Sunday, July 09, 2017

Jottings on Psalm 11

Continuing my sabbatical aspiration to spend some time each week with a Psalm, some somewhat disorganised jottings on Psalm 11:

Summary: Maintain your confidence in the LORD the heavenly King because the righteous will see his face and the wicked will face his justice


Confidence in God in the face of mockery / criticism / defeatism / enemies / wickedness

When tempted to fear / flee / give up

When in danger / threatened by enemies

When everything seems to be going wrong

Looking to God for justice and vindication

Key verses / possible memory verses: v1a, vv4-5 (temple understood as Christ / church / believer), v7!

Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

Refuge in the Righteous King

Vv1-3: Refuge in God

Vv4-6: Yahweh is the righteous king

V7: God is the refuge of the righteous

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

Stay or Flit?

Wilcock, BST:

Something familiar, something new

In the dark (vv1-3)

The central fact (v4a)

In the light (vv4b-7)

Kidner, Tyndale:

Panic and stability

Vv1-3: Voices of despair

Vv4-7: The forgotten dimension

Wilson, NIV application commentary

Refuge or flight (v1)

What can the righteous do? (vv2-3)

Yahweh the Examiner (vv4-6)

Affirmation of Yahweh’s righteousness (v7)

Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life

Crumbling foundations

The advice faith hears (vv1-3)

The answer faith gives (vv4-7b)

The assurance faith holds (v7c)

ESV devotional Psalter

Eugene Peterson, Praying with the Psalms

Motyer, Psalms by the Day devotional

A. Safety (v1a) and misleading voices (vv1b-3)

B. Sovereignty (v4a-b) and a true view of life (vv4c-6)

C. Confidence under divine scrutiny (v7)



To the choirmaster

Of David

Vv1b-3: Supposed reasons for cowardice

Vv4-end: Solid reasons for confidence

Vv1-3 – true and false refuges

Similar themes to Pss 3-10 – the righteous and the wicked, the Lord’s punishment and favour

No prayer in this ps. It is a kind of testimony / creed – no address to God, rather proclamation about him

A theology proved in time of crisis

David as a potential refugee – 1 Sam 18-27 threatened by Sail better background than 2 Sam 15-19, when David fled from Absalom

V1, better, have taken refuge – have you resolved to do that? A decision is necessary. When a crisis comes you will need to know where you stand and to what / whom you are committed. What are your foundations? Where is your refuge / rock / fortress / security?

V1 – In Yahweh emphatic in the Hebrew text – the LORD acts as David’s anchor – David is not all at sea – the foundations may be torn down but this ultimate foundation remains

Cf. other inadequate supposed refuges – security system, pension, family etc. all inadequate refuges – On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand – Rock of ages cleft for me

V1 – I’ve already fled to the LORD so why should I flee?

Those who walk with the Lord may be (v1) vulnerable and unprotected (v2) under attack.

V1 – on fleeing to the mountains: Gen 19:17; 1 Sam 14:22; I Kings 19:3-9; Mt 24:16

? your mountain – 1 Sam 23:14, 25-29; 26:1 – Mt Zion

V1bff – how long is the quotation? – Calvin, NBV, NKJV end it at 1c; NEB, REB include v2, others include v3, JB, NIV, NASB, TEV, ESV.

The foundations are being destroyed (v3) – the normal protections and securities are lacking or seem lacking, ? social fabric disintegrating, civil order unsettled – everything falling apart

V1 – 1 Sam 18:8-16 could be a suitable background – David did eventually flutter off to the mountains

V2 – The speaker distinguishes himself from the wicked – likely David is quoting his friends or he could be summarising his own fears – cf. The Benedict Option ???!!!

Vv1c-3 – The advice of fear, sane but in conflict with 1a

If this advice comes from friends or seeming friends, perhaps it is the more subtle and dangerous for that. Not the advice of a hypocrite, enemy or agnostic, but opposed to faith. Pious, sincere, caring, plausible. Discernment needed. The danger of well-meaning friends! Cf. Peter to Christ – surely not the cross, Lord?!

It’s all very well to take refuge in the Lord, but what are you actually going to do?, David’s friends might have asked.

In matters little whether David is here or in the hill country if he is in the Lord. Attitude not location is key. (Wilcock)

Prudence or unbelief?

Mt 10:23 – flee – Ps 11 – don’t flee!

When to flee and when to stand? – Pray for discernment – Phil 1:9-10

H. L. Ellison, “The love of your friends will often create your most subtle temptations.” (D R Davis, p128)

The assumption behind this advice: safety is all important – security / self-preservation potentially an idol – risk sometimes right

Nothing good can be done here – save your own skin – run for the hills! – don’t run scared

V1 – in Yahweh I am as safe as I ought to be

V2 – the attack of the wicked is immanent (their bows are bent and the arrows are already at the string – they have cocked their gun and are about to shoot) and clandestine, secretive, underhand (they shoot from the shadows). The implication is that their attack will be deadly.

V2 – cf. the modern shadowy threat of terrorism

V3 – could be lit. The faithful one – what has he done? Yahweh?

