Friday, August 12, 2011

Psalm 14 & 53 - The Fool Says in His Heart, "There is no God."

LINK: Psalm 14 & Psalm 53

BACKGROUND


These two psalms are almost identical except that in verses 2 and 4 the Hebrew word ’ělōhîm for "God" is used in Psalm 53, and the Hebrew word Yahweh for "LORD" is used in Psalm 14. There are also a few other Hebrew words that are synonyms but communicate similar things.  Verses 5 and 6 are also a little different in both the Psalms, but they communicate the same things. These Psalms are quoted in Romans 3. 

The Hebrew word for fool (nāḇāl) "emphasizes being ignoble and disgraceful, a downright boor. Insensibility to God, as well as a moral insensibility, close the mind to reason" (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament , p.547).   This psalm supposed that a foolish mind led to living a life separated from the wisdom of God. Therefore, a person's actions were not good. His end could not be good either. David said that the entire human race was evil, and that God would have His way in the end when He would reign in righteousness (Matthew 6:10).

What I get from these Psalms is that God is looking for those who seek after Him and His wisdom (14:2, 53:2, 2 Chronicles 16:9). Let's do that!


REFLECTION from Daily Walk, June 2008
Here are some words about fools:
  • If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still foolish
  • A fool and his money are soon parted. Then again, a fool and his money were lucky to get together in the first place!
  • No one can make a fool out of a person if he isn't the right kind of material for the job.
We smile at such humorous maxims. But here is another wise statement about fools that you dare not take lightly:
  • "The fool says in his heart, 'there is no God'" (53:1).
Only a fool would deny God's existence, problem of sin, and the need for a Savior. Paul, in Romans 3:10-12, shows that sin is the universal malignancy of mankind. There is none righteous, understanding, seeking after God, doing good--no, not one. That's why it's so important to be sure you have "righteousness from God [that] comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22). Only a fool would try to make it on his own merits when the only way has already been provided by God. (p. 16) 
The whole time I was reading these psalms, I thought of Charles Darwin as "the fool who said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" The timing of this post could not be more perfect. Two days ago, I talked with a wife whose husband doubts the existence of God, even though they started out their married life with that as the thing that united them. It is heart wrenching for her to walk with him through this process (and heart-wrenching for me to see her walk through it with him).

That night, I watched a movie that I have had on hold in the library for nine months: Creation: How Darwin Saw the World and Changed it Forever. It is a dramatic retelling of the story of Emma and Charles Darwin and their relationship. She was a devout believer, and he was writing The Origin of the Species that purported his theory of evolution. It is a very worthwhile movie to watch and discuss.  If you watch it, do not miss the special feature with the scientists who "Debate Darwin."  There is another special feature that I will talk about below.

APPLICATION


One amazing discovery while watching these special features is a wonderful British program called Pollard on Film: Thinking Through the Movies. His free videos help us to view movies more deeply from a Biblical perspective. What a valuable thing this would be for those of you with teenagers! The six minute video is worth watching. 

From the website: 

Suggestion for use
      1. Show the first part of the programme. Then freeze frame on the question 'A belief you hold firmly - Why do you believe it? What would change your mind?'
      2. Invite people to share their answers with one another. 
      3. Invite feedback and discuss what our answers tell us about:
        • Our view of truth: how do we decide what is true? Do we base this decision primarily on experiences or evidence?
        • Our view of faith: how do we react to others' beliefs when they conflict with our own? Are we willing to test our beliefs, to see if they hold up to scrutiny?
        • Our view of God: to what extent is the existence of God a reasonable belief? How might we justify this belief, either by experiences or evidence?
        • Our view of life: how do we respond to experiences that challenge our beliefs? How do we respond to our beliefs that challenge the way we live?
      4. Show the rest of the programme.
      5. Deliver a short talk lifting off from the suggestion to look at biblical ideas of evidence, belief and searching. You could look at 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:15-16 think about the importance of testing our beliefs and examining the evidence for ourselves, perhaps illustrating these ideas with contemporary quotes about evidencebelief and searching (NB these links into the large collection of relevant Bible references and contemporary quotes are free to anyone with a subscription to Tools for Talks - non-subscribers can obtain immediate access with a 1 year or 30 day subscription).

Background reading

Before using this programme you may find the following helpful:
If you are local, I would love to watch the movie and discuss it with you! It is an excellent film. It is very slow (no special effects), but it is a thoughtful person's kind of film!

PRAYER

Pray through Psalm 14 and 53 responsively, line by line!

We affirm together that YOU ARE GOD! We know in our heart that this is true. I pray for my friend who is struggling to know whether You exist. I pray he continues to seek You. Thank You that You are real and here every moment of every day. Amen.
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