Psalm 14 is interesting for a few reasons. One is that it is repeated almost totally in “Book 2” (Ps. 53). There are some minor differences, but it is essentially the same psalm, except for the context. In an earlier study, we made the point that the psalms have a context, just as every other Bible book, chapter, and verse. In his Psalms commentary, Evan Blackmore makes this point, noting that Psalm 14 is set in a context where we see the progressive emphasis turning from the destiny of the wicked to the destiny of the righteous in Psalms 11-14. In contrast, Psalm 53 is set in a context (Ps. 52-56) of only the punishment of the wicked (Evan Blackmore. The Book of Psalms, 2017. Vol. 1. p. 202).
Digging into the text, we see the well-known statement about the fool saying there is no God (v. 1). Before we leave this, please notice I did not quote this verse correctly! “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” is correct. Notice there is nothing here said about speaking verbally or making some verbal affirmation. The fool has denied God “in his heart.” Could it be possible that I have denied God but outwardly am still acting like a disciple? Perhaps I should ask, is it possible that I “have a name that (I) live” but am dead (Rev. 3:1)? This will not be a state you live in for long! When we deny God, we are on a downward spiral to destruction, losing our reputations and our souls (Rom. 1:18-31)!
I am intrigued that the word “fool” in Psalm 14 (and 53) is the word “Nabal” in the Hebrew. Does this sound familiar? Read I Samuel 25 and refresh your memory! I am not suggesting David meant this man specifically in this psalm, but I think by adding I Samuel 25 to our study, we see a living example of what David was talking about in Psalm 14. Using the word “fool” is not a minor thing. In this context, it is not necessarily someone lacking intelligence but someone who rebels against God. His rebellion is so deep that he even denies the existence of His creator while he breathes the air so graciously given to him (Rom. 1:28; II Pet. 2:1).
“There is none that doeth good …. no not one” (Ps. 14:1, 3), and the counterpart in Psalm 53 are quoted in Romans 3. These words remind us that our salvation is a result of God’s grace! Read Psalm 14:2-4, and it is abundantly clear that no one can “earn” salvation (Lk. 17:10), but we can follow the Lord’s conditions and find salvation when we do what He commands (Mk. 16:16; Titus 2:11-12). This is the least we can do!
The final verse is a prayer that salvation would come to the people. Remember, David has spoken in clear terms about the issue of rebellion (v. 1), the people doing nothing good (v. 1, 3), how the people were gone aside (kind of like, “all we like sheep have gone astray,” Isa. 53:6a), and they were “workers of iniquity” (v. 4). This is a direct result of people saying in their hearts, “there is no God”! Is there any wonder why David would cry for salvation from Zion (Ps. 14:7)? In this case, Zion has to do with the Lord’s dwelling-place, not a point on a map. David yearns for His people’s salvation from God “when Yahweh restores His captive people” (LSB). It reminds me of Paul’s prayer in Romans 10:1-3.
Do we look at our fellow man and cry like this to God? If not, why not? “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16). Many are in sin and need to have their eyes opened. Are you praying for the “open door” to get the gospel to them (II Thess. 3:1; Col. 4:3)? Have we lost our faith in the power of prayer? I pray not! May we not be guilty of saying in our heart “there is no God.” Saying this “in your heart” will eventually manifest in your actions, just like it did with the Jews in David’s day and the Gentiles in Romans 1!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The 15th psalm is one I have preached, taught in classes, etc. It is a straightforward psalm that tells us how to abide (live) with God. The point David makes in verse one is asking who shall be in God’s presence or enjoy fellowship with God. The rest of the psalm answers this question.
Another interesting point is that Psalm 15 is similar to Psalm 14. As we continue to read, we will see that Psalm 24 borrows some phrases from here, just like Psalm 53 and Psalm 14 are worded similarly. The difference is that Psalm 24 only uses a small piece of Psalm 15, but Psalm 53 repeats Psalm 14 word-for-word.
