May 4: Psalm 53
The biblical fool
Short meter 66.86 St. Thomas (I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord), p. 19 Trentham (Breathe on me, Breath of God)
Southwell (Lord Jesus, Think on Me), p. 50
“There is no God,” has said the foolish in his heart;
Corrupt are they; their works are vile; they all from good depart.
Upon the sons of men God looked from heav’n abroad,
To see if any understood, if any sought for God.
Together all are vile; they all are backward gone;
And there is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one.
Have men that evil work no knowledge gained at all,
Who eat my people as their bread, and on God do not call?
Great terror on them came, and they were much dismayed,
Although there was no cause why they should be at all afraid.
His bones who thee besieged God has dispersed abroad;
Thou hast them put to shame, because they were despised of God.
O that salvation, God would out of Zion bring!
Let Is-r’el’s help arise from Zion! God will bring
His captives! Jacob shall rejoice, and Is-ra-el shall sing.
When God restores His people, then all Israel shall sing.
Though Psalm 53 is almost completely identical with Psalm 14 (yesterday’s psalm), it is included twice in the Psalter for our instruction, and a second metrical setting of it with a different tune may bring further insight and reflection.
In Romans 3:10-12, the Apostle Paul quotes this text with special emphasis on the universal need for salvation. His point is that, strictly speaking, there are really no just people in this world, and he quotes our psalm text to prove the point:. “There is none who is righteous, no, not one; There is none who understand; There is none who seeks after God; There is none who does good, no, not one.” Paul is using our psalm here to address the major theme of Romans – that only God can justify us, and that God does so only in Jesus the Lord. People are helpless if left to their own capacities and accomplishments, and they are foolish to imagine otherwise. We do not have it within us to find God. We do not have it within us even to begin looking for God. We do not have it within us even to want to look for God. This is a very important truth taught in Holy Scripture, and it stands foursquare against any optimism about “man’s quest for God.” God can be sought only in the measure that He reveals Himself in holy grace. Whatever searching for God is undertaken by sinful human beings when left to their own devices, will invariably involve idolatry. This truth that the Epistle to the Romans finds in the Book of Psalms is central to our life of prayer. Christian devotion begins on the basis of God’s own self-revelation in holy grace. Worship is our Spirit-given response to God’s saving intervention in our destiny. (Reardon, p. 103-104)