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March 29, 2020
Fight or Flight
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Psalm 11

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This Psalm of Trust is often found amid anticipated deliverance, as individuals seek refuge and strength from God in times of trouble. When faced with problems, our initial instinct is to run or escape. However, this psalm challenges that. Like David, we are to address our fears in the presence of God. Posturing our minds and hearts and placing rightful power to Him rather than our problems. Despite our circumstances, God remains sovereign and cannot and will not abandon His own.

More From This Series


I invite you to take your Bible, and turn with me to Psalm 11. We’ve been looking at some Psalms of trust. If you look at the Psalter, the 150 Psalms, they can be broken down in the different categories. There’s songs of enthronement, there’s songs of lament. There’s songs of Thanksgiving, and there’s songs of trust, Psalms that focus on the Christian’s confidence in God, the believers’ thief in the face of difficulty. In fact, the Psalm of trust is can somewhere between a psalm of lament and a Psalm of thanksgiving. Typically, the Psalm of lament finds the writer in the midst of a trying circumstance as they cry out to God for mercy. The Psalm of Thanksgiving is often written after that crisis has passed, and there’s a lot to give thanks to God for, looking back.
The Psalm of trust is somewhere in the middle, usually it’s on the eve or on the edge of an anticipated deliverance, as the person runs to God for refuge and strength and finds him a very present help and time of trouble. And that Psalm expresses their trust in God. And we’re going to look at one more this morning and the next couple of weeks in our series called Statements of Faith.
And Psalm 11 is another Psalm of trust. Listen to the words of King David as he writes, “In the Lord, I put my trust. How can you say to my soul, flee as a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked band, their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string that they may shoot secretly at the upright and 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 eyelids test the sons of man. The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence his soul hates. Upon the wicked, he will rain coals, fire, and brimstone, and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous. He loves righteousness. His continence beholds the upright. Keep your Bible open. Follow along. I want to speak this morning on the subject, fight or flight. I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Irishman whose marriage was in trouble, and so he thought he’d go to a counselor to relieve some of the stress and the strife that was part of his life and part of his home. And as he shared his concerns about his marriage with the counselor, the counselor was a big jogger, and he recommended, at least part of the therapy and part of the remedy would be that this man should run 10 miles a day for 14 days. And he said, “You know what? If you do that, I’m not saying it’s the silver bullet, but it’ll release your stress. It’ll give you time to think, it’ll clear your head, it’ll change your outlook on things.”
And after 14 days, the counselor calls the Irishman up and he asked him how he’s doing. He says, “I’m doing fine.” He asked him, “Have you been keeping the regiment of running?” He says, “I have each and every day.” And then he said, “You know, well how’s your wife?” To which the man replied, “How would I know I’m 140 miles from home?” Now I want to pause. So you can laugh at that, but here’s the funny thing about that. In sense, it’s the serious thing about the funny thing. That the first inclination that often grips the human heart when trouble comes is the desire to run. Let’s be honest. When you and I have problems, one of our first thoughts might be how do we escape this? How do we run from this. Faced with mounting challenges, people like to do an about face and take themselves to the hills.
The first bus out of town is their ticket to peace and salvation. Now, while running is a temptation, I think you and I know by experience it’s not a solution. And I say that because there are problems, and problem people wherever you go. And let’s be honest, on many occasions we’re half the problem. And so I want to come and look at Psalm 11 and the reason I want to come a look at Psalm 11, and the reason I introduce my sermon the way I did this morning is because Psalm 11 deals with this very issue, the issue of running from a problem, the issue of fight or flight.
Because if you read the opening verse, we read in the Lord, I put my trust. How can you say to my soul, flee as a bird to your mountain. From what we can tell, David wrote this psalm during a very stressful time in his life. And you can hear from the language I just read, that it would seem that some close friends or some advisors within his administration have encouraged him to take counsel of his fears and head to the hills to flee, to fly like a bird to the mountain for safety.
