Psalm 53: Signs of a Foolish Sinner in God’s Eyes

Introduction: Here, as in Psalm 14, David described the ways of foolish sinners. They: (1) deny God, (2) embrace evil, (3) fail to seek after Him, (4) fail to acknowledge their sins, (5) fail to call on or pray to Him, (6) suffer for failing to fear Him, and (7) reject the need for His salvation.

First, David called those who deny God or His authority “fools.” Such persons are without excuse before God. Their actions also frequently cause them to embrace evil. Second, David warned against those who embrace evil. Then, as now, people did what felt right in their own eyes. Third, David warned that fools fail to continually seek after God. Such persons instead walk in their own flesh and embrace their own ignorance over God-given wisdom. Fourth, David said that a fool also fails to accept the need for atonement. Sinners typically become blind to their own sin and their need for God’s mercy and grace. Fifth, David also said that the fool also fails to pray or call upon God. Failing to call or pray to God frequently stems from arrogance and a lack of faith. Sixth, David said that such fools experience great sorrow. Their foolishness and suffering both stem from a failure to fear God. Finally, David praised God for His offer of salvation and restoration. Only a fool rejects His offer of salvation through Jesus.

1. Denying God: A Fool Denies God’s Existence or His Sovereignty. Ps. 53:1a.

  • David lamented those who denied God’s existence or authority. David warned that those who denied God’s existence or authority are “fools”: “For the music director; according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David. The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Ps. 53:1a). For emphasis, David began an earlier psalm with this exact same declaration: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.” (Ps. 14:1a). It was relatively uncommon in David’s time for people in the Middle East to be professed atheists. Dating back to the 6th Century B.C., there have been some religions that have not invoked a formal deity. These have included Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism. But even these religions all believed in some form of life after death. Modern atheism did not become a serious intellectual movement until the French Revolution (circa 1789 – 1799). David would have considered such persons to be fools. Because God’s hand of creation is visible everywhere, true atheists are without excuse in God’s eyes: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Ro. 1:20). But David was likely addressing those who accepted God but denied His actual authority in their daily lives.

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  • The fool rejects God out of emotion, not intellectual reasons. David wrote that the refusal to submit to God came from a person’s heart, not the head: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Ps. 14:1). Many believers who are new in their faith attempt to arm themselves with facts and debate with nonbelievers. Yet, because most reject God for emotional reasons, winning an intellectual debate about God typically yields few converts. Thus, the most effective evangelists focus on the skeptic’s heart.

  • The fool rejects God’s authority over his or her life. Many possess a vague belief in some type of “higher power”. But such people frequently do not believe that they need to submit to such an abstract entity. David later lamented that these persons do not fear God: “A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD. Wrongdoing speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Ps. 36:1). Likewise, a person is a fool when he or she believes that they can embrace evil without God noticing: “He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it.”’ (Ps. 10:11). Before the Flood, the people did the same thing. They denied God’s authority and embraced evil: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. . . And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for humanity had corrupted its way upon the earth.” (Gen. 6:5, 12). Paul also warned those who deny God’s authority give themselves over to “a depraved mind”: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Ro. 1:29-32). You may profess that Jesus is Lord. But He is not your Lord if you don’t submit to Him. Is Jesus Lord over every aspect of your life? Would your friends claim that you submit to Him?

2. Embracing Evil: A Fool Embraces What the Bible Defines as Evil. Ps. 53:1b.

  • David lamented those who embraced evil and rebellion against God. David warned that fools embrace evil because their hearts are dark: “They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; there is no one who does good.” (Ps. 53:1b). For emphasis, David began an earlier psalm with this exact same warning: “They are corrupt, they have committed detestable acts; there is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1b).

