Title: Does God Find Us Delightful or Disgusting?
Text: Psalm 14
Thesis: Only a fool is unaffected by what affects God.
I confess, I am still feeling the bleakness of the tragic mass shooting in Aurora last week. This text is a bleak text for those who live and act without regard to God and who demonstrate an absence of moral character in regard to God and others. It is also a ray of hope for those who are metaphorically “bread” for the ungodly.
This text in relation to the current bleakness of our global culture is a solemn reminder of just how desperately humankind needs the saving and transforming work of Jesus Christ. With that preface let’s begin with an introduction to unpacking the text.
We live in an increasingly automated world… particularly so in the industrial world where a robot is defined as an automatically controllable, reprogrammable, multi-purpose manipulator. Industrial robots typically weld, paint, assemble, pick-up and place, inspect and test with high endurance, speed and precision. Robots are machines. And as machines we have no emotional attachment to them.
However, this week I read some comments comparing the way God sees humans to the way humans see robots. The comparison is in that just as God creates us to be in his image, we create robots to be in our image… doing the things we would like for them to do. God’s desire is that we be god-like and the human desire is that our robots be human-like or at least have cute little human features like R2-D2 in Star Wars.
However, we do have a problem when our robots look and act like us and actually become too human for comfort.
On the 18th of this month 18 police officers spent 40 minutes rescuing a woman from drowning in Shandong, Province, China. As 1,000 spectators gathered on the shore of the lake the officers rescued an inflatable doll from drowning. They were obviously embarrassed but who could deny the fact that they rescued a very life-like inflatable woman. Inflatable’s and human-like robots are pretty much bazaar and especially so if they evoke human emotion.
In an old Twilight Zone episode an inmate named Corry was sentenced to a solitary confinement on a distant asteroid for fifty years. Four times a year Captain Allenby arrived in a spacecraft to give him supplies. Allenby feels sorry for Corry so on one of his drops he left a crate containing a female robot that looked and acted completely human. Her name was Alicia. Initially Corry hated Alicia. She was a machine covered with synthetic skin. But then Corry discovered that Alicia could cry and he began to think of her as human. He fell in love with her… she was his constant companion. (Not unlike Tom Hanks’ attachment to his soccer ball “Wilson” in The Castaway.”)
Then one day he is pardoned and Allenby arrived at the asteroid to return Corry to earth but Corry would not leave without Alicia. At some point Corry’s perspective got all messed up and he began to think his rubber doll was a real person. And that’s where it got all creepy and revolting so Allenby destroyed the robot so that Corry could see that she was really just a pile of synthetic skin, tangled wires and broken circuitry. Alicia was ultimately humanly disappointing.
Our text today makes me wonder if God, as our creator, see us as delightful? Or does God see us as disappointing and disgusting? In our text today His creation does not seem to bring a smile of endearment to God’s face. In fact, it would seem that we humans, who were created in the image of God, have pretty much departed from any desire to be what God destined us to be.
And it is a foolish thing for people to forget about or disregard God… for the created to forget the Creator.
I. It is absolute folly to be irresponsibly defiant toward God
Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good. Psalm 14:1
To say someone is a fool is to paint that person with a rather broad brush. A simple-minded person may be thought a fool. A silly person or a “goof-ball” may be thought a fool. A madman or maniac or “crazy-person” may be thought a fool. A short-sighted, unthinking person may be thought a fool. But I don’t think any of those really get at the level of foolishness spoken of in our text this morning.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
The implication is that this person is an empty vessel. It is to say that the person’s head is like an empty milk jug. At first glance to call someone a fool would then mean that person is an empty-headed, brainless idiot. However, foolishness of this kind does not necessarily speak to that person’s intelligence. Rather, it speaks to that person’s moral character, as in, that person is empty and devoid of moral character.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus cautioned his followers about having contempt for or casting aspersions on both the intellectual fool and the moral fool… and yet it is the moral fool that is identified in our text today. This kind of fool is more in the category of the mocker, i.e., “There’s no God!” This person is not a sincere but misguided person. This person is irresponsibly defiant… even if there is a God, it doesn’t matter to this person. This kind of fool is going to do whatever he wishes and take his chances.
This kind of fool is like the mastermind of a ponzi scheme who thinks he can con people indefinitely and never get caught. This kind of fool thinks he can outsmart the IRS. This kind of fool thinks he can do whatever he wishes because God is either non-existent or disengaged so there is nothing to worry about. So he does whatever he wishes.
Jesus told a story in Luke 12 about a businessman who decided to go on a trip. So before he left he entrusted the running of his company to his top manager. The manager then got all heady and proud of his newfound role in the company and began to abuse his position and lord it over the other employees, he misspent company funds, he partied-hearty, he tipped himself back in the boss’ chair, placed his feet on the boss’ desk and lived the good life thinking, “The boss won’t be back for a while.” But the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God,” is in for a big shock when the boss comes back.
