Going Through the Psalms – Psalm 11 – To Flee or Not to Flee?

It is not exactly clear when this Psalm was written. Some commentators speculate that it was written while David was in Saul’s employ and was pondering an escape (see C.H. Spurgeon commentary and also W. Wilson notes therein). Others that it reflects a time when he had already fled Saul (see Thomas Fuller notes in Spurgeon commentary). Whatever the situation actually was, it appears this Psalm was penned at a time of acute crisis for David, where he was tempted to flee the situation at hand (id).

In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

(Psalm 11:1-3 ESV)

David echoes the Lord in this psalm when he compares his soul to that of a bird (Ezekiel 13:20). In Ezekiel the Lord, speaking through Ezekiel, chastises the wicked who sell charms to the people of Israel and thereby ensnare them and says “I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds.” (Ezekiel 13:20 ESV). In this Psalm David is also encountering these hunters, who instead of using snares, have fitted their arrows to shoot down the righteous. But we know that David is confident that the Lord will set his soul free from the schemes of the wicked, just as he promised to do in the Book of Ezekiel.

This does not mean that we might not be tested, as will be discussed below, for things can appear perilous, the very foundations (civil society, government, common decency and order) may have crumbled to nothing but even in these times, perhaps especially in these times, the Lord is mighty to save (see C.H. Spurgeon, Thomas Fuller, Joseph Caryl in Spurgeon commentary).

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord test the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one
who loves violence.

(Psalm 11:4 ESV)

If we are righteous we should expect to be tested (see Henry Smith, Thomas Brooks in id). The Lord disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:6). If we were not tested we should have cause for concern, although at times we may gasp for respite.

Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind
shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

(Psalm 11:5-7 ESV)

Lest we forget the Lord is righteous and he loves righteousness. There will be a reward and punishment in the final judgment, so though we may be tried it is only for our ultimate benefit and reward and we shall look upon God at the time of resurrection, a reflection of his glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, may we not give in to fear at times of testing but remain steadfast and courageous. Please increase our faith, gird us with your strength and keep us under the shadow of your wings and everlasting protection. Amen.

*ESV=English Standard Version

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