What are the biggest problems facing the United States of America right now? During times of trial and conflict are you seeking refuge in the Lord or in man’s wisdom?
I invite you to listen to the audio and/or read this abridged transcript of the sermon on Psalm 11 that I preached to our church this past Sunday (July 12th, 2020):
In the Lord I Take Refuge
Welcome to the second half of this year 2020! There are some of you, I am sure, who somewhere around Christmastime last year considered your life and wondered if only things could get a bit more exciting and unpredictable. Well, you got what you asked for but perhaps not the way you wanted. But such is the course of our existence and where we find ourselves at a moment such as this second half of the year. And boy what a blessing it is to see God’s goodness among us. How refreshing it is to consider the great strides we have made toward building a church building of our own. Consider how much the Lord has blessed us – that building with its steady progress stands as a stark contrast to the rapid change that has overtaken our society. Masks, no masks, cancel this party, reschedule that party, call this government agency, read this news report, what’s school going to look like—all that is happening in your life while steel is on its way to get this building up. Praise the Lord!
But we didn’t gather together this morning to talk about steel beams; rather, we have gathered to steel our hearts with the sure and steadfast revelation of God, this, His Word. And may I begin by saying that in the Lord we have a sure and steady refuge against the storms of this world. Perhaps the most thorough proclamation of this truth is found in the Book of Psalms. We make this transition from spiritual disciplines to a Summer in the Psalms not because the Psalms are somehow quaint and appealing but rather because they represent a poetic and truth-telling form of worship. The very word “Psalm” means “song,” and each one is a song of praise to God meant to be used in worship. The various writers of the psalms express their praise, their joy, their sorrow, their desperate need for refuge from trial, their anguish, their dedication to hope in the Lord, their frustration with failures, and their glorying in God’s victory. There is a unique kind of honesty expressed by these writers as they lay their hearts bare before God.
In the Psalms we hear, “These things I remember, as I pour out my soul” (Psalm 42:4, ESV).
Elsewhere we read, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8).
Use any study Bible and you will quickly find how much of Paul’s theology is based on Psalms, especially as the Apostle lays out the utter sinfulness of man in Romans 3. And the writer of Hebrews depends on the Psalms in revealing who Jesus is, the very Son of God and Great High Priest.
The Psalms are thus a model of worship for the Christian and a basis for sound theology. You NEED the Psalms. I NEED the Psalms. Worship is not just an event reserved for Sunday mornings but is in fact the Christian’s pursuit Sunday through Saturday, 24 hours a day. And since we must worship the Lord in holiness, we should seek to express ourselves in an honest but holy manner, in a manner that blesses God, not insulting or cursing Him with ulterior motives or a desire for something other than Him. Psalms gives deep and constant reminders of what it means to WORSHIP God, what it means to KNOW Him, and what it means to OBEY Him.
The theologian Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg said this: “The Psalms are expressions of holy feeling, which can be understood by those only, who have become alive to such feeling” (in Plumer 5). Fully recognizing the call to holiness in these Psalms will only happen if your feelings, your emotions have been made spiritually alive through faith in Jesus Christ. Have you repented of your sin and trusted in Christ as Savior? Is your faith weak and frail? Let the Psalms be a test and may they wake you up this morning to the glory of God and to Jesus Christ as your only hope in this world and the next.
So, let’s read Psalm 11 together and I will pray:
To the choirmaster. Of David.
11 In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
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;
3 if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
4 The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5 The Lord tests the righteous,
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.
7 For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.
Our Heavenly Father,
We come to this Psalm and ask that we might have humble hearts to receive what you have spoken. Our souls hear the call of the world to flee and live in fear of all that surrounds us, and we need courage to declare “In the Lord I take refuge.” Lord, test our hearts this hour, as this Psalm reminds us you are faithful to do. Might we be found among those who are righteous and upright in heart, claiming no righteousness of our own but only what is true righteousness, that of Jesus Christ imputed to us through His death on the cross.
Bring hope to those who despair and more courage to those who desire to behold your face. May righteous deeds abound among us as we call the lost to flee from the wrath to come, from the fire and sulfur that is their portion if they do no repent. Even in these last days may we be found faithful so that if Jesus does return this day He might find faith and faithfulness in His Church.
We pray all in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This Psalm has seven verses, but it begins with the words, “To the choirmaster. Of David.” It is important to note that these titles are actually part of inspired Scripture. It can be a bit confusing when you look at your Bible, because our modern Bibles are filled with chapter numbers, verse numbers, and even headings that were put there by the publisher. All of that is used to aid in reading and studying Scripture. However, these words, “To the choirmaster” or “A Song of David,” those kind of titles are translations of what was actually included in the original text.
