Read: Psalm 14; Psalm 53
This psalm of David, written “to the chief musician,” was meant for public worship, yet not as a song of praise. This is a teaching psalm, with reflections on a practical matter: the folly of unbelief. The topic of the Psalm is so important that it is repeated almost identically in Psalm 53. Repetition underscores the importance of the message of the twin psalms. “For God speaks once, yes twice, yet man perceives it not” (Job 33:14).
Think About It: What hymns and contemporary songs have helped to teach me biblical truth? What are some other examples of repetition in Scripture? Sometimes slight differences in repeated incidents can be illuminating. Compare Matthew 10:29 – 31 with Luke 12:6 – 7. Luke’s account has sparrows on sale – a fifth sparrow thrown in for free. Is the fifth, essentially worthless, sparrow forgotten by God? Will God ever forget me? Compare the story of the “rich young ruler” in Mark 10:17 – 22 with the same incident in Luke 18:18 – 23. What does Mark include about Jesus’ response to the ruler that Luke (and also Matthew 19:16 – 23) leaves out? Is a person saved solely on the basis that Jesus loves them? What more is required? Where do Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 differ, and what is the significance of the difference?
Prayer: Lord, help me to perceive Your revealed truth.
Read: Proverbs 2:6, 14:6; Daniel 2:21; Colossians 1:9
The nature of folly as presented in Psalm 14 can best be understood against the background of three inter-related biblical concepts: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. These terms are often found together. Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are linked together in the Proverbs: Proverbs 9:1 – a man of understanding has wisdom; Proverbs 9:1 – understanding is knowledge of the Holy One; Proverbs 1:7 – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Proverbs 9:10 – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Think About It: According to Ecclesiastes 2:26, where does wisdom come from? According to Job 32:8, where does understanding come from? According to Psalm 94:10, who teaches man knowledge? What are some of the characteristics of God’s Spirit according to Isaiah 11:2? On whom does the Spirit of the Lord rest on, according to Isaiah 11:1? Who is this “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Acts 13:23, Revelation 22:16)? Based on the answers to these questions, what else (and who) ties together the concepts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding?
Prayer: Praise the Triune God for His divine wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
Read: Isaiah 6:1 – 5; Romans 7:14 – 24; Galatians 3:11 – 13, 24 – 27
While wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are interrelated, they are not synonymous. Wisdom (Hebrew hachma) begins with standing in awe of the Lord, which involves an awareness of His holiness that also involves an acute (“woe is me!”) awareness that we are not holy (Isaiah 6:1 – 5). In the Law, God revealed the holiness He requires from us; but that revelation only leads us to experience the frustration expressed by Paul (“wretched man that I am!”) in Romans 7:14 -24. This frustration finds relief in the Gospel (Galatians 3:11 – 13; 24 – 27). In brief, wisdom involves giving God the proper place in our lives through rectifying our standing before Him through the means He has provided in Christ.
Think About It: What must a person do to give God His proper place in their life (see for example 1 Corinthians 1:30, Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17)? Have I given God His proper place in my life?
Prayer: Praise the Lord that He has made a way for me to move from crying “woe is me” and “wretched man that I am” to saying, “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Read: Colossians 2:3; 1 Corinthians 2: 12, 16; Ephesians 4:13, 21
Knowledge (Hebrew ra’at) refers to knowing the content of the truth. In the New Testament, it is knowledge of the person of Jesus that is important, “…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Knowledge implies knowing what Christ knows, possessing the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), having knowledge of “the truth as it is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21). Knowledge is knowing the truth that God reveals, truth that is given by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12). This knowledge leads to reconciliation with God and promotes our growing into the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), which is our sanctification.
Think About It: According to 1 Corinthians 2:14 ,who cannot understand spiritual things? What are the basic elements of the truth about Jesus according to 1 Corinthians 15:1 – 4; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:8 – 9; Titus 3:5; John 1:12? Do I know the truth as it is in Jesus? Do I know Jesus?
Prayer: Praise God for the truth that is in Jesus Christ.
Read: Job 28:28; Proverbs 6:32; Psalm 147:5; Proverbs 9:10
Understanding (Hebrew beedah) is application of knowledge by a person who stands in fear of the Lord. Understanding is action-oriented, relating to what you do, or don’t do. Examples of understanding include Job 28:28, (“to depart from evil and do good is understanding“), Prov. 14:29 (“he that is slow to wrath has great understanding“), and Prov.6:32, (“he that commits adultery lacks understanding“). In a more abstract sense, understanding is the capacity to do good, e.g. Psalm 147:5, “Our Lord, His understanding is infinite.” Proverbs 9:10 emphasizes that having knowledge of the Holy One IS understanding–to truly know God is to stand in awe of Him, trust Him, and obey Him.
Think About It: Read James 1:22 – 25. How does this passage relate to the biblical definition of understanding? Am I doer of the word?
Prayer: Lord help me, in obedience to You, to be a doer of Your word, to put into action what You teach.
Read: Psalm 14:1 – 7
The biblical definitions of wisdom, knowledge and understanding help to clarify the picture of the fool given in Psalm 14. Biblical wisdom is fear of the Lord, but Psalm 14:1 says the fool does not fear the Lord, for he denies God’s very existence. Biblical understanding is departing from evil and doing good, but Psalm 14:1 says fools do abominable deeds, that there is no one who does good; Psalm 14:2 -3 says there are none who understand, none who seek after good; everyone is corrupt. Biblical knowledge is knowledge of Jesus and Spirit-granted truth that leads to spiritual growth, but Psalm 14:4 implies that fools have no knowledge. The fool is a total spiritual vacuum: no wisdom, no knowledge, and no understanding.
Think About It: Psalm 14:4 says that fools oppress God’s people. Not content with willful ignorance, denial of God, and wicked actions, fools seek to “eat up” the righteous, as they eat bread. Since bread is eaten daily, the picture given of fools is that they perpetually attempt to devour the righteous. What hope is given to the righteous in Psalm 14:5 – 6? What prayer is offered in Psalm 14:7? How has God answered that prayer according to Romans 11:25 – 27? What instruction is given to the righteous in Psalm 14:7?
Prayer: Lord, I rejoice in the salvation You have provided in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Read: Psalm 14:1 – 3; Romans 3:10 – 12; Micah 7:2; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 5:8; 6:23
Psalm 14 gives us human nature as it really is: foolish, spiritually ignorant, doing abominable deeds. God, whose perspective from heaven is perfect and whose knowledge is infinite, does not find any who understand; no one seeks after God.
Think About It: Am I the exception to this rule? Do I really understand that God’s opinion of mankind expressed in Psalm 14 includes me? Do I understand the continued potential for foolish wickedness that is wrapped up in my lower nature? What hope is there for me, a foolish, ignorant, abominable sinner (Luke 18:13 – 14)?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Son of God, please have mercy on me, a sinner.