And yet David stands his ground. David questions their answer. Why do you say to my soul, flee like a bird to the mountains? The circumstances have challenged David’s faith in God, but that faith in God has not been conquered, nor has it crumbled. David’s faith holds fast. He refuses to flee in the face of danger and he’s got a lot to teach us. He will encourage us to express faith when we’re tempted to run. This is a Psalm marked by panic, and yet David is encouraging us as he has encouraged himself not to panic. Remember what Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones said, “Faith is a refusal to panic.” Trust in God refuses to panic. It refuses to run. It stands its ground in the most difficult circumstances. Now, we’re not sure what the context of the text is. Some have pitched the idea that this may be a time in David’s life where he’s facing the jealousy of Saul.
Saul wants to kill David, and so David has been encouraged by an inner circle of friends, perhaps even Jonathan, flee, run for your life. Perhaps this is the background or some have suggested later on we’re dealing with not the jealousy of soul but the treachery of Absolum where there’s coup d’etat within the royal administration in court, and David has to run out during the night from a vindictive son, maybe. I’m not sure those are the backgrounds because in our Psalm, David doesn’t run. So I’m not sure his running from Saul or his running from Absolum is the back then, it could be, but here’s what we know. It was a trying time, okay? It was a period of persecution. We know that David’s neck was in a noose in terms of his life context. His life was under threat. Fight or flight. Should I stay or should I go? As The old song puts it?
That’s the question being addressed here. And David says, David remains in the Lord I put my trust. It’s another Psalm of trust. This Psalm begins like the Psalm we looked at last week, Psalm 16, preserve me your God for in you I put my trust. Some years ago, the British novelist, JB Priestly, was invited to write a short article on the theme of religious beliefs. Interestingly, he declined the offer and here’s what he said. He said, “You know what? If I was to write this article, I would emphasize more of my denials than my affirmations. I’m not the right person to write this article at this time.” Then he said, this wistfully, “I regret this because neigh is the time for gigantic affirmations.” I love that. And in the middle of this coronavirus, in the middle of a world’s that’s confidence has been shaken. Where men are making their best guesses but can’t guarantee anything.
In the midst of this confusion, in the midst of this fear, in the midst of this growing anxiety and pandemic, this is a time for great affirmations and we’re come to look at another one of them in Psalm 11. So if you’re taking notes, I hope you’ve got your Bible open. I want you to see first of all what I call the council. The council. This is verses one to three in the Lord, I put my trust, how can you say to my soul, flee as a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked band, their bow, they their arrow on the string. They may shoot secretly at the upright and heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Panic launched this Psalm. Let me say that again. Panic launched this Psalm. From what we can tell, either an inner circle of David’s friends or his political advisors had told him with the best of intentions, by the way, I think this is well-meaning in their mind.
It makes complete sense. “Hey, the kingdom is being threatened, your life is being threatened. The foundations are being shaken. Evil men, lurk in the shadows, assassins. If we can’t see of the kingdom, let’s save of the king.” And they encouraged him to flee like a bird to the mountains. That was the council that was given.
And you know what? I think it was well-meaning? I think you could make an argument for it. There’s political intrigue and there’s political implosion. Political intrigue, political implosion. What I mean by that, I think the intrigue is to be seen in the language of verse two, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string that they may shoot secretly at the upright, or as your translation might put it, they might shoot from the darkness, from the shadows. If we’re to put that into modern day language, their finger is on the trigger, and David is in their sights. And they have a vantage point where they are hidden in the darkness.
This isn’t out front. This is intrigue, this is treachery. This is plotting in secret to harm the upright. Political intrigue, political implosion. Look at verse three. Whatever the circumstances either during Saul’s jealousy, during Absolum’s treachery or another time during David’s time as king. The foundations are being destroyed. The foundations here speak of custom, tradition, social order. This is conveying the idea that there’s moral anarchy going on in the kingdom. It’s a time of great instability. The foundations are being destroyed.
