Monday, July 20, 2015

PSALM 11 : “When the Foundations are destroyed … continue to trust in God.”

David often had to run for cover during  the course  of  his  life.   He had to escape from Saul’s  fury  numerous times and on one occasion he even had to flee from one of his own sons,  Absalom, who had led a palace revolt against his father. In the midst of  such challenging and dark days,  David composed some of his  most helpful, wonderful, God- centered  Psalms.  This is one of them. You might even  say that  the opening line of Psalm 11  “In the LORD I take refuge”   was one of David’s  mottos !

These verses contain an account of a  great temptation to  David’s soul. He was   tempted  here to distrust God. It appears as if  someone was beginning to sow doubt into  David’s  mind, telling him that it was time to escape  from a certain situation. Perhaps it was even his  own  self, talking to himself, causing him to doubt God’s  goodness  and sufficiency, telling  him to flee  from a given situation (e.g.  like Elijah in 1 Kings 19,  when he was tempted to flee  from Jezebel  into  the desert of Sinai) .

So it seems  that David  was  responding to such a person  (or perhaps  even  to himself) saying,   “how can you say to my soul, “Flee  like a bird to your mountain?”   Do we not know such times  when we have been tempted by the  thoughtless counsel of our  friends?  Good  friends can sometimes, in the name of love  give us pragmatic rather than godly counsel. At other times we ourselves may be our worst own enemies. We are often  inclined to listen to voices in our head  (inspired by fear or self- preservation),  whereby we are tempted to run away from a given situation,  when  we  actually need to stay and trust God  in that situation.  David, good theologian that he was  knew in his heart what was right. This is seen by his response :  ….how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain?“ And  so  David was responding to this  by speaking truth to himself : A refuge other than the Lord?  Never ! “

Clearly,  whoever was talking to him   saw no hope for David’s present situation : “ David, your God cannot protect you in this situation. Flee!”    Such times are dangerous , for our fleeing  may actually lead us  away from the will of God.   David,  you cannot trust God with this . You have to escape  and  flee  to the mountains to take refuge there!”   If it is the voice in our head that is talking to us,  then  we   need to respond  by  not allowing  self to talk to us,  but it is essential at such a time  for us  speak to self!  That is  what David does here, “Now listen,” he says to himself, and the moment he starts to speak  truth to himself he has the victory. Psalm 42, of the sons of Korah,  takes a similar approach .

The threat  to David’s soul   was undoubtedly very  real.  Perhaps Saul or Saul’s ’s men  who were skilled archers  waiting to assassinate David  while he was on his way from here to there…  [2] 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.  

Here is David’s  dilemma:  [3] if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Under  Saul’s  government  the  foundations of  righteousness  and law and justice were  being destroyed. For this reason God had  already withdrawn from Saul. And Saul knowing that David was to be his successor  could not accept that fact and tried to kill him  many times.  What  is the man of God to do in such  a case?  Flee like a bird to the mountains?   I like the answer that Spurgeon gives at this point [1]:  “His answer to the question, "What can the righteous do?" would be the counter-question, "What cannot they do?" When prayer engages God on our side, and when faith secures the fulfillment of the promise, what cause can there be for flight, however cruel and mighty our enemies? With a sling and a stone, David had smitten a giant before whom the whole hosts of Israel were trembling, and the Lord, who delivered him from the uncircumcised Philistine, could surely deliver him from King Saul … There is no such word as "impossibility" in the language of faith…”
David knew better. Throughout  his life David had known  God’s  favour and protection. It was God that had made him king. It was God that was going to keep him in this hour of trial. David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ knew this when His hour of  greatest trial had com. Jesus did not flee from the cup.  He stayed, and He prayed , “ not my will but your will be done!”  (Luke 22:42)

Where is God at this time of crisis? Where is God when I need him most? He is where He always is . David  says :  [4] The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven;   I may not know  how I will get out of this  crisis , but I  shall rest assured that He knows  the way that I should take.
 “…his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.” (v.4). God  is in control. He sees everything.  That is David’s comfort. He knows  that  he has  a Sovereign Protector  who is in control of his life and his destiny. He is on his throne observing and examining everything that sinners would do against the righteous.

1.      Perspective : [5] The LORD tests the righteous,
The Bible teaches us time and again , that our heavenly Father permits his children to undergo crises, trials of our faith,  to test us and to help us to see what is in our hearts , and  to learn thus that our  dependence is entirely upon the Lord.  In this there is no  evil intention  towards  his children.  It is based on His fatherly love  for His children .  As a father He disciplines  his children (Hebr.12:3ff)
2.      A stern warning : ( vv. 5b- 6)  …. but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. [6] Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
The picture here   reminds us of  Genesis  19 ( Sodom  &Gomorrah)  when  God  rained fire and brimstone upon  these ungodly cities – suddenly and unexpected . This will be the way   when  Christ returns – suddenly and unexpected. ( Matt. 24,25) It will be a great shock  for the wicked, who have thought that  God would never do this .The righteous  need to remind themselves of this and take heart that God has not forgotten them. Here is the final reminder of that fact :

[7] For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.  That is how the Psalm ends – with an assurance of  God’s love for those who  will trust in the Lord !

