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November 7/8, 2015

If God Is for Us

Jason Meyer | Psalms 11:1-7


     In the LORD I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
     “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
     they have fitted their arrow to the string
     to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
     what can the righteous do?”

The LORD is in his holy temple;
     the LORD's throne is in heaven;
     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.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
     fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
     the upright shall behold his face.—Psalm 11


Have you ever noticed that where you look tends to control your outlook? The way you feel about life seems to directly depend upon where you fix your gaze in life. So what do you see? Some of you have a spring in your step because you see things in your life that give you a sense of security and joy.

Someone comes up to you and says, “How are you doing?” You say, “I am doing great.” They respond, “O good to hear. Why are you doing great?” Think about some possible answers represented by those here today. Perhaps you are looking at school. Classes are going great and you are getting good grades and high scores. Maybe you are focused on relationships. You feel surrounded by friends and just loving life. Some of you are in a relationship with a significant other and you are encouraged because it is going really well. Maybe you are even talking about marriage. Perhaps you are looking at sports. Your team is winning and you are performing well or you are receiving awards or affirming recognition from others.

Maybe a career is your focus. Some have said that they feel affirmed in their vocation as a calling from God for the first time because of the recent sermons you have heard on vocation. Maybe work itself is going well. Perhaps you have been promoted or you are getting lots of recognition and affirmation at work.

Some of you have recently experienced the miracle of a baby being born. Parents are so happy for the baby—and the grandparents are even happier. Do you know what I am talking about? Having a new baby is like drinking a magic potion that transforms your life and your relationships. The demands go way up and the sleep goes way down and in certain settings you actually become the invisible man or woman. You know what I mean, right? You go home and see your parents, but this time something strange happens. You have become invisible. Your parents no longer see you—their child—they vaguely see you, but only as someone holding their grandchild. “Hey remember me—you gave birth to me?” Seriously, it really is a beautiful thing. So if you come today with a spring in your step and joy in your heart, we want to obey the command to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”

But there are just as many people here, maybe more, who would respond and say, “I don’t feel a spring in my step. I feel a burden on my back, pain in my heart, and doubts in my head. I feel one small step away from a panic attack.” Students: Maybe school isn’t going well. Poor grades, fickle friends, mean-spirited classmates, homework piling up. School can just gnaw away at you. Maybe relationships aren’t going well. You just had a break-up, or you are single and wishing someone would notice you. Maybe your family is a mess. Parents always fighting or perhaps they stopped fighting and settled on divorce. Maybe work is not going well. The atmosphere is cut-throat, it doesn’t pay enough and you are struggling and anxious to make ends meet, or the work feels meaningless or mundane, or maybe you just wish you could find a job. And some of you felt a tangible pain in your heart when I mentioned having a baby. You wish you could and you don’t know why God would give you the desire for children without giving you the opportunity to have children. If you come to church today not with a spring in your step but like a runner with a pain in your side, we want to obey the command to weep with those who weep.

Sometimes you see both good and bad and have a hard time knowing how to feel. Let’s say the right eye sees joyful things and the left eye sees painful things. Sometimes you feel cross-eyed because you see a mixture of both light and darkness – bright and broken. Maybe they are just cancelling each other out. Not hot, not cold, just lukewarm or room temperature. You don’t feel really alive – just tired and right now you are going through the motions.

When we allow circumstances to define how we are doing, we are doing what the Bible calls walking “by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). The tangible things we see are what we take to be most real and most true. Walking by sight is a recipe for letting the roller coaster ride of circumstances decisively define you. And let’s be frank. Life is a roller coaster. No doubt. We are all somewhere on the ride.

But what if I told you that there is an entirely different way to look at life and live life? What if I told you that your life doesn’t have to be defined by circumstances? Something deeper can define you because it is what makes the decisive difference in your life. The Bible calls this way of looking at life walking “by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Two people can look at the same circumstances and respond two totally different ways because they are looking with two totally different sets of eyes. Walking by faith says our life is defined by what the “eyes of the heart” see (Ephesians 1:18).

All of this may sound new or weird or interesting. So let us ask what would the difference be between walking by sight and walking by faith? Let’s find out together. This passage has two points in the outline. Verses 1–3 shoe what we see by sight; verses 4–7 what we see by faith. The main point of this passage is that what we see by faith is more decisive and defining than what we see by sight.

1. By sight (vv. 1–3) 

In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, 

“Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string  to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” 

David, the psalmist, here has a friend. I say a friend, because he distances himself from the wicked. The wicked are mentioned in third person as a separate group “they” (v. 2) that the friend sees.

