Got up at the crack of dawn yesterday and my Bible fell open to Psalm 11. Had a great time of reflection on the word and then pulled out Calvin’s Commentary for a little back up. I’ll change it up today with a little running commentary. Follow along in your own Bible if you feel like it.
In the Lord I put my trust; how can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain?”
This is one of several psalms of David, written while he was on the run from Saul. David had a solid basis for trusting God. He had been anointed king of Israel by Samuel. He had prevailed over Goliath, showing courage and strength based on his victories over a lion and a bear while tending his father’s sheep. And yet Saul had it in for him, and now others were telling him to flee like a scared bird to the hills.
Running from the Lord’s enemies is nothing new for men of God. We might mention Elijah and Elisha. Christ even ventured out of Palestine into Decapolis when opposition to His ministry heightened. In Hebrews 11:38 we read about the faithful ones who wandered in the mountains and caves. During the Reformation Luther found refuge in the castle at Wartburg.
David’s words make it seem like even though he is on the run he sees flight as incompatible with trusting God. In a sense it is, I guess. I am guilty of fleeing situations much less dangerous than those David faced:
For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
In modern language we might say they had a cocked loaded gun at David’s head, just waiting until the coast was clear to off him. Saul had his minions on the hunt for David and were under orders to kill him on sight. We do not see this level of persecution here in America, but in places where Islam rules the day the lives of committed believers are in constant danger. Jesus told us not to fear those who can kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; rather, we are to fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Maybe we are not to that point yet, but the day might be coming where these words ring true.
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
In the ancient world people lived in walled cities, so when David mentions foundations he is likely referring to the foundations of the wall of the city–destroy it and the populous within is defenseless. When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC they razed and burned the walls. The book of Nehemiah tells how when they returned 70 years later they were vulnerable to attack with no wall to shield them. Nehemiah petitioned the Persian king Artaxerxes in 445 BC for permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
David is speaking metaphorically in my opinion. He is saying that the spiritual and moral foundations of Israel were in shambles under Saul. The people were worshipping false gods and engaging in all manner of wicked behavior. Under such conditions the righteous seem powerless and defenseless; hence the temptation to flee. In America we have no solid spiritual and moral foundation. We are not a Christian nation. Our government is corrupt, and our culture is godless and humanistic to the core. The churches look the same cosmetically as they did a generation ago, but the similarity ends there. The word of God has been forsaken and abandoned or twisted to fit the pagan theories and literary diarrhea of wicked heretics like Paul Young and Rob Bell. In this climate those who would stand for true righteousness are asking, as the scripture says: What can we do?
The second half of the psalm gives us a corrective against total despair:
The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous.
The Pontius Pilates of the world in their arrogance think they have the balance of power on their side; but as Jesus pointed out to that smoldering Roman stub, his power was on loan from his creator and judge. Things are not as they seem. God’s kingdom is not always visible. Jesus is ruling in heaven now, and we are a kingdom of priests. It does not seem as if He is the ruler of the kings of the earth, but indeed He is.
Today I spoke with a young single mom who has endured unspeakable evil in her short life. Physical, sexual, verbal, and mental abuse over many years by those she trusted and who ought to have loved and respected rather than used her. Like Joseph she would say that they meant it for evil and God meant it for good. In her own mind she is a stronger person as a result of the trials she has faced. She is one of the hardest workers and most resilient human beings I have ever met, and she is a true inspiration and testimony to how God tests and refines us through trials.
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will send coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.
God lovingly tests the righteous with a season of trials; but he hates the wicked and punishes them with eternal fire. We might be inclined to see this as crass and hard; after all, did not the Lord from the cross ask His Father to forgive his murderers? Personally I believe that there is a place for invoking the wrath of God–we see examples of this in the imprecatory psalms. We do not have a right to hate the wicked but God does. And God does indeed hate the reprobates. What were you thinking? That God will throw sinners He loves into the lake of fire and then pine and sorrow for eternity because their free will overruled his sovereignty? On the other hand,
For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.
Take courage and rejoice in the sovereign God of Scripture. He is in 100% control of your life all the time. You can trust Him no matter what.