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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Psalms 11

 

 

Verses 1-7

Psalms 11:1-7

In the Lord put I my trust.

Jehovah the Protector and Avenger of the persecuted saint

The Psalmist, beset by malicious foes, is warned by some of his adherents to seek refuge in flight. The Psalm is his response to this suggestion. In Jehovah, he says, is his trust, and there is no need for him to fear; Jehovah is watching all human actions from His heavenly sanctuary, and it is certain that He will eventually whelm the ungodly in a terrible ruin, and cheer with the light of His countenance the righteous whom He has proved in the furnace of adversity. The Psalm is Davidic by title, and may perhaps be assigned to the period when David’s life was imperilled by the rebellion of Absalom. (A. C. Jennings and W. H. Lowe.)

Safety in God

The singer is in danger of his life, and timorous and fainthearted counsellors would fain persuade him to seek safety in flight. But full of unshaken faith in God, he rejects their counsel, believing that Jehovah, the righteous King, though He tries His servants, does not forsake them. Not the righteous, but the wicked have need to fear. The Psalm is so short and so general in its character that it is not easy to say to what circumstances in David’s life it should be referred. The choice seems, however, to lie between his persecution by Saul and the rebellion of his son Absalom. Delitzsch decides for the last, and thinks the counsel (Psalms 11:1), “Flee to your mountain,” comes from the mouth of friends, who were anxious to persuade the king to betake himself, as he had before done when hunted by Saul, to the “rocks of the wild goats.” The expression (Psalms 11:3), “When the foundations are destroyed,” points to a time when lawful authority was subverted. (J. J. Stewart Perowne, B. D.)

Faith’s answer to timid counsellors

The structure of the Psalm is simple and striking. There are two vividly contrasted halves: the first gives the suggestions of timid counsellors, who see only along the low levels of earth; the second, the brave answer of faith which looks up into heaven. Verses 1-3. The Psalmist begins with an utterance of faith, which makes him recoil with wonder and aversion from the cowardly, well-meant counsels of his friends. The metaphor of flight to a stronghold, which is in the word for trust, obviously colours the context, for what can be more absurd than that he who has sought and found shelter in God Himself should listen to the whisperings of his own heart, or to the advice of friends, and hurry to some other hiding place? Safe in God, the Psalmist wonders why such advice should be given, and his question expresses its irrationality, and his rejection of it. Have we here a good man’s dialogue with himself? Were there no voices in him: the voice of sense which spoke to the soul, and that of the soul which spoke authoritatively to the sense?. . .. The timid counsel is enforced by two considerations: the danger of remaining a mark for the stealthy foe, and the nobler thought of the hopelessness of resistance, and therefore the quixotism of sacrificing one’s self in a prolongation of it. Prudent advice, when the prudence is only inspired by sense, is generally foolish; and the only reasonable attitude is obstinate hopefulness and brave adherence to duty. In the second part the poet opposes to the picture drawn by fear the vision of the opened heaven and the throned Jehovah. To the eyes that have seen that vision, and before which it ever burns, all earthly sorrows and dangers seem small. There is necessarily in the Divine nature an aversion to evil, and to the man who has so completely given himself over to it as to “love” it. Retribution, not forgiveness, is here the conception of the relations between man and God. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Moral courage

We have in this Psalm a striking instance of Christian heroism. The Psalmist is found in circumstances of great moral perplexity and personal danger, but he stands his ground, trusting in God.

I. The severity of his trial. David’s timid counsellors bring before him several pressing reasons why he should despair of his cause, and retire from the scene of conflict.

1. The desperate designs of his enemies.

2. Their perfidious policy.

3. Their successful action.

II. The constancy of the tried. What were the sources of this sublime courage?

1. The presence of God.

2. The majesty of God.

3. The knowledge of God.

4. The righteousness of God.

Here the Psalmist rested, and here may we rest. God loveth the wise, the just, the good, and in Him may we rest.

III. The certainty of the triumph.

1. All God’s people may expect to be thus tried. At one time or other our faith, principle, hope will be thus severely tested.

2. Let us at such times beware of the temporising policy of faint-hearted men. It is often a sorer trial for faith to withstand the pleadings of well-meaning friends than to arm itself against open enemies.

3. Let us trust confidently in God, and He shall make us to triumph. (W. L. Watkinson.)

“Courage,”

says Webster, “is that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without any fear or depression of spirits.”

I. Genuine moral courage tested. By the alarming intelligence and cowardly counsels, not of enemies but of friends. They presented to his mind two facts to prompt him to a cowardly flight.

1. The imminence of his danger.

2. The uselessness of religion.

II. Genuine moral courage explained. All this did not intimidate David. On the contrary, it reinspired him. What was the very spirit of his courage? Trust in an all-sufficient Helper. “In the Lord put I my trust.” To show that He in whom he trusted was sufficient to help him, he refers to four things.