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  • Failing to follow God’s Word is a sign of rebellion against Him. People who deny God’s existence or refuse to fully submit to Him engage in “rebellion” in His eyes: “Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people approaches Me with their words and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of the commandment of men that is taught;” (Is. 29:13). Jesus later quoted Isaiah’s words to apply them to His teachings: “But He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. And in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”’ (Mk. 7:6-7). Solomon also warned that rebellion is the sign of an “evil man.” (Prov. 17:11). Rebellion is part of the spirit of “the prince of the power of the air.” (Eph. 2:2). Samuel also said: “. . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . .” (1 Sam. 15:23). Satan becomes the father of those who rebel (Jo. 8:44). Are there areas where you refuse to follow God’s Word? Do you only pick the parts that you agree with?

  • Mankind rebels and embraces evil because their hearts are evil. It is in our nature to rebel because mankind loves darkness: “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil.” (Jo. 3:19). “Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know Me,” declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:6). Because of our sinful nature, you cannot look to what is in your heart to understand what God considers to be holy: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

  • Doing what is right in your own eyes leads to rebellion. It is common today for believers to turn to public opinion to decide what is right and wrong. But some of the wicked times in the Bible took place when people did exactly that: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 21:25). Thus, believers are warned not to do this because it leads to sin: “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes;” (Dt. 12:8).

3. Failing to Seek God: The Fool Also Fails to Continually Seek After God. Ps. 53:2.

  • God searches your heart to see if you seek after Him. In addition to submitting to God’s Word, David warned that a person must also continually seek after God to avoid evil: “God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of mankind to see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God.” (Ps. 53:2). This was his second warning: “2 The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of mankind to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.” (Ps. 14:2). David’s psalms reveal that you are never done when it comes to learning about God. Instead, you must continually seek after Him. God is also never done with us. He constantly seeks after us to check our hearts.

  • Only a fool fails to seek after God. Through Jeremiah, God warned that His people were foolish in believing that they had understanding apart from Him: “For My people are foolish, they do not know Me; they are foolish children and have no understanding. They are skillful at doing evil, but they do not know how to do good.” (Jer. 4:22). “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the Law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes Has made it into a lie.” (Jer. 8:8). Paul also calls those who are wise in their own eyes fools: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools,” (Ro. 1:22).

  • David warned that the failure to continually seek after God stems from pride. Sinners may hope for God to look away. But God cannot do this. He is constantly watching us (Ps. 14:2). Nor is it possible to live without Him: “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His descendants.’” (Acts 17:28). In a prior psalm, David attributed an evil person’s failure to seek after God to “haughtiness”: “The wicked, in his haughtiness, does not seek Him. There is no God in all his schemes.” (Ps. 10:4). When Paul later stated the universal nature of sin, he stressed that it included the failure of mankind to continually seek after God: “‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;” (Ro. 3:10-11). Those who refuse to seek after God typically prefer darkness: “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, so that his deeds will not be exposed.” (Jo. 3:20). Are you continually searching after God?

  • Failing to seek after God means that you walk in the flesh, not the Spirit. To keep yourself from sin, Paul warns: “ . . . do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Ro. 8:4(b)). When you continually seek after God, you guard yourself from evil desires. Thus, Solomon warned: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23). When you fail to seek after God, you rely upon your heart. But “[t]he heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus also warns: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matt. 15:19). “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matt. 12:34). Do you rely upon your feelings and gut instincts in deciding what to do? Or, do you seek out God’s will for your life?

  • God won’t see you as seeking Him when you hold dual allegiances. Many people serve God intensely. Yet, their service to God is frequently divided. They lead one life Sunday morning and a different life during the week. Yet, God does not accept such a divided allegiance: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10). “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is god, then follow him.’ And the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kin. 18:21; Josh. 24:15). Is your devotion to God consistent throughout the week? Or, are you “double minded” in how you live your life?

4. Failing to Acknowledge Sin: Fools Fail to Accept the Need For Atonement. Ps. 53:3.

  • David professed that all mankind is sinful in its fallen state. In addition to failing to submit to God and seek Him out, a fool also fails to acknowledge his or her sinful nature: “Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Ps. 53:3). This was the second time he said this: “They have all turned aside, together they are corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Ps. 14:3). This is a central theme of the Bible. It also distinguishes the Judeo-Christian faith from all other religions. All have fallen short and are in need of redemption. In the Old Testament, that happened through animal sacrifices. In the New Testament, atonement is only possible through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross.