What are the righteous to do? Well, you could say the righteous could pray, the righteous could organize, the righteous could witness, but the implication of the Hebrew is here. There’s nothing the righteous can do here. You know what? All they can do is flee. And so that’s the kind of context. And you know what? Look, you and I are living in western nations where the foundations are being destroyed, where the Judeo-Christian philosophy that govern politics and culture and life is being mocked. Where our universities have become bastions of human secularism. Where Christians have become the scapegoats.
It was a New York Times article this week knocking Christians as people who don’t believe in science. Mocking them and their advice to the president. You find that all the time. You’ll find that in movie storylines. You’ll find that in sitcoms. That’s the day we’re in. The foundations that once marked western society are being shaken.
I like what Paul Powell says, “Our music is noise. Our dances are convulsions, our language is unprintable. Our art is junk. Our worship is irreverent. Our jails are overcrowded. Our streets, parks and offices and courthouses, are unsafe. When a couple walks down the aisle to get married, odds are their marriage won’t last seven years. Won’t last as long as a warranty on a washer or dryer.” I’m not trying to be overly pessimistic, but you know what? Before we even get into this crisis, crisis was marking our culture. It’s a culture marked by death and despair.
The foundations of life are constantly being shaken. This is just another episode. What are the righteous to do? Well, it’s interesting in the context here, when the normal protections are disappearing, the counsel to David from well-intentioned friends is to flee like a bird to the mountain. And you know what? I want to say something just to balance this a little bit. This isn’t the first time David will have faced this temptation. If you go to Psalm 55, he tells us of another time of treachery where a friend had stabbed him in the back, one who had gone to the house of God with him and during that time and there were death surrounded him, he said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove that I might fly away and be at rest.” David knows this temptation. He has thought about it himself at times and neigh either political advisors or an inner circle of friends are reminding him of its wisdom.
And let me say this, by the way, there are times when ducking danger is not a lack of faith, it’s just prudence. It’s just wisdom. It’s just common sense. It’s living to fight another day. In fact, in first Samuel 1918, David does flee from the jealousy of Saul. On Samuel 1918, you can read it yourself. Jesus, in speaking about persecution in Mathew 10:23, he says to his followers, when you’re persecuted in one city, flee to another city. Christians have had to flee the Middle East, leave one city for another city. Sometimes that’s appropriate. Sometimes that’s not cowardice. Sometimes that’s not a lack of faith. It’s just prudence and it fits within the providence of God. In fact, you can look up in Luke 13:31 to 34 that some Pharisees who I think had some love for the Lord Jesus Christ went to him one day and said, you know what?
“Herod wants to kill you. You need to run.” Jesus was faced with that temptation. It’s a timeless temptation. And we’ve got to fight it and we’ve got to think it through and we’ve got to strike a balance. Maybe a good example of the challenge that it is and praying for wisdom to measure the circumstances and to come up with the right response. Is it time to stay or is it time to go? Fight or flight. A good example of that would be Dietrich Bonhoffer. Some of you might know his story. He was a Lutheran pastor. Join the German resistance was part of a plot to kill Hitler that failed. He was arrested April 9th, 1945. He is hung in Flossenberg concentration camp. I’ll let you listen to the words of the camp doctor who describes the scene. Pastor Bonhoffer before taking off his present guard, knelt on the floor, praying fervently to his God.
I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed so divine, so certain that God had heard his prayer. At the place of execution, again he said a short prayer and then climbed up the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God. But here’s the interesting thing, that didn’t need to happen. In fact, as the Nazis took control of Germany, earlier in 1939, Bonhoffer sees the writing on the wall. He sees the night of broken glass, the interment of Jewish people. He realizes that the confessing church might be next, and along with several theologians in Germany, he gets out and comes to the United States of America. He has been encouraged to stay here, to be a voice, to write, and he does that for a while, but after a while, he becomes uneasy that he fled, that he ran. He understands there’s some good arguments for it, even justified arguments, but his own conscience and his own conviction.
