To the choirmaster. Of David.
1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.
2The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
3They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
4Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?
5There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.
6You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.
7Oh, 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.
I’m old enough that when I hear the word “fool” I usually think of Mr. “T” who was a TV / movie personality back in the early 1980’s. In Rocky III, where he played Clubber Lang, he uttered the phrase “I pity the fool . . .” and it became his identifier. We categorize a “fool” as someone who isn’t very bright. They make bad decisions and deserve our pity. But in the Bible he word “fool” carries a much darker connotation.
For the Hebrew, “fool” is defined as someone who is morally deficient. They aren’t simply a little dumb, they are evil. One of the Old Testament stories of King David involves a man whose name was Nabal which literally means “fool” and is the Hebrew word used here in this Psalm. He was wicked and treated people badly. His story ends with his own death and his widow actually marries David (before he actually became king.) As we see in this passage, a fool actually denies the existence of God and feels free to mistreat God’s people and of course the Lord is not pleased with this attitude.
The Apostle Paul quotes this Psalm in his great explanation of our sinful state in the book of Romans. In pointing to the fact that all people are sinful (both Jew and Gentile) he quotes verse 1, helping us to understand that only in Jesus Christ are we free from such foolish thinking because only in Jesus are we free from our bondage to sin.
9What 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, 10as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
He refers to our propensity for foolishness again in 1 Corinthians, helping us understand that in Christ Jesus we can gain wisdom from God and cast off the arrogant denial of His existence, thus gaining His righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:27–31
27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
After defining what it is to be a fool (verses 1-3), describing the fate of the fool (verses 4-6), our Psalm for today appropriately ends with a brief prayer returning the reader to a focus upon the Lord and the salvation that only He can bring. Our proper response? Rejoicing in the Lord and thus allowing Him to remove our “foolishness.”