In Psalm 11, King David asks a question many of us have probably been asking over the last few months if not years: “The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?” (11:3).
Has the world ever felt like that to you? We see riots and lawlessness, blatant evil and unimaginable harm. There are wars, coups, and extremist violence in nearly every country; the threat of doom is constantly lurking around every corner.
And it isn’t just in politics or foreign relations. In our culture, as secularism rises, we have seen our once-steady moral foundation upended on a whim. Now, values can be summed up, as Natasha Crain puts it in her book Faithfully Different, “feelings are the ultimate guide, happiness is the ultimate goal, judging is the ultimate sin, and God is the ultimate guess” (page 52). This has led to a “me-first,” constantly offended, morally slippery version of reality in which many Christians, myself included, feel lost.
And, if I’m being honest, at times, hopeless. It does feel at times as if our country–and our world–is teetering on the edge of a complete collapse.
In Psalm 11, David was dealing with a form of “societal collapse.” During this time, David was a fugitive from King Saul. What had once been a beautiful relationship had collapsed under the weight of Saul’s insecurity and jealousy; the boy who had been anointed as a future king was now afraid for his life. He traveled from community to community, seeking peace and security, only to be chased out once again by either King Saul’s men or King Saul himself. From a peaceful pasture with his sheep to the halls of the palace to hiding in caves as murderous plots–plots enacted by the king–swirled around him–it was no wonder David felt as if “the foundations of law and order [had] collapsed.”
Nothing was as it was. Nothing was as it should have been. David had every right to feel downhearted and hopeless. Those around him encouraged him to run flee, to reject the crown and instead choose life in hiding, safe from Saul and the threats of the world.
And let’s be honest–how many of us would be tempted to take that advice? In the short-term, it’s safer and, seemingly, wiser. But in the long-term?
Thankfully, David chose to look at the eternal rather than the temporary. “In the Lord I take refuge,” he writes in verse 1. “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth. The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked” (verses 4-5).
As his world (and what perhaps may have seemed like the world at large) crumbled, David chose to keep his eyes on what he knew to be true: God was still on the throne, still sovereign, and still keeping an eye on everyone and everything. He hadn’t forgotten David, despite the wickedness playing out all around. While it may have seemed to David as if the foundation of this world was collapsing, the true foundation–the foundation not of this world–was as strong as ever.
And this remains just as true for us today as it did for David. The world is a scary place. Any glance at the nightly news will show us the far-reaching effects of sin in every corner of the globe. Any peruse of movies, tv shows, or even commercials will shove secular culture’s “truth” down our throats, whether we want it or not. As rejection of Christian values grows and the culture of “self” accelerates, it can feel as if we are losing our foundation right out from under our feet.
How can we stand?
“What can the righteous do?” (verse 3b, NIV).
We can choose, like David, to take refuge in God. That doesn’t mean we flee. It doesn’t mean we hide. It doesn’t mean we reject the crown of life bestowed upon us by Christ. It means we remember “the Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne” (verse 4a, NIV) and we live like this is true…because it is.
We should not be surprised when the foundations of this world crack; its downfall is an inevitably foretold thousands of years ago. And though it can be scary and unsettling, we do not have to let it make us feel helpless or defeated. Because our trust is not in the foundation of this world, nor in any of the created things in it. Rather, it is in the Creator Himself, the one who spoke these words:
“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hill be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).
We, as believers in Christ, stand on solid ground, one that does not falter or splinter with the ever-changing ways of society and culture. We may shake but we will not fall so long as we transfix our eyes on the eternal unseen.
“For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face” (Psalm 11:7).