Psalm 14 Summary. The Atheists Lose and the Righteous Win
Fools deny God while the righteous anticipate LORD Yahweh’s deliverance
The fool is morally and intellectually an atheist because he denies that God matters and so he thinks that he is master over his life. He shows this denial by his own sin and his attack on God’s people. Fools arrogantly do not want to know if God exists, while the LORD looks at the fools and judges them as corrupt. In contrast, the righteous, even though the fools oppress them, have LORD Yahweh as their refuge and wait for the LORD to deliver, restore, and bring joy to Israel.
- Psalm 14.1-3. The fool denies God and his life shows his denial.
- Psalm 14.4-6. The fool attacks and oppresses the LORD’S people.
- Psalm 14.7. The LORD Yahweh will deliver, restore, and make Israel glad.
Psalm 14.1-3. The fool denies God and his life shows his denial.
- Psalm 14.1. The fool (Hebrew nabal, Strong 5036) is a person who is foolish both morally and intellectually without sense (Deuteronomy 32.6; Ezekiel 13.3; Psalm 53.2; 74.18; Proverbs 1.7). In psalm 14 and 53 these are moral fools. The foolish people in this psalm may deny the absolute existence of God, but are more likely practical fools. They live like God does not exist. This is a moral choice for them. They do not consider that God is involved in their lives. They are corrupt (sachat, Strong 7843). The same word is used in Genesis 6.12, corrupted; and Genesis 13.10, destroyed. Abominable deeds are deeds that are incompatible with God and his way of life for people. The word can have a neutral or an evil sense (ta’ab, Strong 8581 Proverbs 13.19). None of them do good (tob, Strong 2895). The atheist, probably a practical atheist in context, denies God in his life and his life shows this. Atheism can be classical atheism (deny the god of a nation—Christians in the first century, Socrates), philosophical atheism (deny the divine being of theism—Spinoza), Dogmatic atheism (absolutely deny the existence of God—18th century French people), or practical atheism (have nothing to do with God, live like there is no God). Today, the new atheist writers and speakers are dogmatic atheists and the culture of the West is practical atheism.
- Psalm 14.2. The LORD Yahweh searches for any among the group of atheists who have wisdom and who investigate to find out if God is there. This is a figure of speech to express God’s action. He does not need to bend down to look. Understand and seek are participles. The person who understands is a wise person, one opposite to a fool (shakal Strong 7919. Psalms 64.9; 107.7; Proverbs 10.19;17.2). The word for seek indicates one who investigates and wants to know about God. He has the idea that God is real and wants to know more (seek—daras, Strong 1875, to seek, inquire, be intent on Psalm 22.26; 34.4; 105.4). The result is that none are searching for God.
- Psalm 14.3. The LORD’S search produces no positive results. This is the biblical conclusion about all categories of atheists or fools. They are corrupt and produce nothing acceptable to God. The moral and intellectual fool is without God, and so is corrupt (‘alach Strong 444, Job 15.16). In fact, Paul makes a more general statement in Romans 3 where he takes these words and uses them to show that both Jew and Gentile without God are under sin.
- Psalm 14.4-6. The `fool attacks and oppresses the LORD’S people.
- Psalm 14.4 The people are now called workers of wickedness. They attack the righteous with no thought of what they do. It is like eating bread. They are calloused to their own activities. The psalmist is amazed that they do not know how bad they are. Furthermore, they see no need to consider God or call on him for any reason. To their thinking, he is a non-entity. Psalm 36 says the wicked flatter themselves and do not fear God.
- Psalm 14.5. Note the contrasts in 5 and 6. They are in great terror/God is with the righteous//You would put to shame/Yahweh is his refuge. Judgment is on the horizon because God is with the righteous. The time is not indicated, but is it coming and the fear and the dread of judgment will overwhelm them. Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 and Matthew 24 predict this sudden judgment.
- Psalm 14.6. The fool, the wicked, and the oppressor try to shame, ridicule, and defeat the ideas, plans, and beliefs of the oppressed righteous people, but they are unsuccessful in their attempts. The righteous go to the LORD for protection and so hold firmly to their beliefs. Yahweh is their refuge (מַחסֶה maḥseh Strong 4268.) The word is used 9 times in Psalms, Psalms 14:6; 46:1; 61:3; 62:7–8; 71:7; 73:28; 91:2, 9). Put to shame is בּוֹשׁ bôš hiphil imperfect, to shame, to cause shame, Strong 954. Here it has the idea of destruction and humiliation. See Psalm 44.8; 119.31. The word counsel is עֵצָה ēṣâ , the advice, plan, council. Here it refers to what they consider right, what they believe, Strong 6098. The LXX has βουλή for council—that which one thinks about as a plan, intention, purpose. The fool loses. The righteous have a strong faith in the LORD in contrast to the fool who lives as if God does not exist. They anticipate deliverance by the LORD but in the meantime the LORD is their refuge. See Psalm 31.1 and Psalm 53.5.
- Psalm 14.7. The LORD Yahweh will deliver, restore, and make Israel glad.
- Psalm 14.7. The psalmist longs for Israel’s deliverance. That will come from Zion. Zion refers to where the LORD lives with his people. David wants deliverance from these practical atheists. They are oppressive. The phrase “restore his captive people” is “far more general, referring to the restoration of fortunes after some time of misery (see Job 42.10; Amos 9.14; Hosea 6.11; both pre-exilic passages)” (Allen Ross, Psalms 1-41, page 383). The interpretation refers to a time or times of suffering that David longs to be changed. The LORD is the solution. When that happens Israel will rejoice and be glad. The ultimate deliverance from oppression will come when Messiah Jesus returns to rescue Israel and set up his kingdom (Matthew 24.29-31; 2 Thessalonians 1.6-10).
So what for us?
- When an individual or a group deny that God exists, whether absolutely or practically, they become moral and intellectual fools. This changes their values. Right and wrong can become confused. Society suffers. Their worldview affects everything in their life and overflows to individuals and the culture. They do not do what God considers good.
- Those who claim to be atheists may think they determine the present and the future, but God knows them and will bring them to account for their folly and damage. God will judge them and their work. They will lose in the long run.
- Guard against accepting the atheistic propaganda. It may be subtle or obvious. The Bible is our source for truth and guidance. Use it to develop our beliefs, worldview, and practice. The main point: trust LORD Yahweh, our only real refuge, and his word. Know Scripture and be aware of the atheist’s arguments and how to answer.
- LORD Yahweh guarantees that he will deliver, restore, and give joy to his people, Israel, through his Messiah. God has also promised to deliver and bless all believers through their relationship to him based on the work of Jesus the Messiah. We in the church have everlasting life, position in Christ, the provisions for living the Christian life, and God’s plan for the future.