Prayers For Today From Psalms
7. Praying When the Foundations are Destroyed
How much dynamite do you need to blow up a dam? It all depends on where you put it. It’s a lesson in the power of cracks in the foundation. If you know what you are doing, you don’t need an atomic bomb to wreak havoc. A little dynamite in the right place will do the trick. All it takes is a few cracks, well-placed, at the right moment, and the whole thing comes crumbling down.
That brings me to a familiar question from Psalm 11: 3, “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” We don’t know exactly when David wrote this psalm. Many writers connect it to the time when Saul chased David in the wilderness, but we can't be sure. We know the psalm comes at a desperate moment when his enemies seemed to be closing in on him and his friends encouraged him to run away.
This psalm is best known for this question. Many preachers have taken this text and used it to show that when the foundations are destroyed, there is nothing the righteous can do. They are left in a hopeless situation. But that is not what David says.
When the foundations are destroyed, there are many things the righteous can do, but above everything else, they must first get a right view of God.
When a nation celebrates what God condemns, judgment from on high must eventually come. No one can say how, when or where that judgment will come. But as certainly as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as certainly as the great empires of history have fallen, South Africa, America and other nations will not escape God’s judgment.
1. Our Commitment
Look at the first 3 verses that describe David’s predicament - see the commitment we must make as we face an uncertain future.
A. We Will Not Flee v. 1
It is not wrong to flee persecution. Jesus told his disciples, “When they persecute you in one town, escape to another” (Matthew 10: 23). The brave Christians in the Middle East who face beheading by ISIS are not wrong to flee. But sometimes you can’t escape, and sometimes the Lord calls you to stand and face whatever comes. God’s people are not required to prove their faith by staying in one place when they could save their lives by fleeing to the countryside. After all, David hid from Saul for years until the time came for him to become king.
But there are times when we must not flee. Sometimes you have to stand and fight. When David’s friends encouraged him to flee the country, he said, “I have taken refuge in the Lord.” If God cannot protect him, then running to Egypt won’t keep him safe. I apply that same principle to the current moral crisis. I have no doubt that things will get worse in the near future. Open hostility toward Christians will increase. Some will lose their jobs because of their convictions. Others will find their careers frustrated because of overt anti-Christian hatred. Some will face huge fines (bakers who refuse to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding) for standing up for their convictions. Some will end up in jail. Increasingly believers will be marginalized and ridiculed. Christians who dare to speak out against the prevailing tide will be shouted down on social media. Some will receive threatening phone calls. They will discover that other Christians don’t want to be around them.
We will no doubt be disappointed by religious leaders who cave to the gay marriage position. Their itching ears will lead them away from the Bible into the depths of moral compromise. Professing themselves to be wise, they will become fools.
All of this was foretold in the NT. Truly the “perilous times” of 2 Timothy 3 are upon us. How will we respond? Will we run and hide? Will we flee from the battle? Sometimes you have to stand and fight. You may lose the battle. You may be wounded. You may not survive. We have to stand and fight for what we believe. We leave the results in God’s hands.
This is no time to flee, and there is no place to go anyway.
B. We Will Not Fear v. 2
At one point Saul tried to kill David with a spear. Later he sent his army after him. The arrows they were shooting were not metaphorical. When those arrows hit, they drew blood.
“As evangelical Christians, we reject the ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot.
We have no illusions about the battle we are in or the opposition we will face. But truth is not a popularity contest. It is important for our people to know that we will not cede to the courts the right to redefine marriage in our society.” It’s always good to know what you are up against. That way you won’t be surprised when trouble comes.
C. We Will Not Fret v. 3
“Foundations” refers to the moral and spiritual underpinnings of any society. What can the righteous do when the foundations crumble beneath them? Do they quit? Do they despair? Do they run away? Do they become bitter? Do they resort to violence?
For Christians in the Middle East, this is not a rhetorical question. What do you do when your community is destroyed by ISIS?
The foundations are being destroyed before our eyes. What can we do? What do you do when the foundations are destroyed? Answer: It all depends on how big your God is. If you’ve got a small God, you’ve got a big problem. If you’ve got a big God, you'll be okay even when the bad guys seem to be winning.
2. Our Confidence
Notice what David doesn’t say. He doesn’t call for the army to mount an offensive. He doesn’t say, “Let’s run for the hills.” He doesn’t raise money for a big political campaign. In modern terms, he doesn’t organize a social media blitz.
For David (and for us) it’s not about the what; it’s about the who. To be sure, tactics matter. There is certainly a time to go to war to protect your nation. We’ve seen clearly that it matters greatly who the president is. There can be no doubt that social media played a big part in the recent changes in attitudes about gay marriage. In times like these, we need God first and foremost. When the foundations are being hacked away, we’ve got to go back to the First Principles. That’s what David does -
A. God’s Presence v. 4
This is David’s way of saying God is everywhere. He is sovereign over the whole universe. I admit that it doesn’t always look that way. When you read the headlines, it can seem as if the whole world is spinning out of control. We know ISIS wants to attack around the world. With the rising spiral of violence in our world and our own slippery slide into the pit of moral corruption, it’s easy to conclude that God either is not on his throne or he doesn’t care what happens on the earth or perhaps there is no God at all.
