God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
My family has a fun habit of using familiar or favorite movie quotes in the course of everyday conversations. For example, if someone were to say, “I mean it!” they might just get the reply, “Does anybody want a peanut?” (The Princess Bride) You get the idea. One quote that comes up a lot is from, “The Two Towers.” That’s the second movie in the great Lord of the Rings trilogy. In one scene, Samwise Gamgee says to Frodo, “This looks strangely familiar.” To which Frodo replies, “That’s because we’ve been here before. We’re going in circles!”
Well, for the astute reader, Psalm 53 might look “strangely familiar.” That’s because it is nearly identical to Psalm 14. In fact, the first 4 verses and the last verse are exactly the same. So, as I was getting ready to write this week’s devotion, I had to wonder to myself, “What did I say last time?” As it happens, I didn’t say anything, because that reflection was written by my son Matthew! (You can read that post HERE)
Like Psalm 14, David begins by observing, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” As Matthew observes in his post, “this word ‘fool’ (nabal in Hebrew) doesn’t refer to someone who is lacking intelligence, but to someone who is lacking God.” A fool is someone who chooses to ignore the evidence of God in the world, and hence ignores the eternal consequences of their unbelief (Romans 1:18-23); a fool is someone who refuses to learn from past lessons, and hence ignores the possibility of transformation (Proverbs 26:11). And here in Psalm 53, David identifies yet another characteristic of a fool. Because they don’t “seek God” (vs. 2), and because they don’t “call on God” (vs. 4), “they are overwhelmed with dread, where there is nothing to dread.” (vs. 5).
And so, David laments, “Do all these evildoers know nothing?” (vs. 4) And the answer to David’s sad question is “yes.” They do, in fact, know nothing. Nothing is their heartbreaking reality.
Nothingness is a “dreadful” thing (full of dread). It is empty and uninspiring; it is dark and frightening; it is uncertain and anxious. The result of a life without God is much worse than not knowing anything…it’s actually knowing “nothing.”
Unlike the “fool” in Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, it is possible to know more than the “nothing” of this life. David knows that sort of wisdom will only come “when God restores his people.” (vs. 6). That’s when the emptiness can be filled, when the darkness can be dispelled, when the anxiety can give way to peace. That’s when life can begin to make sense.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that everything he had previously sought in life was like “nothing” compared to knowing Jesus Philippians 3:7-10. It is only is knowing him…being connected to him…that our “nothing” can ever be “anything.” Jesus himself told us that. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3)
Anything less than Jesus is nothing. And you’d be a fool to want that. Soren Kierkegaard put it this way, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” I don’t know about you, but I choose to believe!
The idea of knowing, doing and living in “nothing” seems dreadful to me. And the wonderful good news of the Gospel is that we don’t have to stay in “nothing.” The answer is Jesus. He is offering more than nothing…and more than something…he is offering us EVERYTHING! That’s real life…that’s living water. Reach out and receive it, celebrate it, share it. And always stay thirsty for Him.