This is important because it helps provide some context to what we read, especially that this is by David, the second official king of Israel and one known as a man after God’s own heart. Many years of David’s life were spent in facing threats from enemies and ever fleeing for his life from the jealous King Saul, the king of Israel who disobeyed God’s commands and was jealous of David. Some scholars suggest this Psalm was written during one of those times David was running away from Saul, but there’s no way to be sure.
However, I should point out that Scripture gives plenty of examples of people running for their lives as a way to save themselves from murderous people, and what we see here in Psalm 11 is not talking about standing up and fighting in dangerous situations. No. Rather, it is David’s declaration that His ultimate trust is in the Lord. The Lord is His refuge and will execute His will on the earth even in the midst of upheaval and evil men getting away with their destruction and schemes.
1) A Refuge in the Midst of Destruction (vss. 1-3)
So, when David speaks in verse one, He is declaring His trust in the Lord despite someone telling him to run in fear and give up hope and just concede that evil people have won the victory. Some fearful person was telling David to run and hide because wicked men were gaining victory, they were using cunning and deceitful tactics to hunt down the upright in heart, good people who desired to worship and obey God. Like arrows in the dark, these wicked people lie, cheat, and steal their way to the top and anyone who stands in the way of their desires has a target on their back. The upright in heart are target #1.
This fear-filled person speaking to David also cries out, “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Now, a number of biblical teachers and godly men, including Ken Ham, have described verse 3 in terms of the Word of God, saying that if the foundation of the Word be destroyed from society then chaos, disorder, and sin result. I completely agree with that concept, but that concept is not the meaning of this verse. Based on the context, when David refers to “the foundations” he is speaking of the foundations of a just society, expectations of a society that would keep wicked men from gaining such ability to kill and destroy as they please.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary provides an excellent way of describing this: “These foundations refer to the Law and the order of society based on the Lord’s rule. The temptation from the fainthearted, then, was based on a fear that the nation might crumble.”
You will notice that David never questions the fact that those seeking to destroy the foundations of society are evil. Oh yes, there were evil men in Israel in David’s day. In fact, King Saul in his rage had ordered the death of dozens of priests. We read in 1 Samuel 22:
18 Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn and strike the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. 19 And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword.
This is merely one example of injustice and evil destroying the foundations of Israel’s society. On human terms alone, David had cause to fear. I suspect many of you have considered what groups of people even now are actively seeking to undo the fabric of American society and destroy a faithful witness to the gospel and the Word of God. Perhaps some of you have lost sleep over the past few months as you see evil and deception go unanswered and even cheered on and the America of law and order unravel.
Before I proceed to describe what these things are, I should also point out that sin, evil, wickedness, deceit – these are such powerful forces of the human heart that any system of government can be destroyed by them. No Kingdom or Constitution is safe. The theocracy of Moses, the Monarchy of David and Solomon, and even the exceptional Democratic Republic of the United States each have the ability to come undone because it is the hearts of the people and their desires that determine whether a society will function. To put it simply, you could have the best laws, the very Law of God set into your Constitution, as ours is founded on biblical principles, but that law is merely a scrap of paper to the one who literally does not care. If enough people don’t care about the law, then you will see the law twisted and changed to suit the hearts of man and drive God and His law into oblivion.
No doubt, there are deceitful and wicked people in this country, people who have taken pride in being enemies of God and His revelation, His Word. I can think of at least three that have been especially zealous in their drive to destroy the very foundations of what makes our society function and gives people the freedom to worship God according to His Word. Each has stolen from God’s Word in order to advance their cause, twisting something God has said.
First, Planned Parenthood and similar organizations position themselves as helpers of women yet in the name of health and wellness they slaughter countless unborn babies every single day and in the name of love and care they literally kill families and essentially pretend to offer women the ability to have sex without consequences or responsibility.
Second, the organization Black Lives Matter, known as the Back Lives Matter Global Network, takes a true principle of God’s Word out of its biblical context and twists it for their own purposes. The only way black lives and white lives and all other lives matter is that they are created in God’s image, yet here is an active and growing organization in the United States that steals that statement from God and uses it as a license to affirm homosexuality and transgenderism as good and to undo the very fabric of Western democracy and the freedom of citizens to be protected.
Third, the Supreme Court of the United States has declared that in their hiring and firing practices business owners must ignore the abomination that is homosexuality and the pursuit of same sex attraction. This same court has forced each state to recognize same sex marriages as equal to genuine marriages, robbing God of His claim to how humanity should live.
Organizations with power, money, and influence, media attention, are committing murder, deceiving many, and, yes, many who call themselves Christians are marching arm-in-arm with them to destroy the foundations of our society and divide in the name of unity. If you are like me you have gazed upon this with your mouth open in shock and awe crying out to God, “When will this stop? Is there any hope?” You may have cried out, “In the face of such destruction, what can the Christian do? Is there any place of safety for the one who wants to follow Jesus Christ and live according to the Word of God? If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
David does not minimize or downplay evil. What makes David different from the fearful person is that he declares, “How in the world can you tell me to flee from this evil? In the LORD I take refuge!”