July 8, 1939, he goes straight back to Germany and ultimately to the gallows. Here’s what he says about finding the courage to return, daring to do what is right, not what fancy may tell you. Valiantly grasping occasions not cravingly guiding, freedom comes only through deeds, not through thoughts. Taking wing. Faint not nor fear, but go out to the storm and the action trusting in God, whose commandment you fully follow and faithfully follow. Freedom, exultant will welcome your spirit with joy.
That’s the timeless temptation. Do we go or do we stay? Fight or flight? That’s the council given the David, flee like a bird to the mountain. Well-intentioned, but David decides to not head it. Which brings me to our second thought, what I call the conversation, the council, the conversation. Following the council from his friends and advisors, well-meaning, well-intended, and you can make an argument in some ways even justified.
David disregards what he considers to be demoralizing advice. He perceives it as the voice of fear rather than the echo of faith. And he starts up this conversation with them, with himself before God. In the Lord I put my trust. How can you say to my soul, why do you say that? Flee? I know that their finger is on the trigger and they lurk in the shadows, and I can see that the foundations are destroyed. And at this point, what can you do? Not very much so go. And he ends up in this conversation, by the way, little foot note, just something for you to chew on. As I’ve said this… I think this was well-meaning and well-intended advice from people who I believe cared for David, cared for David. You know what? If we can’t keep the kingdom, let’s keep the king and then someday we’ll revisit the kingdom.
A well known writer by the name of H.L. Allison said this very interesting little thought. The love of your friends will often create your most subtle temptations. Let me say that again. The love of your friends will often create your most subtle temptations. Even the well-intended advice of friends or family can keep you from the will of God, or what you perceive to be the will of God within the providence of God.
Now David challenges the voice of fear. Why do you say to my soul, how can you say that? And you know what? You and I need to take a lesson from this. We need in the midst of circumstances like we are going through, not a world away from David’s crisis. We need to challenge the voices of fear and precaution and apprehension within our own lives. Did you notice that David is not addressing the Lord directly here. While he calls on his name, he’s not addressing the Lord directly.
He’s speaking to himself in the presence of God. David takes himself in hand. There’s a swirl of thoughts and emotions going through his mind that are being stirred and fed by the council of his friends. And what he decides to do is talk them out in the presence of God and before his friends, how can you say to my soul, flee. Now I’m making God my refuge.
This isn’t the first time, by the way, David does this and it’s a good thing in life. Psalm 42, verse 11, in the midst of his depression, despair and doubt. What does David say? He starts ticking himself in hand. He starts talking to himself. Why are you cost doubt on my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Can’t you hope in God? Can’t you anticipate yet seeing his continence and the smile of his providence? In Psalm hundred three verses one to five, bless the Lord, oh my soul in all that is within me, bless his holy name.
David is talking to himself, and that’s a good thing to do. Our fears, as someone has suggested are like vampires. Our fears are like vampires. They want to suck the life out of us. They want to drain us of vitality. But like vampires, they can’t stand the sunlight of God’s presence. And we need to bring our fears out into the sunlight of God’s presence. We need to talk to ourselves and talk out our fears.
I like what Max Lakato says in his book, Fearless, be specific about your fears. Talk to God about it. Putting your worries into words, disrobes them and they look silly standing there naked. It’s a great idea, great thought. It’s the thought that Martin Lloyd Jones has arguing and it’s been quoted many, many times. You know what? Don’t let yourself talk to you. Talk to yourself. See when you get up in the morning… When I get up in the morning ourself starts talking to us.
Oh poor me. Man, this thing’s bad. I might not have a job two weeks from now. Will our money run out? And that’s the way it starts. What if I get the coronavirus? I’m all alone here. What if people overlook me and on and on it goes. Ourself starts speaking to us and Lloyd Jones says, hold on, and then start talking to yourself. Start reminding yourself he will never leave you or forsake you. Start reminding yourself that God can supply all your need. Start reminding yourself that all things work together for good. Start reminding yourself that you live between the hedges of God’s providence and no harm touches you except within the will of God. I like that. Do what Max Lakato says. Be specific about your fears. Talk to God about it. Put your worry into words. Disrobe them. They look silly standing naked. You know who did that?