1. God’s authority. “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven.” He is the King of the universe, and is able to control the events that are transpiring.

2. God’s knowledge. “His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men.” He is not ignorant of what is going on, nor is He a mere spectator. He examines the motives of every actor m the scene.

3. God’s feeling. “The Lord trieth the righteous; but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, His soul hateth.” He not only superintends and sees all that is going on, but He has a heart in the matter. His feelings are interested. He loves the good; He loathes the wicked.

4. God’s retribution. “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares,” etc. Such is the God he trusted in. One who has moral feelings, who recoils from the wrong and sympathises with the right. One who will exercise a righteous retribution. Who that trusts in such a God as this need fear? (Homilist.)

A song in the night

The environment of the Psalm is stormy. The singer is a soul in difficulty. He is the victim of relentless antagonists. It is a song in the night.

I. Inadequate resources. The Psalmist hears the voices of counsellors. They are urging him to get away from the exposed plains to the strongholds. But to the Psalmist the suggested defences are inadequate. The enemy can reach him there. Against these imperfect defences the Psalmist proclaims his own confident boast, “In the Lord put I my trust.” Look at some of our suggested refuges. Take up literature, music, science, or art. All such suggested strongholds are inadequate.

II. The all-sufficient security. Upon what, then, shall the driven soul depend? “In the Lord put I my trust.” The Psalmist enumerates some of the foundations upon which his joyful confidence is built. See some stones of the grand foundation--the Lord’s immanence, the Lord’s sovereignty, the Lord’s discernments, the Lord’s repulsions, the Lord’s purposes. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Trust in the Lord

Birds of high flight and of great strength make their nests in mountains. When these creatures are alarmed and desire a place of refuge you find them flying not to the valley, but to the mountain. Every man is liable to fearfulness and alarm. And every man has his mountain--wealth, friends, patronage. The man of God has his mountain in God. Many a good man forgets this, and advises others by his fears rather than by his faith. David is speaking of such people, for such have given him bad advice.

I. The proper influence of trusting in god. It should give you a firm adherence to that which you feel to be right. The man who trusts in God keeps from doing anything until he sees the right thing to be done. The effect of this is the production of peace of mind--calmness of spirit.

II. God does not disturb this quietness, but there are those who do. Not Satan and his angels only, but also your fellow men. Do not put the blame of every mischief on Satan. We are our own Satans very frequently. Whatever use a man may make of friends, neighbours, and religious advisers he will take care that they never come between him and God.

III. Infer your duty from your principles. Whatever is consistent with trust you may do. The application of the principle of trust will keep you consistent, and will settle ten thousand matters that otherwise would perplex you. (Samuel Martin.)

The secret of faith’s victory

The exercise of genuine faith is frequently involved in a conflict with unbelief; and they not seldom get entangled one with the other, like wrestlers, so that they can scarce be distinguished. Just such a struggle is set forth in this Psalm. It tells of David’s experience as a believer assaulted by suspicions and fears and perplexities prompted within him by unbelief.

I. The manner in which the assault was made (verses 1-3). We cannot tell the circumstances which occasioned their suggestions. But the danger represented was well-nigh desperate. The very foundations of his safety were threatened. Then it was said to him, “Flee, flee as a bird to your mountain.” The suggestion was insidious in form, of a prudent and very practical hint for self-preservation. And yet it was alien to his faith. That was not disturbed in its depths where it was anchored on the Lord. Their suggestions did indeed ruffle his feelings, but did not make him doubt the truths of his faith. Hence he avows his trust. “In the Lord put I my trust.” “How dare ye say to my soul, flee?”

II. How he met the assaults of unbelief. By turning his gaze outwards and upwards to the Lord. From Him he derived all the power wherewith to meet their assaults.

III. The Psalm may be taken as a dialogue.

1. The suggestion to “flee” is met by asking how they dare to say that when “the Lord is in His holy temple.”

2. That “the wicked bend their bow” is met by the thought, “His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men.” As if He could not see!

3. “That the foundations were destroyed,” by the thought that if they were the Lord was dealing with him; “the Lord trieth the righteous;” and “I put my trust in Him,” “who of old laid the foundations of the earth,” in Him the Eternal. Then, should such a man as I flee?

