To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
4 Have those who work evil no knowledge,
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?
5 There they are, in great terror,
where there is no terror!
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you;
you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
Mahalath may mean a musical setting or a melody about sorrow.
Maskil is apparently a type of psalm, appearing in the superscriptions of Psalm 32; Psalm 42; Psalm 44–45; Psalms 52–55; Psalm 74; Psalm 78; Psalms 88–89; Psalm 142. Various meanings have been suggested, including “teaching poem,” or “meditation.”
Psalm 53:1–3 is used by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:10–12 to make his case for the universal sinfulness of all people, and the need for all people to find salvation by faith in Jesus. The problem is that all of us are tempted to act as if there were no God. And when we deny the authority of God in the world, and in our lives, there is always the temptation to fill the vacuum with things or other people. And one of the most effective way for other people to fill the place of God is to exploit our insecurities and fill us with “great terror”, when in fact “there is no terror!” This psalm comforts us with the good news that that there is no real cause for terror, for God will destroy the enemy “who encamps against” us. God is already scattering their bones! So, when fools go against God’s people, God saves and restores them. The salvation that comes for us out of Zion is Jesus, who took our foolishness, our sin, and our death—and saved us by the seeming foolishness of His cross (1 Corinthians 1:18–25).
O God, left to our own devices, we become foolish, fearful, and corrupt. Open our hearts to see your work of conquering sin, death, foolishness, and fear, on the Cross of Christ.