Christenstem, the great archbishop of Constantinople where he ministered from AD 398 to 404. People flocked to hear him. He was known as the golden tongue. He was eloquent in its criticism of those in wealth and power. He was twice banished by the authorities from his parish. And he often talked to himself. I’m going to let you in one of his conversations. Listen to himself. What can I fear? Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile but the earth and all its fullness is the Lord’s. Will it be the loss of wealth? But we have brought nothing into the world and we can carry nothing out. Thus all the terrors of the world are contemptible in my eyes and I smile at all these things. Poverty. I do not fear riches. I do not sigh for death. I do not shrink from.
He’s having a good old conversation with himself in the light of the gospel. Brings us to our last thought. So we’ve got the council and we’ve got the conversation. In the time that remains, let’s look at the confidence that marks David. His confidence is in the Lord. So that’s where the Psalm begins. The word or the name Lord is the emphatic in the Hebrew. That’s the first thought in this Psalm. The Lord, I’ve made him my trust, the Lord is where I’m going to seek a refuge. And after making not an emphatic emphasis in verse one, don’t you notice that four times later on we have the Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven. The Lord tests the righteous. Verse seven, for the Lord is righteous. David’s got the Lord on his brain. That’s where his mind is fixed. And the mind that’s fixed there trusting in God will know a perfect peace.
Listen, David doesn’t dispute what his friends saw, but he saw something more. There was danger. Maybe the better part of valor is to live, to fight another day. He was thinking that, ay. But then the Lord, the Lord, the Lord things about the Lord grip his heart and in the providence of God following his conscience, he decides to sound.
And he tells us certain things about the Lord. Let’s run through these quickly. If you’re taking notes several things, God rules, that’s the first thing that helps him. That’s the first thing that steadies his feet. God rules. Look at verse four. The Lord is in his holy temple and the Lord’s throne is in heaven. Got to love that. You see, he saw something more than what his friends saw. They saw the circumstances, he looked above the circumstances and he saw a transcendent throne, the one who sat on it. The sovereign, the king of kings and Lord of lords, the sovereign of the universe. The one who upholds all things by the word of his power. The one who sets the boundary of the oceans. The one who opens his hand and all of creation is fed.
That’s where David fixes his thoughts. I don’t have time to look these up for you, but if you’re taking notes or you want to listen to this again later on, Psalm 45 verse six tells us that God’s throne is established forever.
Read Psalm 99, 1 and two in Psalm 103:19 and you’ll learn about God’s sovereign power. Psalm 1:15, 3 tells us what God is in heaven and does whatever pleases him. Oh, the foundations may be shaking and the upright may be the target of the unrighteous. But God is still on his throne and he will remember his own. Though trials be sad and burdens distress us, he’ll never leave us alone. That’s where David’s at. With things totally out of control, David was reminded, or reminded himself that things were never under his control. They never are, my friend. Sometimes we get a perception they are but they’re not.
When our health is good, when we’ve a bit of money in the bank, we’ve kind of got that sense, “Hey, we’ve got life nailed down.” No, you don’t. And life will soon show you that. Life was out of control. It was never under his control, but he reminded himself it’s under God’s control. God hasn’t lost control. All things are working together for good.
I was listening to a message by Tim Keller this week on Psalm 11, it was excellent. And one of his points based on verse four was this, stop trying to rule the world. Stop trying to rule the world. Take control of your fears. Talk them out before the Lord specifically. Disrobe them. Make them look silly, standing naked before a great and mighty God. One, you can trust. The one who’s in charge, the one who at no point in this crisis has got up from his throne and taken a break from ruling the universe. You can stop ruling the universe.
