Psalm 53: The Depth of Our Fall, The Depth of Our Need

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As David writes Psalm 53 he is living in a time when the nation of Israel is under a constant threat of attack from those who are opposed to God and His people. As David lives through these threats and attacks he considers the enemy. He describes those who are opposed to God and the condition of their hearts – hearts that are corrupt and that will never turn to God on their own. But what we see in the Psalm is that this indictment goes beyond the enemies of Israel and is applied to all mankind.

In Psalm 53 we have one of the clearest statements in Scripture on the condition of mankind apart from God. On our own we are ‘totally depraved’ and we will never seek God or do anything to please Him or earn His favor.

Psalm 53 should remind us that our condition without Christ is far worse than we ever could have imagined. But, it also helps us recognize the beauty of salvation. Once we see the seriousness of our diagnosis, the miracle of healing becomes that much sweeter.


After listening to the sermon consider using this reading plan to further meditate on the content of the message. 

Day One: Psalm 53

Take time to read the Psalm that we considered on Sunday. The notes from the message are available on our website. In Psalm 53 David is considering the enemies of Israel who are wreaking havoc on the nation. As he writes he describes the position of their hearts; they are deniers of God, corrupt and unable to do good. The indictment is serious, but the stakes are raised when David explains that this same condition is true of all mankind. All men are born under sin. We don’t have any regard for God, we are corrupt and we can’t earn His favor in any way (vv. 1-3). Then, after describing our condition David goes on to describe the sure and certain judgment on all those who oppose God (vv. 4-5).

But thankfully the Psalm doesn’t end after verse 5. In verse 6 David acknowledges that the God of Israel is able to save His people from those who oppose them. While his request is specific to the context of Israel, there is a hint toward our own hope of salvation. David asks that salvation “come out of Zion.” What we know is that in time the ultimate source of salvation did come out of Zion. David was the King of Israel in Zion and from his line came the Savoir, our Lord Jesus Christ.

This Psalm is an important reminder of the condition of our hearts. It’s a reminder that without Christ our condition is far worse than we ever could have imagined. On our own we are ‘totally depraved’ and we will never seek God or do anything to please Him or earn His favor, but this is our hope: That through Jesus our dead hearts can be made alive. While we will never seek Him on our own, He can give us faith to respond to His gift of salvation. As we consider Psalm 53 we should be grieved by who we were and overwhelmed that God would choose to save us. We should also look at our world with new eyes and recognize that the only hope we can offer is the mercy and grace of God – no other solution is sufficient.

Day Two: Genesis 6-7

In Psalm 53 we read of the condition of man apart from God and of God’s sure and certain judgment. As we read Psalm 53, especially verse 2, it is reminiscent of Genesis 6 and the descriptions of mankind in the time of Noah. In both of these passages we are told that God looks down on the earth, takes a survey of the state of mankind and sees people who are corrupt and who have no regard for Him. God’s heart is grieved as He sees the condition of man and He knows He must respond. This corruption must not be allowed to continue.

As we read Genesis 6 there are several things that should stand out. First, it is a reminder of the fallen condition of man. While God created us in His image the impact of sin has touched every part of us. In Genesis 6:5 we are told that “every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually” and this is true of our nature as well. We are all born sinful and left to our own devices will continue in sin and rebellion against God.

A second thing that we should recognize in this story is the response of God to sin. Genesis 6 makes it clear that God is grieved by sin and cannot allow it to continue without a response. The account of the flood is a massive reminder of the serious nature of sin and of the justice and judgment of God toward sinful man.

We should not be able to read Genesis 6 and 7 without reflecting on the seriousness of sin and the justice of God, but we should also be very aware of the mercy of God that is revealed. After reading of the state of mankind it seems that God would have been justified to destroy all people forever, but God desires to show mercy and that’s made clear in His choice of Noah and His plan of salvation through the ark. We will consider this more as we look at Genesis 8-9.

Day Three: Genesis 8-9

While Genesis 7 ends with the devastation of the flood – the death of all living things – Genesis 8 starts with a beautiful reminder that God has shown mercy and some have been saved. “But God remembered Noah . . .” what a great display of God’s love and mercy.

After the floodwaters subsided Noah acknowledged God’s mercy and salvation by building an altar and offering a sacrifice to God, but even still Noah didn’t know what the future would hold. God had just destroyed all living things and it is safe to assume that Noah and his family had questions about their relationship with God and their future. But they don’t have to wonder long because God responds with commands and promises.

In chapter 9 we see that God re-affirms many of the orders of creation that He had given first to Adam. While the flood was significant and brought significant change it didn’t change the way God intended creation and mankind to function. In addition to reaffirming the orders of creation God issues some important commands about the taking of human life. God did not want his act of judgment to imply that human life can be devalued; after all we are made in His image. God makes it clear that human life is to be honored, valued and protected.

Following the re-commissioning of creation God does something very significant; He makes a promise, a covenant. He covenants that He will never again destroy the world by flood. This covenant sets a precedent and is the first of a series of covenants that God will make with His people throughout history. One thing that we come to know about God as we trace His work throughout the Bible is that God is a Covenant-keeping God. In Noah’s case he makes a covenant and then establishes a recurring reminder of that covenant for both Himself and mankind – the rainbow.

As we read this story we should be overwhelmed. A story that started with corruption and rebellion ends with salvation and promise, and if you are in Christ this is your story as well.

Day Four: Romans 3

In many ways Romans 3 provides a fuller explanation Psalm 53:1-3. In the Psalm David describes the fallen nature of man and how we have all turned away from God. In Romans 3 Paul includes Psalm 53:1-3 as he continues to build his own case against mankind. Both Paul and David make it clear that man is corrupt and that on our own we will never seek God or be able to earn His favor.

As Romans 3 begins Paul is continuing a topic he began in chapter 2, that the Jews are just as guilty before God as the rest of mankind. While the Jews have been set apart by God, every person, Jew and Gentile alike, is equally sinful and in need of salvation.

In verse 9 the focus transitions away from the Jews and once again Paul addresses the state of all men. In this section David builds his case by quoting several Old Testament passages (including Psalm 53) and he leaves no question of the reach and the extent of our depravity – every person is impacted and every part of our being is corrupted by sin.

While verses 9-20 paint a pretty hopeless picture, Paul provides hope in verses 21-31. While we can never obtain any level of righteousness on our own, through faith in Jesus righteousness can be granted. Because of Jesus we can be forgiven and have the privilege of being in right standing with God. After the verdict of verses 1-20 this reality should be overwhelming. What we can never attain on our own is made available to us by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Day Five: Psalm 57

Read Psalm 57 in preparation for our service on Sunday. As you read ask yourself these questions: What does this Psalm teach us about God? What does this Psalm teach us about ourselves? Also, take time to write down questions that you have about the Psalm, then come on Sunday and listen for answers to those questions.