The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Ps 14:1
Lately I have heard several sermons on this verse. There are translations that show you which words have no corresponding words in Hebrew or Greek – usually typesetting those words in italic. All three places this phrase shows up – Ps 10:4, 14:1, 53:1 – are printed as follows: There is no God. Therefore, in the Hebrew, it only says “no God”.
Imagine how little there is necessary to give this phrase a whole new meaning: “No, God”.
And suddenly, not only the people that deny the existence of God, but the ones that don’t obey God are fools.
And I full-heartedly agree. Somewhat.
How is that?
Somebody that says no to God will need to justify his decision. His conscience will need a reason to be soothed. And be assured, telling yourself something long enough will make you believe it – and your conscience will stop bothering you. Do this long enough, and you settle for less than you could have, maybe even devalue the relationship with God so much that it dies.
But are these really fools?
In Psalms and Proverbs we learn that fools cannot be taught. If you try to teach them, they will only come against you. If you punish them, they will harden even more and it will get dangerous. Yet, if you punish the fool, it will teach the teachable. The teachable will understand the consequences of misbehavior and change. Who then is this breed of teachable people?
The teachable is willing to change and to learn. Yet he is not wise. He is not mature. He does not know yet how things work. He is on a journey. Sound familiar?
The teachable that sits with the wise will become wise. The teachable that sits with the fools becomes a – fool.
Back to the usage of our phrase “no God”. This is a play on words in English that does not hold true in most other languages – especially not Hebrew. The word for no – as in not one – is ‘aiyn, while no as the opposite of yes is lo. Another example of such loose usage of wordplays in English: “Faith is now”, since Hebrews 11:1 say “Now faith is …”. Now in Greek is only a conjunction. We could also say: Next, faith is …, or And faith is …, or Therefore,faith is …
Obviously, faith is always now. Faith in the past is not getting us anywhere, while faith in the future is called hope. We just cannot derive the fact from this verse.
But I am not here to criticize loose usage of words nor tell you to be hypercritical about sermons you hear. Just make it like the Bereans – after you heard a sermon, go home and test it. Take your bible and prove whether it is true. Ask the Spirit for witness. Live it out and see whether it brings life. But today, I am here to talk about the foolishness of saying no to God.
When we look at Jonah, we have a wonderful example of somebody saying no to God. Instead of going to Ninive, he left for Tarsus – 180° the other way.
And what happens?
God talked to Jonah in his still small voice. He did not listen. And only then God talked to him through circumstances. And he talked quite loud. Wouldn’t you say? A storm that threatens to sink a ship and all people in it just to reach the hardened ear of a prophet – quite some investment on God’s side.
And Jonah listened. He turned around 180°. That is what we call repentance.
What can we learn from this?
First – God only speaks to us through circumstances when we do not listen. He has many other ways to reach us. His Spirit in us. Then scripture. Other people we trust. Strangers. Peace in our heart. And finally, circumstances. I strongly believe that God only takes out the big gun if we hardened our hearts enough so he needs to.
But secondly, we learn that there is always hope for repentance and forgiveness when we said no to God. Only if we do not repent we become fools.
Thus, the teachable at times – in his foolish moments – will say “No, God”, while the fool will say “There is no God”. And the wise? First, he believes that God exists – but so do the demons – and secondly, he obeys. For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
Where are you on this scale? Fool, teachable, or wise?