- An earthquake-ravaged a country previously devastated by anarchy and poverty.
- Doctors predict new surges of disease in an out-of-control global pandemic.
- A frenzied evacuation of U.S. diplomats and civilians kicked into high gear when a Middle Eastern country’s government collapses. Many will be left behind.
I could go on listing the tribulations of this world.
The first four verses of Psalm 14 trumpet a similar song of hopelessness.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers, who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord? Psalm 14:1-4 ESV
Psalm 14 laments widespread corruption in our world. The despair I am witnessing today is not actually a new low in the state of the world. Instead, it is a revelation of the cycle of sin that moves across the earth when humans deny God and become fools.
These first four verses describe fools.
- Fools decide that God does not exist.
- Fools commit abominable deeds.
- Fools do not understand or seek God.
- A fool’s presence corrodes the morality of others.
- Fools have no knowledge.
- Fools abuse others for their own purposes.
However, Verse 2 reminds me that God sees. He looks down and takes note of those who seek God.
Just as the psalmist appears to have abandoned all hope, the second half of Psalm 14 interrupts with three glorious promises.
There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.Oh, 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. Psalm 14:5-8 ESV
These three verses create a picture of hope.
- God is with the generation of the righteous. Fools will experience terror when they come against God. He does not suffer fools. God is Jehovah-Shammah – the Lord is present, and His dominion is in all places.
- The Lord is the refuge for the poor. Therefore, fools should be ashamed of how they have treated God’s people. God is Jehovah- Rohi – The Lord our Shepherd.
- The Lord will restore the fortunes, the well-being, the damage of the earth, and our response is to rejoice. God is Jehovah Nissi – The Lord our Victory.
The psalm began as a community lament and ends with a community rejoicing in the victory of the now and not yet. In the last verse, I catch a glimpse of a someday celebration on the horizon. However, sometimes I need to have what Katherine Wolf calls a tribulation party today. The kind of celebration comes before the victory as I give thanks for what God is doing now and how He will continue to work despite the hopeless headlines. I may need some defiant celebrations amid the suffering and to recall a picture of hope provided by God. God’s light truly is brighter in the darkest of times.
Lord, show me how to latch onto hope as I call out to you. May I avoid the traps of the foolish ones? I know you always see what is happening, and you are working even when I don’t see it. Thank you that I can pour out my sadness and lament to you, and I can choose to celebrate amid suffering. Amen
I believe that the Lord wants us to tend our souls. When I feel deeply troubled by the headlines, circumstances, and/or people I care about, lament is a normal reaction. Finding a liturgy for lament like Psalm 14 is a great place to start.