Psalm 14 - All have gone astray

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord?
There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
Psalm 14 (NRSV)
Proper 12, Year B, Sunday between July 24 and July 30
Proper 19, Year C, Sunday between September 11 and September 17

This short psalm invokes the holy name of the Lord four times in only seven verses. You can tell that the psalmist is bedeviled, frustrated at the state of affairs.

Many of us know, and sometimes we are, people who think the world is going to hell in a handbasket, who look around and see only idiots and ill intentions.

Sometimes the world is in a state which readily supports this point of view. There are evildoers who prey on people, who seek to exploit the poor. You see people in daily life and on the national stage act as though there is no God. I am not referring to religious affiliation, but acting as though there is no moral compass, that the only guide is whatever you can get away with.

We know also that is is hard to live uprightly ourselves when the world is crooked. How do you answer, how do you react, when you see the world in confusion, and no end of wicked schemes, and goodness seemingly gone underground?

In the Psalms the answer is always to bring "what you got" - your anger, fear, confusion, despair, outrage - bring it to the Lord. It may help God and it certainly helps you to give voice not only to your feelings, but to your knowledge of God's business. We know that The Lord is on the side of the poor and oppressed. We know that corruption cannot last. We know that God promised us better than we see before us. And we know how we long for deliverance.

The psalm, which begins so bleakly, ends with the expectation that the present distress will be swept away, and those who know the Lord will be rejoicing. If fools say in the hearts, "There is no God," is that not a call to act differently? O Lord, hear our prayer. Along the way, we may find not just the world, but ourselves changed.


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