Psalm 11 Sermon From August 2012 Prayer Service
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday August 1st 2012: Season of Pentecost, Psalm 11. "The Lord is Refuge in Trouble"
In the LORD I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in 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 see, His eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous,
but His soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let Him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be
the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous;
He loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold His face.
(Psalm 11 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Psalm 11 is about David being in trouble, and he had some experiences to draw upon for this, twice he had people close to him who wanted him dead, King Saul who he replaced and his own son Absalom who tried to have him killed so that he could take the Kingdome from his father. These were times when very literally “the wicked [had bent] the bow; [when very literally] they [had] fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;” Even if David was not talking about enemies of flesh and blood, he had enough devils and demons firing the poisonous darts of temptation at him, times when he fell into sin like he had with Uriah the Hittite’s wife Bathsheba, times when medical concerns were heavy upon him and trouble came in the form of a sick baby boy, or his own frailty in old age. Whatever the trouble, it was all very real, and in all these cases David says that the thing to do is 1) take refuge in the Lord and 2) Shun the advice of those who would tempt you to find refuge anywhere else or in anyone else but the Lord. In this compact and effective prayer King David puts his thesis, his main point as to why this is all the case, right in the middle of the Psalm (this is a common literary technique used in Hebrew writing and poetry). And what’s placed in the centre of Psalm 11? These words, “The LORD's throne is in heaven;” and that, right there, is where David seeks his refuge. Psalm 11 is a prayer with a doctrine, a teaching, of the faith at its heart. What it teaches is the nature of God in relation to mankind, and what this means in the time of trouble. The thing prayed for is steadfastness in trouble when you are being tempted into false teaching and wickedness, and lastly it is a prayer for God to act in defence of His faithful and steadfast children.
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us to start out by addressing our prayer and acknowledging the recipient of the prayer saying, “Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name, Thy Kingdome come, Thy will be don on earth as it is in heaven.” Here King David, writes, “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven; His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of man.” David reaffirms what the people had been taught and commanded about the place where God makes Himself known to them, by the voice of Moses and Aaron, God said to the Children of Israel before they entered into the promised land, in the book of Deuteronomy, these words, “when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make His name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, ... Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any [old] place that you see, but at the place that the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.”
When we hear the word Temple we think first of David’s Son’s Temple, the temple built by Solomon, with its columns and gold, it’s walls and rooms, but in David’s time there was no physical building, the word for “temple” had a simply origin, it was the word used for the place where the king resided. This word was used to describe what the Children of Israel had in the form of the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and at its centre was the Holy of Holies, and in that place the Ark of the Covenant was found. The Ark of the Covenant was called the “Mercy Seat” that is the throne of God, where His presence was promised to be located at the time (The place from which the mercy of God their King and Father would flow). This was a mirror image of the throne room of God in heaven and was the only place where God’s presence was promised to be located in David’s day. By saying, “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven;”David is using a sort of poetic short hand to re-enforce a doctrine, a teaching that that people had already learned and known.
The rest of the teaching that hangs on this central passage of Psalm 11 is this, there is nowhere to fly to in your time of trouble, nowhere to run to for help in the face of your trouble but to God, and there is but one place to go to, to find God, and that is where He promises to be – all other places are to be avoided because they are the warrens of deadly false teaching, and dens of the wicked, such places are a snare and a trap. David tells us this when he provides, near the beginning of the Psalm, the foolish advice of those who would want the righteous to abandon God, the ones who say, “Flee like a bird to your mountain;” here David warns of the places of worship where God doesn’t promise to be, the high places and their altars and Asherah Poles, their sexualized worship of the natural world, their false gods and ungodly practices. Again this way of speaking is poetic short hand, for the ones who sang this Psalm, the ones who prayed it; for them they would immediately associate this tempting “mountain” with an ungodly place of worship.
What does this mean for us? It means that no matter how difficult things get, be steadfast and don’t turn, in your weakness, to the things God despises. Are you looking for relaxation? Avoid Yoga! Are you in need of healing? Don’t turn to crystals! Do you have anxiety about death? Don’t seek refuge in reincarnation or hypnosis induced and fabricated past lives! Do you miss your loved ones who have died? Keep away from mediums and those who think that they can speak with the dead! Are you looking for knowledge of the future? Stay away from palmists, tarot card readers, and fortune tellers! Do you want to affect events in your life in an advantageous way? Cast no spells and seek no witch or shaman to do so! Don’t even have your tea leaves read on a lark ... keep away from all these things and from anything that is not of the Lord. Don’t incorporate them into your worship of God, or into your life of faith. If someone is a practitioner of these things and at the same time claims to be a Christian, they are at best deluded and in truth a seriously dangerous breaker of the second commandment; for you cannot pair these practices with the name of Jesus and not break the second commandment, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” It is exactly in the darkest and most difficult times that the Christian is tempted to try anything to flee and fly to the worst of ungodly things “if” it might bring results. This is a trap. Remember, “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven; His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of man.” God is not to be found where the world says He is to be found, He is where He says He will be.
David teaches in this prayer that we need to seek God where He promises to be, and that God is ever watchful and all knowing; the phrase “His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of man,” is an interesting one. It says that God sees all things even when it seems like He isn’t looking. When it feels like, when it seems like, God’s eyelids are closed He is in fact still watching and testing you ... like a parent that counts the cookies in the cookie jar to see if a child left alone has kept the parents rule of no between meal treats: God watches, and in His watching is the testing of man, the measuring of their actions when they think they are alone, when they think God is far off and that turning to evil practices is the only way to achieve the things that they desire.
Lest you be deceived remember that God is not just watching the wicked but the righteous too. He tests and judges the Christian and the non Christian alike, He watches the ones washed clean in the blood of Christ Jesus, the ones declared righteous, just as carefully as He watches the wicked that flee away from the Lord. What then are we to do? The ten commandments in the life of the Christian have three purposes; they are used to keep us from falling into obvious sin, they are meant to act as a mirror to show us our sin that we would repent of it, and they are used to measure the truth of potential actions, "is this thing I’m thinking of doing a sin or is it not." Therefore when you contemplate Psalm 11, when you pray it, ask yourself have I kept the first and second commandments, do I place anything before God, do I use His name rightly? If you have fallen into the trap of seeking God or spiritual power away from where God promises to be present, repent and ask for forgiveness. The forgiveness of Jesus will then be yours.
If I’m not to seek out my spirituality on every hill top, like the world suggests, what am I to do? Where am I to go? The prophet Isaiah says like David does, David says, “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven;” Isaiah says, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near;” Where is God to be found? Where does He promise to be located, today, right now, for us? On the night in which He was betrayed Jesus at His Last Supper before His crucifixion blesses the bread before them and says, “take eat; this is My body, which is given for you for the forgiveness of sins,” and in the same way taking the cup He says, “Drink of it all of you, this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for the forgiveness of sins. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Here is the place Jesus promises to be, where God promises to be, let Psalm 11 be your steadfast prayer that God would keep you close to His Son, close to Jesus and His body and blood which He gave for you upon the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins, even the sins of seeking help apart from God, the sin of placing your trust in the things and the people of the world who stand in opposition to the Lord.
There is a flipside to the fact that “[God’s] eyes see [you], [that] His eyelids test [you along with all] the children of man.” And here it is: As Christians you can trust that He does this as your Heavenly Father and by doing so He determines what you need in the hour in which you need it. You can trust that He will deal with the “wicked,” deal with the “ones who love violence,” that He will care for you and your needs. For in His righteousness, “God shows His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” This He does for you and this is the refuge King David speaks of in Psalm 11, for seated at the right hand of the Father’s throne in heaven is the crucified, risen and ascended Christ Jesus, and it is from that place, from the Holy Trinity that Mercy, Truth, Love, and Forgiveness is poured out, so whether your trouble is violent or physical, like arrows, or spiritually dangerous, like the flaming darts of temptation, there is no other source of salvation from trouble except in the refuge Who is Christ Jesus the Lord. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy, Lord Have Mercy, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Ephesians 6:16
 Deuteronomy 12:10-14
 Deuteronomy 12:1-4
 Isaiah 55:6
 Romans 5:8
 Romans 5:6
 Acts 2:33