Devotion from Psalm 14:1 “The Foolishness of Atheism”

Posted on October 10, 2010. Filed under: Devotions- The Mark 12 Life |

Living the Mark 12 Life

Daily Devotions, Bible Study, Scripture Memory, History and More

In an effort to fulfill the Great Commandment


Series I: The Basic Gospel

Week 1: Crucial Question- Is There A God?

Memorize Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.” They are corrupt they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.”

Day 5: Reading Psalm 14:1-7; Rom.3:9-18 “The Foolishness of Atheism”


            This Psalm is so important that it is almost perfectly duplicated in Psalm 53, and Paul quotes extensively from it in Romans 3 as he discusses the sinfulness of man. When studying the Bible it is essential to take notice and obey when God says something once, twice it is very important, and when he says it three times we need to surely pay attention. This Psalm is a wisdom/lament, reflecting the Wisdom literature that fills Proverbs, with the use of the word fool and the detailed explanation of the word that follows. The Psalm can be divided into three parts, with vss.1-3 showing the fool’s character as seen from the LORD’s viewpoint, vss.4-6 showing how the fool acts out his foolishness towards the LORD’s people, and vs. 7 where the LORD’s people await their salvation.

            “…fool” translates nabal, and is essentially a person who disregards the LORD, denies God in thought and deed, and breaks covenant with the LORD. It is not that the person is mentally deficient, many a fool is successful, intelligent and popular; rather, the fool is morally deficient, living for self with no regard for God or others. A fool is living in violation of the Great Commandment and the Second found in Mark 12:28-31 “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your should and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Proverbs 1:1-7 describes the fool as one who despises wisdom and instruction and the story of David and Nabal in 1Sam.25 shows a foolish man. A fool does not listen to or heed the Word of God as in Matt.7:24-27, where the wise man who hears (obeys) the words of Jesus is compared to a man building his house on a rock so that it survives the storms, while the foolish man who does not listen to Jesus and his life is like a house built upon sand and is destroyed by the storm. In Luke 12:13-21 the rich fool was not prepared to meet his Maker and in Matt.25 the five foolish virgins were not prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom.

            In Psalm 14 we see more of a practical atheism and not philosophical atheism, but in application it would certainly include the philosophical atheist. Derek Kidner writes, p.79, “The assertion, ‘There is no God,’ is in fact treated in Scripture not as a sincere if misguided conviction, but as an irresponsible gesture of defiance.” The fool believes his own defiant slander, “no God!” Charles H. Spurgeon writes, p.160, “The Atheist is the fool pre-eminently, and a fool universally. He would not deny God if he were not a fool by nature, and having denied God it is no marvel that he becomes a fool in practice. Sin is always folly, and as it is the height of sin to attack the very existence of the Most High, so is it also the greatest imaginable folly. To say there is no God is to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy….”

            “…says in his heart”- this implies that perhaps his lips say one thing, but his heart says another. The heart is considered the seat of the will, the essence of our desires that are behind all of our choices. We may very well see a religious atheist here! Many people are church members and know the language of religion but inside they actually have no regard for God. Isaiah writes in 29:13 “this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…” Jesus quotes this Isaiah text in Matt.15:8. Now we can start talking about us and not just the atheist in the abstract. We each have the capacity to tell lies to ourselves and believe them. We choose to believe what we want to believe at the time. Have you ever had a long conversation with yourself to convince yourself that you could sin and get away with it? As if God won’t know what you are doing! This is exactly what the fool in vs. 1 is doing. We can justify all of our wrong actions and attitudes in this manner; we tell ourselves, No God!

            “They are corrupt…”    The word corrupt means to destroy, spoil, ruin. This word hearkens back to Genesis 6:11-12 where it is used three times in reference to the world that God was about to judge with the Flood, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” This speaks of the doctrine of Total Depravity, the teaching that all people are corrupted with sin, slaves to sin, and choose sin because it is our nature as sinners to want to sin. It is sadly ironic that this doctrine which is proved every day in the lives of every person is very often denied. Not many people will look at themselves and say, “I am a corrupt sinner!” Yet this is exactly what is needed in order for us to repent and follow Jesus every day. Our society likes to use this word, corrupt, but usually only in relation to politicians. However, spiritually, we are all corrupt by nature.

