Psalm 14 – Understanding Human Nature: A Teaching On Total Depravity

Why are we the way we are? Are we born good and pure and innocent and only get jaded over time because of the world we live in?

Can humanity create paradise on Earth? Are we capable of making a socialist utopia based on Karl Marx’s saying: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need?”

Come up with the wrong answers to these questions and millions of people can die.

It’s terribly important that we know ourselves, understand who we are, understand human nature.

King David, in Psalm 14 and in Psalm 53, which is almost identical to Psalm 14, revealed human nature to us. And what he revealed is not pretty. He revealed what theologians call “total depravity.” Total depravity does not mean that human beings are totally depraved – that we are as wicked and corrupt as we can possibly be. Total depravity means sin has affected every aspect of who we are. Our bodies, souls, spirits, wills, minds, emotions, our sexuality – have been negatively affected by sin. Sin has ruined our relationship with God and damaged our ability to relate the way we should to other people.

Another thought: There are 150 psalms in the book of Psalms. Two of them deal with the depravity of human nature. That tells us that this is something God really wants us to understand.

First, I’ll read Psalm 14. Then we’ll consider it verse by verse.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.


Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?


There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.


You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.


Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Verse 1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

The fear of the Lord – knowing God and respecting Him – is the beginning of wisdom. And the opposite is true: Believing there is no God is a terrible kind of foolishness. Atheism produces stupid and wicked thoughts, behaviors and corruption. More on that in a bit.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” There are two kinds of atheists: ideological atheists and practical atheists.

An ideological atheist is someone who has convinced himself there is no God. In today’s post-Christian Western civilization, atheism is on the rise. There are growing numbers of atheists.

Then there is the agnostic. He believes there is not enough evidence for him to conclude that God exists. Of course, that is ridiculous. There’s tremendous evidence of God’s reality everywhere around us, above us, in us.

Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Romans 1: What can be known about God is plain to people, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

There is no excuse for agnosticism. There is no excuse for atheism.

My opinion? Agnostics really are atheists who are too cowardly to admit they don’t believe in God.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” The first kind of atheist: the ideological atheist.

The second kind of atheist is the practical atheist. The practical atheist can have no religious background or he can identify himself with a religion like Christianity, Judaism or Islam.

What characterizes the practical atheist is that he lives his life as if God does not exists. For the practical atheist, making decisions based on who God is and what God may want is irrelevant. Those kinds of considerations don’t enter into his thinking or his decisions.

The person who calls himself a Christian and walks away from his marriage without biblical grounds; who doesn’t care that God hates divorce; that God wants marriage vows kept – that’s an example of a practical atheist.

The woman who says she believes in God, and has an abortion, and the man who says he believes in God and encourages her to have an abortion – they are practical atheists.

The person who speaks approvingly about homosexuality, lesbianism and transgenderism – is a practical atheist.

The person who engages in sex outside of marriage, and thinks it’s fine – is a practical atheist.

I’m convinced that the majority of the people in Western Civilization are practical atheists. They might say they are Christians, Jews, Moslems; they might say they believe in God, but in their hearts they say the same thing as the ideological atheist – there is no God.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” – and there are a lot of fools in the world today.

More about human nature: unless God intervenes and saves a person, and starts transforming him from within, human nature is not innocent. It’s not good. It’s fallen. It’s sinful. David continued: They are corrupt. Humanity is corrupt, tainted, flawed, twisted, perverse, marred, distorted.

Is that cute little baby good, innocent, pure? No. That cute little baby is corrupt. That cute little baby is part of a fallen race. That cute little baby has a sin nature. That cute little baby will inevitably express that nature. The older he gets and the more capable he becomes to think and act, the more clearly that corrupt nature will be revealed.

David continued: They do abominable deeds. Wicked and evil deeds; vile, disgusting and offensive deeds; harmful, damaging, hurtful deeds; unholy, unrighteous, impure deeds.

What is the reason for these abominable deeds? What is the source of these abominable deeds? Our corrupt nature.

You want more specifics about how our corrupt nature expresses itself? Rabbi Paul described it this way: Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened … For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men … They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

But surely not everyone is like that. There must be lots of exceptions. There must be many people, even though they are unsaved, unredeemed, untransformed – who are good. Ah – no. David continued: There is none who does good. By good, David means “good according to God’s standard.” And what is God’s standard of good? Himself. He is good. His nature is one of pure goodness. God’s goodness is His standard of good.

Does a mother do good when she cares for her children? Yes, she does good.

Does a man do good when he works hard and supports his family? Yes. He does good.

These are acts of doing good. All people are capable of doing acts that are good. Bad people, wicked people, even the most vile people, are capable of doing good.

A Pharaoh, a Haman or a Hitler; a hired killer or human trafficker or abortion doctor can do good – love his wife and children, love his nation, give to charity.

But those good acts don’t make him good. He is not good according to God’s standard. No matter how many acts of goodness a person does, that does not make a person with a corrupt nature good according to God’s standard of good.

Why? That individual is part of a great, ancient and wicked rebellion against God. That individual is in a state of rebellion against the Lord – and rebellion against the One who is so much greater than us, and who made us, and who is pure goodness, and is perfectly holy, and who has the right to rule us – is a spiritual crime of the highest magnitude. It’s the worst sin of all.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. Just as human beings can do acts of goodness and still not be good according to God’s standard, they can understand some things about God and seek after God to a degree – but not sufficiently understand Him and not sufficiently seek Him according to God’s standard of understanding and seeking Him. They don’t understand and seek Him enough. They don’t understand and seek Him the way they should.