IV. Lessons.

1. Dread and resist the faintest whisper of retreat, whatever be the troubles and dangers of your course.

2. Live much aloft in communion with the Divine object of a victorious faith. (Robert R. Muir.)

Confidence in God

The utter helplessness in which David’s soul was plunged may be inferred from the advice which his friends had kindly, yet foolishly, tendered to him. They had advised him to flee as a bird to the mountains; in other words, they had advised flight from trouble,--the coward’s cure for the distresses of life. The quality of David’s spirit is seen from the answer which he returned to this mean counsel. It was absolutely intolerable to him, creating in him a sense of revulsion and utter disdain. There is only one flight possible to the truly good man, and that is a flight towards the Lord, his Infinite Deliverer. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. The suggestion made by the friends of David shows their own irreligiousness, and shows indeed all that the world has to offer to the soul when it is in its last extremity. In the case of the Christian there is no need to invent any religious alleviation of trouble, for that alleviation is abundantly supplied by the promises of God, which are exceedingly great and precious, never so great as when greatly needed, and never so precious as when every other voice is silenced, and all the world confesses itself to be unable to touch effectually the tremendous agony. It is beautiful to notice how an assault of this kind is repelled by the very character of David. “In the Lord put I my trust.” That was the solidity of his character. Outwardly he was troubled enough; waves and billows were rushing upon him in great storms, so rapidly that he had not time to lift up his head and open his eyes upon the fair scene that was above; but inwardly there was a religious trust which made him what he was--a secret, unfailing, abounding confidence in the living God; all this confidence seemed to the outward observer to be eclipsed and indeed destroyed, but it was still there, making David’s heart strong amidst all the temptation and wrath which turned his life into daily suffering. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

The mission of trial

It is very remarkable that this world has always hated the good and loved the evil; but it has always been so. The world and the Church are perpetual and eternal enemies. Darkness and light continually are opposed to one another. If we look down the list of God’s servants from the first, we find it as an invariable rule that the world has ever hated them in their generation. Men cast them out of whom the world was not worthy. Still, they all maintained their faith in God; each could say with the Psalmist, to the close of his life, “In the Lord put I my trust.” And God has never forsaken them that trust in Him. Sorrows may fall thick around them at times, trials grievous to be borne, and divers temptations may come upon them; but all these things tend only to strengthen faith in them that are saved. If a man enjoys all good things on earth--great prosperity, continual ease, nothing to vex him--then it needs, we know not what an amount of grace, and what years of careful training in himself, and of prayer and watchfulness, to keep that man from falling away. There are so few of us who would really love and serve God if we met with no trials in life, that in His great mercy God sends these things, first upon one, and then upon another amongst us. It is out of love to us He does so. No less true is this principle of faith, and trust, and security as applied to a nation, as it is to a church, or to each individual Christian among us. It is the secret of all national security, and prosperity, and peace. (W. J. Stracey, M. A.)

Flee as a bird to your mountain.

Times for flight

It is by no means always an easy question for the good man to decide when he shall flee, and when resist, the storm of immorality and irreligion that may be prevailing in the community to which he belongs. He may err as widely in precipitating the time for doing a thing as he can in allowing the time to pass by unimproved. It is as much the part of a good general to know when to halt as when to advance; when to retreat as When to attack; when to save life as when to cast it away. The only question for him to settle is, which course for the time being will, in the end, best promote the cause he has in hand. Our Lord both spoke and acted on this principle, counselling His disciples at one time to save themselves by flight, at another to remain at their post, even at the cost of their lives. He counselled them to determine their line of conduct, not by its consequences to themselves, but by its consequences to the cause in which they were identified. If flight would best promote its interests, they were to flee; if remaining at their posts, they were to remain; and, if needs be, die there. Many a bishop in the primitive Church did this; fleeing, so lone as flight could best serve their Master’s cause; but when it demanded the surrender of their lives, giving themselves up freely to martyrdom. David, for years after he had been divinely designated to the throne of Israel, fled before his persecutors like a terrified bird. In this Psalm his affairs are no longer as they have been. The time has come when the cause with which he has identified himself can no longer be promoted by his flight. It demands champions and defenders, and it may be martyrs. (David Caldwell, A. M.)


Verses 1-7

Psalms 11:1-7

In the Lord put I my trust.

Jehovah the Protector and Avenger of the persecuted saint

The Psalmist, beset by malicious foes, is warned by some of his adherents to seek refuge in flight. The Psalm is his response to this suggestion. In Jehovah, he says, is his trust, and there is no need for him to fear; Jehovah is watching all human actions from His heavenly sanctuary, and it is certain that He will eventually whelm the ungodly in a terrible ruin, and cheer with the light of His countenance the righteous whom He has proved in the furnace of adversity. The Psalm is Davidic by title, and may perhaps be assigned to the period when David’s life was imperilled by the rebellion of Absalom. (A. C. Jennings and W. H. Lowe.)

Safety in God

The singer is in danger of his life, and timorous and fainthearted counsellors would fain persuade him to seek safety in flight. But full of unshaken faith in God, he rejects their counsel, believing that Jehovah, the righteous King, though He tries His servants, does not forsake them. Not the righteous, but the wicked have need to fear. The Psalm is so short and so general in its character that it is not easy to say to what circumstances in David’s life it should be referred. The choice seems, however, to lie between his persecution by Saul and the rebellion of his son Absalom. Delitzsch decides for the last, and thinks the counsel (Psalms 11:1), “Flee to your mountain,” comes from the mouth of friends, who were anxious to persuade the king to betake himself, as he had before done when hunted by Saul, to the “rocks of the wild goats.” The expression (Psalms 11:3), “When the foundations are destroyed,” points to a time when lawful authority was subverted. (J. J. Stewart Perowne, B. D.)