  • All have fallen short and are in need of salvation. David later proclaimed that mankind is evil from birth: “The wicked have turned away from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.” (Ps. 58:3). He further proclaimed that none were righteous before God: “And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for no person living is righteous in Your sight.” (Ps. 143:2). Through his mistakes and his God-given wisdom, Solomon also declared that all have sinned: “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20). “When they sin against You (for there is no person who does not sin) and You are angry with them and turn them over to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, distant or near;” (1 Kgs. 8:46). “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (Prov. 20:9). Indeed, God only spared Solomon from eternal death out of mercy and to stay faithful to His promise to David (2 Sam. 7:14-15). Paul later quoted from Solomon’s end-of-life revelations to form two of the central tenants of universal sin and the need for salvation (Ro. 3:23). If you believe that you are without sin, the truth is not within you: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). Do you confess your sins to let Jesus cleanse you (1 Jo. 1:9).

  • Acknowledge that your salvation is not earned according to your works. Moses was a murderer. He was a sinner who did not deserve to be God’s Lawgiver. Likewise, David, Solomon, and Jehoram were also murderers, and every king from Solomon to Jehoram either tolerated or practiced idolatry. They were all sinners, and none of them deserved to be king. Yet, God used these sinners out of mercy and grace. You also did not earn your salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (Eph. 2:8). “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (Acts 15:11). “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” (Ro. 3:24). If you feel that you will be saved based upon your good works or for being a good person, “then Christ died needlessly” (Gal. 2:21).

5. Failing to Call on God: The Fool Also Fails to Pray or Call Upon God. Ps. 53:4.

  • David revealed that failing to call upon God also leads to evil. While failing to seek out God was one type of sin, failing to pray or call upon God is equally sinful to God: “Have the workers of injustice no knowledge, who eat up My people like they ate bread, and have not called upon God?” (Ps. 53:4). David previously declared: “Do all the workers of injustice not know, who devour my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord?” (Ps. 14:4). If you rely upon anything other than God when the trials in your life come and fail to call on Him, He is not the Lord over your life.

  • God wants you to continually pray and call upon Him and search out His wisdom. Crying out to God is not a sign of weak faith. Instead, it is exactly what God wants from you in order to allow Him to deliver you: “Call upon Me on the day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Ps. 50:15). Isaiah also lamented those who failed to call upon God’s name: “There is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have surrendered us to the power of our wrongdoings.” (Is. 64:7). “I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their distress they will search for Me.” (Hosea 5:15). Are you continually calling out to God for His wisdom to guide you?

  • Failing to pray is a sin in God’s eyes. When you fail to pray, you are telling God that you believe that you don’t need Him. Or, you are telling Him that you lack the faith to believe that He will hear and respond to your prayers. The prophet Samuel even called the failure to pray for others a sin: “Furthermore, as for me, far be it from me that I would sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” (1 Sam. 12:23). The New Testament disciples therefore regularly prayed for others: “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2 Tim. 1:3). Are you continually praying to God as an intercessor for others?

6. Failing to Fear God: The Failure to Fear God Also Leads to Great Sorrow. Ps. 53:5.

  • Those who turn from God will one day face great regrets. While God is with the righteous, the wicked will ultimately face the dread of God’s judgment: “They were in great fear there, where no fear had been; for God scattered the bones of him who encamped against you; You put them to shame, because God had rejected them.” (Ps. 53:5). David previously gave a similar warning: “5 There they are in great dread, for God is with a righteous generation.” (Ps. 14:5). For a time, pride may blind sinners to the need to fear God. But a “great dread” will ultimately come to sinners who fail to repent and seek Him. This can include sorrow and judgment. Thus, David pleaded with God to put the fear of Him into the hearts of sinners: “20 Put them in fear, Lord; let the nations know that they are merely human. Selah.” (Ps. 9:17-20).