In the text, we see David’s main question asked in verse 1. It is the same question asked two ways: “Who shall abide in thy tabernacle?” and “Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” Zion (God’s dwelling) is compared to the tabernacle (tent) or a high hill in this verse. When we look back in the Old Testament, we see the Tabernacle was where God spoke and met (communed) with His people (Ex. 29:42-43, 33:8-9). This is where God’s glory was seen (Ex. 40:34-35). Thus, it is fitting to ask such a question. Please note David did not have the literal tabernacle in mind. We know this based on the rest of the psalm. Again, who can be in God’s presence, ultimately? Imagine being a Jew 3000 years ago and getting to sing this song that spelled out who it is!
Someone who (v. 2-5):
- Walks uprightly or blamelessly. This word would remind the Hebrews of the spotless animal sacrifice they were to offer. He lives a life of integrity, just as John taught (I Jn. 2:6).
- Works righteousness. This was what Peter told Cornelius to do as well (Acts 10:35).
- Speaks the truth “in his heart.” This shows the sincerity of the person. He doesn’t speak the truth only when convenient for him to do so. He is an honest person (Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9)!
- Does not backbite. This is a natural contrast with the last phrase about speaking the truth!
- Does not do evil. This is a demand throughout Scripture. We are not to do evil to people even when they first did evil to us (Rom. 12:19; Matt. 7:12, 5:39-45).
- Does not take a reproach against his neighbor. From this, we see we are not to “discredit” or say evil things against our neighbors. “Who is my neighbor?” Do you remember?
- Rejects the vile person. The righteous man has the right attitude toward evil people. This is not speaking about hatred of the person but a rejection of the deeds of the evil person. One in fellowship with God does not praise evil but rejects it, just like Jesus did (Heb. 1:9)!
- Honors those who fear the Lord. This statement stands as a natural contrast with the last phrase. Since a righteous man rejects the vile person’s ways, he accepts those who fear the Lord! He is in fellowship with everyone who is in fellowship with God (II Jn. 9-11; I Jn. 1:7).
- Swears to his own hurt. This means this person makes a promise and stands by it when it is right. This is especially true when we consider the things we have promised God (Ecc. 5:1-6)! When I made a vow to be a Christian, this means I will be a Christian and follow the Lord regardless of what others say!
- Does not put out his money to usury. This is a little difficult for 21st-century people to understand. Under the Old Testament, God forbade His people from charging interest on debts to anyone but foreigners (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-37; Deut. 23:19-20; Neh. 5; etc.). Thus, a righteous man would not charge interest on debts to his countrymen. A modern application would be not to be oppressive to people or not take advantage of people when they are in a weakened circumstance, financially or otherwise.
- Does not take a bribe. Staying with the theme of “money” and how to use it properly, righteous people do not take bribes! Judas would be an example of someone who did not live Psalm 15:5 (Matt. 26:15)!
Doing these things means we will not be moved (shaken), just as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:24-28! When we look to the New Testament, we see obedience to God emphasized similarly. If I am going to please God, I need to do what He says (Heb. 5:9), be motivated in the right way (I Cor. 13:4-8; Jn. 13:34-35), and treat others correctly (Matt. 7:12). Just as in Old Testament days, it is possible to be in fellowship with God today! Let’s make this our daily goal to “walk in the light” (I Jn. 1:7)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
One of the saddest verses, next to Jeremiah 8:20, is the three questions asked in Jeremiah 8:22. The Lord asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” I struggled with what was being asked until I came to understand that these were rhetorical questions. Interestingly, Jeremiah 8:22 is written entirely differently in the NET. There, we read, “There is still medicinal ointment available in Gilead! There is still a physician there! Why then have my dear people not been restored to health?” These translators chose to forego the ambiguity of the rhetorical questions and simply state the facts. Whether or not we agree with such actions is a discussion for another time. The point is that God was emphasizing to the people (yet again) that their transgressions could be healed if they would be willing to change. This was done by pointing out a physical truth to make a spiritual point.
Using physical examples to make a spiritual point was how Jesus taught the majority of His time on earth (Matt. 13:34-35). His teachings are called “parables,” but in Jeremiah, this was not a parable but instead a rhetorical question to open the eyes of the people. Is there no balm in Gilead? “Balm” was used for medicinal purposes, and Gilead, and this region, was known for having an abundant supply. “Is there no physician there?” Again, in Gilead, there would be doctors in abundance ready to apply the balm to the hurting. Since a lack of balm and a lack of doctors is not the problem, then why are His people not recovered?
