Responding to Terrorism: Psalm 11

November 12, 2017

A note to readers: Today’s post is part of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Psalms, beginning to end, by focusing on a Psalm each Sunday. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.

Psalm 11 (NIV)

In the Lord I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
    they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
    at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.
The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
    fiery coals and burning sulfur;
    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.

CONSIDER THIS

Terrorism is becoming an increasing presence in our society. In recent years we have seen attacks in an elementary school, several colleges, Times Square, a Sikh Temple, the Boston Marathon, a Bible study in Charleston, SC, a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs, a Nightclub in Orlando, a Shopping Mall in Minnesota, an outdoor country musical event in Las Vegas, and, most recently, a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The first question that we ask when we hear about these horrible events is “why?” What could possibly be the motive for such a horrendous act on innocent people? Psalm 11 is part of a number of psalms which actually draws us into the inner thought life of the wicked. The psalmist is feeling under siege at every turn. The voice of fear tells him to “flee like a bird” (vs. 1) to a place of safety because the very “foundations are being destroyed” (vs. 3). The psalm pictures the eye of the wicked aiming his bow and arrows from the shadows to shoot the “upright in heart” (vs. 2). Think about it. The Psalmist is picturing the wicked as taking aim and shooting the righteous when they least expect it. Sound familiar? The downfall of the righteous seems so inevitable that the wicked declare, “What can the righteous do?” (vs. 3).

Perhaps, like the psalmist, you feel under siege and that the very foundations of faith and faithfulness are collapsing on every side. You feel like fleeing like a bird to the mountains. This psalm acts as a ‘wake up call’ Psalm 11 powerfully reminds us that despite whatever difficulty we are facing, “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne” (vs. 4). We must never forget that God is the sovereign Lord over the world. He is the Lord over human history. Just as verse 2 pictures the eyes of the wicked aiming arrows at us, verses 4 and 5 remind us that the eyes of God see the wicked; he “examines them” (vs. 4) and His eyes also “examine the righteous” (vs. 5). He will expose and overcome the evil of this world.

The country will debate gun control, mental health issues, the role of traveling gun shows, the influence of violent video gaming on the young, and so forth. Those are all important debates. Yet, as Christians we also recognize that none of these “solutions” will solve the problems we face without a spiritual awakening in this country. The “foundations” must be restored. The gospel must be preached. Lives must be changed. Hearts must be re-oriented. Healthy families must be built. None of this is legislatively possible. None of this can happen quickly. But, all of this can happen if we commit ourselves to Christ and never forget that “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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