the promises that God has made and like the Psalmist we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, that his will shall be done on earth. And we, like David, live in the light of those promises, trusting in God’s justice and loving our neighbour as ourselves – the exact opposite to the fool!