Where is YOUR refuge? Your place of safety? Your trust?
You say your trust is in God, and I ask, “Why?” And I tell you this morning if your answer doesn’t include the truths of the next four verses, consider how believing these truths will impact the rest of your year.
2) The One who Sees Hearts, Hates the Wicked, and Loves Righteous Deeds (vss. 4-7)
What is David’s reason for trust in the face of such destruction? It is because “the Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.” God still rules from His place of holiness, far and above the evils of man, He is a holy God that cannot tolerate evil forever. He sees each and every insult to His law, every murder, every abuse of power, every lie, every evil thought and evil deed. His eyelids – Like someone squinting to get a closer examination of something, God is peering into the hearts of men and women.
How does this bring hope? It is because God is still sovereign. He is fully in control and even using the works of the wicked to “test the righteous.” Evil times and the deceitful ways of wicked men are a gift, an opportunity for Christ’s church to test the genuineness of their faith. Consider the rest of Scripture, how righteous men and women suffered trial after trial and afterward their faith came out stronger than when the trial had begun. Christian, rejoice that God is doing this all for your good, to show how true and trustworthy He is.
And yet more comfort is to be found in the judgment of God. Verse 5 tells us that “his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” This may take us by surprise. You may ask, “How can God hate? I thought God was love.” The temptation here is to find an excuse for this verse and to bring in a whole barrage of other verses to excuse and redefine this one. Let’s take Scripture at its word and confess that the Lord does indeed hate the wicked. But what does “hate” mean? It means that God regards the wicked as His enemy, one who has offended His holy law and is worthy of judgment. Yet even with that hate the Lord shows love and mercy. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and explains, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). And anyone who repents of their sin and turns to Christ for salvation, recognizing that He died on the cross for sinners and rose from the dead victorious – anyone who trusts in Christ will be saved, even that Apostle Paul, who had led Christians to their death and later regarded himself as the “Chief of Sinners.” Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!
But for the one who does not trust in Christ, they shall not see life, for the wrath of God remains on Him (John 3:36). Those who do not repent of their sins and trust in Christ are considered enemies of God, and that is especially true for these wicked people that troubled David. These people that trouble David have in their future an end to their violence, filled with fire and sulfur, much like Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire from heaven. We can take comfort that God will reward the wicked with judgement, but this should not be a time to laugh and be haughty. Even with faith in God’s sure salvation, we must weep for the wicked. If you could get just one glimpse into the kind of hellfire and torment that awaits those who suffer the judgment of God, then you would plead with them to repent and grab their ankles as they rush headlong into the lake of fire that awaits them. And Christian, look no further than the cross to see the price of your salvation. Jesus willingly endured the wrath of God on your behalf to make you a child of God. Behold, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world and tremble at what He endured for your own wickedness, deceit, and violence. In that is great comfort and refuge.
Despite all this catastrophe, our Psalm this morning ends with hope: “For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” Indeed, the Lord is not wicked or deceitful. He is righteous! And through faith you can be in His presence, see His face, and enjoy freedom! Romans tells us that we are free from sin and slaves to righteousness. There is freedom in righteousness. Despite all the upheavals of society, all the godless expectations of our culture and the pain and discomfort it brings, you still have freedom to do what God commands and love Him and love others no matter what their skin color and love your family and love the unborn and preserve the truth of God’s Word by making it the basis for your very life and the reason you get out of bed this morning and walk in faith. Take refuge in the Lord, Christian, because you shall not suffer the fire and sulfur and scorching wind of hell. Instead, you shall behold His face!
If you do not know Christ, what is stopping you from being free from sin and the wrath to come? Trust in King Jesus now. Bow the knew to the one who sits on the throne and sees into your heart. Know Him. Love Him. Serve Him.
And Christian, I say to you cling to the Lord, the one who is righteous, and obey Him in faith even as the foundations beneath you crumble, because this place is not your home. In the meantime, claim your family, your business, your relationships, and yes, even Cornerstone Bible Church – claim them for King Jesus and see Him get the victory both in this life and the next.
We come to you with the shout of fearfulness echoing in our ears: “Flee like a bird to your mountain! There is no hope for the righteous as the foundations are destroyed!” Might we be resolved this moment to respond, “In the Lord I take refuge!” You are our only refuge. And as the wicked defy you and hasten your hand of judgement, we pray that your Holy Spirit might prick our hearts and open our eyes to their desperate condition and pursue them with the gospel message. And until you call us home might we be found faithful on this earth to build our lives on righteous deeds, working and waiting until we behold your face.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Ross, Allen P., The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Victor Books, 1983.
Plumer, William S. Psalms: a Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks. Banner of Truth Trust, 1975.