A Christian Perspective on Psalm 53

Psalm 53 is a lot like Psalm 14, factually it is the same Psalm, just a new version which is so powerful that it’s quoted in Romans 3:10-12. But there are two differences: Firstly: There is LORD as in Jehovah used 4 times in Psalm 14 while in Psalm 53, God has a different name, as in Elohim. Secondly; There is a completely different direction in thought and meaning for verse 5 with both Psalm 14 & 53. Psalm 14 v5 points to God’s defense of his children, whereas Psalm 53 v5 points to God’s disdain for his enemies, while both verses speak of the enemies “fear”.

Why such differences? It’s kind of like the way the old 1860 English Hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” written by Mr. Whiting for sailors & captains to sing of God’s love & deliverance over the stormy seas, but later the same song was re-written around 1940 for airmen & pilots to sing over stormy skies. Back in 1860 we didn’t have airplanes. So when Psalm 53 was re-written by the Holy Spirit through the Psalmist, we have a lesson taught to us that even God works to keep his ancient word fresh through the centuries of change we go through. You and I with newer generations of Christians have the same job of keeping an ancient gospel fresh by the way we maintain modern accuracy in our presentation of the gospel which is two millennia old. Hence why we have so many English versions of the New Testament today!

In Psalm 14, David wrote about Moses bringing the Israelites through the Red Sea. God had saved them from Egypt. But now, nearly 300 years after David died, God saved them again. This time he saved them from Assyria. So, Psalm 14 was “rewritten”. It became Psalm 53. It was still David’s psalm, but they had to make two changes:

1) He used the name God (Elohim) instead of LORD (Jehovah). Perhaps this was because he wanted everyone to know that he was God of the whole world. LORD is a name that Hebrews used for God amongst God’s people.

2) He changed verses 5 & 6 in Psalm 14 into just verse 5 in Psalm 53. This says that God threw away the bones of the people that attacked Judah. Those people were the Assyrians! In Psalm 14, those people were the Egyptians.
So in Romans 3:10-12, when these Psalms are quoted, do we see the echo of justice in God’s judgment executed against the wicked while the righteous can rejoice? In Paul’s day, new Christians were facing persecution from Jews and at the same time were themselves in danger of hypocrisy against their enemies. This is how the logic of God’s love can prevent us from becoming a modern pharisee. We all, both religious Jews & heathen people (gentiles), are needing salvation from the way we tend to condemn ourselves.

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