David and Saul (1885) by Julius Kronberg. (from here)

King David did not begin his life as a king. He started his life as a simple shepherd boy who found himself unjustly hated by his king, King Saul.  Even though David was willing to serve Saul and gave him loyal service both as a soldier and as his personal musician, Saul feared and hated David. Why did Saul hate David? As David matured, Saul saw David as a rival. Saul understood David was a better soldier and a more able leader. In time Saul also realized that God had appointed David to replace him. Therefore, Saul repeatedly tried to kill David.

Imagine being a young man. Imagine being hotly pursued by an angry, jealous, powerful king. What would you do? Psalm 11 describes how David wanted to respond.

Psalm 11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Lord a Refuge and Defense.

For the choir director. A Psalm of David.

11 In the Lord I take refuge;
How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain;
For, behold, the wicked bend the bow,
They [a]make ready their arrow upon the string
To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in His holy temple; the [b]Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
Upon the wicked He will rain [c]snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous, He loves [d]righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.

In his commentaries, John Calvin observes:

This psalm consists of two parts. In the first part, David recounts the severe assaults of temptation which he had encountered, and the state of distressing anxiety to which he had been reduced during the time of his persecution by Saul. In the second, he congratulates himself on the deliverance which God had granted him, and magnifies the righteousness of God in the government of the world. (from here (sacred-texts.com))

Verse 3 begins the transition with a question. Curiously, however, this famous verse has two distinctly different translations. The translation John Calvin used is similar to this one.

Psalm 11:3 1599 Geneva Bible (GNV)

For the [a]foundations are cast down, what hath the [b]righteous done?

About this verse Calvin observes (from here (sacred-texts.com)) that David’s “foundations” were completely overthrown. That is, in the eyes of the world David was like a building that had fallen down and become a heap of ruins after its foundations had been undermined. Yet David himself was guiltless. He had done nothing to deserve this fate.

Charles H. Spurgeon (from here (archive.spurgeon.org)), on the other hand, thinks that “foundations” refers to the fact that under King Saul’s reign the foundations of of law and justice had been destroyed by an unrighteous government. Therefore, the desperate question: “What can the righteous do?

Which translation is correct? Both, perhaps. In either case the answer is the same. Whether we have been personally overthrown or the foundations of our society of have been shattered, we need to put our trust in the Lord. We need to have confidence that our Lord is righteous, that He loves righteousness, and that if we put our faith in Him we will behold His face.

Additional References

Note: This post is part of a series. Posts on Psalm 1 – 10 can be found at this link.

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