Psalms 14-17 Godly people in ungodly society
Continuing the theme of Psalms 10-13 (concerning the godly person who is downtrodden), the psalmist notes what happens when people refuse to acknowledge God and live as if he does not care about their actions. The result is a corrupt society (14:1-3). Because they have rejected God they have rejected the true standard by which to judge good and evil. They live solely for themselves, with no consideration for others and no thought for God (4). But in the end victory will go to the poor and downtrodden, because God is on their side (5-7).
In Psalm 15 David considers the requirements necessary to enter the presence of God (15:1). These all have to do with character and behaviour, not with religious beliefs and observances. People must be honest in their actions, truthful in their speech, and disciplined in their avoidance of slander and gossip (2- 3). They must know how to make right judgments between things that are good and things that are not. In addition they must be reliable and trustworthy, keeping their word even when it hurts. They must be generous and helpful, and never take advantage of the poor or defenceless (4-5a). Such people will dwell in the presence of God and enjoy the lasting security that only God can give (5b).
Psalm 16 is David’s thanksgiving for one of the many occasions when God rescued him from what seemed to be certain death. He finds pleasure in the fellowship of God and his people, and rejects all other gods and those who worship them (16:1-4). Possessions may satisfy people and property may enrich them, but David considers that because he has God, he has all the satisfaction and wealth he desires (5-6). God is David’s instructor, friend and protector, the source of his stability and security (7-8). God delivers him from death and leads him through life, giving him the constant joy of his presence (9-11).
(The feelings that David expressed in Psalm 16 may have represented ideals that he himself never fully experienced. They find their full meaning in Jesus Christ; see Acts 2:25-28; 13:35-37.)
In another prayer that probably belongs to the time of David’s flight from the murderous Saul, David emphasizes his innocence in the strongest terms (17:1-5). He asks God to protect him from his enemies (6-9), after which he describes their wickedness (10-12) and pronounces their certain destruction. Their hunger for wickedness is only building up a heavier weight of judgment, which will not only fall on them but will also affect their offspring (13-14). The wicked are never satisfied, but the psalmist finds full satisfaction in his experience of God (15).