For behold, the wicked bend the bow;
hey have fitted their arrow to the string
     to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.

This friend is obviously concerned about David. By sight, he sees the wicked are like archers. They have David in their sights. So he gives him urgent counsel based on what he sees: “the wicked have you in their sights, don’t you see? You are not safe. Head for the hills. Run and find a safe place to hide from the wicked.” The friend’s conclusion is like the classic line from Forest Gump: “Run, Forest, run.” That is clearly the conclusion of his friend in verse 1:

Flee like a bird to your mountain.

The friend’s assessment of the situation is that the foundations have crumbled and there is nothing else David can do (v.3):

"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” 

The Today’s English Version translation says it well: “There is nothing a good man can do when everything falls apart.” Ever felt that way? Maybe some of you feel that way today. The friend looks at David and says, “Everything in your life is falling apart.” Your house is on fire. The building is going to come crashing down on you. There are no firemen on the way. Get out! Save yourself.

It raises a very important question. Where could he go? Where is this mountain high ground that he can retreat to like a bird? A bird can fly to the top of a tree. Peter Cottontail has a hidey-hole. Where can the righteous run where the wicked won’t be able to shoot them? Is there anywhere that David can go where he is out of range of their arrows?

That is where the friend’s advice falls apart. There is only one safe place where the righteous can safely hide from the wicked. And the psalmist has already found it. Did you notice the very first words of verse 1?

In the LORD I take refuge.

David says to his friend, “You have it all wrong. I already have taken refuge. I don’t need to hide from them because I am already safely hidden in Him. Where could I find higher ground? I don’t need a mountain—I have the Most High!” So now in the second point, David tries to help his friend see with a new set of eyes—seeing by faith. Verses 1–3 are what someone would say based on sight. Verses 4–7 are what David says based on faith.

2. By Faith (vv. 4–7)

      The LORD is in his holy temple; 
the LORD’s throne is in heaven; 
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.
     Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. 
     For the LORD is righteous;
     he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

How the tables have turned. The situation has been totally turned upside down. The friend looked by sight and said David was in danger. David sees by faith and says, “actually, I am safe and my enemies are in danger.” David has taken “refuge in the LORD” (v. 1) and so verse 4 looks up and sees where the LORD is. “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.” Middle C still rings true: God is on the throne.

David’s friend by sight can see who is against him, but David by faith can see more: the One Who is for him. Faith does not deny what sight sees. It just sees more. It puts God into the equation and therefore the answer changes! It is like that line from The Avengers where Loki says “We have an army.” Iron Man responds and says, “We have a hulk.” David’s friend says by sight, “They have archers.” David says by faith, “I have God.”

David’s enemies are in the greatest possible danger and they are in the worse possible situation. The only thing worse than having to run is not having anywhere you could run. David’s soul is out of range of the arrows; his enemies are always in range because they are always in God’s sights. Listen to verse 4: His eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

Verses 5–7 tell us more about this “test” and the divide between the righteous and the wicked.

The LORD tests the righteous,
     but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
     Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
     For the LORD is righteous;
     he loves righteous deeds;
he upright shall behold his face.

Do you see the point? Verse 7 says that the LORD loves the righteous and their righteous deeds because the LORD is righteous. The righteous pass the test and therefore have a one way ticket to behold his face.

Verses 5–6 tell a different story for the wicked. His soul hates the wicked. Psalm 11 may force you to nuance your simplistic “God hates the sin but loves the sinner” cliché. The “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”-type sermons that Jonathan Edwards preached in the early days of America now sound like something from another planet. But they actually sound like Psalm 11. He hates the wicked. And because he always has a clear line of sight, there is nowhere they can run to get out of range of his weapons.

Does faith make a practical tangible difference in life? Yes! It has a “defining” power. It is like the famous scene from Crocodile Dundee where Paul Hogan is walking the streets of New York and a thug comes upon him and takes out a switchblade and says, “Give me your wallet.” The woman with him says, “Give him your wallet.” He says, “Why should I?” Because he has a knife. “O, ha, ha. That’s not a knife. That’s a knife.” And he pulls out a knife with a blade three times as long. The tables were turned. The thug runs.

In the same way, David’s friend says, “Run – they have arrows.” David says, “O, ha, ha, that is not something to fear. Look at the weapons God has. That’s something to fear.” Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” There is something much more dangerous than death: everlasting death. The arrows of physical death don’t compare to Almighty Atomic bomb of everlasting death. In Christ, the best is yet to come. Apart from Christ, the worst is yet to come. He alone makes the decisive, defining difference.