The reason they had not been recovered is the same reason someone might not recover physically even if there is “balm in Gilead.” What is this reason? In order to be healed physically, those people needed to apply the balm to the affected area! If one refuses the medicine, do not be surprised if this person does not recover from the illness! In like manner, if Israel (and us by application) refuses to listen and apply God’s teaching, then they will never recover from the harm of sin and will die in that condition! Remember, they have already told Jeremiah “no” in 6:16, and it does not look like they will change anytime soon. Therefore, when Babylon comes to conquer, when multitudes die, when people are enslaved, and when the land is ravaged, it is not because the people did not have “balm.” It is not that they had no one to heal (physician), it is because they refused to accept God’s “medicine”!
I hope that the application to Jeremiah 8:22 is apparent to us (Rom. 15:4). Though Babylon is not coming to destroy, we still face something greater than a physical threat, for we are facing a judgment day (Heb. 9:27; Acts 17:30-31; II Cor. 5:10; Ecc. 12:13-14). Sadly, there is a real possibility of people dying in their sins (Jn. 8:24; Jas. 1:14-15; II Thess. 1:6-9). If we die in our sins, who can we blame for this besides ourselves (Ezek. 18:20; Col. 3:25)? Is there no “balm,” the gospel, that tells us what to do to be saved from our sins (Rom. 1:16; II Tim. 3:6-17)? Is there not a physician, a “great Physician” who is ready to heal our spiritual ills (Matt. 9:12, 11:28-30)? Then why is there a world of people not yet saved? I think I know at least part of the reason is that those who are aware of the Physician’s prescription (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38) do not want to accept it! I say again, if we are sick and refuse to accept the medicine the doctor prescribes, then do not be surprised if you do not recover from the illness! While I know people can cite dozens of cases where people “wore out” their physical sickness with time and determination, there is no one who will “wear out” the spiritual sickness called “sin”! There is only one cure for it, and if you refuse the cure, nothing else will cure you!
In the long ago, God, through Jeremiah, called out to his people to tell them that there is a way to be healed if they would accept, and they said “no”! These people are dead and gone and have died with their decisions. You and I are still alive, though! What will you do? What will be your response to the Lord and His plan for healing (saving) you from your spiritual ills? Choose wisely (Heb. 3:7-8; II Cor. 6:2)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Yesterday’s study focused on Jeremiah 6:14. This article continues the thought and theme by looking into verse 15. After condemning those who cried, “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14), God’s words continue. “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed; neither could they blush. Therefore, they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jer. 6:15).
God’s words were quite powerful in this verse. Those who preached falsely about peace were so arrogant they were not ashamed when confronted with their error. God said they could not even “blush”! The word “blush” in this verse means the same as we use it today. It has to do with one being hurt or ashamed of what one has done. Godly sorrow will produce “blushing” when we are genuinely hurt and ashamed of the sins we have committed before God. One who “blushes” over his sin will make a genuine effort to repent and leave that action in the past (II Cor. 7:10). In the context of Jeremiah 6, the people had preached falsely, and they didn’t care about that. They were confronted with the truth, and they did not allow it to affect them. They weren’t embarrassed at all! The apostle Paul said he knew some whose “end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. ” (Phil. 3:19, ESV). That kind of sounds like the people Jeremiah faced. Can you blush?
Have you ever been told that you ought to be ashamed of yourself because of something you have done or said? If not, then this is part of the problem we face today - just like Jeremiah’s generation faced! Friend, there are actions we do and words we speak that should cause shame in our lives. The apostle Paul said that after folks had become Christians, they then looked back on their former lives with shame (Rom. 6:20-23). This is normal and right to be embarrassed over sins we have committed. Now, is this us? Can you blush?
