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THE WORKINGS OF UNBELIEF AND OF FAITH
Psalms 11:1-7. In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain; for, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart: if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness: his countenance doth behold the upright [Note: The three first verses of the psalm should be read as one continued speech, just as they are here printed: then the force and spirit of the passage is made clear.].
THE Psalms are a rich repository of experimental knowledge. David, at the different periods of his life, was placed in almost every different situation in which a believer, whether rich or poor, can be placed: and in these heavenly compositions he delineates all the workings of his heart. He introduces, too, the sentiments and conduct of the various persons who were accessary either to his troubles or his joys; and thus sets before our eyes a compendium of all that is passing in the hearts of men throughout the world. When he penned this psalm, he was under persecution from Saul, who sought his life, and hunted him “as a partridge upon the mountains.” His timid friends were alarmed for his safety, and recommended him to flee to some mountain where he had a hiding-place; and thus to conceal himself from the rage of Saul. But David, being strong in faith, spurned the idea of resorting to any such pusillanimous expedients, and determined confidently to repose his trust in God.
Thus in this psalm we see, in a contrasted view,
The counsels of unbelief—
Unbelief always views the dark side of a question; and not only keeps out of view those considerations that should animate and encourage the soul, but suggests others which are most injurious to its welfare:
It magnifies the difficulties we have to encounter—
[Doubtless the dangers which encompassed David were great and imminent: the arrows with which his enemies sought to kill him, were already on the string, pointed at him, as it were, and needing only to be drawn, in order to pierce him to the heart: the foundations also of law and justice were so entirely subverted under the government of Saul, that there was nothing to prevent the wicked from executing their murderous plots. But still there is no sufficient ground for that desponding question, “What can the righteous do?” Methinks the question under any circumstances is not only unbelieving, but atheistical: for if there be a God, and that God be a hearer of prayer, the question would rather be, ‘What cannot the righteous do?’ ” Let us look at an instance or two, as a specimen of what one righteous may do, even when, according to human appearance, the circumstances may be most desperate. The whole army of Israel is appalled at the sight of one gigantic warrior: yet a young stripling, with his sling and stone, destroys the giant, and puts to flight the whole army of the Philistines. Again: at a period when idolatry so prevailed in Israel, that Elijah thought himself the only worshipper of Jehovah in the whole land, one righteous man stems the torrent, destroys the priests of Baal, and demolishes all his temples and altars throughout the country. But another instance of singular importance is that of Oded [Note: 2 Chronicles 28:9-15.]; who, by his own unaided expostulation, liberated two hundred thousand captives, and constrained their victorious enemies not only to restore them to their homes without injury, but to treat them with a tenderness truly parental — — — Shall any one, after such instances as these, and many others that might be mentioned, ask, “What can the righteous do?” We should remember, that, as “with God all things are possible,” so “all things are possible to him that believeth;” yea, “if we have faith only as a grain of mustard-seed, we may root up trees or mountains, and cast them into the depths of the sea.”]
It prompts to the use of unbecoming expedients—
[However it might be proper for David to use prudential cautions, and not to put himself directly into the hands of Saul, it did not become him to “flee as a bird to his mountain,” just as if he had no refuge in his God. His duty was, to repose a confidence in God, and to expect assuredly the accomplishment of all God’s promises towards him, in spite of all the efforts of his most malignant enemies. But such is constantly the voice of unbelief: it bids us not wait God’s time, but contrive some way for ourselves, lest peradventure God should have forgotten his engagements, or not be able to fulfil them. Thus it operated in Rebecca. She knew that God had designed the blessings of the birthright for Jacob, her younger son: but when she saw that Isaac’s intention was in the space of an hour or two to give them to Esau, she conceived that the Divine purpose would be frustrated, if she did not instantly interpose for its accomplishment. To what a system of falsehood and treachery she had recourse, is too well known to need any recital: but it is a striking instance of the tendency of unbelief. And who does not feel this tendency in his own heart? Who has not at some unhappy moment sought, by dissimulation or concealment, to avoid the cross, which a more faithful confession of the Saviour would have brought upon him? But to use any indirect means either to avoid an evil or to obtain a good, is a certain proof of an unbelieving heart: for, “He that believeth will not make haste.”]