To make absolutely certain we understand the all-pervasiveness of the corruption of human nature, which has affected us so that none of us understands or seeks the Lord the way we should, David added this: They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Apart from divine intervention in the life of an individual, everyone has turned aside; has turned away from God; left the path; is going in a wrong direction. Everyone is tainted, flawed, twisted, perverse, marred, distorted. No one is good according to God’s standard of good. Not even one.

It’s the Spirit who saves and transforms people and who makes them good. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit.

As he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before Yeshua and asked him, “Good Rabbi, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Yeshua said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

No one is good. That is the human condition; that is the state of humanity. No good.

However, into this cesspool of rebellion and corruption, the Lord looks down from heaven and helps some of those who have turned aside get back on the path that leads to Him.

He helps some understand what they need to understand.

He helps some seek Him until they find Him.

He graces them with faith. He gives them the gift of salvation.

He blesses them with a new, good nature like His own. He sends His Holy Spirit to live in them. He helps them become righteous and consistently live the right way.

Before the arrival of the Son of God, the Lord intervened and created a special nation. A remnant in Israel were saved, rescued, redeemed, spiritually alive – like David was. They understood the Lord. They sought Him. They became righteous.

How did the surrounding peoples relate to the Lord’s Chosen People? Did they love us? Thank God for us? Were they attracted to the God of Israel and want to be His worshipers like we were? No. More often than not, they hated us. They went to war with us. They killed many of us. When they conquered us, they oppressed us – sometimes very severely.

David experienced that in his life and was astounded that the surrounding nations could be so far from God. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?

David was amazed by their lack of knowledge of the Lord and His purposes. Anyone with the slightest knowledge should know what they were doing to the special nation of Israel was foolish and evil.

David expressed surprise at their refusal to call upon the Lord, the true God, the living God, the saving God – which means to believe in Him and worship Him.

David was astounded by the way they treated the Lord’s people. He used poetic language to express this: They killed and oppressed us with the same attitude they ate bread – that just as bread was there for them to use, they killed and oppressed us for their benefit.

God may allow our foolish and godless enemies to oppress His people for a time – but not forever. There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.

The Lord will not allow the poor, afflicted, righteous generation of Israel, who have the Lord for our refuge, to be oppressed forever. When we have suffered enough; when we have been disciplined and chastised enough; and when we have turned back to the Lord enough, He will judge and terrorize our oppressors. That’s what happened in David’s day, and throughout Israel’s history.

And the same principle applies to us today. The righteous – Messianic Jews and Christians – who are often poor and afflicted, may suffer for a time at the hands of the wicked. The persecution of Christians increased greatly in the 20th century and is at a very high level today in many parts of the world today.

Some of the worst perpetrators of this persecution? The foolish socialists of the former Soviet Union, and the foolish socialists of China who have said in their hearts, there is no God. My brothers and sisters, atheism, and not understanding fallen human nature, has produced the most horrifying consequences. Loss of freedom. Slavery. The most awful human rights violations. Torture. Murder. Death. Tens of millions killed.

The former Soviet Union, with its foolish and wicked atheism, collapsed, and with its collapse, so did the persecution of Christians. However, today, many of the Lord’s people are being oppressed and killed in China today.

The good news is that the Lord will eventually judge and defeat those who persecute us, kill and oppress us. However, until He does, our duty is to endure. Remain faithful. Proclaim the Gospel. Build His Community. Pray.

David prayed that the Lord would save His people from their oppressors. Oh, that yeshua – salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! And the Lord answered David’s prayer. He saved us over and over and over again. And about 1,000 years after David wrote this poem/song, the Lord saved not only the Jewish people, but the whole world, from our greatest oppressors – Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell – with the ultimate salvation, the greatest yeshua – Yeshua the Messiah.

Do you know Him? Are you faithful to Him? Are you serving Him? Are you one of His ministers?

David knew the Lord and His ways. He knew the Lord was committed to Israel and to Israel’s salvation and happiness. And so he ended this psalm with a confident, hopeful statement that when the Lord would save His people, we would experience joy and gladness. When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. There were many times when, after a nation conquered and oppressed us, and the Lord saved and restored us, and we experienced joy and gladness.

And I tell you today, that a greater salvation, and a greater time of joy and gladness is coming – when King Yeshua returns, judges and defeats the wicked nations, and saves Israel with a great, great salvation. Then a redeemed Israel and the righteous remnant from the nations will experience the greatest restoration and 1,000 years of the greatest joy and gladness.

In Psalm 14, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us through David. He is teaching us that we need to know that we are fallen; sinners; have a corrupt nature; and we can’t save ourselves. We can’t overcome our corrupt nature. Only the Three-In-One God can do that for us.

Let’s pray:

God the Father, we are in the greatest need of the salvation, redemption, deliverance, rescue, help and transformation that only You can provide. And You did provide those things by sending Your Son, Yeshua the Messiah, who lived a perfect life, died an atoning death; overcame death; ascended to Heaven, to Your right hand, where He is right now, at this very moment.

Thank You that You and Your Son are able and willing to send Your Spirit to save and transform those who believe. Help us and those we love, along with many others, believe and be saved and live with You and Your Son forever and ever.

And if we know You, I pray that we would be filled with Your Spirit, and be Your faithful servants and minsters, and proclaim the Good News the way we should and build Your Community the way we should.

And Father, one more thing: Help the foolish socialists of today, the old and especially young – who don’t know You or human nature. Turn their hearts to You and Your Word – before they destroy the rest of us.