Meanwhile, the foolish person lives contemptuously of the notion that there is a God who will hold him accountable for his actions, the fool feels free to live without restraint. “They are corrupt and their actions are evil. Not one of them is good.”
These kinds of people either do not believe God exists or if God does exist, God is ineffectual. God does not correct. God does not punish. God does not reward. So there is no reason for endeavoring to do good or restraining from doing bad.
The bible speaks of their actions as being abominable. Their actions are not just bad… they are really bad. On a continuum:
Not so bad <_____________________________________________________> Really, Really, Really Bad
This kind of fool thumbs his nose at the notion of God or a God who holds him accountable so he does not care how his actions affect God or other people. It is this kind of foolishness that leads to the moral vacuum and unrestrained evil that permeates our culture today. It is not that there are no good people in the world today, because there are. But there is also a category of people who live in total disregard for God and good.
But our text says that despite their disregard for God or at least and effectual God, God is not oblivious to their actions.
II. God is not oblivious to our actions.
The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one! Psalm 14:2-3
The idea of a God who looks down is kind of interesting.
I love the Direct TV ads that encourage viewers to switch from cable to Direct TV today or your life will spiral into misery, self-loathing and despair. One ad shows a guy sitting in his easy chair waiting for the cable guy. He notices something and glances out the window and sees some gangsters putting a body in the trunk of a car. The narrative goes like this: "When you wait forever for the cable guy, you get bored," he says. "When you get bored, you start staring out windows. When you start staring out windows, you see things you shouldn't see." (Our hero sees a body being loaded into a trunk.) "When you see things you shouldn't see, you need to vanish. When you need to vanish, you fake your own death." (He swims away from a boat on fire.) "When you fake your own death, you dye your eyebrows. And when you dye your eyebrows, you attend your own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley. Don't attend your funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley. Get Direct TV.”
The image our text conjures is that of a God who is in heaven. God decides to take a look out the window so God leans over the window sill and looks down as if to survey what is going on down on earth.
We can kind of get the idea from the story of Noah and the flood in Genesis 6. When God looked down and scrutinized the human race he observed that everyone was corrupt. In the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the people of earth decided they would build a tower to reach heaven. So it says “The Lord came down to look at the tower.” In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 God said, “I am going down to see if their actions are as bad as I’ve heard.”
The idea is, when God looks down God often sees things God should not see. When God looks down he sees a culture gone wild… a culture gone corrupt. And God is affected by what He sees.
In Genesis we are taught that God “created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
I was interested in a comment I read from something Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann said regarding the creation of man in Genesis 1 and 2. He wrote, “There is one way in which God is imaged in the world and only one: Humanness! God is not known through any cast or molten image. God is known peculiarly through this creature who exists in the realm of free history where power is received, decisions are made, and commitments are honored. God is not imaged in anything fixed but in the freedom of human persons…” (Walter Brueggemann, Commentary on Genesis, The Interpretation Series, John Knox, 1982, p. 32)
Last Friday night Bonnie and I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympic Stadium in London. It was a display described as fit for a queen. There was an amazing display of lights, fireworks, dancers, and music. Someone even parachuted into the stadium dressed as Queen Elizabeth. The torch was carried and the cauldron lit. Athletes representing 204 competing nations paraded into the stadium. And occasionally the camera would pan onto Queen Elizabeth seated between the President of the Olympic Committee and the Archbishop of Canterbury. She seemed to maintain a fair amount of dignified reserve but occasionally I thought she looked kind of grouchy and I wondered if she was thinking, “I used to own those countries.”
It seemed to be a ceremony indeed fit for a queen and the viewing world was caught up in the pageantry and the beauty of humanity and the wonder of what a world in harmony looks like.
We were affected by what we saw. We are emotional people who experience pride and joy and love and hope. And so is God. We are made in his image and so it is that if we feel, God feels. God is not unaffected by what He sees.
So we may assume that God feels good about some things and not so good about other things. In other words God feels anger, displeasure, disgust, outrage, regret and dismay. God feels the entire spectrum of human emotions because human emotions are God’s emotions. So when God looks at us is God delighted or disgusted?
So when God looks down God is affected by what He sees. And to God, it looks like no one seeks God. It looks like everyone has become corrupt and that no one, not a single one among us does good. It does not seem that anyone is affected by what affects God.
It appears that there is no one who fears God. No one seems to be worried about what God thinks or about the possibility that God might just be an affectable God.
