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
This psalm shows us a great contrast between the righteous and the wicked. David turns to God for his help (v. 1). Why? David says the godly and the faithful have ceased and are no more. I do not understand this to be an absolute statement, but a poetic statement where it seems he sees no righteous people around. Indeed, righteous people existed then (and today), for God always has His “7000” (I Kings 19:18; Rom. 11:3-4)! Yet, David cries out in sorrow about the words of the wicked (v. 2).
He quickly understands, though, that “the Lord shall cut them off” (v. 3). Do we ever get downtrodden? Do we think that the world is so far gone that it is beyond help? Have we ever asked where God is during these times? If you have, then let David answer these questions in Psalm 12.
The words of the wicked sound mighty and intimidating, but I must remember that God’s words are “pure words, as silver… purified seven times” (v. 6). This means God’s word is without a speck of imperfection. It is without a hint of error! Remember that “seven” symbolizes that which is perfect or complete. Therefore, if God’s word is like “silver … purified seven times,” we can be assured there is no error to be found here! Man will lie and change facts to suit himself or to make himself look good. God changes nothing! His very word is truth (Jn. 17:17) and needs no change! We need to listen to it above anything a man might tell us!
Finally, the wicked men roam or walk when the vilest are exalted (v. 8). Sadly, this seems to be the lot of men who live on earth. God speaks, but His word is ignored by the wicked. Wicked men roam, walk, or strut when the vile are exalted. We see examples of this daily! Solomon lamented the same thing in his writings (ex: Prov. 14:34; etc.). Yet, let us remember that God is still on His throne. His pure word is with us. One day, there will be a reckoning of these things (I Thess. 4:13-17; II Thess. 1:6-9). Where will you be when that happens?
Yes, we sympathize with David’s concern, but we also know there is hope in Christ (Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:27; I Pet. 1:3; I Jn. 3:3)! Let us focus on this, and let us tell others about the hope and joy we have in the Lord (Mk. 16:16; II Tim. 2:2).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Do you like sad songs? When a song comes on the radio that makes you want to cry or tells about the experience of a broken-hearted person, what does that do to you? Sad songs touch people in ways that joyous songs do not. Sad songs can make one look inwardly to examine oneself. Sad songs can make us upset at the “establishment” or an oppressor. Sad songs allow us to sympathize with the singer.
I believe Psalm 13 is one of the saddest psalms we read. David asks if God will forget him forever (v. 1). How sad! Have we been in situations where we felt alone or abandoned? This is how David feels. Can we sympathize?
I like the way The Israel Bible translates verse two. It says, “How long will I have cares on my mind, grief in my heart all day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Have we had times like this?
Verses 3, 5, and 6 show us that within this man still beats a heart of hope. Unlike sad songs men might write today that leave us crying or simply feeling bad for the condition of the singer, David writes a psalm that declares that in such overwhelming sadness, there is hope. “I have trusted in thy mercy” (v. 5). He didn’t deny God had any mercy left! There is still mercy for God’s people, and it abounds. Are we aware of God’s mercy, or are we only seeing the sadness?
Often, when we are hurting the worst, is when God is the closest. He cares! Such times have been compared to when a storm rolls through the land. Lightning flashes, the thunder rolls, violent winds blow, and the rains drench the earth. Yet, all of us know that that bright, shining sun is on the other side of the clouds. It has not gone anywhere and will shine long after the storm is gone.
So it is with God! “I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (v. 6). Amen!
I know this is not the only sad song in the Psalms, but this song definitely causes us to look inward and examine and see where our faith really lies! Psalm 13 shows us where our hope needs to be! Where is your hope? Is it in men or God? Where is your faith when the storms rage (Ps. 13:6)?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Psalms 9-10 - Higgaion and Selah
I have been trying to write a little note about two psalms a day. In this case, two psalms were originally one psalm. I am told that Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one long psalm. At some point, this psalm was divided into two pieces. However, I want to combine them once more for this writing.
Those who know about this psalm tell us that it is an “alphabetical” psalm. Perhaps we thought Psalm 119 was the only one that fits this category. Not so! There are other “alphabetical” psalms. Unfortunately, translating from Hebrew to English lost that distinction for us. Yet, Hebrew scholars assure us that David used the first 11 letters of the Hebrew alphabet in Psalm 9:1-18 and the rest of the alphabet in Psalm 10:1-17!
