For the director of music. Of David.
1 In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
In the Lord I take refuge – This seems to be have been a settled resolution even before the temptation to ‘flee’ came to him. We do well to arm ourselves against adversity before it happens: there may not be opportunity to think or pray it through in the heat of crisis.
The crisis that prompted this psalm is not described.
How then can you say to me – The psalmist is responding to some ‘demoralising advice’ (Kidner). We think of Peter’s advice to Jesus, Mt 16:22.
The advice may or not be sincere; but it is certainly dispiriting. Who can argue against these fact? The temptation to ‘flee’ is supported by a sense of immediate danger, v2, and a suggestion that David’s world is being undermined, and that he is powerless to do anything about it.
David is resolved that he will take refuge in the Lord, not by making a quick escape to a mountain.
The foundations are being destroyed – A disorientating experience, suggestive of the disintegration of a society where justice and the rule of law have been replaced by anarchy and corruption. Many subsequent generations have felt (rightly or wrongly) such despair.
4 The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.
5 The Lord examines the righteous,
but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.
6 On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.
David’s situation has seemed overwhelming. But it is ‘dwarfed’ (Kidner) by a consideration of the Lord, who is enthroned over all, the righteous and all-seeing judge.
He observes – With patience, not inertia. The attitudes and actions of both the righteous and the wicked will examined, and the Lord will act decisively against the latter.
Fiery coals and burning sulphur – recall the destruction of Sodom, Gen 19:24.
7 For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face.
‘If the first line of the psalm showed where the believer’s safety lies, the last line shows where his heart should be. God as ‘refuge’ may be sought from motives that are all too self-regarding; but to behold his face is a goal in which only love has any interest.’ (Kidner)