Psalm 11:1-7 – When the going is tough



PSALM 11:1-7.




Life can be very tough sometimes! Their are times in our lives when it seems as if one thing after another seems to go wrong. The list is almost endless – family, finance, health, work, school – The car and TV licence is due in the same month, the washing machine breaks down – the iron blows up, the dog needs to go to the vet – mother-in-law come to stay, the children get sick etc.


Sometimes we don’t even know why life seems tough – it just is! We feel down, depressed, dejected …. There can be a whole host of reasons — sometimes it is because of our own weakness or stupidity or sin — sometimes there seems to be no apparent reason at all – BUT we feel that the whole world is against us.


That is, I suggest how David the psalmist, felt when he wrote this Psalm.


1. When the going gets tough – turn to go! [v1b – 3]


Psalm 11:1-3

1 b……….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? (NIV)


There are a number of occasions in David’s life into which this psalm could fit. Possibly when he was being pursued by King Saul before David himself became king — or towards the end of his life when his son Absolom turned against him —these are the two most likely occasions.


In these first 3 verses David describes the advice he is given and the pressure he is under.

Whatever his situation was it would appear that it seemed hopeless and so he turns to his friends for advice and they tell him to  : “Flee like a bird to your mountain.  –  It is highly likely that David was tempted to think like this himself. The forests of  Palestine were in the mountains and that is were the birds would flee from danger. The word “your” – is in the pl. – this is not just David alone but all those who are with him – all those who stand with him as God’s anointed.


The danger that David faces is not only serious but it is also imminent – the enemy has ‘bent his bow’ and ‘fitted the arrow to the string’. This is no idle threat but real danger.


Our natural inclination when trouble comes is to want ‘out’.  This is true of every sphere of life.


ILLUS.: *The teenager who doesn’t get along with a step-parent, or is struggling at school wants to run away from home.

*The husband who thinks he has fallen out of love with his wife wants a  divorce.

*The pastor who is facing difficulty in the church suddenly feels led to another ministry.


[Now there may be situations where relationships are irreconcilable – but that is usually because one or both parties are unwilling to change and work at the relationship.]


However, very often it is that a person wants to escape from reality and they see opting out as the only alternative – this is often the case with alcoholism, drugs-addiction and suicide. These things are seen as an escape – this is their mountain that they are running to – Sometimes the escape is not so obvious or so radical – introverted lifestyle — escape into novels — TV — obsessions with the house — over work to escape pressures at home — there are many ways we try to escape from reality. Often we are even encouraged to do so.


[There are times when we need to withdraw – sometimes it is wise to do so – but only if our motives are right]


David was under pressure – the arrows were beginning to fall thick and fast – and he probably felt that he was being used for target practice. The enemies that David was facing was devious and underhand – they shoot from the shadows [lit. darkness]. They are not out in the open but scheming – they were trying every trick in the book [scroll] to bring David down.


Things were pretty tough for David – it seemed as though his world was falling apart.


3  When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?


What are these ‘foundations’ that David’s advisers are referring to?

Are they the foundations of the State — of society [some translations] — the basic principles of justice and righteousness.


There are many who believe that the foundations of our society are being destroyed!! And I am not disagreeing!


  • Moral and ethical values leave much to be desired


  • Integrity and honesty in business is rare – a person’s word is no longer trusted.


  • The principle of a “fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is violated constantly –  the low pay are abused – the very high paid are greedy and many workers no longer give an honest day’s work for the wages they  receive.


  • Respect for authority is crumbling – in home – school – work –


  • Respect for the sanctity and permanence of marriage is being undermined – the new “no-fault” divorce bill – will make opting out of  marriage easier and quicker than ever before in the country.


When people see society crumbling many want to opt out – many are doing just that in the West – it is becoming fashionable for high flying executives to quit their jobs and buy a plot in Wales or France and live a simple life. What is the motive?? For many it is a selfish protection of self.


David’s advisers ask ‘What are the righteous to do’ in the light of such circumstances?


We are left with the impression that these advisers have no solutions – no faith – “Give up and run away” is their only advice. There is a note of pathetic defeat!