Physical security is a good goal, but a bad god. What good does it do to base your life on things that are true one day and then change the next? All that circumstances can do is give you a false sense of security or a false sense of insecurity. Eternal security is found only in Christ. Everything and everyone in this world may fail you, but Christ never will. You can build your life on something that is true and never changes—his love. Why would we call people to go to the hardest places in the world as global partners if our goal was to minimize all risk and maximize temporary security?

Children, this is not too hard for you to understand. I have seen kids get this even at a tender age. Let me give you an example. You know the times that kids go to the doctor to get a shot? Nobody likes getting a shot. Your parents don’t either. One boy went to the doctor and was going to get a shot and the doctor asked the boy to pick out a sticker first. He picked a batman sticker. The doctor said, “Oh do you like batman?”


“Do you think he can help make you brave?” 

“No. I have batman on my underwear, but Jesus is in my heart. He makes me brave.”

By sight we can see what is against us—but by faith we can see Who is for us and how He who is for us is greater than all that which is against us. Psalm 11 is the Old Testament version of Romans 8:32. The outlook of faith says, “If God is for us, then what can be against us?”

Application: 3 Chairs

So how shall we respond to this text? You could read it in such a way that says, “in order to avoid God’s weapons, I need to pass God’s test.” I will just have to become good enough to pass the righteousness test. He loves righteous deeds and so if I do enough of them, he will love me. Perhaps you don’t see yourself seated in the righteous chair or the wicked chair—you are somewhere in between. Now you say to yourself, “You know I haven’t been as good as I ought to be, so I will try harder to be good enough to move away from the wicked chair so I can eventually sit in the righteous chair.”

But dear friend, this conclusion cuts against the grain of the entire Bible—including the message of the Psalms. Let me try to paint a different picture for you. The Psalms often give us three chairs: the righteous chair, the wicked chair, and God’s chair on high (his throne). But when the New Testament applies the Psalms it tells us that our instincts can be wrong. We are all tempted to put ourselves in the righteous chair. Very few if any would admit to sitting in the wicked chair. So many of us would self-diagnose ourselves as being in the righteous chair and very few would conclude that they belong in the wicked chair.

The New Testament takes us all by the hand and says, “Sorry, you don’t belong in the righteous chair. Come over here, take your seat in the chair of the wicked.” It says we are seated there—we are not moving toward it—we are sitting in it. The whole Bible teaches that there is no one left to sit in the righteous chair—all are in the wicked chair.

Listen to the way that Paul keeps quoting these Psalms in Romans 3:9–18.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: 

“None is righteous, no, not one;   (Psalm 14:3
no one understands;    (Psalm 14:2)
no one seeks for God.   (Psalm 14:2)
All have turned aside;   (Psalm 14:3)
together they have become worthless;   (Psalm 14:3)
no one does good,   (Psalm 14:3)
not even one.”    (Psalm 14:3)
“Their throat is an open grave;   (Psalm 5:9)
they use their tongues to deceive.” 
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”   (Psalm 140:3)
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”   (Psalm 10:7)
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;   (Isaiah 59:7)
in their paths are ruin and misery,   (Isaiah 59:7)
and the way of peace they have not known.”   (Isaiah 59:8)
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”   (Psalm 36:1)

The Bible says we can’t clean up our act enough to move from the wicked chair to the righteous chair. We are convicted and condemned, and we have no chance of approaching the bench for any moral plea-bargaining. We can’t keep our own standards and it is all the more true that we have failed to meet God’s standards.

But we are even worse than we think. We tend to think our problem is “sins” (we occasionally do bad things) but the problem is really “sin” (we are bad). That is why “sin” in the singular is said to be a power that rules over us. We are “under sin” (Romans 3:9) in the sense that sin reigns or rules over us (Romans 5:21; 6:6, 16, 17, 20) and enslaves us (Romans 6:6, 16, 17, 20). Sin’s ruling and enslaving power over us gets expressed in different ways through us.

There is a Romans 1 rebellion and a Romans 2 rebellion. The Romans 1 way believes the lie that life is found in escaping God’s rules so you can rule your own life and live however you want. The Romans 2 way believes the lie that life is found in keeping God’s rules. Which ditch have you crashed the car of your life into? People think the Bible actually supports the second ditch, but it condemns it. They think the Bible says the problem is that they are not being moral enough (ditch #1) and so we just want them become more moral (ditch #2). But the same lie is believed by people who sit in the pew.

