Psalm Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 11, What Can The Righteous Do?

Concerns From the Heart (11:1-3)

Acts of the wicked

This psalm can be broken into three movements, as most of our Bibles indicate with a line space between verses 3 and 4 and verses 6 and 7. The first movement, found in verses 1-3, describes the concerns of David. In verse 2 David takes notice of the wicked and describes what the wicked are doing. First, we see that the wicked are shooting arrows. This should not be surprising to us. Satan is said to be using fiery darts against us, and his followers are also using the same tools. But the problem is not simply that the wicked are using arrows. We are the targets! Those who are upright in their hearts are the ones the wicked are going after. Do you ever feel like you are the target of those in the world? You feel that way with good reason. The wicked in heart are targeting the upright in heart. Unfortunately, the enemy is not always that obvious for us to attack. The second point we see David make is that the wicked are shooting arrows from secret places and in the darkness. The enemy is not always clear. Instead, we are often being shot in the back because the wicked are working secretly against us. The actions of the wicked are not always visible. They work behind the scenes, in secret places, and move in the darkness to attack the upright in heart. The problem is very real. As followers of God, we know that the ungodly are not pleased with those who try to be moral, virtuous, and upright in the name of the Lord. This is a description of the societal war that we are engaged in for the hearts and minds of the people. Our enemies are very crafty. Consider how the sins of ten, twenty, and thirty years ago have become common and acceptable. Consider the things that used to be outrageous to society in times past that now are tolerated and sometimes glorified. The things that were considered “late night” viewing of previous times are now shown on Nick At Nite and The Family Channel as family viewing. We are in a war, and the wicked are crafty in this battle.

Advice: flee to the mountains

Notice the advice that is given to David since he is being attacked by the wicked: flee to the mountains. The advice David receives is that he should not take a stand and fight, but run away from it all. Instead of being light in a dark world, the light decides to move away from the darkness. However, light is needed in dark places. Without the light, all things would become dark. But those in the darkness want those who walk in the light to move away. Bemoan and wail and do not bother those who participate in wickedness. The darkness wants us wailing about the good ol’ days and doing nothing against the agenda that they have against God and righteousness. David will not accept this path.

Answer of David

Therefore, David gives his answer, “In the Lord I put my trust.” This has been a common theme of David that he brings out again in this psalm. The Lord must be a refuge to the upright. We are to put our trust in God. Again, this step is the most important first step that we can take when we are battling the darkness that fights against us. We must put our trust in the Lord. Do not go out into the war alone. If we do, we will not succeed. God has told us to put some armor on to be able to stand against wickedness (Ephesians 6). A dependence on God is the only way that we will not succumb to evil forces. A true reliance on God is the only way that we will remain walking in the light when the temptations and arrows of the evil one come.

Annihilation of the Foundations

Which brings us to David’s question, and the question is the title of the lesson: What can the righteous do? What are the righteous to be doing? Especially, what are the righteous to do when the foundations of society are being destroyed? When law, order, truth, justice, and godliness are being subverted and perverted, what are the righteous to do? We must see that things have not changed in 3000 years. The problems that David identifies are the same problems that exist in our society today. The same forces are working to strip us of our foundations based upon God. We have seen this more clearly in light of recent events. The Supreme Court has to decide whether we can still say that we are “one nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance. The monument to the ten commandments was ripped out of a courthouse in Alabama . The assault upon morality, truth, justice, and godliness continues. Therefore, David’s answer is very applicable even in the twenty-first century.

Comforting Words (11:4-6)

God’s holy temple (11:4)

David says that the Lord is in His holy temple. Whenever we read about the temple, we often think about Solomon’s beautiful temple or the immense temple that Herod constructed in the first century. But as David writes these words, there is not a temple that has been constructed. Remember that David desired to build a temple but because David was a man of war, David’s son Solomon would be granted authority to build God’s temple. Therefore, we ought not think of a physical temple when we read these words. David is bringing to mind the concepts of God’s dwelling place. One important concept is the holiness of the Lord. In fact, David uses the very words, “holy temple.” The temple showed the people that God was set apart from them since no one could enter into the room but the priest. Further, no one could enter into the Holy of Holies except the high priest once a year. The reason to call upon God’s holiness is to remind that God does not endorse or condone the evildoer. God is separate from those who do such evil. They are not pleasing to God.