Just like in Jeremiah’s time, we have raised a generation of people who do not blush over sin and wrongdoing. There is an older generation telling the younger ones to “accept your truth,” whatever that means. There is an older generation telling our young ones not to worry about sin because “no one has the right to judge you” and “do what you feel is right.” Since people listen to this, then they have no concept of what is right or wrong. When the truth is preached, they do not blush. They are not ashamed. They simply parrot their mentors and ask, “Who are you to judge me?” Or they tell the one who loves them and exposes the truth (Eph. 4:15, 5:11) that he needs to “clean up your own yard and stay out of mine.” Can you blush?
If we can’t blush, if we do not feel shame and hurt over our sins, how will we ever repent of our sins before Christ (Lk. 13:3; Acts 2:38)? Truly, those folks in Jeremiah’s time stood in rebellion against God (Jer. 6:14-15), as do we if we will not stop and consider the seriousness of our sins before a sinless God (Rom. 3:23)! Can you blush?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
“They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). God had to deal with false teachers in this time, trying to assure the people of “peace and safety” when no such thing was coming. Not in the immediate future, anyway! Jeremiah would face the false teacher, Hananiah, in Jeremiah 28, who claimed God would return the people from Babylon in “two full years” rather than the actual 70 years God had said (Jer. 25:11-12, 29:10; Dan. 9:2)! Again, here is a man trying to proclaim “Peace” and “Everything will be all right” (NET) when that wasn’t the case at all.
Why might men like Hananiah and others want to tell people such falsehoods as “peace peace”? Could it be they thought men might pay them more to hear the pleasant message? Maybe they thought they would be more popular with the people? We know a message of victory and winning is much more popular than a message saying that we will lose! Jeremiah had the unenviable task of telling Judah that the best thing for them to do is give up and accept the punishment and be patient for 70 years (Jer. 27:1-11)! Who wants to have that job?
Jeremiah had an unpopular job, but it was for the best. His message was from God (Jer. 28:9, 15-17); the others’ messages were not. In like manner, we face an uphill battle because “Peace, peace” is the more popular message! Just as in Jeremiah’s day, Paul warned of people who would “not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:3-4). Does this sound like the attitude we see among people today? Yes, it is alive well today, just as it was in days gone by!
We must make a choice. Will we listen to those who call and cry for “peace” when there is no peace? Yes, we ought to strive for peace with God and peace among others (Matt. 5:9). Yet, remember that Christ said His kingdom would bring a “sword” among the closest of family (Matt. 10:21-22, 34-39). There is no “peace” to be had between God and Satan. They are diametrically opposed, as are their teachings (II Cor. 6:14-17). Let us stop trying to be a friend of God and a friend of the world when this is impossible (Jas. 4:4). It is high time we spoke the message of the Lord, that will hurt some, but bring healing to all in the end, as Paul did on the ship (Acts 27:10). At Ephesus, Paul said he spent three years preaching “all the counsel of God” and warning people, “night and day with tears” (Acts 20:27, 31). I wonder why Paul was crying? I wonder if he made those listening cry sometimes? What if it was a little of both? Why would Paul preach a message that caused people to “cry,” that made people “tremble” (Acts 24:25), and that caused some to run him out of town (Acts 17:10-15)? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to tell people, “peace, peace”? We could ask Jeremiah the same question. Isn’t it easier to just say, “peace, peace”?
We know what is easier to say, but it does not mean it is a better message. The best message is the message that comes from the Lord (Jn. 17:17). The best message is the one that has not been diluted by men’s thoughts and feelings (Gal. 1:6-10). The best message is the message that tells us what to do to be saved and then encourages us to continue to be faithful to God (Acts 2:37-38; I Cor. 15:58; Matt. 7:13-14)!
“Peace, peace” is, in our vernacular, sugar-coating the truth! As a friend of mine says, if you want sugar-coating, eat a doughnut! If you want the truth, listen to the Lord’s words (I Pet. 4:11; Jn. 17:17), and be ready to repent and to obey (Jas. 1:22-25)! Jeremiah preached the truth, but people didn’t want to hear this and were destroyed. You and I have a chance to listen to God’s word and obey (Ecc. 12:13). What will you do? Now is the time to decide!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs