Study of Psalm 14 (Part Two)

The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one (14:2-3 CSB)

Having expressed mankind’s view of God and the conduct that flows from that view, David shows us God’s view of mankind. God is revealing what he thinks to us! The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race… What a picture of the infinite and holy God, as if bending down to examine his creatures closely. God is letting us know that his verdict has not been reached by mere hearsay, but that he himself has examined the human heart and the way of life that comes from the heart. As in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord presents himself as a righteous Judge, establishing the facts before bringing judgment (cf. Genesis 18:20-21.) God watches us, and he knows us intimately (Psalm 139:1-6). Now to be examined so closely may comfort us or cause us to feel most uncomfortable, depending on our relationship to the God who knows us.

What has God looked for in his examination? The answer is given: to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. Sin has darkened human understanding. Although God’s revelation of himself is very clear and mankind was created with the capability of understanding it, sin has so affected people that no one understands (Ephesians 4:17-19). In addition, this search of mankind reveals that “no one seeks God” (Romans 3:11). Notice that modern evangelicalism has often denied the truth by claiming that people everywhere are seeking God, or the “Christmas card theology” of “wise men still seek him.” Wise people might, but all sinners are foolish, as we have already seen. What people fail to comprehend is that the sinner wants nothing to do with the true God. He or she will never seek the Holy One. The sinner may seek religion or some kind of a false god, but the God who judges righteously is far from their desire.

Someone might object: “But I know of someone who told me that they looked for God for many years before they found him.” We answer: Let God be true and every person a liar (cf. Romans 3:4). They may have been looking for some way out of personal difficulties or a burdened conscience because of sin, or looking for some kind of spiritual experience, but they were not seeking the true and living God. Instead, the Savior has told us that he is the one who seeks the sinner (Luke 15; 19:10).

Verse three records the condemning result of God’s investigation. While we “listen in his court,” the holy Judge of all announces three charges against all people everywhere:

  • All have turned away… Sinners have turned aside from God himself and from the laws he has commanded us to obey. God himself is the highest good in the universe, and his laws proclaim the best way to live. Yet such is humankind’s perversity that sinners constantly turn aside from good to pursue evil.
  • Notice that the idea of the first phrase of these verses quickly becomes the practice of this second phrase: all alike have become corrupt…” Humans cannot live in a moral vacuum. Having rejected what is good and glorious, sinners seek what stinks with corruption. We may not realize the extent of the corruption, like the person who works where there is objectionable odors often becomes used to them. But the stench is still there! Observe that sinners join in this practice of corruption together (cf. Romans 1:32).
  • As if to make sure that no one wiggles out, David adds in his song, “There is no one who does good, not even one” We often hear of a person doing some noble deed, and may be tempted to think that there might be an exception to this rule. But when we understand that all good actions must proceed from a heart of love for God and others and from a desire to glorify God and to help others, we know that all have failed miserably (Romans 3:23).

Let us not lightly dismiss the words of this psalm. In the words of Spurgeon, “This is the verdict of the all-seeing Jehovah [Yahweh], who cannot exaggerate or mistake… Do we not confess that we by nature are corrupt, and do we not bless the sovereign grace which has renewed us in the spirit of our minds, that sin may no more have dominion over us, but that grace may rule and reign?”

Grace and peace

Seeking God Successfully (Part Two)

Psalm 27:8

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek” (ESV).

We have heard God’s call to seek him. Next, let’s think about our response to God’s invitation.

Above all, let us realize that this is a personal invitation to a personal relationship. Seek my face. The living, Holy One wants to meet us up close. He doesn’t hold us at arm’s length. I have an injured shoulder that hinders me occasionally in giving or receiving hugs. Once, someone told me that my hug seemed awkward or reluctant, but that wasn’t the case at all. It simply felt physically uncomfortable at that moment. God has no such limitations. He, through his grace and love in Christ, is always able to invite us to draw very near. Seek my face.

God invites us to seek him, not the rituals of religion. This is where so many go astray from personal contact with God himself. Here is one way this happens. In the law or old covenant, God commanded Israel the way in which they could live in the presence of God and worship him at the tabernacle/temple. God set up laws of ritual cleanliness, prescribed sacrifices, which were administered through priests, as necessary to approach him. The religions of the ungodly in their worship of false gods also had religious rituals. But the true God ended all such things in Christ at his cross. Now true worship is to approach God the Father through the Son on the basis of his once for all finished sacrifice by the Spirit. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:18 NIV). Jesus made it clear that the new covenant era was different from the age of the law covenant. Jesus told her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24 CSB).

