Raining Bear Traps/Psalm 11

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In the midst of our tangled earthly confusions, God sees all things clearly. As we are pressed with dangers on every hand, God remains unthreatened by them and unperturbed. This is why a right understanding of who God is must be considered the only rational basis of faith. “In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? . . .” (Psalm 11:1-7).

This psalm is a lament, and at the same time an expression of trust in God. There is no overt petition, although one is certainly implicit.

In the first three verses of this psalm, some timid friends of David are warning him of a threat on his life. They urge him to flee to the mountain, as swiftly as bird flies (v. 1). They tell him that the wicked have already bent the bow to string it, and they already have an arrow on the string. They are going to attack David from a secret place (v. 2). The foundations of the civil order are destroyed—what can the righteous actually be expected to do? The only thing to do is run and hide (v. 3). David is offended by this counsel. “Why do you say to me, flee . . .? For my part, I trust in God.”

David’s trust is not irrational. God is enthroned in heaven (v. 4). He beholds all the children of men. God hates the wicked, but in contrast He examines the righteous (v. 5). His judgment is poured out on the wicked—this is their portion (v. 6). The righteous Lord loves righteousness, and consequently, His face beholds the upright (v. 7).

This is why it is possible to trust God in the midst of danger. The first statement strikes the keynote of this psalm, which is trust in God. The friends of David urge him to save himself by flight.

The problem is not that flight is always and everywhere a sin. Jesus tells His followers to flee if they are persecuted in one town. The apostle Paul escaped from King Aretas by being lowered in a basket from a city wall. The apostle Peter escaped from prison (with angelic help) and disappeared from the book of Acts entirely. And David himself did not object to flight—when duty permitted it.

The issue here was panic. Flight is not permitted just because it looks as though the wicked might have made their move. David does not answer those urging flight by minimizing the danger—he grants the danger—but rather by lifting up his thoughts to God.

There is a reason for trusting. The word rendered as temple here can also be translated as palace, which appears to fit the context better. This is a palace of holiness. God is in heaven on a throne, and from that throne He examines the children of men. His eyes look at men, and His eyelids try them. Think of God squinting narrowly and carefully in order to look at some impudent fellow.

We see here that God hates a certain class of person, and that alongside this, He examines the righteous. Remember what we have learned about God as judge. God is our savior, and we pray for His judgment. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we are praying for judgment. We long for it, by faith.

We must therefore reject the very pleasant lie that God loves all men equally. He does not—He hates the children of wrath, and He has called us out from that number by His grace. Grace is not justice, but it certainly justifies.

What then is the lot of the wicked? The wicked set their traps for David, and so God will judge them appropriately. The heavens open, and it rains snares. Think of a severe thunderstorm, and instead of hail or rain, it rains bear traps. Fire and brimstone are next, recalling the judgment that fell on the cities of the plain. This is followed up with horrible tornadoes.

Our applications to all this should be obvious—but still easy to forget under pressure.

First, trust in God is the beginning and end of the Christian life. We trust Him in our circumstances, and not because of our circumstances. We are to see our circumstances in the light of faith, and not our faith in the light of our circumstances.

Second, we have to understand that the counsel of the coward and the jeer of the insolent are both to be answered in the same way—by faith. We are to respond to both in the same way.

Third, faith requires as its object something other than itself. We are never to have faith in faith. Rather, we behold the throne of the sovereign God—its supremacy, majesty, dominion, eternity, transcendence, mystery, purity, and holiness. When we meditate on the fact that this is the throne of the universe, all our little gnat wars come into perspective.

Fourth, damnation has never been adequately described. Even the inspired language of Scripture does not carry the full weight of horror.

Fifth, God hates the wicked in Adam and in Christ He loves the righteous. We ought not to care what an anxious conscience does with these words. We do not care what guilt and shame do with them. Our only concern is what faith does with them.

And last, the cowardly like to assume that the foundations have been destroyed long before they actually have been. For if the foundations have been destroyed, then we have our excuse for inaction. “What can the righteous do?” But this is the excuse of cowardice, and not the battle-cry of faith.

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