It never is under your control, anyway. Our breath is in his hands. Our times are in his hands. In fact, in that sermon Tim Keller referenced the fact that that in many a car when, especially boys, but sometimes girls when they’re in their car seats, some parents have bought them this little plastic steering wheel. Have you seen that? Little false dashboard and they attach it to their chair in the car. And there’s dad up front or mum up front driving the car in the minivan, and the little one into the back living the illusion that they’re driving the car. It’s an illusion. In times like this. Remind us, it’s an illusion. God’s in the driver’s seat. We’re in the passenger seat. I’m glad of that, aren’t you? He’s a good driver. He’s got a great driving record. God rules.
Secondly, not only God rules, God reviews. God reviews, God may be in heaven and that may speak of distance and you and I could conclude, you know what, God is removed. He’s in the third heaven. He’s way up there, way out there, and his rule seems at times detached and maybe cold. It’s not. It’s warm, it’s real, it’s passionate, it’s incessant. It’s ongoing because look at the next verse for the Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven, his eyes behold his eyelids test the sons of man. The Lord tasks the righteous. God’s not inactive. And by the way, God’s not inattentive. No, God is in heaven and he’s doing whatever pleases him. And he’s watching. Proverbs 15 verse details as the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the earth, beholding the good and the evil. And God looks upon the righteous, did you notice that? David has this particular emphasis here, that his eyes behold the sons of man, but he tests the righteous.
He’s observing us. He’s a weighing us. He’s watching our reactions during this whole crisis. Are we acting in fear? We’re acting in faith. Are we hedging our bets? Are we lacking in trust? Are we supporting God’s work? Are we walking by faith? Are we carrying on the best we can, even with some risk and bravery for the glory of God? God’s watching, he’s testing, weighing, and he’s especially weighing the righteous.
Here’s the thought for you all disasters are tests. All disasters are tests. That’s the language, isn’t it? James one, two, and four. That’s the language of first Peter one, six to nine where he tests the genuineness of our faith. The furnace tasked the quality of the metal, the purity of the gold. That is not Job’s point. He’s going to test me and when I’m come forth, I shall be as gold. The furnaces, the disasters, the trials of life, they’re all tests, my friend. You and I are being tested right now as Christians. God’s watching and he’s weighing our every response, every attitude. Is it fear? Is it faith? Are we being sheepish? Are we being bold? Are we striking a balance between obeying man and obeying God? And do we know that difference? You see, the devil tempts us to destroy our faith. God tests us to develop our faith.
Take the test. Every morning we need to open our blue book with pencil and hand and take the test. I wonder what God’s trying to teach me? I wonder what God’s trying to teach you? Troubles and trials expose sin in our lives. They show us things that we hold to be far too important, that not related to the kingdom of God. They show us commands we have yet to obey. Show us a level of worship that we have yet to render an experience of grace we’ve yet to encounter. A love for others we haven’t yet fulfilled.
I love the story of Andrew Murray, South African Bible teacher. We’re going back a little bit, 1895, he’s suffering from a bad back. He had fallen, and recuperating. He’s living in a particular home and while he was eating breakfast, one particular morning in the room, the hostess comes to him and said, “There’s a woman downstairs who’s in trouble and wanted, if you had to know if you had any advice for her.”
Andrew Murray handed her a paper he had been writing on and said this, “Give this to her.” And here’s what he said in the piece of paper, “In time of trouble, remind yourself first God brought me here. It is by his will I’m in this straight place, and in that I will rest. Number two, he will keep me here in his love and give me the grace for the trial to behave as his child. Then number three, he will make the trial a blessing, teaching me grace and a means to follow him. And lastly, in his time, he will bring me out of this trial. How and when he alone knows, therefore say to her, I am here by God’s appointment, in God’s keeping, under his training for his time.”
Folks, I couldn’t write anything better over the Corona crisis for the church or the child of God. We’re here by God’s appointment, in his keeping, under his training for his time. Because of time’ I’m going to kind of jump over my third point, get to my fourth. The third point would’ve been God repairs.
