(H) For the director of the choir, (a psalm) of David. (1) In Yahweh I have sought refuge. How can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain?” (2) For look! The wicked bend the bow. They have fitted the arrow to the string to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. (3) If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (4) Yahweh is in his holy temple. Yahweh’s throne is in heaven. His eyes see, his eyelids examine, the sons of men. (5) Yahweh examines the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence his soul hates. (6) Upon the wicked he rains snares. Coals of fire and sulfur and a scorching wind (will be) the portion of their cup, (7) for Yahweh is righteous. He loves righteousness. The upright shall see his face.
At the heart of this psalm David asks a searching question and provides a convincing answer (vss. 3 & 4). “What can the righteous do?” (vs. 3) reflects the sense of uncertainty expressed in the opening two verses. There the psalmist pictures himself as a bird fleeing from hunters who are intent upon shooting down their prey before it can escape to the mountains (vss. 1 & 2). The assurances David gives show us that the righteous can respond positively (vs. 4). Because Yahweh is on his throne, fully aware of all that is happening, we can confidently entrust ourselves to his care. In the final three verses of the psalm David describes how Yahweh shelters the righteous from those who are seeking their destruction (vss. 5-7).
Two repetitions should be noted. First, the psalmist mentions Yahweh’s “eyes” and “eyelids,” both figures of speech called “personification” in which human characteristics are attributed to God (vs. 4). David’s point is that nothing escapes Yahweh’s notice. He both sees (eyes) and evaluates (eyelids) everything. Then, David uses another Hebrew root three times, each translated by a different English word. Yahweh, who is “righteous” and who loves “righteousness,” will preserve those who live “uprightly” (vs. 7). They will “see his face,” that is, dwell in his presence. Jesus’ statement, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Mt. 5:8), echoes David’s reassuring words.
I. Metaphor: fleeing to Yahweh for refuge (1 & 2)
II. Question: What can the righteous do? (3)
Answer: Yahweh is on his throne. (4)
III. Confident assurance: Yahweh will judge righteously. (5-7)
Being convinced of Yahweh’s righteous rule gives us confidence when the godless are seeking to destroy us.
The implications of David’s question should be examined further (vs. 3). Are the foundations really being destroyed by the actions of the wicked? While it may seem, from our limited perspective, that everything is in danger of falling apart, Yahweh is still on his throne and in control (vs. 4). Are the righteous really unable to do anything about the situations in which we find ourselves? Not if we, instead of despairing, commit ourselves to the loving care of our sovereign God. While we may feel powerless to change things in our own strength, we have every reason to hope if we entrust ourselves to the one who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20).
The next time we struggle like David with the seeming inability of the righteous to counter the evil that surrounds us (vs. 3), we should like David respond with a confession of faith in God’s sovereignty (vs. 4). Yahweh omnipotently ruling over creation from his throne in heaven is precisely the mental image we need to restore peace and joy to our hearts when we are tempted by our circumstances to worry or despair.