Faith’s answer to timid counsellors

The structure of the Psalm is simple and striking. There are two vividly contrasted halves: the first gives the suggestions of timid counsellors, who see only along the low levels of earth; the second, the brave answer of faith which looks up into heaven. Verses 1-3. The Psalmist begins with an utterance of faith, which makes him recoil with wonder and aversion from the cowardly, well-meant counsels of his friends. The metaphor of flight to a stronghold, which is in the word for trust, obviously colours the context, for what can be more absurd than that he who has sought and found shelter in God Himself should listen to the whisperings of his own heart, or to the advice of friends, and hurry to some other hiding place? Safe in God, the Psalmist wonders why such advice should be given, and his question expresses its irrationality, and his rejection of it. Have we here a good man’s dialogue with himself? Were there no voices in him: the voice of sense which spoke to the soul, and that of the soul which spoke authoritatively to the sense?. . .. The timid counsel is enforced by two considerations: the danger of remaining a mark for the stealthy foe, and the nobler thought of the hopelessness of resistance, and therefore the quixotism of sacrificing one’s self in a prolongation of it. Prudent advice, when the prudence is only inspired by sense, is generally foolish; and the only reasonable attitude is obstinate hopefulness and brave adherence to duty. In the second part the poet opposes to the picture drawn by fear the vision of the opened heaven and the throned Jehovah. To the eyes that have seen that vision, and before which it ever burns, all earthly sorrows and dangers seem small. There is necessarily in the Divine nature an aversion to evil, and to the man who has so completely given himself over to it as to “love” it. Retribution, not forgiveness, is here the conception of the relations between man and God. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Moral courage

We have in this Psalm a striking instance of Christian heroism. The Psalmist is found in circumstances of great moral perplexity and personal danger, but he stands his ground, trusting in God.

I. The severity of his trial. David’s timid counsellors bring before him several pressing reasons why he should despair of his cause, and retire from the scene of conflict.

1. The desperate designs of his enemies.

2. Their perfidious policy.

3. Their successful action.

II. The constancy of the tried. What were the sources of this sublime courage?

1. The presence of God.

2. The majesty of God.

3. The knowledge of God.

4. The righteousness of God.

Here the Psalmist rested, and here may we rest. God loveth the wise, the just, the good, and in Him may we rest.

III. The certainty of the triumph.

1. All God’s people may expect to be thus tried. At one time or other our faith, principle, hope will be thus severely tested.

2. Let us at such times beware of the temporising policy of faint-hearted men. It is often a sorer trial for faith to withstand the pleadings of well-meaning friends than to arm itself against open enemies.

3. Let us trust confidently in God, and He shall make us to triumph. (W. L. Watkinson.)

“Courage,”

says Webster, “is that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without any fear or depression of spirits.”

I. Genuine moral courage tested. By the alarming intelligence and cowardly counsels, not of enemies but of friends. They presented to his mind two facts to prompt him to a cowardly flight.

1. The imminence of his danger.

2. The uselessness of religion.

II. Genuine moral courage explained. All this did not intimidate David. On the contrary, it reinspired him. What was the very spirit of his courage? Trust in an all-sufficient Helper. “In the Lord put I my trust.” To show that He in whom he trusted was sufficient to help him, he refers to four things.

1. God’s authority. “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven.” He is the King of the universe, and is able to control the events that are transpiring.

2. God’s knowledge. “His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men.” He is not ignorant of what is going on, nor is He a mere spectator. He examines the motives of every actor m the scene.

3. God’s feeling. “The Lord trieth the righteous; but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, His soul hateth.” He not only superintends and sees all that is going on, but He has a heart in the matter. His feelings are interested. He loves the good; He loathes the wicked.

4. God’s retribution. “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares,” etc. Such is the God he trusted in. One who has moral feelings, who recoils from the wrong and sympathises with the right. One who will exercise a righteous retribution. Who that trusts in such a God as this need fear? (Homilist.)

A song in the night

The environment of the Psalm is stormy. The singer is a soul in difficulty. He is the victim of relentless antagonists. It is a song in the night.

I. Inadequate resources. The Psalmist hears the voices of counsellors. They are urging him to get away from the exposed plains to the strongholds. But to the Psalmist the suggested defences are inadequate. The enemy can reach him there. Against these imperfect defences the Psalmist proclaims his own confident boast, “In the Lord put I my trust.” Look at some of our suggested refuges. Take up literature, music, science, or art. All such suggested strongholds are inadequate.

