Psalm 14: Context is Everything
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?
5 There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
6 You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is his refuge.
7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
One of my favorite jokes I heard first told by the late Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, speaker of The Lutheran Hour. The punchline has to do with the answer to the question, “Did you or did you not say at the time of the accident, ‘I’m fine. I’m just fine!’?” If you’re really interested in the joke itself, you can read it below. The joke conveys a message: context is everything.
I like to teach this truth by asking people to read the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th words of Psalm 14. If you do, you’ll say, “There is no God.” That is decidedly not what this psalm is telling us. We are to understand that is the conclusion of fools. Only fools deny the existence of God. But look closer. Not only does he say it outwardly – publicly and opening denying the existence of God – he says it in his heart.
That means there is no fear of God in the decisions he makes, the thoughts he entertains, or the words he speaks. It means she doesn’t give a second thought to her careless gossip, the envy she clings to, or the resentful refusal to forgive she harbors. Her world is godless. His future is judgment free. They live in a godless world. That’s their context. And context is everything.
Such is our world today. And in truth this is nothing new. Throughout time men and women have said in their hearts, “There is no God. I can get away with this. I won’t be called to account. I can escape any consequence. I’ll decide for myself what is good and evil.” But it seems to me that we have taken a bold (and foolish!) step forward on this path in the recent decades. The predominant social conscience has rejected the idea that God created the heavens and the earth in favor of an evolutionary explanation of our existence.
With that rejection has come a complete redefinition of good and evil. The strong and powerful impose their will on the weak and vulnerable. Foolishly they think they will always get away with it. They don’t call on God in prayer – either in praise or supplication. They do abominable things.
But surely they must always look over their shoulders. There may be someone stronger than they. And, of course, there is irrefutable evidence of God’s glory in creation and his holiness in their consciences. We can hope that they will come to their senses and repent of their sins and believe in God. This is the daily activity of the wise. When we lose our heads and depart from the path of wisdom and life, we repent, return to our good and gracious God, and live in the context of his grace and truth.
Farmer Joe decided his injuries from the accident were serious enough to take the trucking company responsible for the accident to court. In court the trucking company’s fancy lawyer was questioning farmer Joe. “Didn’t you say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine,'” asked the lawyer.
Farmer Joe responded, “Well. I’ll tell you what happened. I had just loaded my best cow Bessie into the…”
“I didn’t ask for any details,” the lawyer interrupted, “just answer the question. Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine, I’m just fine!'”.
Farmer Joe said, “Well, I had just got Bessie into the trailer and I was driving down the road…”
The lawyer interrupted again and said, “Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Police officer on the scene that he was fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question.”
By this time the Judge was fairly interested in Farmer Joe’s answer and said to the lawyer, “I’d like to hear what he has to say.” Joe thanked the Judge and proceeded, “Well, as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie into the trailer and was driving her down the motorway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn’t want to move. However, I could hear ol’ Bessie moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans. Shortly after the accident a Policeman came on the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning so he went over to her and said, “Ohhhh…you don’t look so good.” And then he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes. Then the officer came across the road with his gun in his hand and looked at me.”
He said, “Your cow was in such bad shape I had to shoot her. How are you feeling?”
Context is everything!