How can there be so many atheists? As we look at the world around us secularism is on the rise. More and more people in our country are stating they have no religious affiliation. Unbelief is on the rise. Yet, even those who claim no religious affiliation act and live as if there is no God—including, sadly, many professed Christians. They go about their life following desires of their own flesh, unaware that God is ruling and watching. How should we pray when there are so many people who just flat out deny the existence of God? How should we pray when there are so many whose lives are lived in practical denial of God's existence? This particular Psalm of lament by David expresses the frustration and prayers of a man who lives in such a world.
v. 1-4 - The psalm instructs that the fool says in his heart that there is no God. The word fool here does not indicate that people who are atheists are dumb. Some of the brightest minds in our world today are atheists. So what does it mean that those who deny the existence of God are fools? The foolishness described here is not simply intellectual but moral. Many stubbornly reject what has God has revealed. Whether we are a committed atheist or not, everyone of us has lived our lives in our own way. Even though we may believe that there is a God, we have not lived our lives consistently in light of that truth.
So many people live there lives today as if there is no God. We make ourselves God. The chief purpose of our life is self-fulfillment and self-actualization. As a result we ignore what is right and true as we give ourselves over to the corrupt. As we look upon the human race we can conclude like David that there is no one who does good.
As v. 2 begins, we see the Lord searching the earth for any human being that has understanding and for any human being who seeks after God. The conclusion of the Lord's search is bleak, but vital for us to understand. Every human being has turned aside. Every human being is corrupt. There is none who are good, not even one.
This grim picture of humanity is hard for us to accept. Many believe that human being are inherently good and that there is nothing wrong with us. Sure, there might be a few bad people out there, but most of humanity are good people. Yes, there is a lot of goodness in humanity because we have been created in God's image, but at our core we are condemned sinners. Sin has so corrupted us that there remains no aspect of our lives untainted. We are totally depraved and sinners by nature. This is the huge problem of humanity: we are truth suppressers and truth deniers.
The apostle Paul would use this Psalm as evidence of humanities innate sinfulness. In his great letter to the Romans, he begins his book explaining the sinfulness of humanity and the just judgement and wrath they deserve from God. Referring to this Psalm, Paul in Romans 3:10-11 would lay out his conclusion, "that there is no one righteous, no not one". Both Jews and Greeks stand condemned before God. We have all gone our own way and we have rebelled against God. Every facet of who we are as human beings have been corrupted by sin. Even though we may never confess to be an atheists, every human being has lived as one.
The sinfulness of humanity is the reason for the oppression and evil seen all across the world. Those that have no knowledge of God "eat up my people as they eat bread.” Human beings are vicious and vile. Any illusion we have of the goodness of humanity is shattered if we just walk through the history of humanity. From the moral horrors of racism and slavery that has dominated much of American history, to the horrific holocaust executed by the genocidal Adolf Hitler, to the gruesome beheadings recorded on video by ISIS—the evidence of humanities sinfulness is all around us. Humanity devours one another up like they are eating bread.
v. 5-6 - The psalmist reminds himself that the Lord is the refuge for the poor and the oppressed. Even though humanity seems to be content on devouring itself, God aligns himself with the victims. God will protect those who are abused by wicked and evil men.
v. 7 - The psalm concludes with a call for salvation and for restoration of the people of God. David prays for a national renewal and restoration, but, in light of the New Covenant, we see just how God has brought about a greater salvation through the Lord Jesus. God in his grace makes a way not just to save the oppressed, but also the fools who deny God's existence in word and action.
Though there is none who seek God and there are none who do what is good, God provides a righteousness for us. Though the beginning of Romans 3 begins with the conclusion there is none who are righteous and that all human beings deserve God's just wrath, the end of Romans 3 ends with incredible hope.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:21–24, ESV)
This is seriously good news. Though we are not righteous, God has provide a righteousness apart from perfect obedience to the Law of God. God gives us his righteousness through the person of Jesus Christ. We receive it by faith in Jesus and we receive it by grace as a gift from God. Though we have all sinned and fallen short of God's glory, we are justified by God's grace through Jesus' redemption. Through the death of Christ our penalty is paid for and Jesus gives us his perfect and blameless righteousness. Jesus takes on our filthy garment of sin and gives us his pure and blameless robe of righteousness. What incredible news!
God's grace overcomes not only our own sin, but also our unbelief. Though every human being lives as a fool, denying the existence of God, God by his sovereign grace overcomes even the hardest heart and grants them knowledge of himself. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:6, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." From this verse we can conclude that the only way God allows us to grasp his Gospel of grace is if the Spirit gives us understanding of this Gospel.
Here is the really good news about the salvation God gives us. He not only provides us with the righteousness of Christ, but he also sovereignly gives us faith. Though we all are fools, God by his grace gives us wisdom to understand his glorious Gospel so that we can believe in him for salvation.
As we think about this Psalm of David, we see so much of it pointing to greater new covenant realities. Though every human being is totally depraved and though no human being seeks after God, there is a God who overcomes our depravity and who seeks us out. God takes the initiative and comes and brings his salvation to us. The salvation that we long for comes out of Zion, the very presence of God himself. In light of this great sovereign love as we can do is rejoice and be glad.
- Lament in prayer over the wickedness and evil you see in the world.
- Confess your own sin that you too have lived as one who denies the existence of God.
- Thank the Lord that he identifies with the oppressed.
- Praise the Lord that he provides you righteousness through Jesus by faith.
- Thank the Lord that he not only gave you his righteousness, but gave you the ability understand and believe in Him.