Praying the Psalms: Psalm 11

The Psalms are not just songs, but prayers. By studying the Psalms we can learn how to better pray and engage in communion with God. Each Thursday I’ll be posting a commentary and prayer guide for the Psalms to help us learn and practice prayer. There are moments in our lives that feel like total chaos. The world seems to be spinning and we seem to be sinking in a whirlpool of hostility. It is in these moments, to which Psalm 11 speaks. This Psalm of David is a meditation in which David is preaching to his own soul in his moment of crises. David reminds himself that God is trustworthy and still on his throne though his life seems so out of control. There is great wisdom in learning to preach to ones wandering heart, and this psalm is an example of David reminding his own soul of God’s power and stability though David feels weak and unstable.

Commentary

v 1–3 - The first stanza of the Psalm describes the perils of David’s crises. He begins in verse one telling himself to take refuge in the Lord. The idea of the Lord being a refuge is a reoccurring theme throughout the psalter. God is a safe house and a shelter in the chaos. He is a safe place and a protection. Though God is a refuge, it is easy for even the faithful to doubt in that divine protective shelter. Sometimes the wind whirls so powerfully, the hail so large, or the monsoon to thick, that we begin to doubt if God protection and refuge will really survive the destructive weather of chaos. David knows his own heart is prone to run away and flee rather than trust in God as shelter. He speaks to his own soul asking what’s the point in such hopelessness. Why flee like a bird to the mountain when the wicked are fitting an arrow directed towards the upright in heart? Though the very foundation of worldly security seem to be destroyed, it is not appropriate to hopelessly declare “What can the righteous do?”

Davids soul is doubting God’s ability to be his refuge. He is despondent heart and trusting in the Lord seems to impractical compared to the whirling tempest of evil that surrounds him. We too can be so very discouraged from taking refuge in God. As we witness the pandemonium and lawlessness that makes up our present age, it is easy for us to think that trusting in God will do us little good. When our souls feel to be in disarray, it is to easy to doubt God’s goodness or his power. Yet, it is in those moments that we need to speak truth to our broken hearts and encourage them with the truth. Though we may be paralyzed by the trouble of the moment we must turn our attention to the truth. This is exactly what David does.

v. 4–7 - This second stanza is David’s mini-sermon to his own heart, reminding himself of God’s character and power. Even though the wicked have David in their cross-hairs, “The LORD is in his holy temple”. God is in his throne and he is ruling and aware of all that is happening. His eyes see. Though God may feel distant or absent from our present trauma, he is very well aware. Yet, he is not only aware but he is on his throne in heaven ruling. God wields complete sovereignty over all that happens. Nothing happens without his ruling hand allowing it to happen. Whatever evil may befall in this life, nothing happens without his sovereign hand allowing it to happen. Though God does not perform evil, it is his sovereign wisdom that allows such things to happen, even to his saints.

Why does God permit such evil to happen, especially to his children? Well David reminds himself that often God permits trails in order to “test the children of man”. God in his goodness often tests the faithfulness of the righteous. This is why James could say, “Count it all, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (Jm 1:2–3). For the people of God is is a joyous thing to encounter such trails, because through this testing God is sanctifying us and conforming us ever to his image. David’s life is an example here in Psalm 11. This moment of crises, whatever it may be, is forcing him to trust the Lord as his refuge. This trial is growing him but making him more dependent on God. God allows evil things to befall his children, because those evil acts are used by God for his children’s good. The wonderfully wise providence of God uses what others meant for evil to shape his people for their good. We see a specific example of this in the life of Joseph in Genesis.

When it comes to the wicked, God hates the one who loves violence. Those who practice such evil, God is in direct opposition to them. Though God may use the evil of this world and use it for the good of his people, this does not mean that God is pleased by or condones the actions of the wicked. Rather, the sovereign Lord who sits on his throne will bring them to account for their actions. Those who viciously set their eyes on destroying the covenant people of God will face the stern and just anger of the one who sits on his throne in heaven. David understands this and affirms that God will one day rain coals on the wicked. “Fire and sulfur and scorching will shall be the portion of their cup”. This is a direct allusion to the terrible fate of Sodom and Gomorra in which God brought down his stern and ferocious wrath on those cities. In our present moments of crises we must remind ourselves that the wicked who seek our harm will one day receive their due. Though God may not execute his justice immediately in our present circumstances, one day the wicked will receive the portion of their cup.

The final verse affirms that the Lord is on the side of the righteous. He loves those who love him and obey him. Those who are pure in heart will see God. The upright will behold his face in glorious splendor. As we think about this Psalm in the context of the whole canon of Scripture, we are thankful that it is Jesus alone who purchases for us this privilege. God in his incredible mercy used the death of Christ to make us righteous. Though we are all sinners and though we deserve the fire of sulfur upon our heads, Jesus took our cup upon himself. God poured out the cup of his wrath upon his son Jesus on the cross. By grace, God overs us the righteousness of his son Jesus. As we trust in the crucified and resurrected Christ, we have the glorious promise that we too will one day see him face to face. Through Christ we know God and come into a relationship with God. This is the glorious good news of the Gospel.

The message of this psalm is clear enough. When our wandering hearts begin to doubt God’s goodness and power, we must remind ourselves that he is a trustworthy refuge. God is on his throne. He opposes the wicked and will protect the cause of the righteous. When our hearts in desperation say, “What can the righteous do?”, we know the answer. Take refuge in the Lord, because the Lord is in his holy temple.

Prayer Guide

  • What is your crises moment? Share that with the Lord
  • Confess thoughts that demonstrate a lack of trust in God
  • Praise the Lord that he is in control and able to use the evil against you for your good.
  • Thank the Lord that he is on the side of the righteous, and through Christ has made you righteous.
  • Ask God to help you trust in him as your refuge.