In the noble reply of David to his friends, we behold,
The dictates of faith—
It is the peculiar province of faith to “see Him who is invisible;” and in all situations to have respect to God,
As an Almighty Sovereign—
[Mark the answer which David, with holy indignation, gives to his timid advisers: “How say ye to my soul, Flee?” How say ye with desponding apprehension, “What can the righteous do?” This is my answer to all such vain fears; “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.” What plots can men or devils form, which God does not see? or what can they essay to execute, which he cannot defeat? He that sitteth m the heavens “laughs them to scorn.” “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that they cannot perform their enterprise;” yea, “he taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” It is not possible to find a more beautiful elucidation of this subject than that which is recorded in the history of Elisha. When the king of Syria was warring against Israel, behold, all his plans were made known to the king of Israel; and were thereby defeated. But how were these secrets made known? Was it by treason? No: God revealed to Elisha the things which the king of Syria spake in his bed-chamber. The king of Syria determined therefore that he would kill Elisha, and sent an army to encompass the city wherein Elisha was. Elisha’s servant, just like David’s friends, cried, “Alas, my master! how shall we do?” But, when God opened his eyes, he saw the whole surrounding atmosphere filled with horses of fire and chariots of fire: and soon afterwards he saw the whole smitten with blindness, and led by the prophet into the very heart of their enemy’s country [Note: 2 Kings 6:8-20.]. Thus are all the saints watched over by an Almighty Power; and under his protection they are safe.]
As a righteous Judge—
[It may be that God sees fit to let the enemies of his people prevail over them: but their success is only for a moment: the time is near at hand when the apparent inequality of these dispensations will be rectified; when God, as “a righteous Judge, will recompense tribulation to those who trouble us; and to us who are troubled, rest.” He narrowly inspects [Note: “His eyelids try” as persons narrowly inspecting some very minute object, almost close their eyelids, to exclude every other object.], not the actions only, but the dispositions also, of men, in order to render unto them according to their works: “the wicked his soul hateth;” and in due time “he will rain upon them snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest,” even as he did upon Sodom and Gomorrha: yes, “this shall be the portion of their cup;” and they “shall drink it to the very dregs.” On the other hand, “he loveth the righteous, and beholds them with delight;” and reserves for them a weight of glory proportioned to all that they have done and suffered for him. The believer is persuaded of this: whom then shall he fear? He knows that no weapon formed against him can prosper, unless Infinite Wisdom has ordained that it shall; and that no evil can be suffered to approach him which shall not be recompensed an hundred-fold even in this life; and much more in that world where God himself will be the unalienable portion of all his people. How these views compose the mind may be seen throughout all the Sacred Records [Note: See Psalms 7:10-17; Psalms 27:1.]: and they will always be realized in proportion to our faith.]
Those who meet with opposition in their Christian course—
[You are tempted perhaps by Satan, and by timid friends, to “put your light under a bushel,” instead of causing it to “shine before men for the glory of your God.” But you should say as Nehemiah, “Shall such a man as I flee?” No: my Saviour shunned not the cross for me; and, God helping me, I will gladly take up my cross and follow him — — — Beware how you listen to flesh and blood, or attempt to reconcile the services of God and mammon: to “follow the Lord fully” is the only true way to present peace and everlasting happiness.]
Those who are ready to faint by reason of spiritual conflicts—
[It is doubtless an arduous task to “wrestle with all the principalities and powers of hell;” but, “if God be for you, who can be against you?” Do not, because of some occasional darkness, say, “My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God;” but know, that your God is infinite both in wisdom and power; and that he is engaged to keep all who trust in him [Note: Isaiah 40:27-29.]. Reject then with indignation the unbelieving suggestions of your great adversary: and, if for a moment he prevail against you, chide yourselves for your cowardice, as David did; “Why art thou cast down, O my soul; and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God [Note: Psalms 42:11.].” Consider the force of our Lord’s reproof to Martha, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God [Note: John 11:40.]?” The same then he says to us: let us therefore “never stagger at his promises through unbelief, but be strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Let David’s confidence be ours also [Note: Psalms 5:11-12.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 11". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30