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The historical background is not known. It is probably the time when David is being persecuted by Saul (1 Samuel 26:3; 1 Samuel 26:20). The content of the psalm shows that David – or the faithful remnant, or the believer – is in great trouble because wicked men are preying on him. In that distress, his trust in God is tested by the advice he is given to flee. We see how David responds to that counsel and holds fast to his trust in God. He trusts that God will eventually destroy the wicked, who are hated by Him, and save the righteous, whom He loves.
Prophetically, we see the time when antichrist has come to power (Psalm 10) and is persecuting the faithful remnant of Israel. As a result, they are forced to flee from Israel (Matthew 24:15-Nehemiah :). This faithful remnant seeks refuge in the LORD (Psalms 11:1) and considers this persecution a trial (Psalms 11:5) of which end is certain (Psalms 11:5-Judges :).
The Refuge Is the LORD
For “for the choir director” (Psalms 11:1) see at Psalm 4:1.
For “[a Psalm] of David” see at Psalm 3:1.
David begins by testifying to simple trust in the LORD as the One to Whom he has “taken refuge” (Psalms 11:1). This is the introduction to and starting point of this psalm. He takes refuge in the LORD. He gives this testimony in response to the counsel he received to flee to the mountains.
His testimony is at the same time a reproach to the counselor or counselors. “Say to my soul” (cf. Psalms 11:5) seems to indicate that a strong appeal is made to him to convince him that it is far better to flee. He is, he is insistently told, no more than a bird that is hunted (1 Samuel 26:20) and that will surely be caught one day if it does not find a good hiding place.
David rejects this advice without hesitation, almost indignantly. He does not flee to the mountains, but to the LORD (Psalms 121:1-Exodus :). After all, the safety that the LORD provides as a refuge is so many times better than the safety that the mountains provide. Mountains are often a good shelter in times of danger (cf. Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 26:20). Because they say “your” mountain – “your” being plural – we can assume that the advice is given not only to David, but also to all who are with him.
In Psalms 11:2, the counselors motivate their advice. For the wicked are out to kill “the upright in heart” (cf. Psalms 10:8). Their actions are pictorially described. They have laid their arrows upon the string, ready to be shot. We can think here of physical persecution, through which the remnant will suffer greatly.
We can also think of a spiritual activity: their tongue is bend like “the bow” and their words are like “arrows upon the string” (cf. Psalms 37:14). The time to act is chosen with care. They act “in darkness”, in insidious ways. Thus the wicked whisper their slanderous words in veiled terms. They do not fight with an open mind. That is always the case with slander and blasphemy. It is pervasive, there are many listening ears, and yet it is difficult to discover where it comes from. The wicked are deceitful and full of evil.
The Throne of the LORD
The word “if” has the meaning and power of saying that there is no doubt whatsoever (Psalms 11:3). There is no doubt that the foundations will be overthrown if the rightful king does not rule, but is persecuted. By the foundations we can mean justice and righteousness, the laws that God has issued that should govern public life (cf. Psalms 82:5). They are the foundations of society. If those foundations are eroded, the house of society will eventually collapse and become a ruin.
We see this today in the society around us. When God’s rights and laws are no longer obeyed, when He is no longer taken into account, the chaos in which society now finds itself is created. What should the righteous do if that is the situation? Can he do anything? Can he undertake something to turn the tide? No and yes.
No, he cannot rebuild the collapsed house. Yes, he can look up in faith, beyond his counselors and enemies, to the LORD (Psalms 11:4). He “is in His holy temple” (cf. Habakkuk 2:20), in heaven, where His throne stands. In Isaiah, God says: “Heaven is My throne” (Isaiah 66:1). That He is in His “holy” temple means that He is separated from all turmoil on earth. His “throne” implies that He rules and has authority to judge. He and His throne can be shaken by nothing. Nothing is able to disturb His peace or thwart His plans for the world.
On earth the foundations can be destroyed, but that is impossible with “the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). It is to that city that the believer looks. He realizes that the true government sits in heaven, untouchable from all the turmoil of the earth. The government over the earth is exercised from the throne in heaven, although man thinks that he himself is in control.
