Who is the fool?

Psalm 53

We live in an age where the secularist often derides believers in God as anti-intellectual or emotionally immature. On the other hand, believers are frequently dismissive of agnostics or atheists as people who have no hope or basis for moral conduct. One such argument may go, if we are all an accidentally evolved collection of atoms what does it matter what one collection of atoms does to another? A good starting point to think around the philosophical competing views of, ‘Is there a god?’ is Tim Keller’s book, ‘The reason for God,’ or get a quick introduction on his Youtube channel.

Psalm 53 does not take a neutral position as its starting point. The psalmist is quite clear, it is the fool who convinces himself that, ‘There is no God.’ v1 His reason for that is that he (assuming the psalmist is a man) has a pre-existing relationship with God and he draws upon evidence from the past where God had kept his promises. V5 When an existing believer has experienced God at work in their life or in their community it provides a confident basis on which to build personal trust in him and also to give a reason for their faith. It equips one to comply with Peter’s instruction, In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ 1 Peter 3.15 I would argue that some of the most compelling evidences of God’s existence are the lives changed by Jesus’ saving grace.  It is a natural trait to want to jump straight to the bottom line, that is the assertion there is a God, missing out the reason why one would want to do so. In Peter’s case, the reason is his heart condition of revering Christ as Lord. Peter also reminds us of the importance of how we say things as well as what we say. This contrasts somewhat with the psalmist who holds a more confrontational position.

The psalmist looks at the people who have sought to destroy the people of Israel and connects their lack of faith and reverence for God with corruption. ‘They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; for there is no one who does good.’ v1 This is repeated in verse 3 as he imagines God searching for faithful and honest people. The psalmist then draws upon a time when Israel was treated dreadfully by their enemies and suffered greatly filling them with fear. ‘They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on God. But there they are, overwhelmed with dread where there was nothing to dread. vv4,5a God did however step in and take saving action. ‘God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them. v5b

The psalmist concludes by appealing to Israel to remain faithful to God, in continuing times of trouble. He is looking forward to God’s salvation for his people and the fulfilment of ancient promises. ‘Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! v6 Salvation did indeed come out of Israel but not as he imagined through military might. It came in the person of Jesus to establish a kingdom through a victory over sin and death. He came as an expression of God’s love for people while they are still rejecting him and pursuing ways that offend him. God’s response to people who say, ‘There is no God,’ was to send Jesus, to show them God. He is and was not what people expect because despite his awesome greatness he came in humility. ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5.8

Have you ever felt threatened by people through their conduct or aggressive beliefs?

How could you respond in a way that demonstrates your own faith in God that reflects Jesus’ sacrificial humility?

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