The Depravity of Man Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

The fool has said in his heart,

The fool has said in his heart,

March 17, 2014

Tom Lowe

Psalm 14

Title: The Depravity of Man.
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

Theme: The universal corruption of the human race.

Psalm 14 (NKJV)

1 The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.
4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call on the Lord?
5 There they are in great fear, For God is with the generation of the righteous.
6 You shame the counsel of the poor, But the Lord is his refuge.
7 Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people, Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.


Psalm 14 (a wisdom poem), along with its nearly identical twin Psalm 53, contains profound reflections on human depravity. It is more like a prophetic message than a psalmist’s lament, since God is not addressed. The life-setting of the psalm is not clear. Some think the writer is describing a group (that is, the ruling classes) within Israel who were victimizing the poor (Mic. 3:1; Isa. 3:14); others suggest that the psalm reflects the hardships of Israel in a godless and hostile world. Alternately, verses 1-3 may be seen as a description of mankind in general, and verses 4-6 as referring to the godless within Israel. It is certainly a description of humanity as a whole and not merely of a period of extreme moral decay in Israel; it is as appropriate today as it was in David’s day.

The psalm may be divided into three parts:
Part 1 (vv. 1-3)—A picture of universal godlessness.
Part 2 (vv. 4-6)—Expresses astonishment at the lack of moral understanding displayed by the wicked who leave God out of their thinking.
Part 3 (v. 7)—looks forward hopefully to the joyful restoration of God’s people.

This psalm could be dedicated to the atheist. With the denial of God’s existence often comes the moral decay described in verses 1-6 and which was used by Paul to prove the universal depravity of the human race—“As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10-12). While the fool may deny that God is, the righteous finds Him in the object of hopeful prayer for deliverance (v. 7).

As you study this psalm you may think it is a picture of this day, but if I may borrow from the common colloquialism of the street, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Wait until the Great Tribulation comes. By the way, I hope you don’t see it, because God’s own—those who are in the body of believers—are not going through the Great Tribulation. The church, by which I mean the true believers, will leave before that time. This psalm certainly sets before us the corruption and wickedness of the last days, the end of the age.

Verses 1-3: Total depravity does not mean that every human being is a murderer, or a sex pervert, nor does it mean that the worst of men cannot at times exhibit kindness and generosity. Total depravity in the Bible, means even the best men are tainted with sin. Sin is like leprosy: a leper may appear to be well and whole; his leprosy may be hid at first, but the disease is entrenched in his body and it contaminates everything he touches. Thus sin contaminates the whole man, taints all society. As the Triune God looks at our lives He sees the sin that permeates our being—the Holy Spirit can read the thoughts and intents of every human heart. Even our best deeds are tainted by the fact that in our inner and essential beings we are sinners.

1 The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." The Hebrew for fool in this verse is nabal. This may ring a bell in your thinking, because there was a man by the

name of Nabal who was married to a lovely woman by the name of Abigail. His story is told in 1 Samuel 25. His name certainly characterized him accurately. He acted a fool. The word nabal may be translated silly, simple, simpleton, fool, or madman. Nabal fools are self-righteous and don’t need or want God. They want to live their own lives the way they please. The problem is willful ignorance, and not lack of normal intelligence (2 Pe. 3:5; Rom. 1:18-28). But this decision causes sad consequences in both their character and their conduct. By leaving God out of their lives, they cause their inner person to become more and more corrupt—the heart (v. 1), the mind (vv. 2, 4), and the will (v. 3). Sinners are called “fools,” because they think and act contrary to right reason (Gen 34:7; Josh. 7:15; Ps. 39:8; 74:18, 22). In the Bible, the designation “fool” carries moral rather than intellectual meaning (Isa. 32:6{1)); and refers to one whose moral thinking is vile and his actions wicked; he has deliberately closed his mind to the reality of God and to the implications of His moral rule (Deut. 32:5; 2 Sam. 13:12; Isa. 32:6{1); Rom. 1:19, 22, 28). He is a man who is wholly indifferent to the moral standards of the Law, and who daily adopts as his own principle the belief that deity cares nothing about the differences between men’s behavior. Out of this practical atheism proceeds an evil influence upon men, for they are corrupt, or ‘spread corruption’—a life abhorrent to God and without moral worth. The root of atheism is not found in the head, but in the heart (Rom. 1:21{2)). Men do not like God: they try to ignore Him, and end by blatantly denying Him.

The word for God in verses 1, 2, and 5 needs explanation. In the original the word is the usual one for God. Ancient Hebrew writers known as the Sopherim, say the name here was changed from Jehovah to El. In the original text the name was Jehovah. El stands for God the Omnipotent, ‘Jehovah’ stands for God in covenant with His people, God as he reveals Himself to men.

The sinner here is described as an atheist, one who says there is no Judge or Governor of the world, no Providence ruling over the affairs of men. He says this in his heart. He is unable to convince himself that there is none, but God is irrelevant to him and he wishes there was none; he is happy to think there may be none. This sinner is a fool; he is simple and unwise and this is evidence of it; he is wicked and profane, and this is the cause. No man will say there is no God, until he has become so hardened by sin, that it is in his interest that there should be none to call him to an account.

To say there is no God, is an irrational position to take. First of all, it is a claim to omnificence; it says, “I know everything. It is not possible that a God could exist beyond the boundaries of my knowledge. There is no revealed God. I have my own ideas about religion. Don’t bother me with the Bible.” In other words, man is guilty in his innermost being of harboring wrong thoughts about God in spite of the fact that, as Jehovah, God has revealed to us just what He is like. Second, this attitude claims omnipresence; it says, “I am present in all places at one and the same time, and it is not possible that God could exist any place in the universe without my knowing it.” Again, this position ignores the wonder of God’s creation—the immensity of the universe, the amazingly precise movement of the planets, the marvelous suitability of the earth to sustain life, the intricate design of the human body, the amazing complexity of the human brain and the extraordinary properties of water and soil. The possibility that all this happened by chance is too small to warrant consideration. That is why the Bible says that atheists are fools. They are moral fools. It is not a question of their intelligence quotient but of their morality quotient. There is a close connection between a man’s creed and his conduct. The lower his conception of God, the lower his morals are apt to be. There are many people with Ph.D.’s teaching in our universities today. Many of them are atheists. I want to say this carefully—the lowest a man can sink in depravity is to be an atheist.

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