Psalm 11: As David Flees for his life, he trusts God is with him

Feb 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Psalms, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Psa. 11:0 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

Psa. 11:1 In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?

In the Eleventh Psalm, David stated his own personal conviction in God. “In the LORD put I my trust.” Then he asked a question: “How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?”

What does this question suggest? (1) Trouble was coming. (2) David was revealing what some had previously counseled him. Those who realized David was in danger counseled him to flee to the “mountain,” that is, to the caves of the mountain. We believe David wrote this Psalm prior to his flight from Saul, who wanted to murder him, especially during fits of anger. Jealousy entered Saul’s heart because of David’s popularity with the public in killing tens of thousands (1 Sam. 18:7).

Psa. 11:2 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.

Psa. 11:3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

David’s counselors, presumably his friends, continued to reason with him in verses 2 and 3, for they saw that Saul was purposing his death. Being concerned for David’s safety, they felt that the majority of the nation were going along with Saul’s purpose to slay David, especially those in power. They believed that David’s death was just a matter of time unless he fled.

The “upright in heart” can be considered both prophetically as a collective noun and as David personally back there. David was advised to flee from Saul to the mountain for refuge.

Comment: A footnote, as well as Young’s Analytical Concordance, says that “privily” means “in  darkness.” A book discussing the history of war with bows and arrows stated that when men engaged in war at night, it was like a rule of war to set the tips of the arrows on fire so that the opponent could see the incoming arrows. To shoot unlit arrows at night was considered sneaky and improper conduct, for then the enemy could not defend against them.

Reply: That comment certainly conveys the lesson of verse 2.

In verse 1, David stated his confidence in God. However, he listened to the counsel of others, who urged him to use common sense and flee quickly as a bird to a place of refuge. They were saying that a force was being assembled privately to make sure he was eliminated. In verse 3, they assured David of their empathy: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” In other words, if the commonality of the government under Saul’s leadership supported him, what could David’s friends do? They liked David and wanted his life to be spared.

Psalm 11 contains dramatic action. Jonathan said that Saul had devised a specific plot to invite David to a conference, but the real intent was to murder him. As a result, David fled from Saul.

Comment: Please explain verse 3 again.

Reply: The wicked were in control of the government, advantaging themselves over the people. Verse 3 is saying, “If the foundations [of righteous government] be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” David’s friends were powerless to make sure he would be protected.

However, later, when David was fleeing from Saul, some unusual mighty men left society to support him. For example, not only did David slay Goliath, but one of David’s friends slew a brother of Goliath, also a giant. Eventually, David ascended the throne but under God’s providence, not at his own behest, for David did not want to kill the king, God’s anointed.

Psa. 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.

As an aside, the content of the Old Testament is about four times as much as that of the New Testament, but the Pastor’s comments and usually our own thinking, generally speaking, are the other way around. Thus the New Testament is only about one fifth the content of the whole Bible, yet we spend about four times as much effort and time on character lessons in the New Testament as we do on studying the Old Testament. In a verse-by-verse study of the Psalms, it is relatively difficult to zero in on the particular thought that the Psalmist had in mind with each verse until we get to approximately Psalm 16. From then onward, the ability to zero in seems to increase.

“The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven.” The implication seems to be that although there is not necessarily a visible representation of Jehovah’s presence down here on earth, certainly He has a better vantage point to behold what is happening. From above, He has a better view of humanity. By faith, David realized that God is aware of what takes place and that He will eventually respond. David knew that God sometimes delays cognition of the oppression of the poor and the acts of the wicked.

From God’s throne in heaven, “his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.” From up there, He looks down on the children of men. Now the question arises, What is the distinction between God’s eyes “beholding” and His eyelids “trying”? His eyes “behold” from the standpoint of being open; that is, He is aware and cognizant of what is happening. The squinting of His eyes indicates a more careful scrutiny of what attracts His attention. Thus not only does He behold in a general way what is going on down here, but particular instances of extreme cruelty or brutality, as well as any outstanding righteousness, attract a closer scrutiny and examination. In other words, God especially notices both the wicked, who are committing violence, and the righteous, who are being oppressed. The latter are especially precious in the sight of the Lord. God’s eyelids “try” in the sense of making a more careful observation in contradistinction to the fact that with His eyes open, nothing can happen without His knowing. Not even a sparrow can fall—that is, if it has any significance—without His being thoroughly aware of the incident (Matt. 10:29).