It is important to draw near to God through Christ and his finished work alone. We do not have prescribed rituals, because the Lord Jesus himself is our access to the Father. We do need the works of the law, because we live in the power of the Spirit. When we read the word, we hear the written voice of God in our personal nearness with him. Reading the Scriptures is not the means to gain God’s acceptance for a personal relationship. Instead, when we read, we simply listen to him in a state of nearness. The same is true of prayer, which is the believer’s communication with God. We speak with the living God as his dearly loved children, because he has brought us near in Christ (1 Peter 3:18). We meditate on God’s written word, because we have heard his voice and delight to ponder his word to us, as a husband or wife reflects on the words of their beloved. We eat and drink at the Lord’s Supper, not to receive grace, but because we remember the Lord in whom we already have grace. We sing in services, not as a means to gain God’s ear, but because he delights in the united voices of his children, as we declare his greatness to each other.

Therefore, live joyfully in your nearness to the God of glory. When you meet with your brothers and sisters in the Father’s family, delight in the blessing of shared grace. “We are here together with God the Father—set free, adopted, accepted, and eternally loved!”

Grace and peace, David

Psalm 63 (Part Two)

God, you are my God; I eagerly seek you. I thirst for you; my body faints for you in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water (63:1 CSB).

David begins with a basic confession of faith. God, you are my God… David confessed that trouble, heartache, anguish, and even spiritual discipline for his sins could not affect his relationship with his God. The Lord was as much his God in the Desert of Judah as when he was in the palace in Jerusalem. It might be easier for us to declare our faith when all is well, but faith will freely speak with conviction when hard pressed. His statement was based on the core covenant promise made by God to his chosen people (Genesis 17:7-8; cf. Hebrews 8:10 for the same in the new covenant.) Our world may collapse around us, but God’s covenant faithfulness never changes. He is our God at all times. We may always call him my God. “How sweet is such language! Is there any other word comparable to it for delights?” (Spurgeon)

Flowing from this confession of faith is David’s fervent search for a sense of God’s gracious presence. He wants to know, to sense that God is with him in his trial! Haven’t all believers experienced this? “The longing of these verses is not the groping of a stranger, feeling his way towards God, but the eagerness of a friend, almost of a lover, to be in touch with the one he holds dear” (Kidner).

David sang I eagerly seek you. When in difficulty, it is natural to seek relief. David profited from his affliction by deciding to seek God first (Matthew 6:33). “He doth not say, my soul thirsteth for the blood of my enemies, but my soul thirsteth for thee; nor doth he say, my soul thirsteth for deliverance out of this dry and barren wilderness, but my soul thirsteth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is, nor he doth not say, my soul thirsteth for a crown, a kingdom, but my soul thirsteth for thee…” (The Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 2, p. 91).

I thirst for you; my body faints for you… Observe the involvement of his whole being after God. Though the body may be the instrument of sin (Romans 6:6), the body is created by God and so not evil in itself. Believers should offer their bodies and the parts of their bodies to God, for service to him, instead of in service to sin (Romans 6:12-13, 19; 12:1). We look forward to the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). Observe also the intensity of David’s desire for God. “Thirst is an insatiable longing after that which is one of the most essential supports of life; there is no reasoning with it, no forgetting it, no despising it, no overcoming it by stoical indifference. Thirst will be heard: the whole man must yield to its power…” (Spurgeon).

David continues in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. He sang of the desperate need he felt at that time (2 Samuel 16:2; 17:29). Yet there he found his help in God! We do not have to be in a comfortable place to receive comfort. We may go to God in the most unfavorable situations. As John Piper (Desiring God, p. 24, first edition) pointed out, this also testifies of the true character of God. The Lord is happy, joyful, content, and satisfied. Who would want to seek someone who was frustrated, dismal, gloomy, and discontented? When we see God in his glory (Psalm 115:3; Revelation 4:11; etc.), we realize that he is more than able to help us in our misery.

My friend, are you thirsty today? Hear anew the invitation of the Lord Jesus. On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-38 NIV). Go to the Lord and drink deeply!

Grace and peace, David