Psalm 11 begins in catastrophe, calamity, and despair.
In this Psalm, David is given prudent and practical advice, and even seems to be wise.
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,Psalm 11:1c-3
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
We aren’t given the exact circumstance this Psalm was written in, but we do know it must have been during an intense time of David’s life. No one counsels the king to flee except in unprecedented and violent times.
Notice the reason for the advice: The wicked bend their bow. They have fitted their arrow. They are on the attack. They are armed and ready for battle. And who are their targets but the righteous, the upright in heart?
This seems like sound advice given to David and it seems like sound advice for Christians when we look at the state the world is in, being bombarded daily with news of injustice and societal collapse. Why not flee to the mountains when we see the wicked with so much power?
We look at our personal circumstances; we look at injustice in this world; we look at wicked men and women thriving and ruling and reigning; we look at police brutality and government corruption; we look at 60 million babies murdered in the womb since 1973; we look at wars and rumors of wars and think, maybe it’s best to retreat.
In the face of such injustice, hatred, depravity, and despair, what can the righteous do?
But how does David respond? He doesn’t look to his feelings and he doesn’t look to the circumstances around him.
He looks to God.
“In the Lord I take refuge,” is his reply. And who is this Lord, and where is he during these times?
“The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord ‘s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.” Psalm 11:4.
The Lord reigns and the Lord sees; he tests the righteous. The righteous aren’t promised a comfortable and easy life. They are tested and tried, refined and purified, cultivated by the hands of God as he prunes our lives, growing us to be like Christ.
And, as we will see in the coming stanzas, he brings justice on the wicked.
If we take a step back to view the Psalm as a whole, we notice its pyramid structure. It begins and ends with the righteous being close to the Lord either by refuge or by beholding him. The high point, what hinges and holds it together is verse 4, which reminds us that even during the worst times of our lives, the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
Even if the foundations of our lives and society fall, and even if we find some of the foundations we trusted in were false, the Lord reigns. His foundations cannot be touched.
Psalm 11 begins and ends with God’s steadfast love and protection over us. Its high point is God on his throne. What leads up to it is the words of David’s counselors, telling him what the wicked can do. The remainder of the Psalm is David’s reply to the counselors, reminding them of what God can do.
“The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the
one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind
shall be the portion of their cup.” Psalm 11:5-6.
Arrows can do damage. They can bring death and destruction, and overturn nations. In the hands of the wicked, they can maim, kill and destroy. Death is serious. But that’s the most the wicked can do. After death, what’s left?
If we compare the strength of arms of the wicked with the weapons at God’s disposal, we will see there is no true comparison to be made. The holy and just judgement from an eternal Being utterly consumes the wicked and leaves no trace. Their words and works will be scorched and burned, blown away by the wind.
In one of his sermons, Christ made a similar comparison.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28.
God created everything ex nihilo – out of nothing. He has the final say in any and all matters. The Lord will save the righteous. He will also justly judge the wicked. He sat on his throne during the reign of Rome, and he will be sitting there long after more nations rise and fall.
That was David’s encouragement during disastrous times. And the same God who ruled and reigned over his life, with all its ups and downs, does the same still today.
The kingdom of God is eternal because God himself is eternal. There is our hope, our Rock, Our very present help in time of need.
With all the uncertainties and injustices today, with all the causes to despair, may we remind ourselves who our God is, knowing that our Lord, the Supreme Being of the universe, who created and sustains everything, is righteous and loves righteous deeds.
Even when it doesn’t look like we can do anything to fight against the oppression of the wicked, even when our sin seeks to destroy us, even when the world around us is in the midst of catastrophe, calamity, and despair, even when it looks like the world, the flesh, and the devil, are winning every battle, the Lord is our refuge.
And most of all, the Lord is sovereign. He rules and reigns. He mends the broken-hearted. He exacts vengeance on the wicked and fulfills justice for the righteous. And we will behold his face.
Deacon at C3