Theme: The Faith of the Saints
In this week’s lessons we look carefully at both what sin is and what it does, and then contrast that with our need for the Savior, who alone can deliver us from our sin.
Scripture: Psalm 53:1-6
The fruit of sin. Sin destroys the one who pursues it, of course. But verse 4 also shows how it impacts others. The verse uses a simple image, describing evildoers as “those who devour my people as men eat bread.” In the Middle East, as in the western world, bread is the most common of food staples. It is eaten regularly and with scarcely a thought. This seems to be how the psalmist regards evildoers as acting when they further their own interests. They devour the weak and poor in order that they might grow strong and rich themselves. What an apt description of our own “dog eat dog” world! We know people who function exactly like that. They don’t care what happens to anyone else. Underneath the glamour, that is sin’s true nature.
The righteous do care what happens to others. Therefore, they will do the right thing even at great personal cost, and they are generous with what is theirs in order to help others.
The fear and shame that attends sin. Verse 5 is the verse that is the new addition and variant in this repeated psalm, and it seems to refer to an historical incident, though we cannot be sure which one. I have already mentioned the scattering of the armies of Sennacherib in the days of Hezekiah as a possibility (2 Kings 18, 19), but there are numerous examples of God sending unreasoning terror into the hearts of Israel’s foes. Joshua 10:10 tells of the confusion of the armies of southern Canaan when the Jewish troops fell on them at Gibeon. Judges 7 recounts the battle of Gideon and his small army of three hundred men against the Midianites, when all they did was surround the Midianite camp by night, expose their lanterns and blow their trumpets. The Midianites were terrified and turned against one another, killing their own countrymen in the night. In 1 Samuel 14, after Jonathan and his armor-bearer had killed some twenty of the Philistines, “panic struck the whole army” and Saul and his larger army routed them (v. 15).
In the cases I have just mentioned panic overtook Israel’s enemies when there was no adequate human cause for it. But if that has been so when there was no cause, how much greater the fear will be when sinners are confronted by the enormity of their transgression before the presence of the thrice holy God. Jesus said of sinners that in the day of God’s judgment, “They will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’” So great will be their dread (Luke 23:30). But the hills will answer to God who created them, not those who have been opposed to him, and the wicked will be forced to give an accounting of all they have done.
The last of Matthew Henry’s points maintains the alliteration of words beginning with the letter “f” (the fact, fault, fountain, folly, filthiness, fruit and fear of sin). But the last point turns from sin to the contrasting portrait of the true people of God found in verse 6. Henry calls this verse: “The faith of the saints.”
These people live in a world in which fools do indeed act and speak as if “there is no God.” It is a world in which sin abounds and in which the perpetrators of evil habitually destroy the righteous as those who eat bread. But in the midst of this present evil world, made cruel by sin, the saints look upward and wait for the “salvation” that comes from Zion. In the days of the psalmist that salvation was still future, for properly assessed it was not an earthly deliverance from such threats as the Canaanite, Midianite, Philistine or Assyrian armies. These were temporary, physical deliverances. The “salvation” to which the righteous looked was God himself, particularly the Savior-God whose coming had been prophesied so many times over in the Old Testament.
That Savior was Jesus. So now, we who live on the other side of his coming look back to him as the one who alone delivers us from sin. We put our faith in him and his work, rather than in our own works, as the basis of our salvation. And we look forward to his second coming too, knowing that in that day sin will be punished, good will be rewarded, and the folly of those who have lived as if there is no God will be revealed.
If you have been living as if there is no God, I urge you to repent of your folly and become wise instead. The person who is wise knows that he or she needs a Savior. When that Savior is revealed, the wise person believes on him and follows him forever.
Give examples of the fruit of sin.
What is the cure for all these points concerning sin? How does it address the effects of sin?
Application: Give thanks to the Lord for his work of grace in your life, and for how his gift of faith sustains you.
For Further Study: To learn more about faith, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “How to See God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)