Counsel of desperate despair
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? – Psalms 11:3
3 You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night. You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong. I am determined not to sin in what I say.
4 I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people.
5 My steps have stayed on your path; I have not wavered from following you.
6 I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.
7 Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies.
8 Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
15 Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.
According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by Romulus and Remus, twin sons of Mars, the god of war. Romulus became Rome’s first king. In 27 B.C., Augustus became the first emperor of Rome. Augustus’ rule ushered in the Pax Romana, two centuries of peace and prosperity. A vast, powerful empire flourished.
However, the Roman Empire eventually collapsed under its own weight. It had become bloated and corrupt. One after another it has provinces were lost. In September 476 A.D, a Germanic prince named Odovacar defeated the Roman army in Italy, bringing an ignoble end to the long, triumphant though tumultuous history of ancient Rome.
The reasons for Rome’s collapse continue to be an ongoing debate among historians. Several of the key factors include the barbarian invasions, economic troubles, overexpansion, military overspending, government corruption, political instability, loss of traditional values, the division of the Empire between East and West, and the weakening of Rome’s military. The foundation upon which it was built disintegrated. The Roman empire was no more.
David, king of Israel was going through similar turmoil. The foundation of his nation, the principles of Mosaic law and justice, and the institutions derived from them were being undermined (Psalm 11:3). When the foundations are destroyed, a complete breakdown of law and order in the community follows. The FRCL translates it as “The standards of the society are in ruins” (UBS).
The Hebrew word translated destroyed or collapsed is haras. Haras refers to something that has been destroyed or damaged irreparably. It is the verb that is used to describe the destruction of the Egyptian armies at the Red Sea (Exodus 15:7). The results of this activity are often horrific, appalling, ghastly, disgusting, or loathsome.
REFLECT & PRAY
In fearful times David’s closest advisors and friends tempted him to doubt. He had to choose between flight or faith. He chose faith.
Father, You dwarf all adverse circumstances. When difficult times come, You offer each child of the King an opportunity to go through them with You by our side in spirit or sometimes even corporeally (Matthew 28:20, Daniel 3). There is no reason for fear and flight.
David had known the Father since he was a small boy. The Father was with him on those dark lonely nights when he watched over his sheep. He was there when David prayed. The Father responded by gently, lovingly whispering in his ear. The Father saw this faithful child develop confidence that could survive all testing until Bathsheba. Humanly speaking, they are not just close friends, they were buddies.
Psalms 11:1 I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!
The same was not so of his advisors. They saw only the impending, threatening storm. They did not see the Father who has power over the storm. In modern times, Doppler radar alerts those on the ground when severe weather approaches. When deadly hurricanes approach, a warning goes out to evacuate. As far as David’s fainthearted counselors were concerned, a man-made hurricane was coming, the situation was hopeless. The Nation of Israel was doomed. They strongly urged him to evacuate, flee, and save himself. “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!”
This puzzled David. Do not they know who David is? More importantly, do not they know who the Father is? Surely, they should be aware of David’s faith and confidence in the Father. He totally trusted in the Lord for protection. The Father could certainly handle the situation. There is no reason to fear or run away. David totally rejects their well-meaning, fact-based advice. He is determined to stand his ground no matter what.
He counters with “a spirited retort to some demoralizing advice” (Kidner). He asked them a question, the gist of which was, “How can you say such a thing.” No doubt he thought something like, “The difficulties we face now, might be bad, but they are not that bad. I have faced greater problems over longer periods of time than this. The Father will take care of me. This too shall pass.”
Psalms 11:3 The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”
Can you picture his advisors? Do they seem fidgety and nervous? Do you see them shaking as they spoke? Are their lips quivering as they try to get the words out? Perhaps under their breath, they were muttering, “What can we do, what can we possibly do?” To their rhetorical question, they had already decided that the answer was “nothing.”
David’s great confidence and faith were derived from years of walking with the Father. How could they be so weak-kneed and unstable? How could they be so filled with fear? Where was their faith?
4 But the LORD is in his holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth.
5 The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.
7 For the righteous LORD loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.
David puts them off. He dismisses them. David explains his confidence. His faith gave him assurance regarding things he could not see with his eyes. He asks a question to himself and answers it. Where is the Father right now? He sits enthroned in heaven above it all. He is simply watching as the events of history unfold.
The Father’s eye on both the righteous and the wicked. At any moment, He can intervene and enter into the time-space continuum. The Scriptures are replete with the record of Him doing exactly that (the miracle of the Red Sea, the fall of Jericho, the fiery furnace, etc.). Because the Father is securely enthroned in heaven for all eternity, there is not really much reason to be concerned. Even though it seems as though the world is falling apart, David declares his confidence in the Father. David shows the way of faith for all children of the King to follow.
2 The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right.
3 The foundations of law and order have collapsed.
This sounds eerily familiar to recurring events of the 21st century. It should be a wake-up call. Without a firm foundation, how can western civilization stand?