II. The all-sufficient security. Upon what, then, shall the driven soul depend? “In the Lord put I my trust.” The Psalmist enumerates some of the foundations upon which his joyful confidence is built. See some stones of the grand foundation--the Lord’s immanence, the Lord’s sovereignty, the Lord’s discernments, the Lord’s repulsions, the Lord’s purposes. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Trust in the Lord

Birds of high flight and of great strength make their nests in mountains. When these creatures are alarmed and desire a place of refuge you find them flying not to the valley, but to the mountain. Every man is liable to fearfulness and alarm. And every man has his mountain--wealth, friends, patronage. The man of God has his mountain in God. Many a good man forgets this, and advises others by his fears rather than by his faith. David is speaking of such people, for such have given him bad advice.

I. The proper influence of trusting in god. It should give you a firm adherence to that which you feel to be right. The man who trusts in God keeps from doing anything until he sees the right thing to be done. The effect of this is the production of peace of mind--calmness of spirit.

II. God does not disturb this quietness, but there are those who do. Not Satan and his angels only, but also your fellow men. Do not put the blame of every mischief on Satan. We are our own Satans very frequently. Whatever use a man may make of friends, neighbours, and religious advisers he will take care that they never come between him and God.

III. Infer your duty from your principles. Whatever is consistent with trust you may do. The application of the principle of trust will keep you consistent, and will settle ten thousand matters that otherwise would perplex you. (Samuel Martin.)

The secret of faith’s victory

The exercise of genuine faith is frequently involved in a conflict with unbelief; and they not seldom get entangled one with the other, like wrestlers, so that they can scarce be distinguished. Just such a struggle is set forth in this Psalm. It tells of David’s experience as a believer assaulted by suspicions and fears and perplexities prompted within him by unbelief.

I. The manner in which the assault was made (verses 1-3). We cannot tell the circumstances which occasioned their suggestions. But the danger represented was well-nigh desperate. The very foundations of his safety were threatened. Then it was said to him, “Flee, flee as a bird to your mountain.” The suggestion was insidious in form, of a prudent and very practical hint for self-preservation. And yet it was alien to his faith. That was not disturbed in its depths where it was anchored on the Lord. Their suggestions did indeed ruffle his feelings, but did not make him doubt the truths of his faith. Hence he avows his trust. “In the Lord put I my trust.” “How dare ye say to my soul, flee?”

II. How he met the assaults of unbelief. By turning his gaze outwards and upwards to the Lord. From Him he derived all the power wherewith to meet their assaults.

III. The Psalm may be taken as a dialogue.

1. The suggestion to “flee” is met by asking how they dare to say that when “the Lord is in His holy temple.”

2. That “the wicked bend their bow” is met by the thought, “His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men.” As if He could not see!

3. “That the foundations were destroyed,” by the thought that if they were the Lord was dealing with him; “the Lord trieth the righteous;” and “I put my trust in Him,” “who of old laid the foundations of the earth,” in Him the Eternal. Then, should such a man as I flee?

IV. Lessons.

1. Dread and resist the faintest whisper of retreat, whatever be the troubles and dangers of your course.

2. Live much aloft in communion with the Divine object of a victorious faith. (Robert R. Muir.)

Confidence in God

The utter helplessness in which David’s soul was plunged may be inferred from the advice which his friends had kindly, yet foolishly, tendered to him. They had advised him to flee as a bird to the mountains; in other words, they had advised flight from trouble,--the coward’s cure for the distresses of life. The quality of David’s spirit is seen from the answer which he returned to this mean counsel. It was absolutely intolerable to him, creating in him a sense of revulsion and utter disdain. There is only one flight possible to the truly good man, and that is a flight towards the Lord, his Infinite Deliverer. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. The suggestion made by the friends of David shows their own irreligiousness, and shows indeed all that the world has to offer to the soul when it is in its last extremity. In the case of the Christian there is no need to invent any religious alleviation of trouble, for that alleviation is abundantly supplied by the promises of God, which are exceedingly great and precious, never so great as when greatly needed, and never so precious as when every other voice is silenced, and all the world confesses itself to be unable to touch effectually the tremendous agony. It is beautiful to notice how an assault of this kind is repelled by the very character of David. “In the Lord put I my trust.” That was the solidity of his character. Outwardly he was troubled enough; waves and billows were rushing upon him in great storms, so rapidly that he had not time to lift up his head and open his eyes upon the fair scene that was above; but inwardly there was a religious trust which made him what he was--a secret, unfailing, abounding confidence in the living God; all this confidence seemed to the outward observer to be eclipsed and indeed destroyed, but it was still there, making David’s heart strong amidst all the temptation and wrath which turned his life into daily suffering. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

