For the director of music. Of David.
Charles Spurgeon provides the opening comments on this beautiful Psalm.
The Psalms are a rich repository of experimental knowledge. David, at the different periods of his life, was placed in almost every situation in which a believer, whether rich or poor, can be placed; in these heavenly compositions he delineates all the workings of the heart. He introduces, too, the sentiments and conduct of the various persons who were accessory either to his troubles or his joys; and thus sets before us a compendium of all that is passing in the hearts of men throughout the world. When he penned this Psalm he was under persecution from Saul, who sought his life, and hunted him ‘as a partridge upon the mountains.’ His timid friends were alarmed for his safety, and recommended him to flee to some mountain where he had a hiding-place, and thus to conceal himself from the rage of Saul. But David, being strong in faith, spurned the idea of resorting to any such pusillanimous expedients, and determined confidently to repose his trust in God. To assist us to remember this short, but sweet Psalm, we will give it the name of “THE SONG OF THE STEADFAST.
In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
Apparently the Psalmist was in a discussion where the other party advised that he flee in the face of danger. Their argument is included but is prefaced by rejection.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
The wicked are here defined as those who attack “the upright in heart” “from the shadows.” In this description their cowardice and cunning are highlighted.
But who are “the upright in heart”? They certainly are not sinless, so how then can they be deemed to be “upright in heart”? We have so internalized human-centric secular assumptions that it’s become almost impossible to conceptualize the existence of a sovereign, eternal God whose judgements are completely independent from our opinions, actions and feelings. When we are confronted with the idea that there are “upright in heart” humans we laugh in contempt, safe in our knowledge that because all people sin then all are corrupt.
But what if the Bible’s testimony is true? What if God the Father by God the Holy Spirit invades human beings with an irresistible grace due to our identification with God Jesus Christ to transform us into objects of His mercy? Are these redeemed people, even though they continue to struggle with sin, by God’s sovereign act now “the upright in heart”?
When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
The Psalmist’s opponent ends with a counsel of defeatism. This statement rings so true to our contemporary situation. Do we not see “the foundations being destroyed” every day and all around in our daily lives? Are not the foundations of Christianity under withering, unrelenting attack from those both outside and inside the Christian Church? This blog and my books are first and foremost a testimony to that fact.
The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.
The Psalmist’s answer begins by pointing to God’s existence and sovereignty. God sees all that is happening in His creation. Nothing takes Him by surprise, nothing happens outside of His judgement. So when we become fearful due to the apparent overwhelming worldly power of the wicked we can take heart that God sees it all and their evil will not go unpunished.
The Lord examines the righteous,
but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.
Note that the righteous are also examined. God is not indifferent to their sins.
But for “the wicked” God’s judgement and punishment is unsparing. When we read that they “love violence” we shouldn’t assume this is limited to the physical domain. No, the wicked love to do violence also through lies, through spiritual and character destruction, and also through actual physical violence against the righteous.
The wicked imagine that they operate independent of God’s (i.e., the Triune Christian God’s) judgement. The pathetic truth is that in this world they are completely under God’s providential control and in the next they will experience eternal damnation.
For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face.
One of the greatest contemporary frauds is the substitution of “justice” as defined by a godless secular human ideology with the justice of God. For example, when the elite leadership of the PCUSA claims to be “doing justice” it is utterly indistinguishable from “justice” as defined by the godless secular Progressive ideology as then defined. A mirror image of this sin is provided by those who assume that any idea or policy that is identified as Conservative (or Libertarian, or another human ideology) must also be aligned with God’s justice.
It’s so easy to sub-contract our understanding of justice to this or that human ideology. It’s difficult, painful and often terror-inducing to examine the Scriptures to find for ourselves what is God’s justice. No wonder we so often shirk this responsibility.