Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sermon: Psalm 14 The Fool

Did you hear the one about the the spaghetti tree? Back in 1957, Panorama showed footage of farmers in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from what they called spaghetti trees. Seemingly the BBC got lots of phone calls asking where people could buy these spaghetti trees. In reality, though, it was an ‘April Fool’ joke - spaghetti being pasta, and so (just like money), it doesn’t grow on trees.

We’re familiar with the idea of an April Fool. It’s a joke, a bit of fun. Yet our Bible reading today, Psalm 14, contains the picture of something just as foolish, yet more serious. Indeed, rather than being an April Fool, it’s a way to be foolish all year long.

Verse 1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Such a person decides in their heart that God cannot exist, indeed, that God does not exist. Maybe they look around them at the greatness and vastness of creation - flowers and plants, animals and stars - and think it all came about by chance, by evolution, the endless effects of random events. Or maybe they look at the pain and suffering, in themselves or others, and think that God could not possibly exist.

Or maybe it’s more basic than that. It’s not the result of studying the evidence, or thinking it through. No, it’s just plain wishful thinking, hoping that God doesn’t exist - because if he does, then there are consequences to our actions, we’re accountable, it moves us from being the centre of our existence.

And how does the Bible describe such a person? What is God’s opinion of them? Foolish. The fool says in his heart. We’ll see as we look at the rest of the Psalm, first, what this means for the person, and then ultimately why it is foolishness.

First then, what it means for the person. On Sunday nights we’re working through the letter to Titus. The main theme there is that our belief must impact on our behaviour. So, by believing the truth, we must then live lives that accord with our sound doctrine. There’s a danger that we can be inconsistent. But as we see here, the fool is completely consistent, and consistently wrong!

Verse 1 continues: ‘They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.’ The fool believes there is no God, and they live as if there is no God, no one keeping watch, or ensuring justice. So people do what they like, which is always inevitably wrong and evil.

Following the desires of their heart and sinful flesh, they therefore do bad things, more and more. Having already rejected God, then verse 2 summarises the result. The Lord looks down to see if there are any who seek after God, but the answer is no. All have turned aside. Or as Paul says in Romans 3, all have sinned.

You see, it might be easy for us to sit here in the church building and look at those outside thinking, oh yes, they’re fools. But it turns out that at one time we also were fools. We also rejected God, lived our own way, lived as if God didn’t exist. But thanks be to God that he saved us, not because of our works - if we were sinners, turned aside and doing wrong, then we couldn’t be saved by ourselves - no, God saved us through faith in the Lord Jesus, crucified for us - what Paul declares is the foolishness of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

So why is it foolish to live as if God does not exist? Well, because God does exist! Look at verse 5. The foolish have lived in opposition to God, and also in opposition to God’s people - eating up my people as they eat bread - but God is with the generation of the righteous. Further, the LORD is the refuge of the poor.

And what is the end result of foolishness? Well, ‘there they are in great terror.’ I imagine it must be a terrible shock for men and women to deny that God exists, and to pass from life to death, and meet God face to face in judgement. It is indeed a great terror for unbelievers.

Not so for God’s people. Despite having endured oppression and opposition from the unbelievers, the fools, God himself will act for their salvation. As we stand on this side of the cross, then we do indeed know the salvation that verse 7 cries for. Do we rejoice, are we glad in our salvation? Having been saved from God’s wrath, we would be fools not to be glad!

This sermon was preached at the Midweek Morning Prayer in St Elizabeth's Dundonald on 1st April, 2009.

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