The  crisis of faith  for David  occurs  in vv. 2&3 : how can you say to my soul, “Flee (plural)  like a bird to your mountain, for behold , the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted the arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do ?”
The assault  is directed against  the heart of  David’s trust in God – and in God’s Word . This is what happens  so very often in the lives of believers. Their confidence in God gets shaken  and when this happens  they  look for alternative measures.  Be careful  when this happens.  The  question that Satan posed to Eve in the garden of Eden, “Has God really said?” (Gen 3:1),  remains   Satan’s  standard question and basis of assault upon us . When the authority  and the veracity of God’s word  is undermined what can the righteous do?  Here are a number of  ways  in which the Namibian church  is currently  being   tempted and tested with respect to  her trust in the Lord  :
·         Much of   Namibian church leadership  draws attention to their own authority  and  wisdom  and not God’s authority  and Word.  It is men and women with big titles (Reverend , Bishop , Apostle) that rule the church by their own authority, and  not under the authority  of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.
·         Much of   church worship  is not Christ centered but man centered.  Many Namibian  churches  engage in no serious attempt to make the Word of God known  to their congregations. Much   of what is called  ‘preaching’  is based on the imitation of  messages preached by American and African  health- wealth and prosperity teachers.  Messages resemble  ‘motivational speaking’   characterized by  modern business gurus,  and  ‘pop psychology’,which is a rehash of Dr. Phil and Oprah Winfrey  and the likes , dressed up in Christian language.  Most often  it is  not Christ and His word proclaimed  that attracts  people  to the  church.  It is music and innovative stage productions that  draw people  who want to be entertained. In Namibia, endless choir items, liturgical dances etc.    tend to  crowd out  the place of the  preached word. In many Namibian churches you will find little or  no systematic  and public reading of the  Bible   in worship, but you will find plenty of testimonies that glorify  men and not God.
·          Many  churches (particularly the older  ‘main line’ churches)  are succumbing to theological  liberalism,   tampering with  the  authority  of  the Bible  by saying   things  like “…the Bible is not the Word of God – the Bible becomes the Word of God as  it encounters me”. Others say that the Bible is not the Word of God , but the word of men about God . Other  streams  of liberal teaching which  make a  direct assault on the foundations of historic, biblical Christianity  are movements like the Jesus  seminar  which  denies the miracles of Christ  and who teach among many things that  Jesus was not raised bodily from the dead. They teach  that belief in the resurrection is based on the visionary  experiences of  Paul, Peter  and Mary.   Postmodernism  is  yet  another of these liberal streams ,  denying that  you can know anything written in the Bible  for sure . Clearly  such an undermining of  Christ and  the clear words of Christ in the name of  what is commonly called ‘scholarship’  and ‘academic integrity’     and ‘ the new hermeneutic‘ is devastating  to  many a sincere believer. Liberal theology in its many forms  is deeply subversive,  undermining  the foundations of the  historical  Christian faith, and “ if the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?”  ( Psalm 11:3)
We observe  the impact that  liberalism has on the church. We see how it lowers the spiritual temperature of the churches. We see  it in the way  in which  our churches have  very little real  impact upon our society. The    standard response  of churches  who no longer believe in the authority of Christ and the sufficiency of His Word  is  to get churches involved in social projects that have an appearance  of relevance  in the community. Now,  nobody despises soup kitchens  and the  clothing of  the poor  and the  looking after orphans and widows. These are indeed the out-workings of a biblical faith, but  this  is not the  core  activity of the church. It flows from the core activity of the church,  which is the preaching of the gospel,  with conviction,  clarity  and  utter  confidence  that  Jesus will  change the heart of  the man or woman who will look to Him  and believe in Him.  Our churches are not primarily social clubs or  social welfare organisations.  Churches are  life- saving stations   where  sinners  are mended and healed   to be offered up for service  to this broken world in the Name of Jesus our King! And our service always  begins with the Word of God.  So, what can believers do when the foundations  are being destroyed?
 David’s answer  is this :
1.      Don’t flee. Stand resolute!  Don’t abandon your position on the authority of Scripture!
2.      Know that God is in charge. He is in  His temple. He is on the throne.
3.      Know that He makes a distinction between the wicked and the righteous.
4.      Know that He has appointed a day of judgement, and if  you will be patient you will see His deliverance  and in time to come you will see the wicked judged. You will see His face!
 Amen !

[1] Ibid 

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