SALVATION FOR FOOLS
Many people, even some who attend church, are struggling to believe in God’s existence. Do you think the Bible has anything to say about atheism? The Bible does talk to those who don’t believe in God’s existence. This morning, we will study one of those passages in the book of Psalms. It is Psalm 14.
1. THE TALK AND WALK OF THE FOOLS (VV. 1–4)
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” - Psalm 14:1 (ESV)
Right up front these are God’s word to those who claim atheism. They are fools. While all atheists are fools, not all atheists are the same. There are different types of atheists.
a. Intellectual atheists are fools.
Intellectual atheists are people like Richard Dawkin, Sam Harris, Christopher Hichen, Stephen Hawking and Jodie Foster. Intellectual atheists are everywhere. Our kids and young ones are indoctrinated with intellectual atheism at schools and colleges.
Interestingly, I have noticed that intellectual atheists have a little bit of an attitude problem. Let me quote two intellectual atheists to show you what I mean.
Ernest Hemingway put it this way, “All thinking men are atheists.” I think that means he believes the rest of us are not thinking people. To come up with that conclusion I was doing some thinking so I don’t agree with him.
Jodie Foster put it this way, “How can you ask me to believe in God when there is absolutely no evidence that I can see?” I would come to the exact opposite conclusion. How can you not believe in God when there is so much evidence to see?
Why is it that some people can look at a sunset and see ample evidence for God’s existence, while others can look at the same sunset and see no evidence that God is behind it all?
The answer to that question is found in Psalm 14:1. It is found in the meaning of the word fool. The word fool doesn’t mean someone is stupid or they have a low IQ. A fool, like Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkin can be a brilliant fool. The word fool in Psalm 14 in Hebrew is the word nabal.
You might remember the biblical story Abigail and Nabal. The poor guy was literally named, “the fool,” and he lived up to his name.
The word fool doesn’t refer to someone’s intellect but to their will. It means they are stubborn, unteachable, obstinate and intolerant. The Psalmist says anyone who says there is no God is just a stubborn, unteachable, intolerant person who has an authority problem. The Bible says atheists are fools not because there is a lack of evidence but because there is a problem with their will. They have a stubborn refusal to accept the conclusions of the evidence. Paul says the same thing in Romans 1:18–23 (ESV):
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools...
Atheists are fools not because of a lack of evidence but because of a stubborn refusal to look at the evidence. When the will is bent against God, people become increasingly futile in their thinking and their hearts become darker. Rather than becoming smarter, when people rebel against the evidence of God’s existence they become fools!
b. Practical atheists are fools.
While this Psalm is an answer to intellectual atheists, in its original context, it was targeted to the practical atheists.
It is targeting people who say they believe in God but they live like he doesn’t exist.
Practical atheists are people whose lives do not match up to their claims.
The practical atheist is someone who knows all about God, but they don’t want God messing with their plans for their life.
Practical atheists may even go to Bible College and be involved in a small group Bible study. Practical atheists make the claims of following Christ but when you look at their spending habits, their sexual habits, their marital habits, and their parenting habits, what do you end up concluding? They are living as if God doesn’t exist. They are fools!
Let me give you some more examples.
Does attending church every weekend sound a bit restrictive? After all, Sunday morning or afternoon is a great time for relaxing and sleeping. Sunday morning and afternoon is a great time to be on the lake or going for trekking. Attending church every weekend sounds too restrictive for the practical atheist. They claim to comprehend God’s incredible and undeserved love for them. They claim to understand that Jesus died in their place for their sins. But right now, the weekends are mine. God, get out of my way. Are you a practical atheist when it comes to your church attendance?
The practical atheist claims to love God but they keep lying to their friends, their parents, their boss and those in authority over them.
The practical atheist claims to believe in God but giving 10% of their tithe sounds over the top. They will remind you, we are in a struggling economy. They have bills to pay. They have new car payments to make. They can’t afford to tithe.
Let’s look at this from a different angle. The practical atheist is someone who tithes but says the other 90% is theirs and God better keep his hands off of it.
The practical atheist claims to want to honor God above all things but they are messing around with their girlfriend.
Are you a practical atheist?
If God is convicting you, respond to him by repenting and confessing your sin. That is what the Christian life is about. It is conviction, repentance and clinging to the grace of God through Christ in faith.
Some of you have felt pretty good so far. You are not an intellectual atheist. You have disconnects between your faith and life but you are repenting of them. You feel pretty good. News flash. God says everyone is a fool.
c. God says everyone is a fool.
1b 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?
When I first read Psalm 14, I was excited. I was excited to listen to God give it to the atheists and tell them they were a bunch of fools. The problem is that after the first verse, I realized the Psalm is talking about me. Everyone is a fool. The outspoken intellectual atheists are only one kind of fool. Those who claim to love Christ but live in a way that doesn’t match up to their claims are another kind of fool. Psalm 14 tells us all human beings, apart from the wisdom of God, are fools. If there is any doubt about this, let’s turn to Romans 3 where Paul quotes Psalm 14.
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:9–12 (ESV)
Sound familiar? Paul is saying Psalm 14 applies to everybody. A fool is everyone who is born in this world and chooses to live in sinful rebellion against God. That is all of us.
