God and the Atheist

 

The atheist cannot see God, but God can see the atheist

Psalm 53

By Don Ruhl

Listen to someone who does not know what he is talking about. He makes a fool of himself.

Years ago there was a television commercial of a blonde, saying, “I speak escargot. I’m bilateral.” She tried to make it sound like she spoke Espanol (Spanish) and English, wanting us to believe she was bilingual, but she told us in French that she spoke snail and that she was two sides. We saw her delving into a subject that was over her head and she made a mess of it. She looked like a fool and we got a good laugh out of it, although I have forgotten what product was advertised.

How can the fool speak on the grandest of all subjects, which is God? When the fool speaks of God, the fool is even farther out of his league than the blonde.

In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon showed the folly of fools talking out of their league.

Excellent speech is not becoming to a fool,
Much less lying lips to a prince.
(Pro 17.7)

Like the legs of the lame that hang limp
Is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
(Pro 26.7)

Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard
Is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
(Pro 26.9)

Psalm 53 shows that excellent speech, such as speaking of the existence of God, is not becoming to a fool; that a proverb, such as saying anything positive about God, hangs limp and powerless in the mouth of fools; that a proverb, for example, ordering your life after the commands of God, has no affect upon the fool, like a thorn going into the hand of a drunkard.

Psalm 53 is almost identical to Psalm 14. In Psalm 14, David used LORD or Yahweh four times and God or Elohim three times. In Psalm 53, David used God or Elohim seven times. In Psalm 53, verse 5 is worded slightly different from Psalm 14.5, 6, and Psalm 53.6 is Psalm 14.7.

Psalm 53.0 Of David

To the Chief Musician. Set to “Mahalath.” A Contemplation of David. “Mahalath” means sorrow, a sorrowful tune. David wrote this “maskil” or “contemplation” about a sad situation, which is why he wanted the chief musician to sing this song with a sad tune.

Psalm 53.1

The Fool Cannot See God

1 The fool has said in his heart… Some fools deny God in their hearts only. Some fools announce boldly their atheism. The former leads a secret life, the latter an open life. Some fools appear to believe in God. They do not write books denying the existence of God. They do not oppose mentioning God in public. They are a different breed of atheist, which I will speak about more at verse 3. David revealed that their morality drives their theology, rather than their theology driving their morality. What we think of God shows in the way we live. They want to live wickedly, yet, accountability to God bothers them. Therefore, they invent the doctrine of atheism. If there is no God, there is no accountability. If there is no accountability, there is no restraint on morality.

David said none of them does good as a way of life. Their lives are not about doing good, but about being free to live as they please, and not as some unseen God tells them to do. While they cannot see God, listen to what David said next.

Psalm 53.2, 3

God Can See the Fool

2, 3 God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if… The fool looks up to see if there is a God, and not having seen Him, the fool denies Him. God looks down to see if the fool tries to see God through understanding, not realizing that we cannot presently see God with the eye, for if we did, we would die. God wants to see if the fool can see the invisible attributes of God, which are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead (Rom 1.20).

God looks down because He is interested in humanity. He does not look down to thumb His nose at the foolish atheist, but He cares even for the one who denies Him.

When God looks, He discovers three things in atheists:

  1. They turned aside.
  2. They have become corrupt.
  3. They fail to do good.

In Romans 3, Paul quoted Psalm 53.1–3. He prefaced his quotation, saying, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin” (Rom 3.9). Then Paul quoted Psalm 53, starting with the last line of verse 1 through verse 3. Following that, he quoted more passages from the Jew’s Law. After quoting Psalm 53 and the others, he made this application, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3.19, 20).

Psalm 53, speaks of the foolish atheist, not merely the secularist, but the fools among Israel, and if it addressed them, it can address those in the church! Not all atheists call themselves atheists. Some are practical atheists. What is such a person? He says he believes in God, but lives as though God does not exist. In theory, he is a theist. In practice, he is an atheist.

In Titus 1, the Holy Spirit wanted Paul to write of this different breed of atheist. Listen to what they profess, but watch how they live, “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Tts 1.16).

Actions do speak louder than words.

Psalm 53.4, 5

The Fool Does Not Call on God

4. 5 Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge… Why do fools not call on God? They have no knowledge, but they could go to God and find a treasure of knowledge and wisdom.

Why do fools eat up God’s people like bread? Every child of God fools meet, reminds them of God, whom fools hate.

Therefore, fools wish to dispense with God and reminders of Him. That is why we see the current effort to silence God in American public life.

Fools fear God in a way that they do not have to. Yes, fools should fear the wrath of God for denying God, but God wants fools to change that God may embrace them. In that way, fools have nothing to fear.

God’s prescriptions for life are not to silence the fool, but to show him the way of abundant and eternal life. God has only the fool’s good in mind. In verse 5, David wrote that fools fear when no cause for fear exists. Proverbs 28 pictures them well, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Pro 28.1). His own conscience chases him.

Leroy Brownlow says, “The passage addresses a common woe of man—fear, which often exists for no cause other than fear. Man’s major fear is fear. A wild, fearful imagination sees a storm in every cloud, a falling limb on every tree, a snake behind every log and a death in every illness.”

Is this why the major news media constantly report on things we should fear? Does a day pass when they have not told us of something we should fear?

In the last three lines of verse 5, David explained why fools fear. God scattered the bones of those who fight Him and His people. He puts them to shame. Someone in shame fears embarrassment. They despised God, but God despised them.

Psalm 53.6

God Calls on the Fool

6 Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion… God is about salvation, not condemnation. Will God condemn? Yes, but if He really wanted to do only that, why bother giving us the Scriptures and all the things He has revealed in them? Why not just pour out His wrath? He wants to save. God wants to save Israel and fools who say there is no God.

Therefore, God has sent out innumerable evangelists into the world to bring all fools into His fold. Although fools do not call on Him, He calls on them.

If fools insist on eating up God’s people, God will save Israel, the modern church, bringing them back from obscurity, but fools will go down in shame. Therefore, as David told ancient Israel to rejoice, so let the modern church rejoice, for although fools seek to silence God, He will silence them and they will fail, but the church will prevail.

Psalm 53 pictures people without God. It prophesies of a society that seeks to silence God. The secularists think the result will be freedom, and they speak correctly in one sense, as Paul said in Romans 6, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (Rom 6.20). Then Paul presented a question, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Rom 6.21). The result is death. The result of believing in God and living in harmony with that belief is life.

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