“Vice”, like many English words has more than one meaning. One is as the picture of a “vice” reveals, the other is the opposite of virtue. It is a strong word and is often watered down by our contemporary western society. It means, immoral or wicked behaviour, wrongdoing, evil-doing, iniquity, impurity, corruption, sin, ungodliness, profanity, depravity, perversion, degradation, decadence, debauchery and crime.
Not a pleasant subject, but the Bible unashamedly and realistically has plenty to say about it, including the consequences and impact of such behaviour in the lives of people who find themselves involved in it. No wonder the Bible is not a popular book in certain areas of contemporary society.
Last time we looked at Psalm 53 we considered those who seek the Lord and the fact that God is himself seeking for such people. Well, according to this psalm, the result of “the Lord looking down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God” is discouraging. In fact, he sums up the situation as:
They are corrupt, and their
ways are vile;
there is no one who does good…
Everyone has turned away, all
have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
They devour my people as though
they never call on God. (Vs 1, 3-4)
In other words, according to the psalmist, they are all “fools”, and God asks, “Do all these evildoers know nothing?” (v 4)
I guess if one does not seek God then one has to find an alternative and the alternatives will never satisfy (certainly not long term) and often may well be quite destructive to the person seeking them and for those around.
Certainly, the people mentioned in this Psalm were busy seeking other things and none of them good! In fact, they are described as “corrupt…[whose] deeds are vile.” Imagine being described as people who do no good! Who have at some stage in their lives made a very bad decision and that was to “turn away” from all that is good and even “turn away” from God himself. They had decided to do the exact opposite of seeking God. The natural consequences of such a decision is to then pick on those who were seeking God. God describes it as devouring “my people as though eating bread.” History is full of it!
This would all be a bit depressing if we left it there. But the psalmist is aware, despite the moral degradation all around him, and the “fools” who don’t seek God, that God is his helper. So, he calls out to God:
that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (verse 7)
Paul, in his application of Psalm 53, along with other OT quotes in his letter to the Romans, gives us even more hope than the psalmist. How we need to understand that hope in our day!
His initial statement of hope speaks of the “gospel [meaning “good news”] of God.” He then explains what this is when he says that God himself “promised [this gospel] beforehand through his [OT] prophets in the Holy Scriptures [and that it is] regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace…” (Romans 1:1-5)
Paul continues that he is “not ashamed of the gospel [in fact he was anything but ashamed], because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…for in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.” (Romans 1:16-17)
Paul follows up with just why this good news is needed and that is because “As it is written [in Psalm 53]: ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.’” (Romans 3:10) And in summary he says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…[and] the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23, 6:23)
But the good news is that both these statements above are followed by the solution. He says,
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ…[and] the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 3:23, 6:23)
No wonder Paul is not ashamed of the message of the gospel which he declares is for all mankind, none excluded. Listen to his inclusive language: “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and foolish [as mentioned in Psalm 53]….I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:14-16)
Thank God we all fit in there somewhere! Such is his amazing grace.
And so, Father, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ…I am convinced that…[there is not] anything…[that] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39) Amen
(adapted from my previous Post on Psalm 14)