David was not super-human! And Christians today are not super-human! We face the same pressures, discouragement and troubles that is the lot of every person in the world —


BUT that is where the similarity should end!   When the discouraged run away to the mountains – Christians should be like David and do what he did!


This is what the second half of the psalm is about!!


2. When the going is tough – turn to God! [v.1a; 3 – 7]


Psalm 11:1a; 4-7       1 In the LORD I take refuge. ……

4  The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. 5  The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. 6  On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulphur; a scorching wind will be their lot [the portion of their cup]. 7  For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. (NIV)


Their are many who are defiant in the face of trouble – some because of self-confident arrogance and others because of sheer stubborn belligerence. So we need to be clear that in David’s case these things are not so – he is not trusting in himself or being stubborn but his confidence is “in the LORD”.


In the NT the key words we read again and again are “Faith”  and “believe” but in the OT the word is “TRUST”


For many people belief is simply gibing academic assent to certain facts – “Yes – I believe there is a God and Jesus was a historical person who died for our sins….”  BUT this belief makes absolutely no different to the way they live – they have not placed their trust in this person they say they believe in.


ILLUS.: I believe that the elastic cord used by bungi-jumpers is strong enough to stop them hitting the ground. BUT there is no way that I will put my trust in that elastic and leap of a bridge 300 feet high.


In the realm of bungi-jumping I believe but my belief does not extend to trust.


The word Trust  or Refuge [v.1a] has three different but very similar meanings – to take refuge in – to lean on – to roll upon.


* TO TAKE REFUGE IN – whenever Christians talk about this kind of trust in God there will always be someone to accuse them of being inadequate and having to manufacture a God in order to cope.

The truth is that everyone is inadequate at some point in life. There will come a time when even the most self-sufficient person will crumble – old age, illness, some tragedy of life – sooner or later everyone must come to realise that they are inadequate.

It is far more realistic and sensible to admit this and plan for it than to bury your head in the sand.

Everyone needs security – some more than others — home, family, money, work, being appreciated by others, having a well ordered life – some have a set routine and if that is disrupted they fall apart and can’t cope – business executives need flashy suits, plush offices and expensive cars.


We need God in all these physical areas but when it comes to security of the soul the LORD is the only place where one will find refuge – people look elsewhere and some find temporary security but lasting refuge is only in the LORD.


David had learnt this!!


* LEAN ON – Have you ever been told by someone who are talking to about Jesus that “The trouble with you Christians is that you are weak and need a crutch!”


ILLUS.: A girl goes skiing – break a leg – it is set in plaster – is given a stick of wood with a rubber foot on one end and  a padded arm support on the other – Would she object saying I don’t need a crutch!” [Stuart Briscoe]


Crutches are not to be despised they perfectly answer the need of a person with a broken leg – anyone who admits a need welcomes the answer to that need – The problem with many people is that they will not admit their need. They are no more against God than they are against crutches BUT they simply will not admit they need support.


* ROLL UPON – Psalm 22:8 8  “He trusts in [rolls upon] the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” (NIV)


This verse is a prophetic utterance about Christ’s death on the cross. When Jesus was on the cross with all the agony and ridicule he faced he trusted – rolled upon – his Father.  If Jesus needed to TRUST in his Father What makes me think that I can make it through life without rolling my burdens on God.


ILLUS.: Stuart Briscoe tells a story of an old woman an old woman who was walking to the village carrying a heavy load – a farmer in his horse and cart stopped to offer her a lift – after a few moments the farmer noticed that the old lady was hugging her heavy basket on her lap. When he suggested that she put it on the floor she replied, “Oh, no, I’d prefer to hold it on my knees and keep the weight off the horse”.


Laugh! Many of us do exactly that with God!

1 In the LORD I take refuge. …… [place my trust]


Is that where your trust is??



Some in Finance   – Barings Bank and Nick Leeson?? – Trustworthy??!

– Lloyds names??!

Some in Luck       – You only have to look at the National Lottery to see how                                    many!

Some in Political powers – Bill Clinton? Margaret Thatcher?  John Major? The                                         Tories? Labour? Lib. Dems? ….