III. Failure to fear God is a miscalculation (failure to foresee) of eternal consequence.l
Will those who do evil never learn? They eat my people like bread and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord. Terror will grip them, for God is with those who obey him. The wicked frustrate the plans of the oppressed, but the Lord will protect his people. Psalm 14:4-6
When you look at the really, really, really abominably bad things some people do to other people it would seem that they are eating people like they might eat piece of bread, i.e., totally without conscience. Just another day of financial finagling. Just another day of ripping others off. Just another day of oppressing the masses. Just another day of terrorism. Just another day of warmongering. Just another day of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and genocide. Just another day of perversion. Just another day of abusing power and privilege. Just another day of plotting destruction and anarchy. Just another day of lying and cheating. Just another day of racism and bigotry.
Of course I have cited a list of what I consider to be most abominable before God. I know the spectrum is very broad between the “not so bad” and the “really, really, really bad.” And I know that to a greater or lesser degree… we do bad things with as little thought as we might give to the eating of a piece of bread.
What is really interesting to me in this text is that God notes, “…and they wouldn’t even think of praying.”
God sees people are like brutes, i.e., animals that are unaware of God. Despite being people, we sometimes act more like we are cows or pigs or goats or dogs or elephants or whatever… creatures that never give God a thought and to which the thought of praying is totally beyond their capability. A brute is without God-consciousness.
I just finished reading a book titled: The Book Thief. It is an interesting book in that it is set in Germany during WWII. The narrator of the book is “Death.” And “Death” is everywhere… “Death” witnesses death and in the story “Death” makes observations about the people he sees as he goes about his deathly work.
One of his observations comes toward the end of the war when the allied forces are bombing German towns. The sirens sound and the villagers all go to houses designated to have deep enough and large enough basements to protect them. On one occasion a lady who has just learned that her son died at Stalingrad refuses to leave her home when the siren sounds. She chooses to ignore the warning and sits on a chair in her kitchen as her family and neighbors beg her to seek safety.
She is like anyone who ignores the gathering storm clouds or tornado sirens or severe weather warnings or the growing lump or the carbon dioxide monitor or red lights… failure to fear God is a serious miscalculation because the Bible says, “terror will grip them.”
When we ignore God, we gamble that we will get away with disobedience to God. And when that happens, we along with a lot of other people, suffer because of it. The Bible says, “Don’t be misled – you cannot mock the justice system of God. You will always harvest what you plant or in more familiar language, you will reap what you sow. Those who live to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life.” Galatians 6:7-8
Our text says there is a point at which God’s long-suffering will turn to wrath and those who think God does not exist or is not affected by their behavior are in for a huge and terrifying shock.
However, not only is there a promise of terror to those who ignore God, there is the promise of vindication and justice for those who seek after and honor God.
IV. Those who remain faithful to God will be vindicated.
When the Lord restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice. Psalm 14:7
The “you will reap what you sow” principle works for being faith as well. If we reap what we sow in a negative sense, we also reap what we sow in a positive sense. God will protect his people and God will restore his people.
In our culture we understand what it means to be kidnapped. Somali pirates routinely capture shipping vessels and hold their crews for ransom. In January of this year two foreign aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Thisted were kidnapped in Somolia and later freed by U.S. Seal Team Six. More recently two U.S. tourists were captured by Bedoins in the Sinai of Egypt and held demanding the release of tribesmen from prison in exchange for the release of the tourists.
I’ve never been a victim of a kidnapping but my guess is that someone who is kidnapped literally longs for someone to come, rescue them and return them to their homeland.
In the biblical culture the people thought in terms of exile and in particular the Israelite people thought of having been carried off from their homeland to live in exile in a place like Assyria. During their time of exile they longed to return to their homeland. And in our text God promises that his people will find him to be a hiding place and a refuge and a rescuer and a restorer. When the Psalmist wrote this he was expressing longing of a people in exile for the Lord to come from Jerusalem to rescue them.
It’s a way of assuring us that in the end God wins and so do we!
This week I read Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11 is known as “The Faith Chapter” just as I Corinthians 13 is known as “The Love Chapter.”
In Hebrews 11 the story goes that even when Abraham and his son Isaac and his son Jacob lived in the land God had promised them, “they lived there as foreigners or aliens. They lived in tents because they had their eyes on something more… a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. They were not living there with a longing to go back to where they came from because they could have gone back. They were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. And God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Sometimes we get our perspective a bit skewed and we think this is all there is and all there is to be gotten, including justice, which must be gotten here and now. But God’s promise is ultimately more satisfying and ultimately more rewarding.
Though they eat up God’s people like bread, terror will grip them and God will be with those who obey him and God will restore his people.
When we are affected by what affects God we live in ways that honor God knowing that in the end… God wins and so do we!