Psalm 14: Our Most Urgent Need
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.
A friend and I were talking about our experiences in an evangelism program in which we were involved. We would visit families in their homes and share the gospel with them. The outline of that presentation included the necessity of God’s forgiveness because of our sin. All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God, we would say (citing Romans 3:23). We would also share other passages, such as The soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20). Jeff told me, “When I shared that passage the man had a visible reaction. He actually was shocked by it.” We also shared this passage: There is no one who does good, not even one (v. 3).
Today, not so much. Seems to me we’ve all gotten quite used to a tip-of-the-hat-to-our-sin approach to our need for God’s forgiveness. We’ve sanitized the cross of Jesus turning it into jewelry and certainly not sporting an actual crucifix (with the body of Jesus nailed to the cross). I’m no fan of the crucifix, but to minimize our need for forgiveness, to make little our sin is to ignore the suffering of Jesus – something which the gospel writers devote 30% of their narratives. After all, what did Jesus do for the man lowered through the roof by his friends? First he forgave his sins. Then he healed him.
We all have a list of needs. They range from the most basic of food and shelter, to the higher needs of meaning and purpose. In the sleepless hours of the night they intrude: worries about finances, concerns about family members, distress over world events, anxiety about a friend’s health, deep concerns over a loved-one’s distance from God. But our deepest need is for a righteousness not our own; a righteousness that puts all these things in perspective. In that righteousness we have peace.
This psalm is a lament of God over the sinfulness of humankind. It is a rueful expression of disappointment on God’s part that there are none who care for the poor, call upon him in prayer, or do the good he calls for. On the one hand this is an overstatement, for we also see references to the poor and the righteous. They are not under the same judgment. On the other hand, even the righteous must repent daily for our thoughts and words leak out, showing an inner corruption from which we have not fully escaped. And sometimes, we must be numbered among those who do not do good. Sometimes our thoughts become words and our words lead to actions for which we must repent. We are among those who have turned aside.
Thank God we have a champion of righteousness! Our Lord Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God and our righteousness also by faith. Through his suffering and death our sins are forgiven. By his perfect life our faith puts us in the league of the righteous. For Jesus’ sake we can both confess our sins, and rejoice in God’s salvation. For it has come out of Zion. Our urgent need has been met. And we have been saved.