Psalms 11:1-7 (RSV)
V1- In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains;
V2- for lo, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string, to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
V3- if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do”?
V4- The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men.
V5- The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence.
V6- On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and brimstone; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
V7- For the LORD is righteous, he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
On 25 April 2015, Nepal was hit by a major earthquake measuring 7.8 on Richter’s scale. Then on 12 May 2015, another earthquake of 7.3 magnitudes hit that poor nation again. Literally the foundations of earth crumbled for that nation resulting in 8000 deaths and untold physical devastations. When the physical foundations of earth crumbled for Nepal, what can the Nepalese do? Nothing except to FEAR AND FLEE.
Today we may not experience the physical crumbling of the earth like Nepal but surely we have experienced crumbling and collapse in a more subtle form from the recent past. The twentieth century has seen other collapse and crumbling namely the collapse of order in the West. With the Reformation, the order of the Bible replaced the order of the church. Then with the Enlightenment, the order of reason replaced the order of the Bible. Today, however, reason as an absolute has fallen under the attack of the irrational, of relativism…and of the naked will to power. Indeed, it seems that the traditional foundations have all but crumbled and left humankind standing alone in an empty universe.
The first decade of the 21st century is passed and things aren’t getting any simpler. We find ourselves in the midst of a collapsing world order. The constant change of our world challenges us to the core of our being. The invariable change rippling through churches is daunting. What we once thought Christianity should be is being replaced by ever changing personal self-willed ethics. It leaves us bewildered as we look for a place of refuge in a crumbling world order. If it isn’t the political chaos, it is economic pandemonium. The social structure is disappearing too. Churches, which were once thriving fellowships, are collapsing. Impersonal mega church organizations are replacing community churches. The family unit is being challenged to the core. Single parent homes and same sex marriages are thriving to become the norm.
Never do believers experience God to be so sufficient as when they find themselves in the most difficult times, confronted with trials beyond their control. It is in MAN’S EXTREMITIES that he discovers GOD’S SUFFICIENCIES. This was the personal experience of David in Psalm 11, a song of strong confidence in God in the midst of unsettling times.
David was facing a national crisis that threatened to overturn the stability of the nation of Israel. Some commentators say that Psalms 11 was written during the time when Saul was pursuing David while some say that it was written at a time when Absalom usurped the throne of David. Whatever the case, it seemed to David that all around him, the moral foundations of the people were crumbling. This upheaval was caused by evil men who sought to do him harm. Adding to this ordeal, the people who were loyal to David panicked, counseling him to flee Jerusalem. But David remained calm and resolute, keeping his eyes on the Lord. In this hour of crisis, David determined to trust in God despite his circumstances. His faith, unshakable and unwavering kept him steadfast in uncertain times.
As a righteous, he knew what to do when the foundations were destroyed.
This morning, I would like to share a sermon entitled, WHEN THE FOUNDATIONS CRUMBLE.
When the foundations crumble or are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (verse 3)
Verse 1- In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains;
David began the Psalm with a declaration of his trust in God.
“In the LORD I take refuge.” In the midst of great difficulties, even the potential loss of his life at the hands of his enemies, he remained confident in God who was his refuge. As he had done throughout his life, David fled to God as his unassailable fortress of protection as he faced this crisis. Not looking to others or even to himself, David placed his trust exclusively in the Lord.
David also used the imagery of the BIRD in Psalm 55:6-7. But David didn’t need wings like a dove; he needed wings like an EAGLE (Isaiah 40:31) so he could fly above the storm by faith and defeat his enemies.
The verb “flee” is in the plural and refers to David and his court. It is right for us to flee from temptations (2 Tim 2:22) as Joseph did (Genesis 39:11-13) but it is wrong to flee from the place of duty, as Nehemiah was invited to do (Nehemiah 6:10-11). The leader who flees needlessly from the crisis is only a hireling and not a faithful shepherd (John 10:12-13).
