Winters in northern Indiana, though severe by Floridian standards, are mild enough to accommodate a wide selection of birds. I enjoy stocking feeders for these beautiful little creatures. But my, how skittish birds are! At the slightest hint of a possible predator, they scatter to find refuge in the nearest tree or bush. In Psalm 11, David draws on this imagery to tell us how a believer is not to act in the face of evil opposition.
Rejecting Bad Advice
In the LORD I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
”Flee like a bird to your mountain,
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?” (vv. 1-3)
Evil forces continually threatened David — physically and politically. David’s counselors advised him to secure his own safety. I doubt they told him to act like a frightened bird, but that is how David paraphrased their advice. In response to their calls to retreat he reminds them that fear of man is inconsistent with faith in God. David had taken refuge in the Lord. Leaving the place of God’s protective care to adopt a more vulnerable defense was ludicrous.
In our day, those who proclaim the gospel face threats from religious and secular forces that grow increasingly bold in their opposition. We may be tempted to panic and retreat to isolation. We may want to find shelter in a conservative political agenda. However, the gospel, not politics, is “the power of God” (Rom. 1:16). The one who called us into his service is the same one who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18) and has promised “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). We need not seek any other refuge.
Seeing the One Who Sees All
In order to bolster their confidence, David must draw the attention of his advisors away from the perceived dangers lurking in the darkness.
The LORD is in his holy temple,
the LORD’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. (v. 4)
The temple referred to here is not the one in Jerusalem built during Solomon’s reign. David wants us to focus on the heavenly throne where God inhabits eternity (Isa. 57:15). His piercing omniscience sees and tests every offspring of Adam. Every secret rendezvous, every weapon, every movement is exposed to his sight.
The Lord not only observes, but his observation is purposeful.
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. (vv. 5-6)
Like any good commander, the Lord proves the mettle of his troops through conflict. The lessons of battle reinforce confidence in his astute and unassailable command. On the other hand, pondering the fate of God’s enemies causes us to shudder.
The sobering reality of the gospel mission is that certain, fearsome, and justifiable fiery judgment will follow in its wake (2 Cor. 2:15; 2 Thes. 1:5-8). Some say that God loves the sinner but hates his sin; however, that language is far too benign for David. We do not want this to be personal, but it is personal. The psalmist says, it is the wicked not just wickedness that the Lord hates. Yet in the unfathomable mystery of electing love, God chose to direct that hatred and rain down those burning coals on his own Son in the place of sinners chosen by grace. That too is profoundly personal.
Face to Face
The confidence we possess in the righteous cause is based on the righteous character of our God. Ultimately, our hope is not in the outcome of today’s battles, but in the glorious triumph that awaits the faithful.
For the LORD is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face. (v. 7)
See related post: A Righteous Refuge