The mission of trial

It is very remarkable that this world has always hated the good and loved the evil; but it has always been so. The world and the Church are perpetual and eternal enemies. Darkness and light continually are opposed to one another. If we look down the list of God’s servants from the first, we find it as an invariable rule that the world has ever hated them in their generation. Men cast them out of whom the world was not worthy. Still, they all maintained their faith in God; each could say with the Psalmist, to the close of his life, “In the Lord put I my trust.” And God has never forsaken them that trust in Him. Sorrows may fall thick around them at times, trials grievous to be borne, and divers temptations may come upon them; but all these things tend only to strengthen faith in them that are saved. If a man enjoys all good things on earth--great prosperity, continual ease, nothing to vex him--then it needs, we know not what an amount of grace, and what years of careful training in himself, and of prayer and watchfulness, to keep that man from falling away. There are so few of us who would really love and serve God if we met with no trials in life, that in His great mercy God sends these things, first upon one, and then upon another amongst us. It is out of love to us He does so. No less true is this principle of faith, and trust, and security as applied to a nation, as it is to a church, or to each individual Christian among us. It is the secret of all national security, and prosperity, and peace. (W. J. Stracey, M. A.)

Flee as a bird to your mountain.

Times for flight

It is by no means always an easy question for the good man to decide when he shall flee, and when resist, the storm of immorality and irreligion that may be prevailing in the community to which he belongs. He may err as widely in precipitating the time for doing a thing as he can in allowing the time to pass by unimproved. It is as much the part of a good general to know when to halt as when to advance; when to retreat as When to attack; when to save life as when to cast it away. The only question for him to settle is, which course for the time being will, in the end, best promote the cause he has in hand. Our Lord both spoke and acted on this principle, counselling His disciples at one time to save themselves by flight, at another to remain at their post, even at the cost of their lives. He counselled them to determine their line of conduct, not by its consequences to themselves, but by its consequences to the cause in which they were identified. If flight would best promote its interests, they were to flee; if remaining at their posts, they were to remain; and, if needs be, die there. Many a bishop in the primitive Church did this; fleeing, so lone as flight could best serve their Master’s cause; but when it demanded the surrender of their lives, giving themselves up freely to martyrdom. David, for years after he had been divinely designated to the throne of Israel, fled before his persecutors like a terrified bird. In this Psalm his affairs are no longer as they have been. The time has come when the cause with which he has identified himself can no longer be promoted by his flight. It demands champions and defenders, and it may be martyrs. (David Caldwell, A. M.)


Verse 3-4

Psalms 11:3-4

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

Christian firmness in evil times

We have here a description of a faithful heart in time of trial declaring itself resolved to trust on God alone, when some would advise it to fly or to draw back. No man need despair; but still, when the foundations are assailed, and perhaps (humanly speaking) destroyed, it is the plain duty of believers to consider what they ought to do; to consider how they may most effectually, under God’s blessing, join hands with Him in maintaining, against the world, the cause of true religion in His Church and household. If our lot is cast in times and places when and where the truth as such is slighted and set aside, it is easy to see that, so far as such opinions prevail, the foundations are destroyed. If men come to think it of small consequence whether or not they embrace and hold fast Divine truth, they will, by degrees, go on to doubt whether there is any such thing as Divine truth at all; and so, beginning with what they were pleased to call Christian liberty, they will end in unbelief. If men should be led to encourage the opinion that God’s most holy Bible is to be handled, judged, criticised, praised or blamed like other books, then, beyond all doubt, however human reason may triumph, Divine faith will be undermined, and by degrees will be destroyed from its foundation. The thoughts of serious Church people are now directed to inquiry into the nature of the Christian Church and the duty of cleaving fast to it, more and more, as the world seeks to destroy its foundations. Some persons think the Church means anything, and some think it means nothing, but, at all events, it is of no great consequence what it means. Another danger is that of mistaking or slighting the great Christian doctrine of Divine grace. Whatever concerns the foundations of belief or practice concerns all Christian people as Christians. (Contributors to the Tracts for the Times. )

The foundations of the true faith indestructible

The Christian’s would be friends are often his worst enemies. Instead of Strengthening his faith when he is in difficulties, they counsel him to fly. Thus was David tempted by the feeble faith of well-meaning friends. He was sure that the foundations of his faith could never be destroyed, because--

1. God is present in His Church. Ever present to preserve, revive, and defend it.

2. Because the Lord’s throne is in heaven. By His throne we understand His authority. Not human laws, not Church authority, not creeds, which are fences rather than foundations.

3. Because His design is to try His people. Hence all these alarms and trials. Then we should have stability in our faith. Distaste for profitless controversy. Patience in well-doing. (Stephen Jenner, M. A.)

An immovable foundation

The “if” comes suddenly upon us.

