Webster’s Dictionary defines the word repetition as an act of doing or saying something again. Depending upon the context, the word may have either a positive or negative connotation. Sometimes one’s job involves a series of tasks that remain constant with no chance for variation. This type of repetition may lead some to experience boredom or monotony with the tasks and the job itself. When it comes to education, repetition is vital for essay writing, reading analytically, solving math problems, or performing science experiments. Teachers and professors will stay on one topic or subject for an extended period of time in order to ensure maximum retention. Driving home the point is the operating principle.
The Lord operates in a similar manner like our teachers, professors, and athletic trainers and coaches. He will repeat himself in order to drive home an important principle or set of principles. This sounds basic and obvious, but it illustrates God’s patience and grace with his people. It is this aspect of God’s character, his willingness to repeat himself, that demonstrates his Father’s heart to the fullest. The reason that I am thinking along these lines is very simple. During my morning quiet time today, I read Psalm 53. Big deal, right? Well, I had this sense that there was another Psalm just like it in the earlier part of the book. I told myself that it was in the teens. I double-checked the center column references to my ESV bible, and it listed Psalm 14. When I scanned the references to the fourteenth Psalm, there was a listing for Roman 3:10-12.
When I read over both the fourteenth and the fifty-third Psalms, I realized that the latter repeats the former even though there are slight differences with the wording. It is as if King David copied Psalm 14 and numbered it fifty-three. Did he experience boredom over writing the Psalms? Maybe he thought to himself, “you know, I’m stuck in the midst of a terrible bout of writer’s block. I have no idea what to write next. I got it. I’ll copy Psalm 14 because it’s so inspired, and I’ll change some of the words.” I apologize to my readers and followers if that sort of embellishment offends due to its flippant or reckless view of David and the Psalms. In all honesty, I seriously doubt that is how things went down. Given the topic of this post, I think it is obvious that the Lord impressed upon David to repeat the fourteenth Psalm in order to drive home a lesson: mankind is corrupt in his nature. It is this very lesson, which the apostle Paul repeats in his letter to the Romans.
What are the immediate and long-term benefits of such a lesson? After all, there is something downright pessimistic about the view that mankind is inherently corrupt. This is definitely against the prevailing cultural tide in our day. Secularism and liberalism are two cousins who teach the opposite perspective. Both of these -isms see mankind as progressing from a state of corruption toward a state of blessedness. Each person or community has the ability within itself to reform and improve for the better. It is this notion that drives the self-help literature and various expressions of religion and spirituality whether Christian or non-Christian. By the way, the word Christian is an extremely loaded term like Evangelical. Neither word retains its usefulness in categorizing people who espouse Jesus as Lord. These are fuzzy and muddy times in which we live. Let me get back on track here in order to bring things home.
If one reads through both the fourteenth and the fifty-third Psalms, it is not hard to spot the Psalmist’s cry at the end of each for God to save and restore his people. This lesson of salvation is another reason for the apostle Paul to reference both of these Psalms in his letter to the Romans. Both David and Paul emphasize that all of humanity is corrupt and lost in its state of corruption. Each author looks to God and thereby points his reader to him as the one who restores and saves mankind from its corrupt condition. The purpose of Paul’s letter to the Romans is to reveal that Jesus Christ is the way of salvation by grace through faith out from one’s sinful condition (Rom. 3:21-26, ESV). It is an offer that no one deserves, which is the exact meaning of grace. There is a popular saying, or maybe it is an idiom, which states that “God helps those who help themselves.” According to the scriptures, that saying is a lie. God helps those who cannot help themselves. In fact, God saves those who lack any and all ability to save themselves.
The believer’s salvation is a work of grace from start to finish. When compared to the lost, the redeemed of the Lord possess nothing special. The only difference between the two groups has to do with redeemed trusting in Christ for rescue from sin and death. Each of those previous sentences grows out of the lessons found in both the fourteenth and fifty-third Psalms along with Paul’s use of those two passages within his letter to the Romans. Both of David’s Psalms teach that mankind is lost due to a corrupt nature, and that God is the one who restores and saves mankind from this nature. Paul jumps on David’s two lessons by revealing how God the Father provides Christ as the answer for mankind’s condition. It is a most glorious way where there seemed to be no way.