The Righteous One’s Censure of Atheists

a brief study of Psalm 14, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 25 Aug 2006

Psalm 14 is one of the dark and gloomy psalms. It is quoted in the New Testament by the apostle Paul in another dark passage, where he speaks about the depravity of man.

Paul is referring to verse 1 and 3 of our text when he says in Romans 3:10-11:

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom 3:10-11).

Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is saying that what David says in the Psalm is true of all mankind and of all ages.

David might have written this Psalm at a time when he was very, very discouraged as he beheld the darkness and sin of all the people around him. We don’t know when exactly it was. It could have been before he became king when he was being pursued by Saul in the wilderness and when the people who supported him were the off-scouring of society.

Or it might have been after he became king, as the reference to salvation coming out of Zion may suggest.

Whatever, may be the case, we can be sure that this Psalm is the words of Christ. While David could in some sense speak of Israel as being "my people" (v. 4), it is Christ alone who can speak of the Church throughout the ages as "my people".

If this Psalm is merely the words of David, its scope would be very small, and the validity of what is said very limited. After all, who is David to judge that there is none that seeketh after God and none that doeth good. Even if David were referring only to Israel, he as a sinner has no moral basis to make such a sweeping judgement.

But Christ who is without sin has every right. And when he speaks of ‘my people’ he is speaking of the seed of the woman throughout the ages in contrast to the seed of the serpent.

Now, this Psalm has two parts, which may be entitled. "The Present Time" (vv. 1-4); and "The Time To Come" (vv. 5-7). Let’s study this Psalm according to this division.

1. The Present Time

1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

What Christ is saying was true during David’s time. It is also true in our time. Man is made in the image of God. There are no natural atheists. But there are many practical atheists—both inside and outside the church. They say in their heart: "There is no God". They do not want to be accountable to God. So they try to convince themselves that there is no God in order that they might live any way they wanted. …

The result is they live as if God does not exist. They are corrupt in their thoughts and speech. They do abominable things. Indeed, as they do not do anything in the fear of God, they cannot do good.

But these are foolish. They are fools, says the Lord. Only fools will say that there is no God.

Where are these fools to be found? They are found everywhere. In fact, the apostle Paul suggests that every natural man is a fool because of the Fall. The Fall renders every natural descendant of Adam spiritually dead. Only in Christ can anyone have spiritual life.

Therefore in the eyes of God, there is none righteous, no not one:

2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

Look! It is God who is doing the searching. He did not send a man or an angel, for they might unintentionally miss someone.

God Himself is looking down with burning eyes that pierce through the heart and soul of man. No corner of the earth is hid from His all-seeing eyes. No period of history is spared his scrutiny as He searches for the one that understands and seek Him by his own inclination and power.

Are there any righteous? Any with spiritual understanding? Any that seek God? No, not one! There is none at all.

3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

There is none that doeth good, no not one. The Fall has made man altogether filthy. The have all turned aside from the path of righteousness. They are no longer walking in the way of holiness. All their righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God.

The irony is that they do not see it nor acknowledge their iniquity. Instead, they continue to live and do wickedly. And their wickedness has touched the apple of God’s eyes, the people of the Lord:

4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.

It is hard to imagine that the workers of iniquity should not know the way of truth. But it is a fact. They have fooled themselves into living without God.

It is hard to imagine that the workers of iniquity should not be awakened from their foolishness just by looking at the stark difference between their lives and the lives of those who are redeemed by the Lord. But it is a fact they are not only often unmoved by the righteous lives of the saints, but they trample them underfoot.

They eat them up like they eat bread. They call not upon the Lord, and they think nothing about taking advantage of the saints.

But the time is coming when this will come to an end. Our Lord sees it clearly.

2. The Time to Come

He sees it as if it is right before his eyes as something that has already happened:

5 There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous. 6 Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.

The fools and wicked in the world are cringing in fear when they had before instilled fear upon the righteous. They had mocked the poor when they testified that their dependence and refuge is the LORD. They shamed their counsel (v. 6).

But now the Lord will laugh at them. They were foolish, proud and self-sufficient. But now they are cringing in fear calling upon the mountains and the rocks to cover them for the day of the wrath of the Lamb is come.

In Psalm 53, which is almost word for word identical with this psalm, we have an apocalyptic description of that day:

"There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them" (Ps 53:5).

That dreadful day will see the end of hope for the foolish.

But while we long for that day, we must desire too that the foolish might be made wise; and deliverance for the righteous comes in this life.

It is with this desire, that we echo the Lord’s words:

7 Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

Oh that salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! Oh that the Lord will redeem Israel through the ministration of the Word coming out of Zion.

There are many in Israel, or in the visible church who are sadly as yet foolish, who would trample underfoot the poor. But these are not without hope as long as they are within reach of the sword of the Spirit issuing forth from the throne of Zion—the throne or pulpit of Christ.

Oh that the Lord would give salvation to Israel. Oh that the Lord would change the foolish in Israel into the wise by His grace.

What a joy it will be for God’s people when that happens. Oh shall we not pray? Shall we not pray for genuine conversion in the church?

Shall we not pray for each other’s conversion? Conversion is repentance of sin and faith in the Lord. We need more repentance. We need more faith.

Shall we not pray for the conversion of our little one in whose heart foolishness is bound?

If the Lord will revive us and drive out all our foolishness, do you know what a blessing it will be upon the church?

Oh what a blessing it will be!

The minister will have less heartaches.

The members will enjoy walking in the way of the Lord without the burden of guilt.

And more will be willing to serve the Lord with their time and substance.

The elders will be able to spend more time to encourage the members positively rather than spending so much time on church discipline.

The deacons will be able to serve the Lord with joy seeing that their work is greatly appreciated.

Misunderstandings resulting from children’s foolishness will be minimised.

And there will be more who will be willing to put their hands to the plough and sickle and enter into the harvest fields.


Let us pray, beloved brethren, to this end.

7 Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.


— JJ Lim