1. Consider this “if” as being nothing but an “if.” There are certain spiritual foundations which never can be removed.

2. Take this “if” as being something more than an “if.” The foundations of many things may be removed--of civil government, of commerce, of one’s estates, of all trust between man and man. Now suppose them removed, what should the righteous do? If the worst come to the worst--

Lost foundations

Here is the expression of a mortal fear. The idea occurred to the mind of the Psalmist that the very foundations of law and order may be destroyed. This is the most disastrous temptation that can assail the human mind. Immediately following it are all the consequences of a panic. So long as evils seem to be open to the restraints of civilisation and the penalties of righteous law, society retains a considerable sense of security, notwithstanding occasional and even violent outrage. In this case, however, the idea has occurred that the very foundations of law, justice, and equity might be ploughed up and utterly destroyed. Then the question arises, What will the righteous do? All life that is to be solid and lasting is really a question of “foundations.” Our inquiry should be into basis, principles, original necessities, the eternal fitness of things, the harmony that is based upon the very nature of God. Whatever errors there may be in the superstructure of society, there should be no doubt about the solidity of the cornerstones upon which the building is set. The great necessity of Christian civilisation is to have a solid basis, to lay down principles which do not admit of disputation, and to secure assent to laws which express the spirit of eternal righteousness. Hence the work of Christianity is profound. It is the honour of Christianity that it alone is profoundly careful concerning the bases of society and the bases of the individual life. It insists upon the foundation being Divine, not human. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Disturbances in nations

All disturbances in nations are but appointed dispensations marked out on the plan of God. We may safely trust God to reign in a manner worthy of Him. Do you ask why God’s purposes cannot be fulfilled without all this earthly trouble? They would have been, if sin had no dominion on earth. But man being sinful, the way of suffering is the only way for him to pursue. Often have men thought that the foundations were destroyed. They thought so in David’s time. But the greater the activity and apparent disorder of the hive, the more does the fruit of the honeycomb abound; the more the threads which cross and appear to confuse with each other on the loom, the richer and purer is the damask. See what days of blessing have followed days of adversity and trial It is sometimes difficult to see which of two courses of action should be chosen. Weakness submits to evil circumstances; decision overcomes evil with good. Hanani grieves over the condition of Jerusalem; but Nehemiah resolves to amend it. Erasmus denounced with his pen the evil in the Church of his day, but kept aloof from the work of reformation. Luther nerved himself for battle. When political troubles threaten, what are we to do? Some Christians refuse to take action. But political action may be requisite, and if a man can see a plain way of duty he should follow that way. Whatever may be the disturbances of the foundations of society, it is the duty of the Christian to trust. There have also been ecclesiastical disturbances, but let us be sure that God will bring good out of them. Let our ruling aim be to nourish in ourselves the life hidden with Christ in God. (John Jessop, M. A.)


Verse 4

Psalms 11:4

The Lord is in His holy temple.

The earthly temple

How are we to be assured of the truth that the Lord is in His holy temple? We have no visible sign; but He reveals Himself in our hearts, and requires that we should know and feel His presence there. How, then, are we to meet Him in the temple?

1. We come as created beings to offer a tribute of gratitude. Are any so worn with trouble as to think the gift of existence not worth the expression of gratitude? Let such remember that here we are but preparing for a blessed immortality, and that our trials, well endured, will add to the measure of our bliss hereafter.

2. We are dependent creatures. Then we should offer our thanks for the past, and supplications for the future.

3. We are sinful creatures. Then we should make confession to our God, whom we have so often and deeply offended.

4. We are accountable creatures. Then we should come here to learn His holy will, and of our obedience to it exact account will be required.

5. We are social creatures. Then we should ask blessings, not for ourselves only, but also for others. The sinner, the penitent, the believer, the sorrowful, the sufferer--all are remembered in our prayers. Learn so to worship that you may ever feel that you have indeed been with the Lord in His holy temple. (Edward Rice, M. A.)


Verse 5

Psalms 11:5

The Lord trieth the righteous.

The godly discipline

I. The characters tried--the righteous. This word righteous is used for two reasons.

1. Because in God’s sight they are such.

2. Because they are such in the sight of men.

II. The various ways in which the righteous are tried. They have their natural dispositions even as other men. Though trials come to all, they differ in character, and are proportioned in degree. Christians are tried when--

1. They are led to investigate the character and tendency of their life.

2. When special and direct afflictions are sent.

3. When alterations and changes in our family circumstances occur.

4. When temptations of a trying character are permitted to come in their way.

III. The ends that are to be answered by these trials. There is nothing purposeless in the plans of God. We are tried--

1. That we may be corrected.

2. That we may be proved.

3. That we may be purified.

Learn to recognise the Lord’s hand in our trials, and to distinguish between the results of our own folly and God’s chastisements. Let us rejoice in the anticipation of a world without sorrow, the “unsuffering kingdom” of our Lord. (W. G. Barrett.)

Trials and their lessons

David was living at the court of Saul, and many were plotting for his destruction. But his support was that God would permit no real harm to come to him, and that his trial was from God. They wanted David to flee away. They said, the foundations were broken up, and what could the righteous do? You never know what you can do when God helps you.