“Flee”- This is the advice psychologists will give you today. They will tell you that what you need to do is to get away from your problems. Go off somewhere – what you need is a rest. Flee from your present circumstances, as a bird to the mountain. Well, getting away from it all does not solve a thing. Years ago, in the Southland of America was a lady of the house always complaining to her wonderful housekeeper about wanting to get away from all. Her housekeeper said, “What are you trying to get away from? This beautiful home? Your lovely children? Your wonderful husband? No matter where you go, you are going to have to lug yourself along.” You can never run away from yourself.
Application: Some of you here are always thinking of fleeing from the ministry that God has given you. Some of you are even thinking of running away to Manila to avoid all your family problems since you feel that the order of your marriage and childrearing are crumbling. For some, you are thinking of fleeing to another country to get away from the poverty you are seeing everyday. And for some, you may be thinking of fleeing to another church so that you don’t have to face the pressure and demands of the present church.
Are you thinking of fleeing and running away from it all now that the foundations around you are crumbling?
Verse 2- for lo, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string, to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
But the counselors and friends of David did not think so. They counseled him to leave Jerusalem and head for the safety of the mountains. They didn’t seem to have faith that the Lord could see him through. To David’s advisers the opposition seemed too strong to resist. His aides looked with terror at the wicked who were bending their bows and setting their arrows to shoot at them, the upright in heart. The bows and arrows may have been literal, but it is more likely they are metaphors for DECEPTIVE AND DESTRUCTIVE WORDS. They perceived that their enemies were lurking in the DARK (secretly or in the shadow), waiting for the right moment to spring their deadly ambush.
Verse 3- if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do”?
In the face of this danger, David’s supporters were fearful, asking, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The word for “foundations” is a metaphor for social order.
The word “destroyed” describes the turbulent upheaval of the moral values and civil order of their day.
These advisers sensed they could no longer live in a culture in which RIGHT FAILED and EVIL PREVAILED.
This was the counsel that David heard from his supporters – an appeal to run and hide from his oppressors.
How to triumph over our situation when it seems the foundations are destroyed?
David replied to his fearful followers, redirecting their FOCUS TO THE LORD.
Yes, if you want to triumph over your personal chaos today, REDIRECT YOUR FOCUS TO………….
• GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY
Verse 4- The LORD is in his holy temple,
David affirmed God’s sovereignty, testifying, THE LORD IS IN HIS HOLY TEMPLE.
The presence of God has not moved from the temple. The heavens are still above our heads in all regions of the earth and so is the Lord ever near to us in every state and condition. This is a very strong reason why we should not adopt the vile suggestions of DISTRUST. There is One who pleads His precious blood in our behalf in the temple above and there is one upon the throne who is never deaf to the intercession of his Son. Why then should we fear? What plots can men devise which Jesus will not discover? Satan has doubtless desired to have us, that he may sift us like wheat but Jesus is in the temple praying for us, and how can our faith fail? What attempts can the wicked make which Yahweh shall not behold? And since He is in His holy temple, delighting in the sacrifice of his Son, will He not defeat every device and send us a sure deliverance?
Verse 4b- the LORD’s throne is in heaven;
David also reminded his fellow believers that God was still upon His throne, ruling and reigning over this painful trial. Nothing was out of control; God was in control!
God still reigns supreme. Nothing can be done in heaven or earth or hell which He does not ordain and overrule. Jesus is the world’s great Emperor. Why then should we flee? If we trust this King of kings, is not this enough? Cannot Christ deliver us without our cowardly retreat? Yes, blessed be the Lord our God, we can salute him as Jehovah-Nissi; in His name, we set up our banners, and instead of FLIGHT, we once more raise the shout of war for A FIGHT.
• GOD’S SCRUTINY
V4c-his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men.
Verse 5- The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence.
Here David affirmed God’s scrutiny.
“His eyes behold” means the Eternal Watcher never slumbers; His eyes never sleep.
