In Jehovah do I take my refuge:
How say ye to my soul,
Flee as a bird to your mountain;
For, lo, the wicked bend the bow,
They make ready their arrow upon the string.
That they may shoot in darkness at the upright in heart;
If the foundations be destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
Jehovah is in his holy temple;
Jehovah, his throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold, his eyelids try the children of men.
Jehovah trieth the righteous;
But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.
Upon the wicked he will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind shall be the portion
of their cup.
For Jehovah is righteous:
The upright shall behold his face."
As indicated by our arrangement of the text here, this magnificent psalm falls into two divisions. In Ps. 11:1-3, David is wrongfully advised by well-meaning, but erroneous counselors, to flee for his life like as a bird flies toward some mountain. This advice is reinforced by their mention of the murderers who are preparing to kill him, and by the fact that, according to these advisers, the battle is already lost; the foundations have been destroyed; the cause is hopeless; why not abandon a sinking ship?
Spurgeon believed that the historical situation was that of Saul's enmity against David, and before Saul's final attempt upon David's life.F1 Others have suggested that the situation existed during Absalom's rebellion against David; and, as Yates said, "The circumstances are strikingly similar to those of several episodes in David's life."F2 And, as McCaw stated it, "The psalm belongs to all of those occasions when evil powers threaten the security and well-being of God's people."F3 Dummelow also took a broad view of the psalm's application thus: This is a song of confidence in God, and in the security of the righteous under his protection, notwithstanding the timid counsels of less trustful friends, and the evil devices of the wicked, who are doomed to destruction.F4
We appreciate also Rhodes' comment that:
Ps. 11 is one of the gems of the Psalter classified as affirmations of faith in spite of danger to himself, in spite of advice of friends to flee, and in spite of the seeming hopelessness of the cause.F5
Some have classified this as one of the so-called "Persecution Psalms," which Maclaren identified as Ps. 3; Ps. 7; Ps. 9; Ps. 14; Ps. 17, in addition to this one.F6
According to Barnes, all of these Ps. 11:1-3, except the opening declaration of faith in the Lord, may be regarded as the words of David's well-meaning, but erroneous advisers.F7 It is also the opinion of this writer that some of these strong admonitions to flee from danger might have come from the promptings of David's own sense of prudence in the face of danger. Whatever their source, the glory of the psalmist is that he was able to overcome them and to act upon his implicit trust in God.
The second half of the psalm, Ps. 11:4-7, affirms the psalmist's unwavering trust and confidence in God. He thundered the name of Jehovah no less than four times in this concluding division. God Himself is the answer to all of man's problems, doubts, dangers and fears. God is in heaven; He is in His holy temple, and that expression in this context has no relation whatever to some earthly house,
God loves the righteous and abhors the wicked. His eyes run to and fro through the whole earth and He sees all, knows all, and will always act whenever the proper time for action has come. Men who have already fled for refuge in Jehovah have no need whatever to seek refuge anywhere else. God is indeed the ultimate refuge.
The mention in Ps. 11:5 that Jehovah trieth the righteous suggests that God's people are purposely exposed to wickedness because of God's purpose thus to strengthen and develop them.
He will rain fire and brimstone. It is usually admitted by scholars that there is a remembrance in these words of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a very remarkable event recorded in Genesis which must be considered as a type of the eternal judgment. The mention of that overthrow here suggests that the psalmist is thinking of the final judgment and destruction of all the wicked when "The great day of God's wrath" has finally come.
The great lesson for all Christians in this psalm is that we should not attempt to run away from every danger but place our trust in God. Will not the Lord look after His own children? Indeed He will! Yes indeed, they will be threatened, persecuted, hated, even sometimes put to death, but, as Jesus Christ told his apostles:
"Ye shall be delivered up even by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. And not a hair of your head shall perish" (Luke 21:16-18). What a marvelous security is this! Even if we are put to death, "not a hair of our head shall perish." It was this very confidence and spiritual security that enabled the psalmist in the situation here to resist all suggestions that he give up and flee from the scene. Souls that are truly in harmony with God will find the strength to say in the most important crisis that life can offer, "Here I stand; so help me God, I cannot do otherwise"!
Footnotes for Psalms 11
1: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Treasury of David (ZPH), p. 49.
2: Kyle M. Yates, Wycliffe Bible Commentary of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 500.
3: Leslie S. McCaw, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 457.
4: J. R. Dummelow, On the Old Testament (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 333.
5: Arnold B. Rhodes, The Layman's Bible Commentary (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1960), p. 38.
6: Alexander Maclaren, Psalms (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1892), p. 102.
7: Albert Barnes, The Psalms (Baker Book House, 1950), pp. 99, 100.