I have heard people ask me at a funeral if I was excited to share the gospel with sinners because many people that never come to church will come to a funeral. I said, “Yes, I am praying that some people who never come to church will be saved and I am praying that some people that have been in church all their lives would be saved.” Do you see my point? Churches are filled with people who think things like church attendance saves them. They confuse the church pew with the righteous chair. They are really seated in the self-righteous chair of Romans 2 rebellion.

There is a Romans 1 rebellion and a Romans 2 rebellion, but thank God there is a Romans 3 redemption:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.—Romans 3:23–25

Here is what Paul is saying. Because the righteous chair was left empty (all have sinned), the Son of God left his chair (throne) in heaven and came and sat in the righteous chair. He lived a perfect life. He is in fact is called the Righteous One. He alone deserved to be loved and accepted by God the Father. But then he did something that should take our everlasting breath away. He went and sat in the chair of the wicked. He paid the price for our sin – he suffered the rejection and wrath that we deserved. He cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me.” The righteous weapons of heaven in Psalm 11: fire and sulfur rained down on him. The fire of wrath fell on God’s Son because he sat in that wicked chair at the cross.

Our debt was paid in full at the cross—that is called “redemption,” the price paid to purchase our freedom from sin and hell. Jesus was a sacrifice that swallowed up and satisfied the wrath of God. That is called “propitiation.” Jesus as our substitute sat in our chair so that everyone who received him by faith alone could take his chair and be counted or considered righteous. That is called “justified”: The verdict was pronounced that we are righteous in Christ. The righteousness that God requires of us, Jesus provides for us, and God gives it to us when we receive it by faith. That is why it is called a gift. We didn’t earn it—we just receive it! The eyes of our heart need to be opened to see and receive all that Jesus did for us.


Verse 1 is true now - Verse 7 is coming!

Now there really are forgiven sinners in the righteous chair. Verse 1 is true right now if you are a believer in Christ. Verse 1 and Verse 4 have been joined together. What does it mean to take refuge in the LORD if he is seated in heaven? Listen to the miracle of Colossians 3:1–4.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in heaven. And spiritually, we are already raised up with him. We are united to Christ. We are taking refuge in him. Our life is hidden with Christ in God. O the security of resting in Christ. We are going to sing about it: “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me from life’s first cry to final breath Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand. Til he returns or calls me home—here in the power of Christ I stand.”

And what will be? Verse 7 is coming. We will see his face!

Dale Ralph Davis tells the story of William Dyke. Dyke was a British man who was blinded in the earlier years of his life by an accident. Though handicapped, he threw himself into things, studied hard, and produced a strong academic record. He also successfully courted a beautiful girl, who in spite of his disability, consented to marry him. Sometime before the wedding date, Dyke’s case came to the attention of a skillful surgeon who suggested that there might be something that could be done for Dyke to recover his sight. He put himself into the hands of the surgeon, the surgery was performed, and on the very day of his wedding the bandages were removed. The surgery had been successful. He could see once more! Then it happened. He saw his bride for the first time as she walked down the aisle to meet him at the front of the sanctuary. What a moment of joy! 

And yet it was the proper fulfillment of what had come before. He had already held her hand, heard her voice, gotten to know her heart and prized her love, even without seeing her face. He loved her before he saw her fully (Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, p. 133).

Dear believers, we soon shall see his face. Whatever bandages of partial blindness that remain will be removed and we will see him as he is. He will wipe away every tear. That face will be the terror of those who have rejected him—and they will try unsuccessfully to hide from him. But for believers that face will be the treasure of all of those who have already come to be hidden in him from the wrath to come.

Sermon Discussion Questions


1. By Sight (Psalm 11:1–3)
2. By Faith (Psalm 11:4–7)

Main Point: What we see by faith is more decisive and defining than what we see by sight.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the main point of Psalm 11? What is the outline? How does the main point bring the points of the outline together?
  2. What does it mean to “walk by sight”? Do we see things accurately when we walk by sight?
  3. What does it mean to “walk by faith”? Does walking by faith ignore the things seen by sight? How do faith and sight relate?

Application Questions

  1. We all naturally walk by sight; we are hard-wired to do so. How can we grow in the practice of walking by faith? Describe a situation in your life when walking by faith made a decisive difference.
  2. How does the New Testament apply these Psalms? Of the three chairs discussed in the sermon, which chair are we sitting in? Why?

Prayer Focus
Pray for a grace to keep walking by faith. Pray that it would be more decisive and defining than walking by sight.