V3 – pessimistic / defeatist / hopeless – the battle seems already lost, but of course this is to fail to take account of the LORD (v4)!

All the old certainties are gone, nothing fells secure / stable / safe / sure, you can’t tell how things will be from one day to another – and there’s nothing you can do about it

V3 – perfect tense: what could even the righteous have done? Or maybe even “What could even the righteous have determined to do?”

V3 – note the alternative of the NIV footnote – “what is the Righteous One doing?” – God seems absent, inactive, uncaring, powerless?

V3 – the foundations, the ground rules of society

V4 – The LORD is, the crucial central fact

V4 – unlike Theresa May’s government, the LORD’s government is strong and stable, established, firm, immovable

Vv4-5 – temple or palace – same word

V4 – The temple parallel to (a model of) God’s heavenly throne room

Solomon’s temple of course not built in the time of David. The tabernacle?

Yahweh enthroned amongst his people in the temple and also in heaven – with them and exalted – immanence and transcendence – with his people in the crisis and above the crisis

Hab 2:20

V4 – Yahweh, Yahweh – placed emphatically at the beginning of the clauses

“note the imagery, especially about the throne, eyes, and eyelids. David replies that his picture does not imply Yahweh is removed but that he rules (throne); that throne is not a place of inactivity but of supremacy; it does not suggest distance but dominion. Yahweh’s exaltedness or ‘transcendence’ doesn’t indicate distance or indifference but activity (gaze, test), which leads to judgement.” (DR Davis, p129)

The Lord sees – he is not in the dark – his vision penetrates the shadows of v2

V4 – eyelids, Motyer: used as a parallel to eyes for the sake of variation – Ps 132:4

V4 – You need Yahweh front and centre of your vision – that transforms the whole landscape

V4 – God’s judgements just, based on careful scrutiny (gaze, test)

V4 – test – the trials of life as in vv1-3

V4 – God hasn’t moved to the mountains

Steadfastness in a chaotic world all depends where you look: at the wicked (v2a) or at Yahweh (v4). Yahweh must be at the centre of your vision. Yahweh reigns: everything will ultimately be okay.

Cf. Revelation 4 – 12 references to a throne

Keller: 3 responses / insights:

(1) Theological – God is still on his throne and will execute justice in his own wise time (v4)

(2) Practical – crises are really tests, opportunities to find out what is solid etc. (vv4-5)

(3) Spiritual – what we really need is knowledge of God himself, his presence, his face (v7)

V5 – Motyer suggests “It is Yahweh who tests and it is the righteous he tests” brings out the sense of the Hebrew

V5 – the faithful and the unfaithful

V5 – Yahweh’s stillness is not inertia but concentration (Kidner)

V5 – examine, assessing a precious metal

V5 – The righteous pass the test and are safe under God’s all powerful and all-knowing eye. The wicked fail God’s examination and will be subject to terrible judgement

Yahweh’s examination is not just an interesting piece of research – it forms the basis for his action.

V5 – cf. God hates the wicked – “God hates the sin, loves the sinner”

God v definite, a living extremist, loves & hates, virile, not sentimental or bland (see DR Davis p130)

God’s righteous character (v7a) explains his justice and judgement (vv5-6) which is the basis of the believer’s hope. God’s judgement good news for his people

Ps 96:10-13

2 Thess 1:6-9

V6 – the cover of darkness or fleeing to the mountains could not save them

V6 – Motyer, a fine mixed metaphor – “He will rain down on the wicked traps – fire and sulphur and raging heat, the measure in their cup” – not as in NKJV coals

V6 – cup – Ps 6:5; 75:8; 116:13 – Motyer, “life’s experiences as decided upon and measured out by Yahweh”

Not a pleasant share or a cup of blessed wine

V6 – cf. Sodom and Gomorrah – Gen 19:24 – fire in NT Lk 17:28-30; 2 Pt 2:6-9; 1 Pt 1:7

V7 – upright – not sinlessly perfect but basically trusting God, in their better moments loving righteousness and hating evil

V7 – The image is of the face of Yahweh turned favourably to those he loves – Num 6:25; Ps 80:3 – “It is not by flight (v1b) but by confidence in divine favour (v7) that life’s challenges can be faced.” (Motyer)

V7 – cf. Rev 22:4, “They shall see his face” – assurance – remember this is coming when all seems darkness and ruin and you are dodging arrows!

1 Cor 13:12

It is love that causes us to want to gaze on someone’s face

Kidner, “If the first line of the psalm shows where the believer’s safety lies, the last line shows where his heart should be.”

Fellowship with God, loving him for his own sake, God himself the ultimate goal and reward of the believer – not just protection and blessing from God but communion with him.

1 Pt 1:8

DR Davis (p133):

Faith needs discernment to filter out counsels of despair and fear

Faith needs vision to see the just and reigning God

Faith needs hope that anticipates awaking and gazing on God’s face

Only 2 categories, the righteous and the wicked, no neutrality, no 3rd way

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