Verse 4 has another nuance of interpretation. Not only does God have a greater vantage point, but being holy, He is particularly distressed when He sees some down here being persecuted as they try to do good and obey His will. A holy Lord in a holy place is observing mankind, but He is purposely silent because He is trying and proving men; that is, He is proving that the righteous are righteously inclined and that the wicked are really wicked. The wicked are not just overcome for the moment, as, for instance, when one loses his temper for an instant, but they habitually practice evil deeds.

Psa. 11:5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

Jehovah “trieth the righteous.” This suggests that the ulterior motive of the trial of the righteous is to better them. The very fact God does not interrupt too quickly manifests the efforts of the righteous class to abide in faithfulness to their Creator and to trust Him fully. This exercise benefits them, for faith is strengthened by its reaction to doubt. If there were no opportunity to doubt, there would be no real opportunity to exercise faith. The very absence of God’s intervention on behalf of the righteous gives the individual whom He is observing the opportunity to exercise faith. Since God reads the heart, He could immediately punish the wicked who are opposing the righteous, but the delay is beneficial in two ways. (1) It benefits the individual in the exercise of faith, and (2) it enables anyone who is observing from the sidelines to see why God favors certain individuals above others. Outward acts and efforts publicize the inner thoughts of the righteous individual. When God later honors some individuals with immortality, the office of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, it will be known why they were selected, for their deeds in the present life have all been recorded.

Similarly, when we read the Old Testament, we can see the righteousness of Moses, Jeremiah, David, Isaiah, and others by the way they reacted to the circumstances of life that  confronted them in their efforts to serve God. Therefore, although in the short term, the delay in God’s intervening does not seem beneficial, it will prove otherwise in the final analysis. Even a fool will then see why God temporarily permitted evil.

God “trieth the righteous [for their own good]: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.” If the wicked did not manifest wicked deeds outwardly and God just cut them off summarily, people would think God is unjust. We are trying to analyze the methodology the Heavenly Father uses in His dealings with both natural and spiritual Israel, good and bad.

Comment: Deuteronomy 13:3 states, “The LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Comment: As Christians, we must spend the necessary time in the Old Testament to find out everything that God hates.

Reply: Yes. To state the thought another way, the Law given to Moses, or the Law to be given to mankind in the future, is just and righteous. In fact, it is inherently better than the Law of Grace, which allows God to deal with fallen man under the robe of Christ’s righteousness in the Gospel Age. In the Kingdom, God will use a Mediator so that He can turn aside for the moment, as it were, and let the Mediator bring mankind up to the perfect standard. The Law of God will abide for eternity, but not the Law of the Grace Covenant, for no sin or wrong actions will be tolerated after the Kingdom Age. Should a single individual commit a misdeed, he will be cut off right away. In other words, God has permitted evil now so that mankind in the future will have no excuse should anyone sin after the Millennial Age. Sin will not be permitted in the ages of ages because mankind will have had the best opportunity to learn and to choose between good and evil. This principle pertains to mankind in the future and to us in this age; that is, because we are given insight now, we are without excuse. The grace that is shown during the Gospel Age and God’s methodology in the Kingdom Age will not be pursued after the end of the Millennium. We learn to distinguish between good and evil by studying God’s perfect Law in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we learn in a general sense, but in the Old Testament, we learn in a particularized sense. Sometimes an example is needed to wake us up. Examples were given in the Law in the Old Testament so that when we have experiences, we will become more and more able to discern between good and evil. In fact, the definition of a mature person is one who can discern both good and evil. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). A babe cannot make this distinction except in extreme cases of violence or wrongdoing. Nuances that occur later in life are difficult to understand, so the Lord usually gives us experiences by trial and error, as well as by His Word and the discernment of the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, we become more and more qualified to be blessed with the “inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).

In short, then, both the Old and the New Testaments—both witnesses—are needed by the man of God (Rev. 11:3; 2 Tim. 3:16,17). Even Jesus stated this principle in saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). More expressions from the mouth of God are contained in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. Many people use their own wisdom to zero in on the New Testament, whereas the entire Bible is needed.

Psa. 11:6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

God will rain snares, fire, brimstone, and a horrible tempest upon the wicked. Prophetically speaking and from a collective standpoint, verse 6 shows the necessity for a judgment day or time of trouble. Retribution will come. The Gog and Magog judgment will only temporarily affect the wicked who are on the scene at that time. When the wicked of the past come out of the tomb, they will be able to look backward in history and learn lessons, but in addition, they will need the Mediator, The Christ.

