Taking Refuge In The Lord

Psalm 11 | REAP

By: Mark Lopez

We love to use the REAP Bible method to mine the treasures of God’s Word. The REAP method involves four steps: READ, EXAMINE, APPLY, PRAY.

READ – What is happening in this passage? Who’s speaking? Who’s the audience, then and now? What’s the situation?

At the opening of the psalm, David is making a profession of faith and trust in the Lord in response to a threat of danger. It seems he is advised to flee to another place of refuge in response to the threat rather than in The Lord. The answer to the question of verse 3 is found in verses 4-7, pointing to God’s Holy nature, His sovereignty – watching and testing us and His righteous hatred toward the wicked.

David was directing this psalm to the choirmaster, to equip the people of Israel with a song to be sung in all sorts of trials. The psalm also applies to the people of God today who may be tempted to seek refuge in anything other than Lord. The situation David faces is whether to take refuge in his “mountain” or in The Lord.

EXAMINE – What things are emphasized, repeated, related? What do we see about God and about his character? What is God doing in this passage? What do you see about man?

God is a faithful refuge! He is on high in His holy temple. His throne is in heaven! He cares for us! His soul hates the wicked and on them, He rains coals! He is righteous; He loves righteous deeds! He is in control of all things we face. In love and by grace he tests the genuineness of our faith and reminds us of the refuge that is in Him and through Him alone. In righteousness, He judges the wicked according to their portion.

A profession of faith in The Lord must be put into action regardless of the threat. If taking refuge is necessary, we take it in the Lord, never away from Him. The righteous know in whom they take refuge.

Let’s examine the text a little closer beginning at verse 1. “In the Lord I take refuge.” (Ps. 11:1) What does this mean for believers? Well, in Ps.9:9, we read, “the Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” – See three other texts that describe the Lord as a fortress in: Ps. 91:2, 2 Sam. 22:2 and Ps. 46:7. Believers will face many trials: governments trying to redefine moral truth, radicalized individuals- foreign and domestic-seeking to harm us and now a pandemic that threatens our economy, changes our day to day routines and causes discomfort because we are forced to consider the reality of death and already beginning to see much of it. The Lord tells us in Isa. 41:10, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” So, when a believer says, “in the Lord I take refuge,” it means that they believe and know: God is righteous, He is a fortress, a stronghold, and His mighty right hand is over all things and that He alone is our true help.

“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”(Ps. 11:4). Do you see a connection also in Ps. 9:4, 7-8? Previously, we read about what the Lord does from His throne in Ps. 9:12. Look at the connection between Ps. 10:14, that says, “but you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands;” and Ps. 11:4 that tells us, “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.” It’s just amazing to have this truth with us, and this is just between two Psalms! Believers have an entire Bible filled with truth and power and mercy and grace. With utter confidence, Christian, you can trust the Lord because He is over all and sees all. Ps. 9 and 10 describe the Lord’s righteousness in judging the wicked and seeing to it that the wickedness of man will not prevail. 

What Ps.11:4-5 describes is that The Lord sees how believers respond to difficult times. A good reference to this sovereign gift of testing grace is found in Heb. 12:3-17, with emphasis on v.3, 7, 11, 12 and 15-17. Take heed, believer! Heb.12:15-17 is warning us not to flee from God’s testing grace and fall into sin – impenitent sin. “Jesus endured from sinners hostility against himself, so that we may not grow weary or fainthearted”- (Heb. 12:3, paraphrased). A better reference is found in 1 Pet. 1:3-9, emphasis on v.6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This truth of God’s grace brought me to tears and weeping. His kindness should lead us to repentance. The Lord tests the genuineness of our faith. Our faith is more precious than gold! I like how the ESV study Bible commentary simply states how we should respond to the opening of Ps. 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous,” it says, ‘thus the faithful should see their danger as an opportunity to prove that their faith is genuine.’ 

Now, in contrast, v.5 also says, “his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” In our study of the previous Psalms, we have read how the Lord deals with the wicked. For example, Ps.5:4 says “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness.” So here in Ps. 11:6, we have yet another example. In the same way, the Lord judged Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and sulfur, He will do the same, according to the unrighteousness of the wicked, “the portion of their cup.”- v.6. Job 21:20 says, “Let their own eyes see their destruction, and let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty.”

