Songs of a Warrior Poet

Conviction of the Righteous Heart

Psalm 11
To the leader. Of David.
In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me,
Flee like a bird to the mountains;
for look, 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?”

The Lord is in His holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold, His gaze examines humankind.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
and His soul hates the lover of violence.
On the wicked He will rain coals of fire and sulfur;
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

“The LORD’S Throne is in Heaven”

Why does the devil stir up persecution against the people of God?

His primary goal is never to destroy us physically. Oh, he enjoys killing. After all, it was he who introduced death to paradise. And to be sure, he is maddened with hatred toward Jesus and toward all who bear His Name. But killing Jesus didn’t work out that well for satan, did it? And historically, killing Christians has often harmed satan’s cause. No, his main agenda is not physical death. His goal is always to separate men and women from God. Failing that, he at least hopes to neutralize them and render them useless to God’s purposes. To accomplish those goals, he must pollute the human heart with unbelief. And that is what persecution is for: to use intimidation and pain to draw our eyes away from the Father and towards ourselves, to create doubts in our minds about God’s promises and His character.

So beware the voice of unbelief when persecution threatens. The temptations can be subtle. The words can come from concerned relatives or acquaintances—maybe even from brothers and sisters in Christ whose affection for you momentarily blinds them to greater realities. The words may not come to your ears in a spoken voice at all; they may try to form in your own unguarded thoughts. And on the surface they can even sound reasonable:

“Don’t be foolish! These are wicked, hateful people that you are dealing with. They have the power to hurt you, and they intend to do it. Even now they are preparing themselves to destroy you, and they won’t rest until they do. They are clever. They will protect themselves. They will attack you from the shadows of anonymity, or they will convince everyone that they are doing God a favor by opposing you publicly. But attack you they will, and mercilessly. I know you want to stand firm, but you have no place to stand on. Save yourself! Just run. If you can’t physically hide, at least take a low profile. What else can you do? What else could anyone do in times like these?”

It is hard to argue with some of that logic. Persecution does hurt. People sometimes die. Reputations often do. And oppressors can be amazingly obsessed. The pride and prejudice of human flesh mixed with the supernatural fury of hell is a poisonous recipe. To make matters worse, the obsessed often seem to be coming from a position of strength, whether in numbers or influence or authority. Is there really anything to be gained from bearing the brute force of their attacks? In view of those facts, self-preservation can seem the better part of wisdom.

But faith does not look at facts and wring its hands. Faith faces the facts, yet it rests on greater realities.

Here is a rock-solid reality: “The Lord is in His holy temple.” In David’s day, he could look at the tabernacle and know beyond any doubt that the God who brought Egypt to its knees, the God who parted the Red Sea, the God who shook Sinai—the very same God who had chosen him to be king—was still alive. His Presence was there, enthroned above the Mercy Seat. God was near. The greater reality for the child of God today is that Jesus has made His home with us and in us through His Spirit. We are His temple. His dwelling place is now in the human heart, most powerfully in the corporate reality of His Body, the ekklesia. Our Immanuel, “God with us,” is ever present and always approachable. No external force can separate us from Him.

And just as real is this truth: “The Lord’s throne is in heaven.” Slanderers and adversaries may stalk the earth, but our Father is not threatened. He is secure on His throne. The accuser of our brothers has already been forcibly expelled from heaven. In our visible universe, God may still have enemies, but He absolutely has no rivals. Seated at the Father’s right hand is Jesus, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” All authority, in heaven and on earth, has been given to Him. The Father has put all things under Jesus’ feet and has made Him the head over all things for the ekklesia.

“The LORD is Righteous”

And another reality, one that persecutors always fail to consider: God’s “eyes behold, His gaze examines humankind.” He is totally aware of everything that is happening. Nothing is hidden from His sight, even if it is buried in the inner recesses of the human heart. Nothing surprises Him, nothing catches Him off guard. He knows. He cares. And in His scrutiny of the human race, God is not passive. “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked.” While the statement that the wicked intend to “shoot in the dark at the upright in heart” may be true, God’s judgment of their wickedness is Truer still.

The justice of God is an attribute that is scarcely mentioned in contemporary religion. His role as Judge has been surgically removed from most theologies. As one astute observer has written, most people “tend to view God as either a butler or a therapist, someone who meets their needs when summoned...or who listens nonjudgmentally and helps [them] feel good about themselves.”* The notion that God will “judge the secrets of human hearts” on a Day of reckoning may be an unpopular one, but Paul says it is central to the gospel (Romans 2:16). The idea that God judges people’s actions in this age is likewise ignored, but it is a critically important truth.

For God is infinitely passionate. When He hates, He hates with a sacred passion, and “His soul hates the lover of violence.” His very being, the holy seat of His emotion, is appalled by the heartless injustice of one human against another. It was so after the first murder, when the blood of righteous Abel “cried out to God from the ground.” It was still true in the days of Noah, when God was “grieved to His heart” (NRSV) and “highly offended” (NET) by the wickedness of men who had “filled the earth with violence” (Genesis 6:5-6, 13). It is still true today. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! In his day, David grasped that the unchanging God would notice the violent intentions of the wicked—and that if God noticed, He would care passionately and judge decisively.

That judgment is expressed in two powerful word pictures. “On the wicked God will rain coals of fire and sulfur.” Fire and sulfur from heaven were the outpouring of God’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah. Further, “a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.” In the scriptures, when God offers you a cup, you will surely drink every drop, whether it is filled with blessing or with judgment. The cup He hands the wicked contains nothing but scorching wind.

These images may seem frightening. But in truth the justice of God is of enormous comfort to those who suffer unjustly at the hands of the wicked. A god who did not notice injustice would be remote and out of touch. A god who noticed but did not care would be a monster. A god who noticed and cared but failed to act would be a weakling. None of these “gods” would be deserving of worship. Only a just God can be loved and trusted. An infinitely just, infinitely passionate God can be trusted and loved with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. When you are insulted, when you suffer as Jesus did, you can entrust yourself to a God who judges justly (1 Peter 3:23). If you suffer as a Christian, you can “commit yourself to your faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19). You can “cast all your anxieties” on a God who cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

The Father’s passion rests on His character. “The Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds.” The persecutor and the oppressor are willfully ignorant of this simple truth. Their folly will one day spell disaster for them. But the upright are deeply aware of God’s righteousness. They hunger and thirst for it (Matthew 5). They seek it, along with God’s Kingdom, as their primary goal in life (Matthew 6). God’s righteousness draws them closer and closer to Him. And so “the upright shall behold His face.” The pure in heart will see God.

Here at last, then, at the end of Psalm 11, is the response to the question posed at the beginning: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the upright do?” The solution to the dilemma: the righteous can behold God’s face. Turn your face towards His! In His infinite depths you will discover the courage and peace to face the facts of your own situation with unwavering trust. You may not find “answers” as such, but you will find wisdom. Answers are cheap anyway; wisdom is costly. You may discover that He intends you to stand firm; you may find that He wants you to redeploy your resources elsewhere and like Jesus, leave that region. But you will never “flee like a bird” in panic. Beholding God will save you from ever becoming embittered or persecution-centered. You will certainly have to fight for that place of peace at times, maybe through pain and tears, but being Christ-centered will satisfy you to the very core of your being. And no devil in hell or on earth will ever be strong enough to take that privilege from you. That’s a promise! (Romans 8:35-39)


*Dean, Kenda C. Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. p. 17. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Next Page Back to Contents