Psalm 14: The Dreams of the Poor
If we have read Psalm 14 before we are familiar with the opening verse: The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (NASB) But today when we look at THE MESSAGE translation, we discover new meaning in an ancient prayer.
Bilious and bloated, they gas,
“God is gone.”
If this is what we believe, we will want to examine the path we took to arrive at this thinking. Our fears and anxieties may lead us in this direction. Our constant prayers keep us connected to God.
God sticks his head out of heaven.
He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
one man, even, God-expectant,
just one God-ready woman.
If this is what we are thinking, we will want to think again. God knows that there are many who live as Jesus suggests. There are many who give voice to the voiceless and aid to the poor.
He comes up empty. A string
of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
follow their fellow.
Don’t they know anything,
all these impostors?
If we are following a false shepherd because we believe the true shepherd has abandoned the flock, we must be afraid to be the first to turn away from the imposter.
Don’t they know
they can’t get away with this—
Treating people like a fast-food meal
over which they’re too busy to pray?
If we have decided that it is best to find comfort in this world because we have no energy to stand for authentic justice, we will want to remember the promise of Scripture.
Night is coming for them, and nightmares,
for God takes the side of victims.
Do you think you can mess
with the dreams of the poor?
If we have forgotten that God abides with the the marginalized, we will want to reconnect with our Maker, revisit our relationship with Christ, and renew our lives in the Spirit.
You can’t, for God
makes their dreams come true.
Is there anyone around to save Israel?
Yes. God is around; God turns life around.
Turned-around Jacob skips rope,
turned-around Israel sings laughter.
If we hope to rejoice for an eternity, if we plan to turn mourning into joy, if we live in the promise of salvation, we must turn around and give new voice to the hopes of the poor. We must take a hard look at the shepherds we follow. We must listen to the words we say and watch the actions we take. The psalmist reminds us that we cannot hope to languish in comfort and ignorance while false leaders attack the dreams of the forgotten. The psalmist reminds us that we invite our own nightmares and live dangerously if we mess with the dreams of the poor.
Compare other versions of this psalm and explore its meaning for us today.