He Who is in His holy temple and governs everything from His throne in heaven proceeds in His government with perfect knowledge of man. Although it may seem that He does nothing, that He is absent, nothing escapes Him. He is not indifferent to what happens on earth, but fully involved in all that “the children of men”, righteous and wicked, do on earth.
His eyes observe all the doings of men. With “His eyelids” He fathoms everything, even the most deeply hidden motives, for “all things are open and laid bare” to Him (Hebrews 4:13). Nothing is hidden from Him “who sees [what is done] in secret” (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6Matthew 6:18). His eyes are “like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14). He sees right through us.
The LORD Is Righteous
David is not guided by the difficult circumstances and the well-meant or ill-meant counsel of men, but by the LORD, of Whom he knows that He tests the righteous (Psalms 11:5). He himself is such righteous person who is being tested.
The verb “to test” means to test metals to determine their content and purity. The process of testing also works purification. Testing indicates the activity of the blacksmith who is engaged in the inspection and purification of gold or silver (cf. Jeremiah 6:27-Amos :; Jeremiah 9:7; Malachi 3:2-Numbers :). The LORD tests the genuineness of faith, not to kill the believer, but to make the faith purer through it, so that it will be focused only on Him.
Thus, the believing remnant will come to repentance in the time of the great tribulation. We see an example of the beginning of the purification process in Joseph’s brothers when they repent in prison (Genesis 42:15-Song of Solomon :). Once this process is completed by Joseph, he is able to reveal himself to them (Genesis 45:1).
Just as God knows who is righteous and tests such a person, He also knows who is wicked. His soul, that is, His whole Being, all that is in Him, hates the wicked (cf. Psalms 11:2). A special form of wickedness is violence, of which David here and the believer in general are the targets (cf. Revelation 13:7). Those who love violence, as evidenced by the persecution of God’s people, are a special object of God’s hatred. Hatred is not merely an attitude, but involves action.
God brings upon the wicked the only judgment appropriate for them (Psalms 11:6). He will “rain snares” upon them. The word “snares” points to anything that happens to a person that causes him to lose dominion over his life and become a captive of someone or something. God will seize the ungodly just as a hunter renders a wild animal harmless by letting it run into a snare.
That the snares come upon them like rain indicates that the means by which they are ensnared in their actions are abundant. It is impossible to escape them. Prophetically, this is about the judgment through the Assyrian, the king of the north, on the apostate Israel under the antichrist, the wicked par excellence.
God is bringing the same judgment on the antichrist and his wicked followers that He also brought on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24; cf. Revelation 9:17-Job :). Sodom and Gomorrah illustrate the utmost wickedness. The judgment on them illustrates the way God will punish all future wickedness (cf. Deuteronomy 29:22-Isaiah :; Revelation 14:10). Just as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, so all the wicked will be put to death.
The burning storm wind is devastating. The beauty of the vegetation changes instantly to withered plants (Genesis 41:6; Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 40:7-Ruth :; Jeremiah 4:11-1 Chronicles :). The wicked will be like the flowers of the field that are seen today and gone tomorrow. This “will be the portion of their cup”. By this is meant the cup of the wrath of God which they will have to drink (Psalms 75:9; Isaiah 51:17; Ezekiel 23:31-Micah :; Matthew 26:39).
The LORD deals with the wicked in this way, “for” He “is righteous” (Psalms 11:7). The wicked will experience that when He judges them. The righteous experience it through His appreciation of their “righteousness” or their “righteous deeds”. He loves their deeds. This is in contrast to His hatred that He has for the wicked and those who love violence.
“The upright” are not removed from before Him, as happens to the wicked. On the contrary, they will “behold His face” which looks at them full of love. He knows the dangers in the midst of which they find themselves and is in it with them. Seeing Him in the midst of difficulties is a great comfort and strengthening of faith. Beholding His face means enjoying fellowship with Him, now and later in the world to come (cf. Matthew 5:8).
This is David’s response to the advice given to him in Psalms 11:1 that he should flee from danger. God is his Defender and he firmly trusts in His protection. The wicked have to fear everything, the righteous have to fear nothing. The wicked are never safe, the righteous are always safe. The righteous or God-fearing in Ezekiel 9 are given a mark on their foreheads (Ezekiel 9:4). The righteous or God-fearing in Revelation 9 are given the seal of God on their foreheads (Revelation 9:4).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent