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We all support the wrong team… Psalm 14

August 24, 2011
by

At our church we’ve recently started a Monday night football game. Its being going well, with about 14 guys turning up each week. The standard isn’t amazing which is good because then everyone can be involved. But just imagine if one day we had a call from Sir Alex Ferguson, asking us to put out our best 11 against his best, if Team Man Utd really did take on Team Wellfield. Given that Team Man Utd have won the premiership more than a few times, I think we can safely say what the result will be.

Well as we look at Psalm 14 today, something of the farce of us taking on Team Man Utd is being placed before us. There are two things we’re going to think about today, firstly all people start on the loosing team, second that God will triumph.

ALL PEOPLE START ON THE LOOSING TEAM v.1-3

Have a look down at verse 1, pretty hard hitting isn’t! The person who denies God is counted as a moral fool! Now in our 21st century western society we don’t like to name call, we don’t like to label one set of beliefs as stupid or foolish, but David had no such qualms. He believes that saying to yourself that God doesn’t exist is just foolish, and he is going to demonstrate why in verses 4-6, once he has finished his indictment. David goes on to say in verse 1-3 that those who think like this, who pretend that God doesn’t exist, become corrupt, they are willing to do whatever is necessary for their own gain, and are thus vile or extremely unpleasant. For David then there is a link between, what you believe and what you do, how you are in yourself.

If you believe there is no God, there is nothing to stop you from following your own selfish agenda and ultimately this leads you in to a dark place. This is foolish not only because of what it does to you, not only because of what it does to society but ultimately because verse 2:

‘The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men…’

Just because people don’t believe in God, doesn’t mean that God lets them off the hook, it doesn’t mean God isn’t watching and taking note. God, verse 2 goes on to say, is looking down:

‘The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men…to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.’

God is looking for the faithful, God is looking for those who understand, God is looking for those who seek Him BUT says verse 3:

‘ALL have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is NO ONE who does good,
not even one.’

No one it seems passes God’s test, no one counts as faithful, no one seems to understand, no one ultimately is seeking God. Atheism isn’t really on the agenda here, no David isn’t pointing the spot light so much at Richard Dawkins, as he is at the whole world, everyone it seems is in disbelief. You see human beings aren’t all that stupid, we know in our heart of hearts that if they admit that God is in charge, well then we’ve got to pay attention to Him, got to listen to Him and live in a certain way. As humans we know this it’s written into our hearts and consciences, and so wanting to do our own thing, go our own way, be our own boss, we say there is no God!

We are, to go back to the metaphor, all amateur footballers who think by pretending we can beat Man Utd. Putting God out of our minds, convincing ourselves that He doesn’t exist, leaves us in the driving seat, it allows us to do as we wish, make the decisions we want, live however we like. It’s fairly simple and seems fairly clever and grown up and we ALL, everyone of us, chooses to take this option and you know what, how we lives shows this to be true. Remember verse 1, we become selfish, we become corrupt, we choose things that benefit us, over doing the right thing. We choose the largest plate of food and give the smaller to our partner, we spend all the money we earn on ourselves and never think of the needy down the road, we choose the photos in which we look nice, regardless of how anyone else looks, verse 1 is right we’re selfish, every single one of us. Our lives give away our beliefs and as we’ve seen in verse 3, this isn’t just those who claim no belief but each and everyone of us, those who go to Church included.

Now for most of us here, this isn’t anything new. Many of us have faced up to this reality in the past, we’ve looked at our own lives, and we’ve admitted our own selfishness, and we’ve admitted our own lack of belief in God. But whether this is new to any of us or not, what this truth should do is humble us. Humble us because whether we’re Christians or not, we know in our hearts that this is how we live day to day, we know that our lives are not right and if we’re still not convinced we only need to ask those we live with and no doubt they’ll be able to point out the truth of verses 1-3 in our lives. So whether this is the first time you’ve faced up to this truth, or like me the hundredth time, verses 1-3, ought to remind us of what we’re really like and humble us before God and each other. If this is the case then none of us should be those who point the finger at another, none of us should be looking down on others, because whenever we do that, we are NOT only judging the other person but we are in fact judging ourselves. But if we’ve rightly understood these first 3 verses, then we know that on our own we can’t stand before God, and this puts us in a difficult position, because knowing what we’re like, we know that heaven is a long way off for each one us. And so before we look at verses 4-6, we need to jump ahead to verse 7, to find or to be reminded of the great truth, which sets us free from our situation, and from our selfish lives.

Have a look down at verse 7:

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Here David is praying that God would rescue His people, that out of Israel would come someone who could be that salvation, who could save Israel not only from their enemies, but from themselves. David is looking forward to this hope, not knowing what it might look like. We however are far better off than David ever was, because we can know the beginning of that salvation story, we can know the name of Him who came out of Israel, to set His people free.

Because we live this side of the cross, we know that it is Jesus who offers us the rescue from ourselves and the judgement which will surely follow. We have all turned away but are all offered a way back. When salvation from Israel came in the form of Jesus, He not only showed us the way to live, but by His death and resurrection gave us a way in which we can leave behind that old way of holding God to one side, of pretending He doesn’t exist, of living for ourselves, and instead enter into a new life. Whether we’re those who have never recognised God’s existence, or whether we have been Christians for many years and look back on our lives over the last week and see actions which have proclaimed our disbelief, we both find our rescue in the cross.

For one group, to a new life and for the rest of us, a fresh start in that new life which we’ve already found. For those of us who have never accepted the rescue, its like playing for Wellfield against Man Utd who are being beaten 40-0 only to be offered the chance to swap teams with five minutes to go, and for those of us who have chosen already chosen to be on the winning team, and have kept slipping up and falling back into our old habits, its like being called over to the manager and being told it doesn’t matter, and just to get on with the game! The clearest example I can think of, is in the gospels AND is the man who in answer to Jesus cries out:

‘I do believe, forgive my unbelief’.

This man sees clearly that believing in Jesus, doesn’t remove all our doubts and it doesn’t mean we immediately stopping sinning, or living for ourselves rather each day we must fight to follow God, rather than ourselves, spot our areas of unbelief and ask Jesus to forgive us and to change us. Now as we’ve seen we can be saved from our selfish lives, we can switch from Team Wellfield to Team Man Utd and live with God in charge, even if we do this imperfectly and so as a result there are now people in both teams. One team made up of those who have submitted to Christ and one team made up of those who have not.

As we move from the first section to the second we now find David addressing the world as we find it, a world where these two teams are at odds with each other. If the first three verses showed us that ALL people start on the loosing team, then verses 4-6 show us that

GOD WILL TRIUMPH

‘Will evildoers never learn—
those who devour my people as men eat bread
and who do not call on the LORD?
There they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is their refuge.’

Without help to realise our mistakes, and to accept the salvation which is at hand, David says that we are all naturally short sighted, forgetting or more like deliberately ignoring the fact that God is with His people because in verse 4 they go about attacking God’s people. It’s one level of stupidity to deny God from your own life, but its whole new level when you move out of your private sphere to attack God’s people as if God won’t be even more offended by such behaviour.

Here David, looks around Him and sees a world committed to perpetuating the myth of verse 1, who seek out those who know the truth, and to one way or another, end the witness of a faithful life, which challenges and reminds them of their own folly. As Christians are moved out of the public sphere, those who have continued to be, what David has branded as moral ‘fools’, seek to hide those who show by their life that God does exist and show the lie of those who continue in their unbelief.

Now again we want to be careful not to just assign these verses to those, who actively persecute Christians, certainly they are included but this, one way or another, includes all those, who continue to deny God. In fact if like me you came to faith later in life, no doubt you will have been one of these people. Whenever a person tries to convince a Christian to listen to them rather than God, they are in fact, to use David’s language, ‘devouring God’s people like bread’.

‘Don’t stop drinking now… another drink won’t hurt’ says one mate, ‘Why don’t you stay in and NOT go to church this week’ says one husband to his wife, ‘Say your prayers later,’ says one mother to her daughter. All these are just as dangerous if not more so than active persecution because on the surface it looks so harmless. But for the Christian listening to such advice is the beginning of a slippery slope, which leads to slowly distancing ourselves from God, slowly distancing ourselves from God’s people, and before we know it, saying as well as living out, verse 1 ‘there is no God’! These people who slowly pick away at God’s children, perhaps without even realising they’re doing it, just by simply allowing their own disbelief to influence another, are short-sighted, says David because they choose to forget verse 6:

God is present in the company of the righteous…
…the LORD is their refuge.