While we could discuss much in these two psalms regarding the praise David has for God (Ps. 10:16), David’s prayer for the enemies’ defeat (Ps. 10:15), and many other things, I would like to focus on two words in the text.
I want to focus on the two words “Higgaion” and “Selah.” It is interesting to note that “Higgaion” is translated in other psalms (Ps. 19:14, 92:1-3, 2:1, 38:12; Isa. 59:3, 13; etc.), but not here. Here, the translators of the KJV, LSB, TIB, ASV, ESV, NET, NAS, and several others chose to “Anglicize” a Hebrew word. What does “Higgaion” mean? It is hard to know its exact meaning, but often it is considered an utterance or a call for meditation from the reader of the Psalms (Evan Blackmore. The Book of Psalms, Vol 1. 2017. p. 180). For this reason, a handful of translations render the word “meditation” (NKJV, NLT, LSV, etc.) and even “quiet interlude” (NLT). The next word in Psalm 9:16 is “Selah.” We remember from our study in Psalm 2 that this word is a complicated word. It can mean rest, but it also carries the idea of meditation at times.
Thus, as David pens this psalm, when he comes to verse 16 of Psalm 9, the musical notation is to rest or pause and meditate on what was said. I really like these words because I think they provide added emphasis to the songs and teaching. The blessed man is one who “meditates” (higgaion) on God’s word (Ps. 1:2). Do we meditate on the teaching in the psalms? They are rich!
By application, when we sing praises to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15; Jas. 5:13; etc.), are we truly thinking about and meditating upon the meaning? Though our songs are not verbally inspired like the psalms were (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21), they are based in Scripture and worthy of our meditation because of the message they teach from God’s word. We also recognize that several psalms have been supplied with a tune, and we today worship God and sing the songs once penned by David in this way. Pause! Meditate! Think about what a privilege we have when we can read these songs and sing them to God!
Much more ought to be said, but please allow these words to encourage us to not only meditate on the words of Scripture but make sure we meditate on the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” we direct to our God (Col. 3:16)! May they be holy! May they be offered “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24), that they might be a “sweet-smelling savor” to God (II Cor. 2:15).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Psalm 8 is a psalm of praise to the God of Heaven (v. 1, 9). It is very straightforward and reminds us of the majesty of God and the place of man, God’s creation. The words of this psalm capture a man who is in awe of His God (v. 3-4).
This psalm holds a special place because there are sections that are connected with Jesus and His work on earth. The first place is recorded in verse 2. When Jesus entered Jerusalem during His last week, the children cried, “Hosanna to the son of David,” and displeased the chief priests and elders (Matt. 21:15). When they confronted Jesus about this, Christ asked them if they had never read Psalm 8:2. The children understood and declared the truth boldly when others might have been afraid to do so.
The beauty of God’s creation is apparent to all – even the smallest and weakest among us! Note in Matthew 21:15 that the weak ones showed the most strength as they spoke boldly and without fear before the leaders of the people. Do we not stand amazed at our children’s sincerity, boldness, and, yes, bluntness? Perhaps while we are teaching our children about life and the Lord (Eph. 6:4), we need to stop and learn some lessons from them (I Cor. 14:20)!
Jesus thought this was the case because when the chief priests and elders confronted Jesus, He reminded them of Psalm 8:2. Yes, from the mouths of babes (children), Thou has perfected praise! Is there anything more precious to our ears than hearing small children sing praises to God at the top of their lungs or hear them speak about their love for Jesus, whom they have not met (I Pet. 1:8-9; Jn. 20:29)?
When David considered the power of God, His majesty, and might, all he could do was ask, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:4). I encourage you to go out on a starry night and really watch and take in the amazing night sky. Stand and watch the ocean waves on a sunny day, or gaze at the “purple mountain’s majesty,” and you will repeat the words of David here!
Last, notice the description of man in v. 5-7. Here, we not only see a connection with Genesis 1:26-28 but also with Christ, as described in Hebrews 2:6-10. Jesus Christ came to the earth, lived as a man, and died upon the cross so that we might be saved. Just as man is “a little lower than the angels,” this is the position Jesus took (Phil. 2:5-10) that He might show us how to face temptation (Heb. 4:15; Matt. 4:1-11), and He might be the perfect sacrifice for man’s sin!
Thus, in a psalm praising God for His majesty and in awe of His power and the glory bestowed to man, we today stand in awe of how this perfect praise points to a perfect Savior!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs