It's So Good It Got Repeated!


Psalm 53
To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath [possibly a sad tune used during sickness or affliction]. A Maskil of David.
1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.
2God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand [OR “who act wisely”], who seek after God.
3They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
4Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?
5There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
6Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Psalm 14
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.
 
Our reading for today may sound very familiar to you as we trek through the Psalms together, for it is a remake of Psalm 14. I have also included that in the post for today so that you can make comparisons if you want. Since David is credited with writing both of these psalms one must grant him the right to do with them whatever he wants and if he want to edit a previous writing, as the human author he is most welcome to do so. This is not the only instance of an earlier work being revamped and entered into the text a second time.

Psalm 53 is probably placed between Psalm 52, which refers to Doeg, and Psalm 54, which refers to the Ziphites, because it is intended to remind us of a fool named Nabal whom David encountered during his flight from Saul. The Hebrew word for fool in Psalm 53:1 is nabal, the same word as the name Nabal. Between his trouble with Doeg (as referenced in Psalm 52) and his escape from the Ziphites, David nearly killed Nabal because of his scornful treatment of him, but he was prevented from doing this by the wise intervention of Nabal’s wife, Abigail. [All of these stories take place in 1 Samuel 21-25]
Brug, J. F. (1989). Psalms 1–72 (2nd ed., p. 222). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House.

While reading this psalm we are able to empathize with David completely. We too look out upon a landscape where the wicked seems to thrive and the godly seem to struggle. We understand David’s desire to look to the heavens and ask God for vengeance and justice. The good news is that God willingly grants justice and vengeance but perhaps not on our timetable. We serve a God who is full of second chances. His mercy outweighs He wrath and it appears that He is giving even the wicked more time to get right with Him.

I am daily grateful that God’s character includes that merciful patience because I too count on that grace and willingness to reach out to me even when I am doing the wrong thing. So while I understand David’s plea for justice and vengeance, I am grateful that God does it in His own patient timing and grants me that same grace.

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