1. Believers are righteous--by the pardon of the past, which conceals it as if it had never been. Because God puts within them a new heart and a new spirit. And practically, by fulfilling God’s commandments.

2. Righteous people are tried. In one sense the probation of the wicked is over. Believing people are on trial. You have accepted mercy--and your trial is whether you will be faithful to the grace given, whether you will persevere to the end. The truth that there is a possibility of your falling away has its practical value. It ought to lead you to caution, vigilance, and self-denial.

3. It is the Lord who tries you. Then you will not be tried too much. The Lord has the control of all your trials, whether they come through prosperity, adversity, bereavements, persecutions, or the sufferings of others.

4. Why does the Lord try the righteous? That they may know themselves, to train and discipline character, to make us more useful, and to advance His own glory. It is God’s opportunity of showing the truth of His promise to help. You ought to learn to get good out of your trials. “Glory in tribulations also,” that the power of Christ may rest upon you. (Samuel Coley.)

The mission of trial

He tries them for their own good, that they may know themselves. He tries them for the good of others, that the world may learn how powerful a thing faith in God is, when it has once laid fast hold of His promises. It was for this purpose that He tested Abraham when He commanded him to offer up his son Isaac, with his own hand, a burnt offering unto the Lord. The trial taught Abraham--what he could never have known of himself without it--the character of true evangelical obedience, that it falters at no sacrifice known to be required by the will of God. It is these testing trials of the righteous that bring out their graces, develop and perfect their virtues. The hand of God is in them all, seeking higher praise for Himself, and working out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory for the believer. “The Lord trieth the righteous”; only, however, to consume their dross and refine their gold. The wicked have no just cause for triumphing over him, when they see the righteous man in affliction. The hand of God is thus upon him only for his good. His trials are no evidence that the fact is otherwise. The prosperity of the wicked is by no means indicative of the Divine approbation. (David Caldwell, A. M.)

The testing of the perfect

Pure gold may remain in the fire a thousand years without loss of substance, without contracting a single stain or losing an atom of its weight. The fire that burns the oak into ashes, marble into dust, iron into rust, has no power to destroy or even injure a metal that shines but the brighter for the glowing flame. Gold is therefore called in the language of metallurgy--a perfect metal; and were we perfect, perfect in holiness, the only effect of fiery trials would be, not to burn up, but to brighten God’s image. (Thomas Guthrie.)

The test of trial

The sword is not tested until the battle rages, the ship is not proved until the storm blows, even diamonds are now so wondrously imitated that the best judges can only tell them by putting the steel file to their facets--that does no mischief except to shams; the genuine fear nothing, fire only purifies the real gold. So trial will show the real value of Christian character. The general is best estimated in the battle, the skill of the physician in the sick room. (R. Venting.)


Verse 6

Psalms 11:6

Upon the wicked He shall rain snares.

Divine rectitude in punishing sin

I. Hell is now annihilation. Many would wish it were. God’s plans and purposes are not to be affected by what men wish.

II. Hell is an abode of misery.

1. Possibly physical suffering. It is called “everlasting fire,” outer darkness.

2. Spiritual misery. It is spoken of as, a prison, the blackness of despair.

3. Wretched reflections. “Son, remember.

III. Hell is of eternal duration. “Its worm dieth not, and its fire is not quenched.” If hell could change we might justly judge that heaven also might change.

IV. Hell is consistent with divine attributes. Nay, more than that, it is a very necessity of His existence. “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, for the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” God does not punish men from passion--passion passes away; but He punishes from fixed, unalterable principle. Neither does He punish from pleasure (Ezekiel 18:23). He is essentially benevolent. (Homilist.)


Verse 7

Psalms 11:7

The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.

The righteous God and righteousness

“Righteousness may be taken as but another word for rightness, equity, justice, the being and rendering what is right. Here it describes God. It is the quality which binds and blends into a perfect unity all His Divine perfections. We feel instinctively that righteousness is essential to Divine perfection. Show how this statement that God is a righteous God bears on matters of faith and practice. God, because He is the righteous Lord, loveth righteousness.

1. This will explain a peculiarity in the redemption accomplished for us through the atoning death of Christ. The problem to be solved was, how can the love of God be manifested, and righteousness be at the same time upheld in all the majesty of its eternal rectitude?

2. There is much which is mysterious, perplexing, and inexplicable in God’s providential dealings. But throw on all these mysterious providences the light of this statement, that “the Lord is righteous and loveth righteousness,” and you calm the troubled spirit to patience and submission. Then with entire trustfulness you would leave yourselves in God’s hands. In the conviction of His righteousness, let us face the problems and perplexities which confront us in the world. Now see how this statement bears on all the business of life between man and man. “His countenance doth behold the upright”: beholds them, that is, with special favour and approval, because He sees reflected in them, however imperfectly, the lineaments of His own Divine image. (R. Allen, M. A.)
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Psalms 12:1-8

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 11:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-11.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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