1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
4 Have those who work evil no knowledge,
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?
5 There they are, in great terror,
where there is no terror!
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you;
you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
God looks down from heaven to see if there are any who understand … . Take this literally and you have a God who does not know what is going on. The picture portrayed is that God can be in heaven and also be unaware of what is going on, on the planet. What are we to do with this?
1) Take it literally and conclude that there are things that God does not know and that He must find out by observing. This, the vast majority of Scripture will not allow.
2) Remember that this is poetry and as poetry it is to be understood differently than prose, a didactic passage or historical comment. This is not to avoid the difficulty of the text, but it is to seek to understand the text in the way that it was meant to be understood.
3) Giving human qualities to God is a common way for the Scriptures to help us understand an incomprehensible God better. This is called anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphisms are not infrequent in the Scriptures and this phrase in Psalm 53 is one of them. What is being taught is not God’s ignorance, but man’s utter depravity. Not even God can find a righteous man. If God, who knows everything, can’t find one, then we know one does not exist.
This Psalm is not about God not knowing something. It is about the utter sinfulness of mankind. There is none, not even one, who is righteous. Who then, can intercede for us before God if no one is fit to stand before Him?
This Psalm is about Jesus Christ. It is pointing us to the need for a Saviour. Given that men are so utterly sinful and unable to help themselves, the help must come from Zion, the city of God.
It is God who must restore the fortunes of His people. And He has. Out of Zion Christ came, lived a sinless life, died, taking the punishment for His people and rose from the dead. That is what God did to bring people out of their sin.
Today, rejoice that salvation is not in the least a matter of us being able to provide what God requires but a matter of Him being able and willing to do it Himself. And He did. What a Saviour!