            “…they do abominable deeds…” Deeds are the outworking of our hearts. If our hearts are corrupt then all our deeds will be abominable. Abominable means loathsome, detestable, abhorred and rejected by God. Later in the Psalm, at verse 4, the author describes one of the corrupt, abominable deeds as “the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread…” This sounds like greedy businessmen or bankers who take advantage of the poor and eat them like bread, that is, to consume them. Apart from God’s grace, when we are not in Christ, prior to our conversion, all of our deeds are abominable in God’s sight. We say this because Paul writes in Rom.14:23 “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Prior to our salvation we have no faith in Christ, therefore, none of our actions or thoughts proceed from faith and are sinful. Apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ all of our deeds are abominable in God’s sight. Isaiah brings this tough idea out in Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Ezekiel 36:17 uses some graphic, earthy, language to describe how God viewed Israel’s deeds.

            “…there is none who does good.” In Mark 10:18 Jesus says, “No one is good except God alone.” Those who, in their hearts, say that there is no God, the practical and philosophical atheists, those who have no faith in Christ, do not do any good deed in God’s eyes. Many will point to works of philanthropy that come from the wealthy whose lives may be as corrupt as they are rich, and then say that they are great men or women. Good deeds between hell-bound sinners whose minds never acknowledge God do not impress God; they are still corrupt, abominable and not good in the ultimate sense of the word. We may be thankful for the great philanthropic works of unbelievers, but we must realize that their benefit is for this life only. Keep in mind that the Bible does present many wealthy and powerful people in a good light as being faithful to God: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, David, etc., but very often the Scriptures point to how corrupt the wealthy and powerful are too. It is currently in vogue to criticize the wealthy elites of Wall Street in our political circles, yet the wealthy of Hollywood seem to get a pass. And all too often “the poor” are considered righteous because they have suffered and “been oppressed”. Poor people are just as corrupt and abominable as the rich. The deeds of the poor practical atheist are equally not good right along with the wealthy atheist. The point that Paul makes in Rom. 3 where he uses Psalm 14 is “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vs.23).

            In seeking to apply this verse we must first apply it to ourselves, to we who are already believers. We must understand that to the extent we disobey Christ we are saying, “No God!” Sin is inconsistent with our calling, with our new nature, and with the Spirit of Christ who indwells us. Therefore, when we see or meet someone who is obviously apart from Christ, and who is living their life in a corrupt and abominable manner, we should have compassion on them by sharing the Gospel with them. All too often we shun or shy away from notoriously bad sinners, forgetting that our heart, apart from Christ, is also corrupt.

            The general idea of the Psalm is that the fool is within the Covenant Community of Israel yet is denying God by living apart from the covenant. For our day we need to realize that one of the largest mission fields is the Church itself. Many within our membership rolls are lost and have no saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, living their lives as practical atheists. Several denominations have made decisions that promote various sins and deny the authority of God’s Word, and yet tens of thousands of ‘believer’ still attend those ‘churches’. The Church is a mission field. And don’t forget the little children! Each child may be cute and be raised by godly parents, yet until they repent and trust in Christ they too are corrupt sinners.

            In conclusion we must understand that all of us are natural born atheists and choose to remain in that condition until God’s grace overpowers our unbelief. As we look at witnessing to those who claim to be atheists, we can do so confidently because we know that Scripture says the atheist is a fool. But instead of holding the atheist in contempt, we can identify with him/her because we know that at times, when we choose to sin, we too are proven fools by denying God who has saved us.

Next Devotion:



Boice, James Montgomery. Psalms, Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI.1994 (pp.113-120).

Craigie, Peter C. Word Biblical Commentary, volume 19, Psalms 1-50. Word Books:Waco, TX. 1983 (pp. 144-149).

Delitzsch, F. Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 5, Psalms. Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody, Mass. originally published 1866-91(pp.125-130).

Dickson, David (1583-1662, Glasgow). Geneva Series Of Commentaries: Psalms.The Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, 1959 (1653-5) (pp.54-62).


Durham, John I. “Psalms”, Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol.4, Esther-Psalms. Broadman Press: Nashville, TN 1971 (pp.194-196).

Kidner, Derek. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Psalms 1-72, An Introduction & Commentary. Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England 1973 (pp.78-80).

Spurgeon, Charles H. (1834-92). The Treasury of David, volume one, Psalm I-LVII. Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody, Mass.

Terrien, Samuel. Eerdmans Critical Commentary, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2003 (p.162-167)

VanGemeren, Willem A. “Psalms” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.5 Frank Gaebelein, ed. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1991 (pp.142-147).

Wilson, Gerald H. The NIV Application Commentary: Psalms Volume 1. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 2002 (pp.286-295).


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