  • Although God is slow to anger and quick to forgive, He will eventually judge sin. Every person can praise God for being slow to anger and quick to forgive: “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, . . .”’ (Ex. 34:6-7). “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” (Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 116:5). Jesus never changes (Heb. 13:8). He is slow to anger and quick to forgive because He wants all to come to repentance: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Ro. 2:4). Yet, because God is just (2 Thess. 1:6), He will one day judge all sin (Ps. 94:23). Jesus will one day come to judge the nations and His enemies (Joel 2:1; Rev. 8-9; Is. 11:4; 63:1-6; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 9:6; Ps. 110:4-7). Satan and his demons will be judged in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20). Thus, every person must take sin seriously by repenting of their sin and by fearing God through hating evil (Prov. 8:13).

  • Solomon learned through his mistakes that wisdom comes from fearing God. Through his many mistakes, Solomon learned that God’s wisdom required fearing Him: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7; 2:5). “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecc. 12:13; Ps. 111:10; 1 Sam. 12:24). Solomon defined the fear of the Lord as “hating” evil (Prov. 8:13). Solomon was the wisest and richest man to ever live (1 Kgs. 3:12, 4:30; 10:23). “I said to myself, ‘Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.”’ (Ecc. 1:16). Yet, without the fear of God, Solomon’s great wisdom, knowledge, and wealth could not prevent him from descending into covetousness, licentiousness, rebellion, and idolatry. His life should be a warning to every believer. Unless you cling to Jesus, knowledge, wisdom, and wealth cannot save you from drifting in your walk from Him.

  • Judge the desires of your flesh. Jesus warns believers to make no provision for the flesh: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14; Col. 3:10). Judging the desires of the flesh includes making sure that you cannot divide your loyalties between God and the things of the world (Matt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). Are you cutting out of your life any area where you have embraced sin?

  • God will not forsake you when He disciplines you. Even though God disciplined David’s descendants, He promised never to forsake them and remove their right to the kingship: “but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (2 Sam. 7:15; Ps. 89:33). Sin would, however, limit the extent of their blessing. For example, God limited their kingdom to the land of Judah: ‘“However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”’ (1 Kgs. 11:13; 2 Kgs. 17:18). He later limited their blessings further by removing Edom from their control and plaguing the Jews with political instability. Yet, He promised that He would never leave or forsake His people. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). Like David’s descendants, sin may prevent you from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings. If you have sinned, repent. Don’t engage in open rebellion and squander the fullness of His blessings.

7. Rejecting Salvation: A Fool Also Rejects God’s Offer of Salvation. Ps. 53:6.

  • David praised God for the path to salvation that He offers. While the foolish reject what God offers, David praised God because He offers His people salvation and restoration: “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come from Zion! When God restores the fortunes of His people, Jacob shall rejoice, Israel shall be glad.” (Ps. 53:6). David concluded a prior psalm with this same promise (Ps. 14:7). “David knew that God was a refuge for His people and that the workers of iniquity would never win. Yet that was hard to see at the present time, so David expressed his great longing that God would bring the victory and deliverance He had promised to His people.” (David Guzik on Ps. 53) (italics original).3 Only fools fail to realize their need for salvation and restoration.

  • Out of love, Jesus died on the cross so that everyone might find eternal life. Out of love, God planned before time began to send Jesus to die on the cross to allow all who believe to have eternal life: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,’” (Jo. 11:25-26; 14:19). As a further sign of God’s love, the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer to guide and help you to be holy for Jesus (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

  • Offer an alleged sinner God’s hope. David wrote his praise for God’s salvation at a time when the workers of iniquity dominated. Instead of feeling depressed, he placed his hope in God’s future deliverance: “Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will make Your ear attentive to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that mankind, which is of the earth, will no longer cause terror.” (Ps. 10:17-18). “He will also hear their cry for help and save them.” (Ps. 145:19b). “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14). Are you offering the broken-hearted hope through Jesus?