The Lord “judges the world with righteousness;” (Ps. 9:8). For, Ps. 11:7, “the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” This is a wonderful and beautiful promise! – Reflect on this for a while. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). We have no righteousness of our own. So, how do we become upright and righteous? Through faith in the finished work of the resurrected Jesus! Romans 3:21-22 says, “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (See also 1 John 3:2).

APPLY – How should these truths change the way we live? What can you do, through Christ, to walk in obedience to what you’ve seen in the passage?

Christians are to flee to the refuge of The Lord! Nothing and no one else can provide what The Lord can; which brings me to the next emphasis found in v.3. “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The definition of the word “foundations”, in the Blue Letter Bible app is, – a basis, (figuratively) political or moral support. What I understand this verse to be asking is, if all of creation was to fail; the worldly things we may rely on, our comforts, our norms, if these things are destroyed… If our ability to meet together as a body does not exist because of a pandemic… “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The answer is, we go back to the profession of faith that started this Psalm, “In the Lord I take refuge.” The foundation of our faith will never be destroyed! We may be tempted to seek refuge in our own understanding and in our possessions. We may be tempted to drop our guard, we may even be tempted to adopt an attitude, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”- we may be tempted to sin. NO!! The answer to the question, Christian, is to trust in The Lord.

If we know the Lord is such a perfect refuge, a stronghold, and a fortress, why would we consider seeking refuge in anything or anyone apart from The Lord? Think about how birds fly. It sometimes looks erratic, irregular and unpredictable. It also looks aimless, but they often go up high in trees or deep into a bush out of sight. I don’t think they know faith and trust, but instinctively they know where to find refuge and protection. After David says, “In the Lord I take refuge” he asks, “how can you say to my soul, Flee like a bird to your mountain.” The definition of, “to my soul,” could mean – man, me, mind, mortally, own person, thy- self, them. (taken from the Blue Letter Bible app interlinear/concordance). As I look at this definition, there are some implications that suggest this question may have even been a thought to himself. David could have been asking himself in his mind, “how can you say to my soul, flee like a bird to your mountain?” – First, let me be clear that the emphasis is not necessarily “fleeing like a bird.” The emphasis is the temptation being presented to us to see refuge somewhere else other than in The Lord ultimately. 

So, the emphasis of v.1, is that we should not act merely instinctively, in our flesh, which can be erratic, irregular and aimless. There can be found no lasting refuge in creation. No, instead, we find it in the Creator, according to the Spirit, according to faith and the knowledge of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” says Prov. 1:7. Luke 12:4-5 exhorts, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you fear him!” David needed refuge from the wicked who “bend the bow” and who “fitted their arrow to the string” to shoot at the upright. Did David ever flee from physical danger? Yes, he did! But he did not flee from the refuge of the Lord. He trusted the Lord’s protection ultimately. He had faith in the Lord’s will and sought the Lord’s council. David’s fear of the Lord and his knowledge of Him, is what allowed him to say with great confidence, “In the Lord I take refuge.” (See references, 1 Sam. 23:9-12, 1 Sam. 23:14, 19, 1 Sam. 24:2, 1 Sam. 26:19, 20)

Faithful, brothers and sisters, we have the promise of eternity! Let us take refuge in the Lord! More difficult times may come! Stand firm on the solid foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, now! Believe, believers! Receive Gods righteousness in Christ! Stand with the strength of The Lord, endure to the end, and “behold his face.”

As you consider the application of this text to your own life, now – ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I need to repent?
  • What truths do I need to believe?
  • What false beliefs do I need to turn from?
  • What can I do-empowered by the Holy Spirit-today to apply this Psalm?

PRAY – How does this passage inform and direct our prayers? What words or language does it give us?

Pray with your family or privately through this Psalm and your application, asking God to change your heart and to change your life, based on the time you’ve spent in God’s Word. I’ll end this study and leave you with this exhortation…

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)