God repairs. The Lord is in his holy temple. The Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold and his eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous but the wicked, the one who loves violence. His soul, he is upon the wicked. He will reign, coal, fire, brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. The future of the child of God is the refining fire. The future of the man or woman without Jesus Christ is the judgment fire. God loves the righteous, but he hates the wicked. I know we have to revise that little statement. In the light of this, we often say God loves the sinner. He hates the sin. When it says here, he hates the wicked. The word hate means revulsion.
I mean, if you love something you’ll hate something. If I love my wife, I hate the man that breaks into our home. When I’m not there to do her harm. My love for her is put on display in my hatred of him. And my friend, god loves the righteous and you see his love in the fact he hates the wicked. The wicked who hurt the upright. And the world who rebels against the creator. Think about that.
My friend flee from the wrath to come. God’s not a blob of jello. He loves, and he hates, and he moves, and he rules, and he judges. Here’s the last thought. God rules. God reviews. God repairs. God rewards. I’ll make this quick, but it’s beautiful. Verse seven, where we read this concerning the righteous. For the Lord is righteous, he loves righteousness. His continence beholds the upright. This compelling contrast, the violent man God hates, but the righteous man who does righteous deeds, God loves and he intends to reward that man. The king James here has his countenance beholds the upright, but there is an equal rendering that actually flips that. And I like this rendering, the upright will behold his continent, so the upright will see his face. Throughout the life we live, the righteous man seeks God and desires to know God better.
Doesn’t a Psalmist express that? I want to dwell in your temple and behold your beauty. When we pray, when we read scripture, when we worship together, we want to encounter God. We want to see God. We want to know God. And yet we realize because of the life we’re in and our flesh, that that is a mediated vision of God. There are barriers to that. Someday we will behold him face to face, but now we only know in part.
But here’s the promise, someday we will see him face to face. Psalm 17:15. You know what? I will someday awaken his likeness and behold his face and that will be my satisfaction. It’s a beautiful thought. What the righteous man has got to look forward to is that someday he will be able to turn his face away from this sin cursed planet. Turn his face away from his own feelings. Turn his face away from the sorrow and tears that mark human experience and the wickedness of man, and turn his face toward God in an unmediated fashion and see God in all his glory.
And when we see him, we will be satisfied. We need to look beyond the moment to that moment when we shall see his face. The face more than any part of the body expresses the whole person. It’s one thing to hear a voice. It’s another thing to see a face. That’s the hope of the Christian. We’ll see his face. We’ll behold his beauty in that forever temple where there are pleasures and joys that are full and forever more. Face to face is the real fellowship.
Just recently I made a trip home to see my family. I came through the door and I bend down to kiss my aging mother, and she kept her hands around my cheeks and with a tear in her eye and a tremble in her voice, she said, “It’s good to see your face, son.” That’s what we’re talking about, where we look beyond the horrors of the moment and we look beyond our growing fears, and we look beyond the sorrow and the sadness that marks this life.
And we anticipate that moment when there’ll be no crying, no dying, and no sign for all things will be made [inaudible]. And we will behold his face and perhaps with those nail scarred hands, where he died for us on the cross, he’ll cup our cheeks and say, “It’s good to see your face, son. It’s good to see your face, daughter.” My friend, fight or flight. Put your trust in the Lord that him be your refuge, your resource, and your redeemer. Let’s pray. Father, we thank you for the joy of the study of your word. Great peace of they that keep your law. We thank you for the Psalms. They not only speak to us, they speak for us. We thank you for this example of a godly man, a human heart, a real person in a real circumstance, tempted to flee, encouraged to panic finding his feet.
Lord, we thank you that you’re on your throne in heaven. We thank you. You’re testing us. Help us to take the test and pass it. We thank you that someday you will serve justice and judgment in an act of love, and holy rage. We pray for our friends and family who don’t know Jesus Christ, that they would come to embrace him and know him, who took that punishment for them. We thank you for the hope of heaven. This is the short and ugly life. We thank you for that life that lies ahead when we will behold your fears, and we pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.