“Songs in the key of life: from fear to Faith” – Psalm 11 (John MacDiarmid)

Notes on Sermon Preached at PCF on 4 May 2014

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Have you ever been afraid? Psalm 11 is a Psalm that comes from a period in David’s life when he was in a position that may have caused real fear and anxiety. We don’t know exactly what the position was – probably deliberately, because it means that the Psalm is not just about David: it’s about each one of us; it’s about every Christian who is, has been , or will be in a position of being afraid.

In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
‘Flee like a bird to your mountain.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?’

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.
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 sulphur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face.

1. A Desperate Situation

You can see why someone would be afraid.

“For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.”

David is facing physical danger, but the same applies to anything that can cause us fear of any kind.

2. A Correct analysis

“The foundations are being destroyed”

Those who are giving wrong advice to David are, in a sense, speaking the truth. The fact is that the foundations needed for a happy healthy life are being destroyed. People have in for the King, and his life is in danger.

We too what it is to be in a situation where we believe that foundations are being destroyed.

  1. In the church: when churches stop believing and teaching the word of God, stop preaching the gospel, start saying the you can’t trust the word of God, then the foundations are being destroyed NB – this does not refer to a situation when much loved and cherished customs are changing – that is a change of style, not foundational
  2. In society: when foundations of respect for human life, marriage, God’s law, are being dismantled.
  3. In our personal life: relationships,finances, health are all foundational to our lives. But how do we feel when the very things that have been foundational to us for so long, are being destroyed?

3. An incorrect prescription

So what is the response to the diagnosis that the foundations are being destroyed?

How then can you say to me:
‘Flee like a bird to your mountain.

A correct diagnosis is no good without an incorrect prescription. When the foundation is being destroyed what is the right thing to do? David’s counsellors are clear: get out of it! Run away, hide, remove yourself from the danger!

Aren’t we tempted to do the same thing? Churches become inward looking, more concerned with their own survival rather than with reaching out, Christians disengage with the world and become focused on their own needs. Christians run away from conflict with the world, rather than engaging with their front lines. It is all very understandable, but all very wrong!

4. An understanding of reality

Our understanding of truth will always determine what we do. And David, even in the midst of danger has a grasp on the reality before him:

1. Who God is

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord is on his heavenly throne.

Danger – even severe danger – looks totally different when we have a grasp of who God, that he is in control of every situation

2. What God is doing

He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.
The Lord examines the righteous,

God is in the process of examining, or testing, his saints. Just like in the case of Job, and the case of Peter, nothing can happen to God’s people without the specific consent of God almighty, the one who loves us and cares for us. In danger, God is testing us out and watching how we react – will we react in fear, or in faith?

3. What God will do

but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulphur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face.

We are moving to a day when God will bring terrifying judgment on those who have rejected him, and vindication to those who have waited for him. So our response to situations that cause us fear is an acknowledgement that all men will come under the judgement of God, and that all who oppose us will face their maker.

5. A Proper response

So we close with the correct response to danger of all sorts. And it is the attitude with which David starts his song:

In the Lord I take refuge

We are called upon to use times of danger to trust in the God who will never let us down, the one who made us and who cares for us. Danger provides with the choice to respond in fear, or in faith. Which choice do we make?

John MacDiarmid

May 2014