Not only was the temple a reminder of God’s holiness, but it was also a reminder of God’s presence. The physical temple and tabernacle was a constant reminder of God’s presence among His people. Up to this point, God was with the people because the cloud of His glory had filled the tabernacle. One could simply look to the temple to know that God was with His people. This is why Ezekiel’s prophecy in Ezekiel 11 of the glory of the Lord leaving the temple and leaving Jerusalem was so devastating. It meant that you could not look and find the presence of the Lord with them. They were no longer His people and therefore He was no longer with them. The hope of these words is that God is in His holy temple. God is dwelling with the people of God. God says to us, “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) God is with His people and is dwelling with them. David did not need a physical temple to know this fact, and neither do we. Though we may be shot at by the wicked, we can know that God is still with us when we are upright in heart.

God’s heavenly throne (11:4)

Right along with these thoughts, David also points out that the Lord’s throne is in heaven. Again, this notes that we are not talking about a physical dwelling place for God, for His throne is in heaven. A throne always brings to mind rule, authority, and power to judge. Of course, having a heavenly throne implies that the rule of God is vast and all encompassing. Nothing is outside of God’s rule and authority. Therefore, everything that is done by the wicked is done on God’s watch and in His realm. Maybe a good way to see the concept is through the word “jurisdiction.” The police in West Palm Beach only have authority in this city and do not have authority in another city, state, or country. God’s jurisdiction is over all things, however. There is no limit to the area of God’s rule and therefore all people will be held accountable. We have every right to look to the throne of God in appeal for His judgments. We can be thankful for judgments that come upon the evildoers of this world. God is still ruling in this world. When we see evil and trouble, let us turn our eyes to the Lord of heaven Who sits on the throne ruling. When we look to God in the midst of such turmoil there are three things we will be able to consider.

God sees the wicked (11:4)

God sees all that people do. God knows what people in this world are doing. Their deeds are apparent to God. God says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3) We have the tendency to forget the truth of these words, which leads to two failures.

First, by forgetting that God is watching in every place, we can have the tendency to think that God does not see what we are doing. We may come to believe that we can commit sins because we believe we are acting secretly and in the dark. Therefore, we believe that God will never know and we will never be held accountable. However, we are lying to ourselves if we believe that God does not see. God’s eyes behold the righteous and the wicked.

Second, by forgetting that God is watching in every place, we can have the tendency to think that God does not know what the rest of the wicked world is doing. As David noted, the things that the wicked are doing against the upright are in secret and in the dark. Because of this fact, we can believe that God does not see their actions and will not be held accountable. However, God gives us comfort in that we can know that God sees.

Therefore, God examines the sons of men, which in this case is a general reference to those who are wicked. God is going to test them in judgment to see whether they are His or not. God is going to judge them for the actions which they have taken. Let us never lose hope because we see the evildoers of this world seeming to succeed. In time they will fall in judgment. God will not allow them to go on without judgment.

God tests the righteous (11:5)

By the same token, the righteous are also going to be tested in judgment. We are not excluded from being accountable to the Lord. As we noted in the proverbs, God says that He keeps watch on the evil and on the good. God tells us that the genuineness of our faith will be tested by fire that it may be found pleasing to Him (1 Peter 1:6-7). This examination gives us a measure of comfort that we know that many thing which happen to us are to test and mature our faith. Consider the example of Job, who we know was tested by Satan. Satan was the direct cause of what was happening to Job. However, was it not also a test of Job’s faith to see whether Job would remain faithful to the Lord? Was it not also a test of Job that would refine and mature his faith? Absolutely, even though the trial was brought by Satan.