Everyone is in rebellion against God. Our hearts are in deep-seated rebellion against God.
2. THE TERROR OF THE FOOLS (VV. 5–6)
The fool talks like there is no God and lives like there is no God, but deep down they are in terror of God.
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.
Do you see it? First phrase of verse 5—“There they are in great terror.” Who do the fools think they are fooling? The Lord sees it all—even their secret, deep-seated trembling. They act tough, but inwardly there are moments of terror.
Further, the fool ought to live in terror. God is with the righteous, but is against those who have not turned their lives over to God. It must be a terrifying thought to our minds to be standing against the Lord. When we noticed Paul’s words concerning the fools who suppress the truth of the knowledge of God, Paul said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18 ).
We can see the wrath of God revealed many times in the scriptures.
In the days of Noah, the wrath of God was revealed against ungodliness through the destruction of the world with a flood of water.
In the days of the Lot , the wrath of God was revealed against evil when it rained fire and brimstone from heaven.
The wrath of God was revealed against Nadab and Abihu, who were struck dead for not worshipping God as He had authorized.
The wrath of God was revealed against Korah who led a rebellion against Moses.
God’s wrath has been revealed repeatedly and we must be in fear and trembling that the wrath of God will be against us if we continue to walk the path of fools.
To the righteous, the Lord is a refuge. If you have been following this series on the psalms you will recognize that this theme has been repeated in most of the psalms up to this point. God is the place that we are to run to. This is one way we renounce our foolish ways: by turning to God for relief and rest. We show that we have gained understanding when we stop turning to the world for relief and start turning to God for all our needs.
3. THE HOPE FOR THE FOOLS (v.7)
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.
The first three chapters of Romans are great for understanding the human problem. Those chapters make two fundamental assertions.
1) We are alienated from God. We were born alienated from God and because of that, we are under the penalty of sin. We justly deserve the wrath of God.
2) We cannot turn to God. We are all fools. Everyone knows God exists because the evidence is before us in creation. However, because of what happened in the Garden of Eden, our will is so deeply damaged that while we can choose what to cook for breakfast in the morning, we cannot choose to seek after God. According to the Bible, everyone apart from God’s grace through Christ is stuck being a fool.
Some of you think we have a free will and we can choose God to save ourselves. That is not true. The Bible doesn’t say we have a free will. It says we have a will that can make moral choices for which we will be held accountable. But our will is so deeply damaged or corrupted or distorted that we can not choose to seek after God. Apart from God’s grace in our life we will always be fools.
Some of you are thoroughly confused. You thought you chose God. The truth is God chose you so you could choose him. That is the way it happens in Scripture. Let’s look at some examples.
Where does the Bible tell me I cannot turn to God?
John 6:44 (ESV)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Who takes the first step to bring us to God? God does. He hunts the sinner down and out of his free and undeserved mercy draws us to himself.
The Damascus Road shows us how salvation begins.
Another example comes from the apostle Paul in Acts 9.
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Acts 9:1–5 (ESV)
A little later, Ananias needed some special prompting from God to even
talk with Paul because Ananias was so afraid of him. Look what God says to
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Acts 9:15 (ESV)
Who chose who? Paul was acting like a fool until God laid him out flat. We are all fools who know God exists, but because we are so dead in sin, we cannot even lift a finger to turn to God unless he chooses to hunt us down and save us. Salvation begins with God choosing to save the fools.
Why does he do this for us? Not because we deserved it but to show his mercy and compassion that we do not deserve. In Romans 9:15–16 (ESV)
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Psalm 14:7 says the hope for the fools will come from Zion. What is Zion? Zion is the hilly region where Jerusalem was built on.
In David’s day, it was about 14 acres in size. In Jesus’ day, it had grown to 500 acres. Today, it is about 50 square miles. Zion was where the redeemer would redeem the fools. How do we know that?
“And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 59:20 (ESV)
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 (ESV)
We know Zechariah 9:9 applies to Jesus because Matthew 21 tells us it does. Jesus didn’t come to be a good moral example. He didn’t come to teach us a class on ethics and morality. He came to save fools who were so dead in their sin.
This knowledge should lead us to great rejoicing. David calls for rejoicing as he ends this psalm. All of Israel must be glad because of the salvation and restoration that has been made available. There is nothing that can come against us that can ever rob us of the joy we ought to have in Christ. This is why Paul could command us, “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16 ).
We cannot rejoice because things in life are always good. But we are to rejoice always because of what the Lord has done for each of us. God has been very good to us. Our actions led to our corruption, which should have led to our condemnation as the Lord looked down and saw our wicked ways. Instead, God has granted mercy by sending His Son to bring salvation to Israel , thereby showing His favor to all.
This Psalm calls fools to turn to Christ today.
Psalm 14 is calling you to repent of your sin and trust in Jesus today. Stop being a fool. This morning, for the first time, can you begin to see Christ for who he is? Ask Christ’s death on the cross to be the payment for your sin and ask Christ to be in charge of your life today. If God is working on your heart right now, make that decision. Because Jesus is salvation for the fools.
Psalm 14 tells us that apart from God seeking us and reaching out to us,
there is no way we could know him. We would live like fools forever. This is why
Jesus came. Jesus is God the Father’s plan to save the fools.