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
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
I have said from time to time that I tend to forget the things I need to remember and remember the things I need to forget. Does anyone else feel like this? Solomon said something like this in Ecclesiastes 9:14-16.
Just to see how well we remember the important things, please take a couple of short quizzes. Check your answers and see how you do.
Quiz #1 - Who:
- Invented the polio vaccine?
- Discovered pasteurization?
- Discovered penicillin?
- Invented the artificial heart?
- Wrote the book of Philemon?
- Wrote the book of Acts?
- Invented the incandescent light bulb?
Quiz #2 - Who:
- Won last season’s “Dancing With The Stars”?
- Won the 1990 World Series?
- Is Miss America?
- Is Carole Baskin?
- Is the “Tiger King”?
- Is Prince Harry’s wife?
- Drove #3 in NASCAR races until 2001?
How did you do on your quizzes? Did you get more correct answers in quiz #1 or #2? Did you have to “Google” anything? Perhaps this illustration will give us some insight into Solomon’s words (Ecc. 9:14-16). In the text, after the siege, men were more likely to remember the loser instead of the winner! Why is it that men tend to listen to a failed king rather than a winning wise man? How upside-down can we get?
This passage does not give reasons why men tend to remember the loser and the things of lesser importance rather than what is of greater importance? Could I suggest that perhaps men tend to remember the things they ought to forget because those things of lesser importance satisfy a lust (Jas. 1:14-15). Additionally, we know many love to gossip, and love to find out the latest “scandal.” Are there not plenty of things in this world that would scratch such an itch?
Often, our priorities are the polar opposite to God’s. Solomon understood that and said so in Ecclesiastes 9. Let us take a moment to examine ourselves (II Cor. 13:5). What can we do to get our priorities in line with God’s? Make that change today and forget what is not important but remember what is (Phil. 3:13-14)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
I Samuel 16:7 tells us that God does not see things the way man does (Ps. 139:2). There is no denying this fact if we know anything about the Bible and what it reveals about the mind of God. Today, instead of writing a long article detailing the teaching in these verses, I thought I would make a chart that contrasts God’s wisdom with man’s wisdom.
Please study the chart below. Note the contrasts between God’s wisdom and man’s, and then decide who you will follow.
A good name is better than riches (v. 1).
Riches are the most important thing -- better than one’s reputation.
Our death day is better than our birthday (v. 1).
The day of death is the worst day of one’s life (with only a few exceptions, such as an incurable, painful disease).
The house of mourning is better than the house of feasting (v. 2).
Feasting is better than mourning.
Sorrow is better than laughter (v. 3).
Laughter is better than sorrow.
Wise men are in the house of mourning (v. 4).
Wise men are in the house of mirth.
It is better to hear the wise man’s rebuke (v. 5).
It is better to hear encouragement.
The laughter of fools is as vain as expecting thorns to provide heat (v. 6).
The laughter of fools is to be desired.
Accepting bribes will corrupt you (v. 7)
There is nothing wrong with getting money “under the table” from time to time.
The end of a thing is better than the beginning (v. 8).
The beginning is better than the end.
The patient is better than the proud (v. 8).
Being proud is better than being patient.
Be slow to anger. Anger rests with the fools (v. 9; Jas. 1:19).
Becoming angry and “cracking heads” gets things done.
Don’t live in the past (v. 10).
The “good ol’ days” are better than what we have today.
This list from Ecclesiastes 7 teaches us much. Notice how these Bible facts from Ecclesiastes show that man’s ideas stand polar opposite to God’s intent. I find it interesting that the apostle Paul taught a very similar thing in I Corinthians 1:18-31 when he spoke of the preaching of the cross.
The ultimate question we must answer is: To whom will we listen? Will we listen to the world and follow “conventional wisdom” or listen to God and turn man’s wisdom on its head? Remember what David said about God’s wisdom (Ps. 119:98-100)? Listen to him! At the end of the day, we must decide for ourselves, and must face the consequences of that decision. As for me and my house, we want to listen to God. Who will you follow, friend?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs