Psalm 11: 1 – 7
More Is Caught Than Taught
1 In the LORD I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”? 2 For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? 4 The LORD Is in His holy temple, The LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. 5 The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. 6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.
Have you ever heard the statement ‘more is caught than taught?’ After Saul realized that David was the one who our Heavenly Father selected to replace him, he began a variety of schemes to get David killed. At first he would send David on basically suicide missions. If Saul truly understood and knew the LORD then he would have saved his energy and thoughts. For if our Holy God called David for a purpose, Saul would have known that our Precious Master would make sure all things would happen just as He planned.
Psalm eleven is a psalm in praise of Adoni Yahweh. The principle idea of it is that once a man has put his trust in Father God and taken Him as his refuge he can stand firm against all opposition, whatever the danger, because The Lord Yahweh Is with him. For Almighty God looks down and sees all, and brings about His righteous will. And it stresses that such a man will not stoop to the evil behavior of the unrighteous in retaliation, for to do so would shake the very foundations of God’s Law. To behave in such a way would be to make him evil too. And then what would the righteous do? To whom would they be able to turn? It is a firm statement that if men behave unrighteous towards us it does not justify our behaving in the same way towards them.
So, why did I say the statement, ‘more is caught than taught?’ It is because somehow later in life as you know David committed adultery with another man’s wife. Like Saul, David had reverted to the flesh and tried to scheme up some plans to fix all the damage he had done. When all the schemes David tried did not work, like what he experienced he implemented in getting Uriah the Hittite killed. Look with me at chapter 11, of the book of 2nd Samuel, “1 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” 6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. 8 And David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah departed from the king’s house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 So when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 And Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also. 18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war, 19 and charged the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling the matters of the war to the king, 20 if it happens that the king’s wrath rises, and he says to you: ‘Why did you approach so near to the city when you fought? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who struck Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth?fn Was it not a woman who cast a piece of a millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you go near the wall?’—then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’ ” 22 So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent by him. 23 And the messenger said to David, “Surely the men prevailed against us and came out to us in the field; then we drove them back as far as the entrance of the gate. 24 The archers shot from the wall at your servants; and some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” 25 Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.” 26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
The thing that David did displeased the LORD. Some people think that David got off scot free for these acts. This is not true. For if you read on you will find out that ‘yes’ his life was spared, but wound up losing ‘four’ of his sons. - A high price indeed to pay, for sure.
1 In the LORD I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”?
If we go back in time when David was young we see that he has taken refuge in The Great Yahweh. He could have no stronger or safer position. Thus all his judgments must be made in this light. Sometimes such a man may need temporarily to flee, but he must also consider his duties and responsibilities and decide what is best for the establishment of righteousness and a true foundation for life.
So he challenges the advice given to him by those around him. How should such a one as he flee? Even though this was a nerve-racking dangerous period in his life, David was closer to the LORD than probably any other time in his life. This psalm is a great comfort for all people who are facing some great crisis in life. Our normal reactions in these situations are to fight or flight. In most situations we want to flee like a bird.
2 For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
David’s reply to the advice to flee may well indicate the suggestion made by others (whether friend or subtle foe) that he flee to where he had men waiting in their mountain refuge, so that they may return secretly and deal with the tyrant Saul once and for all through an arrow coming out of the darkness. David’s reply is one of horror. He signifies that it is only the wicked who behave in such a way. It is the wicked who would shoot arrows out of the darkness; those who are truly upright are the targets of such evil, not its perpetrators. And he wants to be one of the upright.
3 If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
He was especially aware that if his men fired their arrows in this way it would be against The LORD’s anointed. And to slay God Almighty’s anointed would be to destroy the very foundations of the covenant to which they were all committed. How then could he, as one who has taken refuge in Adoni Yahweh, behave in such a way? And if he did what then could the righteous do? He would have destroyed the very foundations that he and they believed in.
We know in fact that David did behave exactly like he claimed, refusing to slay Saul even when Saul was hunting him down to kill him as we find out in the book of 1 Samuel chapter 23, precisely because Saul was YHWH’s anointed, “14 And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand. 15 So David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. And David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in a forest. 16 Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house. 19 Then the Ziphites came up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is David not hiding with us in strongholds in the woods, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon? 20 Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of your soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king’s hand.” 21 And Saul said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, for you have compassion on me. 22 Please go and find out for sure, and see the place where his hideout is, and who has seen him there. For I am told he is very crafty. 23 See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hides; and come back to me with certainty, and I will go with you. And it shall be, if he is in the land, that I will search for him throughout all the clansfn of Judah.” 24 So they arose and went to Ziph before Saul. But David and his men were in the Wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon. 25 When Saul and his men went to seek him, they told David. Therefore he went down to the rock, and stayed in the Wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued David in the Wilderness of Maon. 26 Then Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. So David made haste to get away from Saul, for Saul and his men were encircling David and his men to take them. 27 But a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have invaded the land!” 28 Therefore Saul returned from pursuing David, and went against the Philistines; so they called that place the Rock of Escape.fn 29 Then David went up from there and dwelt in strongholds at En Gedi.
He would not lift up his hand against The LORD’s anointed. And in the same incident he uses a similar picture of Saul as seeking him like he would seek a partridge in the mountains.
Or it may be that his advisers are declaring that there are those who are ready to bend the bow, fit their arrow, and shoot at him in the darkness, and that he should flee before it is too late. Then he is suggesting that to flee in the face of such a threat would be cowardly and to give way to tyranny, and thus by such cowardice he would help to destroy the foundations of society. The tyrant would then think that he could do the same to others, and achieve his purposes by threats. And if that happened what then could the righteous do? There are some men whose position is such that they must stand firm and even be willing to face the possibility of death so as to be on hand to defend justice and truth.
The point behind all these scenarios is that the righteous man must behave righteously whatever the provocation; otherwise the purposes which are dearest to his heart will collapse. To behave like the wicked would be to make him wicked. To flee unnecessarily would be to desert his cause.
4 The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
David now turns from the challenge that has been put to him and the reply he has given, to the God in Whom he trusts, the God Who is his refuge. He knows that he does not need to defend himself in this case for He knows that Jehovah Elyon – The LORD Most High - Is over all. He is on His heavenly throne and from His heavenly Temple He watches over His people. Indeed His eyes behold all men, and His eyelids test them out, so that the wicked are under His eye too. He knows all that they do. The idea behind the eyelids is that when we are carefully peering at something we tend to contract the eyelids. So God peers at the behavior of men carefully and constantly. The word for testing out is used of the refining of metals. At a glance or Awesome Creator can distinguish what is true from what is base, for Almighty God Has an all-seeing eye.
I love the verse in the book of Exodus chapter 14, when the Egyptians see our Lord looking down at them, “19 And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. 25 And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.” 26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen.” 27 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. 29 But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 30 So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.
5 The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. 6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.
The psalmist finishes with a strong contrast between righteousness and unrighteousness. He is confident that the Lord God accounts him righteous and so he will trust the Wonderful Yahweh to watch over him and ensure that justice is done.
This verse is important for us to remember - ‘YHWH tries the righteous.’ That is, He tries them in order to establish their faithfulness and loyalty, in order that He might then bless them. So what have such to fear? In contrast, however, He tries the unrighteous, those who do not seek to obey His laws, and those who love violence, and He ‘hates’ them (has an aversion to them) because of what He finds. So the writer and us can safely leave all enemies to the judgment of God.
Indeed The Blessed Holy Trinity will rain snares on the unrighteous, and what they ‘drink’ will be fire and brimstone and a hot, searing wind such as some miserably experience in the desert. That will be their portion. And this must be so because Father God, Who Is Himself Righteous, loves righteousness and hates iniquity, rewarding goodness and punishing sin.
One final point we hang on to the verse that informs us that ‘vengeance is the Lord’s’ We must remember that we sometimes want got to get people back for hurting us. This is not right. God Is not vindictive. We must understand that God and sin cannot continually co-exist. Our Holy God must punish sin or He must cease to be Holy. When He does act and deals with someone else’s sin, we must never rejoice, or He will stop whatever He Is doing against the one who has hurt us.
He Is a God of Mercy. He therefore has taught us to pray for our enemies. To do good to those who persecute us. Remember, we also once were His enemies, yet He loved us enough to break into our lives, forgive all our sins, and make us His children. Wow!