Psalm 14 famously begins, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There’s no God'” (14:1 CSB). Unfortunately, we are usually quick to assume the Psalm is speaking of militant atheists and miss the powerful effect of the David’s masterful writing.
As it turns out, David doesn’t let us sing about those atheist fools over there. No one escapes getting branded a fool. In fact, he even plays up the drama by having God look down from heaven “to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God” (14:2 CSB). Where is the righteous man of Psalm 1? Does such a one exist on Planet Earth?
All have turned away;
all alike have become corrupt.
There is no one who does good,
not even one (14:3 CSB).
This is so stupid, David screams. “Will evildoers [which, by this point, he’s shown to be everybody] never understand?” (14:4 CSB). Wicked sinners are more interested in consuming people for their own cravings and desires, rather than trusting in the Triune God and calling on Him.
Thus far, the entire human race has been shown to be completely corrupt and unrighteous. Even God can’t find one single righteous person.
That’s why verse 5 comes out of nowhere:
Then they [i.e., the wicked] will be filled with dread,
for God is with those who are righteous (CSB).
Where have these righteous people come from? David just got through saying there aren’t any!
Out of the entirety of sinful humanity, those who take refuge in the LORD become righteous as His gift. They’re no better or more worthy than any of the oppressors and corrupt sinners––they’re just like them!
Taking refuge in the LORD is trusting in His promise of deliverance that comes from Zion: David’s own Son who will reign forever; the Suffering Servant who bears the sins of many, yet having no sin of His own; the Shepherd of the people who is struck in the place of His sheep.
When He comes, “let Jacob rejoice; let Israel be glad” (14:7 CSB) indeed!