This Psalm is true to life isn’t it, as we look around our world, as we read the papers, as we live as Christians, we too feel just like David don’t we. We see the world, a place where sin is rife, where good people are mocked, the poor are trampled on and Christians are persecuted; we only need to look at the headlines this week to know this to be true. Not that the world is as bad as it could be, but rather that there is no sphere which is untainted. It’s a reality which the Psalms have repeatedly brought us back to, and we’ve had various bits of advice as to how to go about dealing with a world such as this. Psalm 14 has us see the world in a different light to those Psalms which have gone before. If in Psalm 12 we saw the David who felt afraid, and in Psalm 13, we saw the David who felt abandoned, then in Psalm 14 we see the David who is secure. David sees the moral corruption and short sightedness of the world around Him, and as I read Psalm 14 for the first time I got the feeling, David is almost laughing at the futility of those who have set their face against God.

‘Will evildoers never learn..’

And we too can face the world, for all its falsehood, and confusion, for all its certainty that there is no good, and we too can laugh at the futility of it all. Because verse 5:

‘God is present in the company of the righteous’

And we even more so than David because we’ve seen Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

If in the first section, verse 7 reminded us of our hope when we see the lives we live are full of disbelief, then verse 7helps us in this section as it holds the answer for those of us who feel the very real persecution, however subtle, of the world closing in on us. If we look around us and see only sin, see only disbelief and long for that final day when God will set it all to rights, then we too can cry out:

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

When will this happen! Well as we’ve already seen, it has in a sense already happened, as Jesus brought in His new Kingdom and called on us all to join, leaving the old ways behind and living in a new way in a new community, but the final vindication, the final dealing with all of sin, all rebellion against God and a final rescuing of His people is yet to happen, and like David we are still waiting, but with more evidence than David that this day is on its way. For the Jesus who hung on a cross, and rose again victorious, is the same Jesus who has promised to return to set the world right, once and for all. Salvation will come, for one final time Jesus will return to the earth, never to leave it again, but to end the suffering, to wipe away the tears, and to set right what is at present so very wrong. And it is that day which keeps David laughing, for then those who say ‘There is no God’ will finally be forced to admit their folly, to admit they are morally bankrupt, and then those of us who struggle with sin and disbelief, despite being God’s children will struggle no more, and on that day Jesus will be clearly seen as God victorious.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2011 7:16 pm

    Inspiring and awesome post, Mike! I’m so glad I stopped by!

  2. August 25, 2011 12:22 am

    I do believe there’s some supernatural power out there controlling everything… an inspirational eye opener….Thanks for sharing Mike. 🙂

    • August 25, 2011 7:00 am

      Thanks for stopping by Abhisek… glad you liked the post and that it made you think!

  3. August 25, 2011 3:19 pm

    Hi Mike

    In my charismatic/evangelical days I too believed the same things as you presently do re judgement and redemption – no longer though after my reading of aramaic thought behind words like righteous/evil etc and my recent experiences of Divine Presence.

    Have a wee look at Isaiah 45v7 in the Hebrew – not in the NIV as they’ve cheated in the translation – King James actually has it surprisingly correct. I’ve never heard a sermon on it since I was hijacked by Yeshua back in 1968.

    You’ll get a flavour of where I’m coming from on my blog at http://therodigalprophet and in my spiritual memoir ‘The Prodigal Prophet’

    Keep spreading the really good news of Yeshua’s Love

    Blessings

    Dylan

    • August 25, 2011 4:29 pm

      Thanks for your comment, I’ll take a look at your blog when I get chance. I took a look at the verse you suggested but not sure how it feeds into your theology. I suggest you read Romans for a full exposition of God’s teaching on judgement and redemption. Hope that this helps you to see the wisdom of God as taught in Scripture and understood by Christians down through the centuries!

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