“His eyelids test, the children of men” means God narrowly inspects their actions, words and thoughts. As men, when intently and narrowly inspecting some very minute object, almost close their eyelids to exclude very other object, so will the Lord look all men through and through. God sees each man as much and as perfectly as if there were no other creature in the universe. He sees us always; He never removes his eye from us; He sees us entirely, reading the recesses of the soul as readily as the glancing of the eyes. Is not this a sufficient ground of our confidence in God? Our danger is not hidden from Him; He knows our extremity and we may rest assured that He will not allow us to perish while we rely alone on Him. So, why should we take wings of a timid bird and flee from the dangers which beset us?
“The Lord tests the righteous”- The Lord does not hate the righteous but only TRIES or TESTS them. We are precious to God and therefore He refines us with afflictions.
The word “test” carries the idea of “testing metals by fire,” as in Jeremiah 11:20 and 17:10. God’s eyes penetrate into our hearts and minds. His eyes see all human hearts, examining the inner life of the righteous who trust the Lord, as well as probing the souls of the wicked who were attacking them because they loved violence. The Lord tests the righteous to bring out the best in them but Satan tempts them to bring out the worst. When we trust the Lord in the difficulties of life, our trials work for us and not against us (2 Cor 4:7-18). Our trial then becomes the channel of many blessings.
Poem: By William Cowper
“Tis is my happiness below
Not to live without the cross;
But the Savior’s power to know,
Sanctifying every loss
Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to his feet-
Lay me low, and keep me there.
Did I meet no trials here –
No chastisement by the way –
Might I not, with reason, fear
I should prove a cast-away?
Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
But the true-born child of God
Must not – would not, if he might.”
In light of this, believers must remain strong in faith, not cowering to their enemies because God sees their hearts as well as the hearts of their enemies.
• GOD’S SEVERITY
V5-and his soul hates him that loves violence.
V6- On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and brimstone; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Here David underscored God’s severity.
“His [God’s] soul hates him that loves violence- If God hates the wicked, we shall not fear them.
Haman was very great in the palace until he lost favor. But when the king abhorred him, how bold were the meanest attendants to suggest the gallows for the man at whom they had often trembled!
Look at the black mark upon the faces of our persecutors and we shall not run away from them. All our persecutors have been blacklisted by God.
If God is in the quarrel as well as ourselves, it would be foolish to question the result or avoid the conflict.
What is the result of this conflict?
God will rain upon the wicked 3 things:
Verse 6 (KJV)- Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.
As in hunting with the lasso (rope), the hunter casts a snare from above upon his prey to entangle its head or feet, so the Lord from above will rain upon the wicked many TWISTINGS of the line of terror; he will surround, bind and take captive of the wicked.
• Fire and Brimstone
God will rain fire and brimstone upon the wicked such as the Lord sent on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24).
• Horrible tempest
This tempest could mean scorching wind; burning storm; whirlwind. In short, it means God will rain down his wrath upon the wicked. It is the WRATH WIND of God – full of terrors, that will overwhelm the despisers of God.
The wicked can expect these three judgments of God to be their lot, their cup and their portion. They will be drinking from a cup containing these 3 poisons.
• GOD’S SUPPORT
V7- For the LORD is righteous, he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
Finally, David affirmed God’s support of the righteous. His saints would be rewarded and the wicked would be destroyed because the Lord is righteous. God must act consistently with His holy character and He will execute perfect JUSTICE in all his dealings with men. The fact is that He loves justice and will never let INJUSTICE go unpunished.
V7 (MSG) – God’s business is putting things right; he loves getting the lines straight, setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall, we can look straight in the eye.
Message Bible defines the justice of God as “God’s business of putting things right and getting the lines straight for us.”
When the upright men face trouble, they must also remember that they WILL BEHOLD THE FACE of the Lord.
“The upright shall behold his face” means to have access to a person, such as “to see the king’s face” (2 Samuel 14:24). This expression denotes a LOYAL CITIZEN’S ACCESS TO HIS KING, IN THIS CASE HEAVEN’S TRUE KING, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST! For God to turn His face away is to reject us but for Him to look upon us with delight means He is going to bless us.
V7 (NET) – Certainly the LORD is just; he rewards godly deeds; the upright will experience his favor.
