Psalm 11 — Knowing Where You Stand

Where David Stands

This is a short Psalm, but one that illustrates the type of advice one is likely to get from someone whose faith is immature. At first it seems a bit disjointed, but let’s take it from the very top and see what we can find.

1. In the LORD put I my trust : how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?

The psalm starts out with a reply to someone who has just given advice. I like to imagine this scene: King David is walking with one of his advisers who has just given his opinion on action David should take to guarantee his safety as the leader of Israel. David stops up short, turns to the adviser and towers over him saying, “I put my trust in the Lord, the God of Israel. How can you tell me to flee to the mountains and hide?” The point is not only would David be leaving his people and city, but he would also be saying that he does not trust God for protection and victory!

“Your mountain” refers to the hills and mountains to which David had previously fled when his life was threatened – they are filled with caves in which one might hide from an enemy. David has run to the mountains numerous times in his life – perhaps the thought of returning to that tactic gave him great distaste. Perhaps he couldn’t stomach the thought of not letting God take care of him!

2. For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.

3. If the foundations be destroyed , what can the righteous do?

I have a translation in which verses 2 and 3 have quotes around them that indicate the speaker in verse 1 is repeating what has been said to him. Most translations that I have seen, however, do not. So I guess we need to decide for ourselves which is appropriate. I am not sure that it really matters for our purposes. We need only get to the message that the psalm has for us. I will choose the latter approach of the adviser participating in the conversation.

In verse 2 he begins to argue his case for flight. The wicked are preparing themselves. They are bending their bows – testing them – making sure they are fit for battle. This verse also tells us the enemy will be using techniques of ambush. It seems to me that there is a sense of disdain in the description – like the speaker has a bitter taste in his mouth. They hide themselves and shoot arrows at the righteous from their cover – the enemy is treacherous.

The use of the word “foundations” in verse three refers to the laws of God upon which society is built. In other words, the moral fabric that holds them together has been eroded and undermined – destroyed, the adviser says – then what can the righteous do? He is saying the righteous are not strong enough to stand against the wicked who are bringing down society. We don’t know why – perhaps their numbers are few – perhaps he feels they do not have the conviction in the Lord’s power to carry them through an attack. I think we can be certain he considers that the morality upon which the society has been built is too far eroded and the righteous have precious little upon which to stand.

What David Understands

With verse 4, we see what David understands. There is a sense of calmness and assurance with these verses. There is a sense of conviction and trust.

4. The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.

5. The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

6. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

7. For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.

Can you feel the calmness of the psalmist – the steadfast belief that God is in control? “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven”. This is no ordinary God that man has made up to fit his whims. This is a God whose throne is in heaven – far removed from the matters of man, yet He who sits upon that throne is watching and judging what men do.

Doesn’t that make you pause and think? It is something we can’t understand, but we can imagine in our puny way and (if we allow God to work in us) we can feel the power and security that he is ready to give to us.

Also in verse 4, we see that God sees the activities of man and he examines the hearts of the righteous. He isn’t just passively sitting around – He is actively examining and analyzing all men, but it is the righteous whom he tests. I think the tests, here, mean a judgment of the intent and content of the heart. When we read about the “eyelids trying” it means a test or examination that pertains only to those who follow God – the righteous.

Verse 5 again tells us of God’s examination of the righteous to determine their purity and attitude and intent of heart. We also see that God hates those who love violence and continuing to verse 6 we see the consequences the wicked will need to endure for their plotting.

Finally, the psalm ends with an affirmation that the Lord is just and righteous and those who are faithful to Him and live righteously will “see His face”. That is they will find favor in His eyes and the victory will be theirs.

This psalm tells us where David stands in his relationship with God and it also tells us what he understands about the nature of God. He stands with God and trusts Him and looks to Him for protection; he knows that even though the circumstances are dire, God will protect and guide His children.

Are you like David and know where you stand when it comes to your relationship with God? Or are you like the adviser who is ready to head for the hills at the first sign of trouble? It would be wise to reflect on this.

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