But right at this point we see the fundamental difference between a believer and an unbeliever. We believe there is a God who sits on the throne of the universe, a God who is absolutely sovereign, a God whose ways are far above our ways, a God to whom the whole human race must someday give an account.
Our God is never surprised, never asleep, never startled by evil, never shocked by natural disasters, and never astonished by legal and political decisions.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If you can believe that, you won’t have any trouble with the rest of the Bible. The Bible begins with a declaration, not an argument. The Bible simply declares that God is, and that he created all things.
Where is God? He’s not nervously pacing heaven wondering, “Who will I get to replace Zuma, Obama, Mugabe?” Not at all. At this critical moment, God is where he has always been. Seated on his throne.
B. God’s Judgment v. 4 - 6
No one gets away with anything. Though the wheels of God grind slowly, they grind small. Be sure your sin will find you out.
These words remind us that there is an eternal difference between the righteous and the wicked. That difference is sometimes easy to see, sometimes not so easy. Go to a rugby match and look up in the stands, it’s easy to tell who is rooting for the Lions and who for the Sharks. The fans let you know which side they are on. But spiritual allegiance isn’t always easy to determine. Go to a cemetery and walk around. In that quiet setting, saints and sinners rest side by side, 6 feet under the green grass. You can’t tell the righteous from the wicked simply by reading the gravestones.
But God knows. God sees. He reads every heart, knows every thought, hears the words whispered in the darkness. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
A day of judgment is coming for those who mock God and reject His Word. Reminding us of Sodom and Gomorrah, God promises to rain burning coals and sulfur on the wicked. The scorching wind of judgment will wipe the smile off their faces. We dare not water down these solemn words.
C. God’s Deliverance v. 7
The Lord stands up for those who stand up for him. He takes the side of those who side with him. David stands by faith, “Though the battle may be hot and we are surrounded, God will win in the end.” This is the true position of those who believe God and his Word.
We can complain about the sorry state of affairs in our country and culture and how bad the times are. Remember -“These may be bad times, but they are the only times we are given. Remember, hope is still a Christian virtue, and despair is a mortal sin.”
These are bad times because our leaders are spiritually corrupt and morally blind. But why should we despair? If God is on the throne, then we should rejoice because these are our times. We don’t have to ask, “What will it be like in 100 years?” The great good news is, I don’t have to stay alive for another 100 years because I serve a God who is eternal. He will still be on the job long after I go down to the grave. That’s David’s final answer to the many perplexing problems of this life. Those who know and love the Lord will see his face.
Today we walk by faith. Today we stumble along through this life. Today we struggle. But today is not the last day. There is a better day coming for the people of God when all will be made right. Between now and then we will have many days when the foundations seem to be crumbling around us and the wicked rise up and threaten us.
But the wicked will not have the last word. Those who scoff at the Lord and his Word will be consumed with the fire of God’s judgment. Between now and then we move forward by faith, believing that our trials are sent by God to improve us, not to destroy us.
Take the long view because we’re in this for the long haul. Make no mistake. The foundations are being destroyed right in front of our very eyes. Long-held moral values are being jettisoned in favor of a new morality that is really no morality at all. What can the righteous do?
I have no political advice to offer even though I’m in favour of political action. Christians need to take their convictions with them into the voting booth. We ought to write letters, speak out, refuse to be intimidated, support good candidates, and run for office ourselves. I’m not in the “roll over and play dead” category. We cannot retreat, and we will not run away. We will not give in to fear.
When the foundations are being destroyed, we need a fresh view of God and a long view of history. The God who sees all things will judge the wicked and bring them down in the end, and the righteous will see God’s face.
“Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. We pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.” That strikes the right balance for all of us in these difficult days. How should we live?
We need tenacious, winsome courage. Tenacious means we don’t give up. Winsome means we face life with a smile, not a scowl. Courage means we do what needs to be done. Tenacious means we keep on keeping on. Winsome means we don’t lose our temper and say something stupid. Courage means we take our stand for the truth.
Tenacious means we keep on praying. Winsome means we are cheerful when others attack us. Courage means we do hard things without complaining. Tenacious means we love people anyway. Winsome means we display grace under pressure. Courage means we speak up instead of wimping out.
Fear not, child of God. No one knows what will happen tomorrow. But our God is faithful to keep every one of his promises. In this hour of moral crisis, God has opened a huge door for gospel proclamation. When the foundations of society are destroyed, we can say to men and women everywhere, “Christ is the firm foundation, the cornerstone that will never be shaken.”
Prayer - “Lord, grant me tenacious, winsome courage. When I am tempted to give up, help me to keep going. Grant me a cheerful spirit when things don’t go my way. Give me the courage to do whatever needs to be done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.