When Foundations Crumble”
Psalm 11This Psalm could equally be titled, “What can the righteous do?” or “Panic and Stability”. This Psalm contains “faith’s response to fear’s counsel. The psalmist is in danger from the wicked, who are bending their bows and shooting at him, and either his friends or his enemies are advising him to take flight” (Psalms, Volume 1, Boice, p. 91). 11:1 “How can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain’”: This could have been advice that David was hearing from his enemies (Nehemiah 6:10-13), or even more dangerous, well-meaning but erroneous advice from his friends, like Peter’s advice to Jesus in Matthew 16:22. “The plea to get away into hiding is still ringing in David’s ears as he begins his reply” (Kidner p. 73). One can understand why advisors might give David this advice, that is, David is the mainstay of the people, the one man supposedly holding the nation together, his life must be saved at all cost. 11:2 “To shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart”: “An ambush is being set. Known enemies can be dealt with; it is the unknown who are so intimidating” (Mastering the Old Testament, Psalms 1-72, Donald Williams, p. 100). “The longing for flight may come from David’s own fear—-an outside advisor. He is faced with the alternative that confronts us all in crises: make God your refuge or try to create your own. The ultimate issue is whether we will trust Him or trust ourselves. Who will be the effective God in our lives?” (p. 100). Yet for an answer, “David will look up and see the immense realities that overshadow these events” (Kidner p. 73). 11:3 “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”: This is a statement that may have been made by those giving David the advice to flee. David’s advisers were afraid because they saw only frightening circumstances and crumbling foundations. “More than fifty years ago Arno. C. Gabelein called this the burning question of our day” (Boice p. 91). What Can The Righteous Do When….. Morality is undermined and evil sweeps unchecked? The Bible is attacked and its teachings are ridiculed and ignored? Even professed Christians support the rising tide of unbelief? Family values are crumbling and the tide of frequent divorce sweeps forward with increasing damage to children, parents, and society alike? Everything around us seems to be giving way? This is still a common question among God’s people. It is frustrating to feel powerless in the face of crumbling foundations, and some become convinced that there is nothing we can do. Added to this, some follow the poor advice of “flee”, or in our modern times, “hunker down, get in the bunker, save yourself and your children and withdraw completely from society”. When the foundations are crumbling the temptation is to stop speaking, and stop being the city set on the hill. “What can the righteous do? They can go on being righteous. And they can stand against the evil of their society… The one thing they must not do is, ‘flee to the mountains’” (Boice p. 95). 11:4 “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven”: It is interesting that the question being asked by those controlled by fear is “What can the righteous do?”, yet the real question is, “To whom shall the righteous look?” There is nothing they can do if they look to themselves, however there is a lot they can do if they look to the Lord. The Lord is the only one to whom we can look when the foundations are shaken, “and He is the only one to whom we must look if we are to stand firm in unsettling times” (Boice p. 94). 11:4 “Is in His Holy Temple”: People had advised David to flee and hide in face of the opposition, yet the Lord that David serves has not fled. “The Lord’s throne is in heaven”: While it looks like the moral foundations among men are crumbling the truth is that God still reigns from heaven and all the eternal foundations are firm and secure. “The King is in residence, not in flight. His city ‘has foundations’, therefore the question of verse 3 can be asked without despair” (Kidner p. 73). So when David looks to the Lord who dwells in His holy temple and reigns on His throne, he is looking to the Lord as the moral standard by whom the thoughts, words and actions of all men will be judged. Remember: Even if no one believes in God, God still exists. Even if no one believes that the Bible is the word of God, it is still the truth. Even if no one cares for the teachings of the Bible they will still judge everyone on the last day. Even if no one thinks that judgment day will arrive, Jesus will still come and execute His judgment. New Testament Christians also lived during a time of “crumbling foundations”, yet they were reminded that God’s truth was still valid, the eternal foundations were still in tact; do not be deceived when people claim otherwise (Ephesians 5:6). 11:4 “His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men”: Notice how “looking up” solves all David’s fears and problems. When he remembers that God has not fled and that God still reigns he also remembers God observes all that people do (see Proverbs 15:3). David does not need to flee when people seek to ambush him from the darkness (11:2). Although the righteous may never see those who spread rumors about them or seek to undermine their efforts, the all-seeing Lord that we serve sees them. 11:5 “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked”: When God seems to move slowly this should not be interpreted as inaction or apathy. “His stillness is not inertia but concentration, and His patience gives opportunity to both the righteous and the wicked to show what they are made of” (Kidner pp. 73-74). So when the foundations appear to be crumbling in a culture, this is a test: The righteous are tested. We will give up? We will join the rebellion? Will we stop speaking and seek a temporary but futile “safety”? Or, will we continue to be vocal and righteous? The wicked are tested. Will they see the error of their ways? Will they own up to the fact that their efforts to undermine moral foundations are an attack upon their own survival? That attacking God’s truth or His people is a sort of self-cannalization? 11:5 “And the one who loves violence His soul hates”: “What do we do when the foundations are destroyed? Psalm 11 answers this question by giving us another foundation: Trust in the Lord. Make Him our security, our refuge. Know that He inhabits eternity and reigns over the chaos of this world. His throne is in heaven. His moral order and kingdom transcend this world and cannot be overthrown. He is the just judge who tries all hearts and hates men of violence” (Williams p. 102). Even Christians can end up putting their confidence or trying their faith to the wrong things. We get discouraged when we hear surveys that mention declining morals or a lessening of religious fervor in our nation. And the wicked tend to rejoice at the same news, but none of this impacts the true foundations. Even if every Christian on earth ceased to exist, the real foundations would be just as sound and firm. Only eight people believed in God at one time on the earth (2 Peter 2:5), yet God was just as powerful and intervened. The foundations are still in tact! 11:6 “Upon the wicked He will rain snares”: God not only reigns, He observes all men, examines and tests the righteous and the wicked, and lastly He prepares judgments for the wicked. “They may be preparing to shoot at the righteous from the shadows. But the Lord will protect the righteous, and in the end the wicked will themselves be shot at and destroyed. None of this is fantasizing or mere wishful thinking on David’s part” (Boice pp. 95-96). “Fire and brimstone”: This clearly seems to be a reference to the historical destruction that befell the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). It reminds us that the Bible is not a book of empty threats; God’s judgments do come (2 Peter 3:10). Neither is this statement some “mean-spirited and unspiritual attitude found in the Old Testament”, the same reality was noted by Jesus (Matthew 25:41) and the apostles (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). 11:7 “For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face”: The reason that the upright will behold His face is because God loves upright individuals. The intense hatred that His has for not only violent individuals but also the arrogant and the immoral (Revelation 21:8) is more than equaled by an intense love for godly people. The person who believes that God will just save most people in the end, no matter what they believe or how they live, has completely missed the point that God is a holy God. In addition, what overshadows David’s true statements about the fate of the wicked is his own fate and the fate of all the righteous. The reason that David is not discouraged by the idea of so many people ending up in hell is that the prospect of him being in heaven overshadows such a reality. The believer desires people to be saved but in the end the believer is completely focused on the glories of heaven. “The foundations of righteousness are none other than His nature and will: what He is and what He loves (7). And if the first line of the psalm showed where the believer’s safety lies, the last line shows where his heart should be. God as ‘refuge’ may be sought from motives that are all too self-regarding; but to behold His face is a goal in which only love has any interest” (Kidner p. 74).