In the same way, though the upright in heart are suffering at the hands of the wicked who are shooting their arrows at us, we can take heart because these are opportunities for us to develop our faith. While we demand the wicked to be judged for their evil works, and rightly so, we must also see that this is a test of our faith. We are able to learn how pure our faith is toward God. As much as no one likes tests, these things are very important toward reaching the final goal. In school, what would you think if you only had one test at the very end of the semester? While it sounds good on the surface, upon further consideration we must realize that such a situation is not beneficial. Such a situation is not useful because we have no idea if we know the material, if we are excelling, where we need to improve, and so forth. It is simply pass or fail. If we did not have trials and tests, we would not know the genuineness of our faith and whether we will pass the final test on the day of judgment. Instead, we have trials to learn now, before it is too late, where we are improving and where we are lacking. Let us take courage, and as James says, “count it all joy,” in trials because we know that this is an opportunity for faith to develop.

God judges the wicked (11:5-6)

What is the outcome of the judgment of the wicked? David tells us in verses 5-6. Consider these strong words: God hates the wicked and those who do violence. We enjoy considering the depth of God’s love toward us. God’s love is immeasurable–so much that it passes understanding. Now, reverse the coin and consider the depth of God’s hate toward the wicked. As much as the depth of God’s love is available to the upright, there is just as much depth of God’s wrath toward the wicked. David goes further to describe raining coals upon the wicked, including fire, brimstone, and a burning wind. These images and events have all been used by God to show His wrath against the wicked. Fire and brimstone always reminds us of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18, for fire and brimstone was used to destroy those cities. A fiery wind is also the judgment of God. God says, “A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of My people, not to winnow or cleanse, a wind too full for this comes for Me” (Jeremiah 4:11). Jeremiah used the hot wind of God to describe a total and complete judgment against Jerusalem .

When God brings His final judgment upon the wicked, the judgment will not be for cleansing or for separating. The judgment will be for destruction. It will be too late to turn back to God. This is the language of God at the end of the scriptures when God says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Also, God says, “And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 ). When judgment comes upon the wicked, they will receive the cup of God’s wrath and be made to drink it full strength. They will be repaid for their deeds.

Concluding Hope (11:7)

God is righteous

Verse 7 offers some final words of hope and comfort to the upright when attacked by the wicked. The first point David makes is that the Lord is righteous. This is the character of God. Since this is the character of God, righteousness demands judgments. The scriptures tie these two concepts closely together. Paul said, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8) Also we read, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Revelation 16:7) These two concepts of righteousness and judgment cannot be separated. God is righteous; therefore, judgment must follow to those who are not righteous.

God loves the righteous and their deeds

How do we know that God loves us? We know God loves us when we become like the character of God. God is righteous and He loves those who are righteous and whose deeds are just. We are not told that God is righteous as a point of information. We are commanded to be like God. Therefore since God is righteous, we must also be righteous if we want to be in God’s favor. This statement also brings a message of hope and comfort. We can endure many things in this life that are difficult. When difficulties come because of the hand of the wicked, it is easy to believe that God has turned His back on us and no longer cares. But this is a promised fact: God loves those who are like Him. Though we may suffer and be struck by the arrows of the wicked, God loves us. Wrath will come upon those who do evil. God shows His love to us when we obey His will.

God’s face will be seen by the upright

This has a two-fold encouragement that we can take to heart in the midst of suffering. First, a point that is more obvious and very similar to the point we just made, God’s face is turned to the upright. This means that God has not, nor never will turn His back upon the upright. God is facing forward to the upright. This also means that God will bestow His blessings and mercy upon the upright. This can be seen in Psalm 67:1, “God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us.” God blesses and shows mercy to the upright.

But there is a greater depth to these words. Implied in these words is our ability to see God’s face. Remember that God said to Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20) Our mortal bodies cannot behold the Lord. In fact, as we see with the prophets, our mortal bodies can hardly stand to see the likeness of the glory of the presence of the Lord. No human can be in God’s presence and see God for who He is. But there is a great promise that is made. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2) For us to see Him as He is requires us to be like Him. We must be transformed into His image, becoming children of God, for us to have the blessing of being like God. This is the promise of life that exceeds anything we have ever known on this earth. To be like God and see Him face to face is to experience everything that is missing in our lives now. It will fulfill every void and every need we have. Though we suffer now, all our wounds will be healed and every tear will be wiped away by the Lord. Let us endure to the end and receive the crown of life that awaits us.

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