Social Disorder and Godís Sovereignty Psalm 11

Dr. Jerry A. Collins

 

From time to time it seems as though society as we know it is crumbling around us. The prophets of doom counsel us to take drastic measures to preserve ourselves or we will perish, they say. Yet, the godly should remember that God is sovereign, and He will take care of those who trust in Him and behave in harmony with His will. If David wrote this Psalm, there are any number of occasions of conflict with Saul or Absalom that would fit the context. First, we have a council of despair based on what is actually happening on the ground (v 1-3). Then, we have a striking confidence in the Lord in the midst of the chaos due to meditation upon Godís sovereign character (v 4-7). I suggest that we are meant to respond to social disorder, anarchy, and evil by taking refuge in our Gods sovereign authority. The reason for that is Gods love for righteousness and hatred of wickedness.

 

RESIST TEMPTATION TO DISENGAGE FROM CULTURE DUE TO SOCIAL UPHEAVAL

That does not mean that we should not disengage from the politics of the culture. Of course we can and we probably should. But to use anarchy as a premise for disengaging from the life around us is unacceptable for salty Christ followers, even though it may seem much more practical. We should resist that temptation to just flee at a time when the destruction of lawful authority seems imminent or inevitable. Sometimes it may be wise to leave but not before we have evaluated the situation.

 

The faithful take refuge in the Lord when society around seems to be cascading out of control in the Lord I take refuge (v 1). To take refuge is to turn aside so as to seek shelter for protection. Much like we do when a sudden downpour forces us underneath a canopy or into a tent. This was a deliberate implied comparison between this physical act of taking refuge and the spiritual act of trusting in the Lord for our protection. For the Psalmist, this trust for protection was something done constantly throughout his life.

 

This affirmation of faith was in response to someone who was counseling him to flee instead for safety how can you say to my soul, flee as a bird to your mountain. Whoever this was may have been well-intentioned. They had identified the threat as coming from the wicked (v 2). They advised the psalmist to flee because the enemy is poised to launch a deadly attack. In such a lawless and chaotic situation godly people like the psalmist can accomplish nothing, so they might as well retreat to a safe place. Davidís reply suggests amazement and then rejection of such a proposal. To flee would amount to wandering about aimlessly like a bird, to fleeÖ to your mountain where it would be safer.

Application: Its tempting to be preoccupied with our safety and security when the changes in life inevitably come. Some of those changes will be stark and effect more people around us than just ourselves. Standing with a stout faith in God while, lets say, society and even life is jeopardized instead of being an alarmist and pursuing safety must be considered by the faithful.

 

The faithful hold fast to their faith when law and order are threatened by anarchists for, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart (v 2). Of course, there will be temptation to disengage, just as those who counseled David, especially when the wicked bend the bow. The ungodly show their worst side as they oppose God and threaten His people. They are preparing to fire away stepping on one end of the bow to put the string on each end they make ready their arrow upon the string. This action is actually going at the time of speaking. So we have an extreme emergency on our hands as the enemies were preparing their attack. The purpose of all of this prep is to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. This could refer to some clandestine night ambush by archers leaving the Psalmist defenseless. David was a devout believer trusting in the Lord his God. Fleeing would remedy the situation, but thatís not compatible with faith.

Application: In the midst of a godless society, one in which clear and genuine attacks on the righteous is normative, believers cannot give into the temptation to disengage from the danger. Standing for righteousness while under attack is the obligation of a Christ follower. That righteousness is derived from the teaching of scripture.

 

This is true even if the foundations are [being] destroyed (v 3). Foundations refer to the established customs, laws, and way of lifeóthe things upon which a culture is built. Davidís faint-hearted counselors evidently felt the very foundations of their nation were in danger of being destroyed, namely, the Mosaic Law and the institutions of Judaism. They felt distressed to the point of distraction over this possibility. Many faint-hearted people behave similarly today when they see foundational elements of their society under attack. In the midst of such anarchy, what can the righteous do? This is a question every generation of believers asks. The rhetorical answer is that there is nothing the righteous can do to stop the social upheaval.

PT: By the way, this is something that ministries life ĎFocus on the Familyí have still attempted to do anyway for 40 years. Millions raised and spent, numerous calls to oust politicians and elect others. So, tell me, how has that been going? Are we better off 40 years later? Itís a foolís errand. Neither fixing the social order nor hiding from itís spasmodic revulsions is a biblical response.

 

STAND FIRM IN YOUR FAITH AS YOU RELY UPON GODíS SOVEREIGN AUTHORITY

Even when anarchy, wickedness in high places, and attacks on the righteous are prevalent, it is not all bleak. The righteous know something. First, they know that the sovereign Lord examines everyone on earth. Notice, the Lord is the entire subject of the remaining verses. The horizontal threat is real. But the vertical perspective keeps one rooted in reality. The devout know the Lord is in His holy temple (v 4). Describing the Lords temple as holy sets it apart from anything earthly, physical, or profane. It is a heavenly temple where the Lord's throne is in heaven. This confirms his sovereignty over the affairs of mankind. The holy Lord reigns from heaven over the aspirations of those on earth.