Some in friends    – many a friends has betrayed a friends – we need to trust our                                friends but even the best friends will fail us sometimes.


Psalm 20: 7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.


David’s trust was in the Lord – WHY?  Well he tells us in v.4-7.


GOD RULES ALL – 4  The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne.


David is not thinking about the Temple in Jerusalem – there was no Temple in David’s time, his son Solomon built that later – NO! David is thinking about the God who inhabits Heaven – the King of the universe seated on his throne!

Simply because God is high and holy does not imply that he is remote and disinterested in the affairs of  people. It is because he is so high that nothing escapes him!


As you sit here this morning God knows exactly who you are, what your circumstances are and how you feel.


GOD SEES ALL – 4b…. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. (NIV)

ILLUS.: Almost every week on “Crime Watch” there is someone who has committed a crime and thought they have got away with it BUT an electronic eye has seen everything – Many public places are under constant CCTV surveillance.


God sees far more than a TV camera – he sees everything – including our thoughts and motives. There is no time when God is not carefully and lovingly watching over his people. Nor does God miss anything that the wicked do!


GOD EVALUATES ALL – 5  The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. (NIV)

God is not only concerned with our actions but also with our motives – this Psalm could well have been written when David was a fugitive from Saul – No doubt Saul justified his pursuit of David as necessary for State security – BUT Saul’s motivation was jealousy – this did not escape God!


The righteous and the unrighteous are constantly under God’s searching gaze!


May you are having a tough time – victimised at work – taken advantage of by family and friends – God knows and he cares ….

AND be comforted by this fact — God rewards all  — the wick get there due and the righteous God’s favour.



– the wicked receive their due   6  On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulphur; a scorching wind will be their lot [the portion of their cup].


There are many who ignore God and live their lives with no reference to him at all – there are many who deliberately commit evil! Their punishment will fit their crime. The language of this verse is a reminder of God’s punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah when the anger of God destroyed those two cities because of their wickedness.


The picture is of God giving each person a cup and the portion for the wicked is God’s anger – this is not simply picturesque language – the pursuit of life without God is a hopeless cause!


– the righteous receive His favour  .

7  For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. (NIV)


How is a person righteous? – only by trusting the LORD. It is the privilege of the righteous to trust the Lord and it is only in trusting the Lord that one can possibly become righteous.


David is described by God as “a man after my own heart” – David was not perfect but his desire was to please God and follow after him – When this is the attitude of our hearts God will turn his face towards us “see his face” – this expression in the OT describes God showing his approval and favour towards a person.


Maybe 1995 has been a tough year for you – Have you trusted God or fled to your mountain.


Who knows what 1996 will hold?!  Maybe life is difficult for you now OR maybe it is going well and you have no major problems. Whatever your situation learn to trust God.


Everyone faces trouble in this life! Jesus Said     John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)


So there may come a time when you feel like quitting your job, leaving your spouse, giving up your studies, going to another Church, emigrating to another country, or opting out of life!! Sometimes changes are good and necessary!!


BUT before you allow discouragement and defeat to overwhelm you ask yourself this question:- “Have I allowed all these things to get on top of me so much that I have forgotten to trust the Lord?”


Trusting God did not remove David’s problems  – at least not immediately – BUT gave him the confidence to face them.

In this life we will always have problems but can you face your difficulties and say with David:- “In the Lord I put my trust ..”


God is our strength and refuge,

our present help in trouble;

and we therefore will not fear

though the earth should change!

Though mountains shake and tremble,

though swirling flood are raging,

God the Lord of Hosts is with us evermore!


PSALM 11:1 – 7.


1. When the going is tough – turn to go!                                                         [v1b – 3]


       “Opt out”

      “The wicked are taking over”

      “What else can you do?”



2. When the going is tough – turn to God!                                                [v.1a; 4 – 7]


      Trust in what?

            take refuge in     }

            lean on                } the LORD

            roll upon             }




Because   God rules all

                   God sees all

                   God evaluates all

                   God rewards all

                      – the wicked receive their due, the righteous receive His favour


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