Psalm 53: Pray for Atheists
March 6, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Once again, the Psalms sing to us the hymn to an atheist. Why is it repeated? (See Psalm 14). In the end, we do not know. But it is possible that God in his sovereignty is emphasizing the importance of the message of this psalm by ensuring it is repeated in the Psalms book!
And what is that message? “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (53:1). It is the ultimate irony for someone to use speech (a marker of our non-merely material status) and thought (another marker of our non-merely material basis) to deny the existence of a Creator. How ironic it is for the atheist to use self-talk—“says in his heart”—to deny the existence of that to which his self-talk itself witnesses!
While the fool says in his heart, God “looks down” (53:2). See the unfathomable majesty of God depicted as looking down on the vain foolishness of his creation as they seek to deny him. What a contrast with the fool!
How is all this possible? Ultimately, the problem of an atheist is moral. This does not mean that those of us who believe in God are better than those who do not. It means that the problem of all humanity is moral. “There is none who does good, not even one” (53:3). Our situation is such that only the almighty power of God can open our eyes to see what is blindingly obvious. We are like deaf men being played Beethoven and Mozart and unsurprisingly being unimpressed. We are like blind people being shown the Mona Lisa and unsurprisingly being unimpressed. We say in our heart there is no God because we are deaf and blind to the witness of his existence all around us, and indeed also within us.
How terrible is the human condition! How much we need the power of the gospel! How much we need to pray for atheists that God would open their eyes to see the glory of God all around them!
In the end, atheists have no “knowledge” (53:4). The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. An atheist may seem very clever, and indeed be very clever. But there is no super-connecting framework that makes sense of life. There is no coherent knowledge. They oppose the followers of God: “eat up my people as they eat bread” (53:4).
But, in reality, they are “in great terror, where there is no terror” (53:5). The fear of night—ultimately the fear of death—stalks the dreams (and nightmares) of the atheist. They protest against it, but who else but God can see their fear when they contemplate death?
The psalmist then concludes with the only recourse: prayer. “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!” (53:6). Would you this morning pray for any atheists you know? Would you pray that God would save them?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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