PT: If one is concerned over the coming anarchy and social upheaval and how it might shake the very foundations of society, then the only hope is faith in the sovereign and holy Lord who reigns from the heavens with a reign unshakable! Thatís where the faithful fix their confidence.

 

Second, the faithful trust the Lord who examines the affairs of all people His eyes behold; His eyelids test the sons of men. God scrutinizes manís activities with His eyesÖ and His eyelids. This refers to squinting that takes place as we focus closely upon an object. Of course, God always knows what people are doing, but here its stated in human terms to show Gods close scrutiny and precise awareness of goings on. God is fully aware of every detail of human life. He examines or tests the sons of men. Gods acute awareness enables divine investigation and evaluation of all participants and their activities.

PT: God tests everybody. In a sense everything is a test for everybody, because we are all judged for all our actions. But we cannot know if any particular event is a specific test from God, because we do not know what God is doing (Ecc. 3:11; 11:5; John 3). David knew God was testing his actions so he wanted to ensure he was operating by faith and not fear.

 

Gods penetrating knowledge of the affairs of all people allows the Lord [to] tests the righteous and the wicked (v 5). God deals righteously with both groups. Concerning the righteous, David simply reiterates that God examines them. In this context, the Lord may have been examining or testing Davidís faith with the threat of anarchy in his kingdom and persecution of his dynasty. The Bible often portrays testing as Godís way of proving and perfecting the faith of believers. So, too, with each of us. The contrast is with the way in which God deals with the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Notice, God does not just hate the sin of the sinneróHe hates the sinner! With the wicked there is no proving or testing of their faith. The test only proves their love of acts of violence ranging from social injustices to hateful language. They may call it shrewd business dealings, social reform, politics, pro-choice, or even ethnic cleansing, but if it destroys people in the process it is wicked violence. The Lord, with all of His soul hates this. Its detestable and He rejects it categorically.

 

Things the Lord hates will be punished in the end because they are sinful and destructive upon the wicked He will rain snares; fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup (v 6). Like rain, divine judgment will fall on the wicked. When we desire the judgment of the wicked, we desire something God desires. The sending of snares is to heighten the irony that it will be the wicked who will be tempted to flee like a bird to the mountainsólike bird traps to catch them for judgment. This cup of judgment is their lot in life. No cup of blessing, but one of judgment fury and terror. The fire and brimstone and burning wind characterizes a figure of divine judgment like a raging burning fire. God will be none too pleased with these. Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible supply a vivid picture of what will happen to them. We do know of the great judgment that will occur at the end of the age (Zechariah 14:12-15; Revelation 20). This is the outcome of the Lord hating wickedness.

 

OUR LORD LOVES RIGHTEOUSNESS AND WILL CAUSE IT TO TRIUMPH

Now we get to take a look at the other side of things, namely the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness (v 7). The bottom lineóthe Lord is inherently righteousness, and that by nature, so wickedness cannot stand. In order for actions to be righteous, they must conform to Gods standard as the true righteousness. Whatever does not measure up is sin. Thus, the promise of judgment effected upon the wicked and their wickedness. With a closing promise of triumph, we learn the upright will behold His face. In one sense, it could mean the righteous will observe and witness Gods favor in defending and delivering them. But he may also be expressing the hope of all the devout of all ages that someday they will see God, the greatest victory of the righteous over wickedness.

PT: The entire universe is predicated upon the character of God. Itís architecture and construction only functions properly when in concert with the character of God. Otherwise, it moves toward chaos and disorder. Evil can only exist because good exists. There is no co-equal force of good and evil. Star Wars is a fantasyóreally and truly. So, the righteous Lord of the universe can judge righteously. He is the predication of all existence. Evolution is a blatant denial of Gods authority. Abortion is a murderous denial of the sanctity of life. Divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, adultery, and same sex marriage is a blatant reversal of the family as Gods building block of society. Everywhere we turn, Godís foundation of society is attacked. The bible is attacked. The faithful do not disengage, but wisely stay faithful to God and His Word in the midst of a chaotic society bent on its own destruction.

 

         In the meantime, the wicked have to be endured.

         Champion righteousness in the midst of a corrupt society even though there will be malicious attacks and persecution.

         Jesus warned of sending his disciples as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16-20). But he tells us to stand firm in the faith and not fear those with only power over the body.

         If our God rules over the affairs of mankind, and if He is in charge of executing judgment, then the Lord will provide wisdom to best respond in any given situation.