Have you ever called out to God for help? For an answer of some kind? But nothing happens? There’s no answer. Your situation doesn’t change. You don’t hear yes. Or no. The thing is, sometimes God Tells us to hang in there. To wait. With no reason given.
Being told to wait can be really hard. Especially when things aren’t going well. Consider the adjacent image. Some rocks, sticking up out of the ocean. Swirling waters. That really cool shade of blue-green water.
It’s beautiful. Unless you’re on the rock. Then it can get downright scary.
We know if we’re on that rock, figuratively speaking. But our friends don’t. So they might not know how we feel when we’re right there, barely hanging on to the top of that rock, and the tide’s coming in.
And when we call out to God, nothing happens. But we usually don’t know if He’s saying no to us, or telling us to just hang in there. Wait. Relief is coming. But not yet. Worse yet, maybe relief isn’t coming. But we don’t know.
That’s what’s happening in Psalm 11.
Psalm 11 For the director of music. Of David Ps 11:1 In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. Ps 11:2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. Ps 11:3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do ?” Ps 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. Ps 11:5 The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. Ps 11:6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.
Some background on Psalm 11
Psalm 11 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. “Flee to the mountains,” they say. But he refutes their advice, asserting that his true refuge is in God.
In the midst of this psalm, probably as a despairing question asked by David’s fearful but well-meaning friends, we have a classic question. You have probably heard it many times. “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (v. 3). More than fifty years ago the great Bible teacher Arno C. Gaebelein called this “the burning question of our day.” But if that was so in 1939, when his study was copyrighted, it is a thousand times more true today. What shall we do when the laws are not upheld, when morality is undermined and evil sweeps on unchecked? What shall we do when the Bible is undermined and its teachings disregarded—when even churchmen seem to support the rising tide of secularism? What shall we do when family values are crumbling and the tide of frequent divorce sweeps forward with increasing damage to children, parents, and society alike? What can we do when everything around us seems to be giving way? Some counsel hiding, that is, running away from what is happening. David’s response was to take refuge in the Lord. It is this—what it means and how it is done—that we must consider in this study.
Was there a situation in David’s life that fits this psalm? 1
The excerpt above asks, Was there a situation in David’s life that fits this psalm?
Let’s ask a different question. Is there a situation in our own life, even right now, that gits this psalm? If not, just wait. There will be one. Whether the time is now or in the future, if/when the time comes, then we can use what David wrote to help us get through whatever that situation is.
Take refuge in God
David starts off with:
Ps 11:1 In the LORD I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
There are two things happening in that verse.
- David declares that when things are difficult, he finds shelter with God.
- Someone is telling David to run.
It seems reasonable to assume that the someone telling David to run isn’t God. The way he talks about God, as opposed to speaking to God, is why I say that. Therefore, it also seems safe to assume the person giving David the advice to run away doesn’t know God, doesn’t trust God, Doesn’t think God’s going to help David, or something along those lines.
Is God just watching?
In the middle, David writes some stuff that might sound a bit odd. Maybe.
Ps 11:3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do ?”
Ps 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of men;
his eyes examine them.
Again, we see two things happening. Sort of.
- Foundations being destroyed. The very core of our civilization / life as we know it is being destroyed.
- God is on His throne observing and examining us.
Now here’s the odd/sort of issue. Is God just watching while evil people do their thing? Or is God waiting for the proper time to step in? Or maybe God’s taking names and writing them down for future penalties? In essence, the core questions are – does care and will He do something? Or is God just going to watch while we destroy everything He created and do nothing about it, ever?
David closes by saying God will act
Here’s the final verse.
Ps 11:7 For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
upright men will see his face.
Unless we believe David is just flat out wrong and God’s not planning on doing anything, there’s a question that needs to be asked. When? When is God finally going to act?
The answer to that says a lot about our faith. And, it says a lot about how we deal with whatever situation brought us to feel like David did when he wrote this psalm.
Possibilities – Sometimes God tells us to hang in there
So here’s the thing about that idea of what we believe influencing our thoughts on what this psalm says.
We could say God doesn’t exist, or doesn’t care, or things along that line. In which case we say David’s all wrong.
However, for Christians, there are three ways David could be right about God being righteous and that He loves justice.
First – God’s saying no, not this time, to intervening in David’s situation,
Second – God’s acting already, but David hasn’t seen it yet. Things are in motion or things are going on out of sight of David.
Third – God’s saying, not yet.
For me personally, there have been many times when I felt like God was saying no. However, in reality, it’s turned out that the actual answer was, not yet.
That’s why it’s so important to truly know and understand God’s word. To know there are three possibilities. That what looks like no could very likely mean not yet. And there’s even the possibility, even in this incredibly connected world of 24-hour news, social media, Etc., we don’t know everything.
Finally, there are two more possibilities.
One – we’re asking for something we “shouldn’t”. We remember the part where Jesus says we can ask for anything in His name.
The Fig Tree Withers – Matthew
21:18-22 pp — Mk 11:12-14, 20-24
Mt 21:18 Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
Mt 21:20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
Mt 21:21 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
The issue comes with the second possibility. One that actually needs to be combined with the first one. So, technically, I guess it’s 1a and 1b, rather than 1 and 2. Here it is.
Concluding Remarks – 1 John
1Jn 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
1Jn 5:16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
1Jn 5:18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
1Jn 5:21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
Here are the key verses:
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
Yeah – according to God’s will.
Here’s a passage that kind of sums it all up.
Ask, Seek, Knock – Matthew
7:7-11 pp — Lk 11:9-13
Mt 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Mt 7:9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Conclusion – Sometimes God tells us to hang in there
So David can confidently write that final verse.
Ps 11:7 For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
upright men will see his face.
What David didn’t know, and neither do we, is when. But it will happen. And if that’s part of the foundation of our faith, we can do more than just deal with situations where it seems the weak, including us, are getting thrashed by the rich and powerful.
Yes – more than just deal with it. Why? Because we know that God is with us, giving us the strength of His Holy Spirit. And, we also know that God has already won this battle, judgment is pronounced, and we will triumph with Jesus if we truly believe in Him with a strength that influences our life.
Image by 경복 김 from Pixabay
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