Read Psalm 53
For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David.
1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
4 Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.
5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
If you compare Psalm 53 with Psalm 14, you will notice that it is almost an exact copy of the earlier psalm. A few minor revisions have been made, but for the most part, this is an identical repetition of words that David has already shared. Scholars have noted that the titles attributed to each psalm are different—“For the director of music. Of David.” (Psalm 14) and “For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David.” (Psalm 53)—so more than likely, these two psalms had different tunes associated with them. In essence, Psalm 53 is a musical “remake” of Psalm 14—slightly different in sound, but largely the same lyrics.
Charles Spurgeon notes that Psalm 53 “is not a copy of the fourteenth Psalm, emended and revised by a foreign hand; it is another edition by the same author, emphasised in certain parts, and rewritten for another purpose.” It is likely that, at the time that David wrote Psalm 53, Israel was in the midst of a national challenge, such as the threat of invasion or a siege. As a result, he was using familiar words to give faith and courage to God’s people in the midst of their current crisis.
One similarity between these psalms is that David is reminding us that those who deny God are fools and that denying God will lead to corruption and abominable iniquity (v. 1). In verse 2, we are reminded that man may forget about God, but God never forgets about man, and then in verse 3, that man is deeply fallen. Where this psalm shifts from the earlier one is in verse 5. While verse 5 of Psalm 14 focused more on the deliverance of the righteous, David makes a modification in Psalm 53 to include, “For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.” David is specifically highlighting the refuge of God’s protection.
Whatever crisis Israel was facing at that moment, David was reminding God’s people that God can be trusted. David knew from experience that God had sent fear into the hearts of Israel’s enemies on other occasions because he remembered it. He used this opportunity to encourage Israel to not fear where there was no reason to fear!
Psalm 53 closes identically to Psalm 14, as David anticipates the coming deliverance for God’s people and invites us all to be joyful as we look forward to that. Praying that no matter where we find ourselves as we read this Psalm, whether on the brink of a challenge or feeling under siege, that we will be reminded of God’s protection and promise.
- Verse 1 of Psalm 53 defines a fool as a person who ignores God. Do you ever find yourself ignoring God?
- Verse 2 reminds us that God is constantly looking down from heaven, meaning He never forgets about us. Are there any areas of your life you feel like God has overlooked or forgotten? Spend some time asking God to show you His presence in those areas.
- In what current challenges do you need to be reminded of God’s protection and promise?
Did You Know?
In verse 5, David uses the imagery of God scattering the bones of Israel’s enemies (“For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you”). Nothing would have been more disgraceful to a nation than to have bones scattered as opposed to buried. So even this seemingly grotesque imagery would have been a perfect representation of how mightily God would protect and honor His people!