What does God see when He looks down on humanity? Psalm 53 addresses this question. Interestingly, the numerical value for the Hebrew word translated "looks down" is 72 and this psalm is 72 words long in the original Hebrew. God is always watching and looking, but what does He see?
Before we address this question let me point out that Psalm 53 is an almost word for word copy of Psalm 14. Apparently the psalm existed in two version by the time it was actually written down.
One difference is that Psalm 14 includes God's covenant name, YHWH, usually translated as LORD, four times in the text, but in Psalm 53 the more generic name of Elohim, God, is used throughout.
The biggest difference, though, occurs at verse 5. Psalm 14 has two verses where Psalm 53 has one. The topic is similar but the words are quite different.
Check out my original post on the 14th Psalm to get a different take on the topic of this psalm.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 53:1a
The psalmist begins by pointing out that fools think, "There is no God." They think that there is no consequences for their evil behavior. But God is looking down on humanity.
God looks down to see if any is doing what is right, if there are any who seek God. His conclusion:
They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one. Psalm 53:3
Fool or not, we have all gone our own way. None of us does what is good - not even one.
What a sad commentary on humanity. We are lost without God. We stumble around trying to find our own way but always finding the way to sin instead.
The answer to our problem is found in verse 7, but first the psalm continues its description of the fool.
Will Evildoers Ever Learn?
Verse 3 repeats the theme found in verse 1 that "there is none that does good". This is followed by a contrast between what God is looking for, in verse 2, and what God finds in verse 4. God is seeking people with understanding who seek Him but He finds people with no knowledge who refuse to call upon Him.
The evildoer devours the weak because he is a fool and never looks to God. He thinks he can continue to sin and never pay the price for his behavior. But God is watching and God will act.
There they are, in great terror,
where there is no terror! Psalm 53:5a
Suddenly they find themselves confronted with God. They see nothing to fear and yet they are in great terror. They claimed there was no God but now they are confronted by incomprehensible fear because God has come.
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you;
you put them to shame, for God has rejected them. Psalm 53:5b
Throughout the psalms we find this repeating theme: people may get away with sin for a time, but God always brings judgment. "Be sure your sins will find you out (Numbers 32:23.)" The fool thinks he can sin without paying the consequences but he is very wrong.
But what about the rest of us? Those who believe in God but still struggle with sin. Verse 5 reminds us that there is no one who does good. What are we to do when we stand before our Judge? If God is watching and we do not measure up, what are we to do?
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. Psalm 53:7
Salvation has come for those of us who place our trust in God. That salvation is Jesus. He has paid the price for our sins and opened the way to reconciliation with God through faith. Rejoice! Salvation has come!