The “love bug” seems to have traveled over the country and affected certain individuals so that they speak on nothing but love. By their comments and expressions, they seem to think that if we talk along the line of judgment upon the wicked, we are not in the proper heart condition, something is lacking, and we do not have love.

Comment: In a recent study, a brother was disturbed to hear about the great sorrow that came upon Russia when Muslims seized a school and many children were killed. Another individual in the class then remarked that we must remember to pray for those who are doing the harm, for we have to deal with them later. Inferentially, the point was that we should have a loving attitude and deal with the wrongdoers with special kindness. However, some people are so steeped in evil that we cannot reason with them with kindness, for they would regard such an attitude as weakness.

Reply: Those individuals need to have stripes. “Spare the rod, and spoil the child” is one of the principles of proper instruction.

The “cup” of the wicked is that they must experience what they have done to others. And what have they done? They have laid a snare for others, and they have persecuted God’s people and burned them at the stake. Just as sulfur is added to brimstone to intensify the fire and make it burn more fiercely, so the wicked will experience what they have meted out to others. We should appreciate the principle of retribution, for that is the proper method to, hopefully, bring a person to a cognition of the need to repent and ask forgiveness of those he has harmed. An example is Job’s supposed comforters. God would not listen to them until, first, they asked for Job’s forgiveness. We have to learn principles in the present life in order to understand what God is looking for. Then the difficult part is doing God’s will.

Comment: It is amazing to think that God destroyed all of the people in the world with the Flood except for eight individuals, He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the iniquity of the inhabitants, He destroyed 185,000 in Sennacherib’s army, and He destroyed all of the Egyptian firstborn in the tenth plague. Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows because he loved righteousness and hated iniquity. The proper love is to have a corresponding, or equal, hatred for unrighteousness.

Comment: Deuteronomy 7:9,10 reads, “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.”

Comment: In some instances of violence and evil, we do not know if an individual was under Satanic control and possessed. Therefore, not knowing how responsible he was for his actions, we must be careful in making judgments. Sometimes we need to feel sorry for a person who has done evil, for he could be under demonic control.

Reply: Many try to say we should not think too much about wickedness and evil, but how can we have a hatred of iniquity unless we think upon evil acts? If we just brush them from our mind, we cannot cultivate a hatred of evil deeds. The point is that we are not to repay in the present life, for (1) vengeance belongs to God and (2) we do not know the heart (Rom. 12:19).

However, if a person is crystallized in evil behavior, then we should be the first ones to “stone” him. Under the Law of Moses, if a child sufficiently injured another so that the damage was worthy of death, the parent had to throw the first stone. One who heard about a person who was leading the people of God astray (and properly told those in authority) was required to participate in the punishment in order to manifest his harmony with God’s judgment. If, in God’s sight, someone is judged unworthy of life, we should concur—even if the guilty one is our husband, wife, mother, father, child, etc. As Bro. Magnuson said with regard to witnessing on film, judgments like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, our heart attitude should be, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! True and righteous are His judgments.” Love must be balanced with hatred in the present life if we are to be of the judging class in the next life, for we would have to be thoroughly in harmony with doing whatever God’s will happened to be without our emotions being affected.

Psa. 11:7 For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.

“The righteous LORD loveth righteousness”; that is, God loves His own Law, which is an expression of His thinking. “His countenance doth behold the upright.” Jehovah loves not only righteousness but those who are endeavoring to do His will.

Comment: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psa. 116:15). This text puts things in perspective with regard to Jehovah’s trying the righteous.

Reply: That text is harmonized by making a distinction between the victim and the victimizer.

It is one thing to view the one who is doing the bad deed, and it is another thing to view the faithful one who has been mistreated.

Comment: God cannot look upon sin, yet He looks upon those who are struggling against it. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13).

Reply: When the statement is made that God cannot countenance evil, the context of that statement has to be examined. God has such a pure mind that He cannot allow Himself to think on and observe evil deeds, but He has watchmen. The “eyes of the LORD” roam the earth not only to help the righteous but also to observe the evil deeds of men (Prov. 15:3). God has instituted a methodology whereby it is not necessary for Him to personally witness evil with any duration. We can be sure He saw Jesus’ sufferings on the Cross and the perpetrators who caused the sufferings, but the serenity of the divine character has to be maintained. Because God cannot countenance, even for a moment, anything that would disturb that serenity or distort the judgment of His thinking, He has set adequate institutions to take care of matters and also to promptly stop whatever might interfere with the divine plan. He arranged these props in advance to take care of every nuance that might happen. Nothing will get out of hand.



(2004-2006 Study)

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