JESUS’ OWN EXPERIENCE OF PSALM 11
In the midst of crumbling foundations, our text teaches us to trust and triumph in God. But how many of us dare say we are like David, so resolute in our faith and trust in Jesus when life becomes chaotic for us? I dare say many of us fail to direct our focus on Jesus as our Sovereign Lord. We also fail in the scrutiny and the test of our faith by God. We doubt the severity of God upon the wicked- we don’t think God is just enough to punish the wicked. Worse, is we don’t believe God is for us or supporting us. We feel that when our lives are collapsing, God is against us. Simply put, as the righteous, we couldn’t trust God as we should and therefore we become the defeated righteous like Lot. And so we find ourselves fleeing from our duties and ministries in the church; we run away from our families and we want to end our problematic marriage. In times like this, I would like to direct your attention to Jesus Himself.
Jesus had his own share of persecutors namely the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They bent their bows and fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at our Savior at every point of his life and teaching. Jesus already foreknew that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes and be killed and he kept telling his disciples that. But like the supporters of David, Peter took Jesus and began to rebuke him. Peter forbade Jesus to face the cross. He wanted Jesus to flee from the crucifixion. But like David, Jesus was very single minded and focused on the cross. When finally the evil and secret plot culminated with our Lord being crucified, it seemed that the foundation of Christianity was destroyed. But what could our Righteous Lord do on the cross? The foundation of justice and righteousness had already crumbled. There was miscarriage of justice first degree. Our Righteous Lord committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered he did not threaten. Still, they crucified and let him die the cruelest death of a criminal. I ask you, when the foundations were destroyed, what could our Righteous Lord do? HE TRUSTED TO HIM WHO JUDGES JUSTLY. (1 Peter 2:22-23). And did that trust work out for Jesus? Yes! Today, our Lord TRIUMPHS – He is at the right hand of the God, seated at the Holy of Holies, beholding the face of our Father in Heaven. What did our Heavenly Father do to the wicked persecutors? God rained down snares, fire and brimstones and scorching tempest of holocausts upon the Jews to requite them for the blood their Jewish predecessors had spilled from the life of Jesus Christ. And in the future Battle of Armeggadon, God will again rain down these three elements upon the despisers of Christ and His Church. Like David, Jesus did not flee from the suffering on the cross. He could have asked ten legions of angels to come down from heaven to the cross to rescue him but Jesus did not flee from the crucifixion. While hanging on the cross, He trusted His Heavenly Father and He was very focused on God’s sovereignty, God’s scrutiny; God’s severity and above all on God’s support. Today, Jesus wants you to stop looking and fearing the bows and the arrows of the wicked that are shot at you; he wants you to stop looking at the crumbled marriage; the broken family; the miscarriage of justice; the crumbled order in your life and start focusing on Him. He knows Satan is using wicked people or unfavorable circumstance to sift your faith like a wheat just as he knew Satan demanded to have Peter that he might sift Peter like a wheat. But the Good News is Jesus Himself has triumphed over his own crumbled foundation and today he is at the right hand of God praying the same prayer for you as he prayed for Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail and when you have turned around again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). So, let’s not despair over our failing faith and failing trust in the midst of our crumbling foundation. Rather, trust Him in all these and you shall triumph in the end. Christ triumphed in the end and so will He help you too if you just focus on God and not on any crumbled foundations around you.
All Christians will encounter many threatening trials in their lives, especially when they live in a manner worthy of the Lord. This world is no friend of grace when God’s people live for him. When the righteous are persecuted for the gospel, they must remain strong in the Lord, finding their strength in him. In the midst of such fiery trials, God’s people must take refuge in him. They must do so with unwavering faith, firmly committed to resist the temptation to flee. The key is insulation, not isolation.
When opposition comes, close friends around us may weaken and cause us to panic when they urge us to run from trouble. But such counsel must be resisted. God is sovereign through every trial, and He reigns over all. God alone is Lord and He overrules all for our good and His glory.
The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find He is.
END OF SERMON
PREACHED AT ETAB AT 1ST SV ON 17 MAY 2015