TAKING REFUGE Psalms 6–12“O Lord my God, I take refuge in You; save and deliver me from all who pursue me” (Ps. 7:1).When we sense our weakness, we hurry to take refuge in a majestic God who acts on behalf of those who love Him.
David, deeply aware of his weaknesses, took refuge in God (Pss. 6–7). God’s creative work (Ps. 8) and His present rule (Ps. 9) gave the psalmist confidence. Victims can find refuge with God the King (Ps. 10), who dispenses justice from His heavenly throne (Ps. 11).
Understanding the Text
Psalm 6: The Cry of the Faint.
In deep distress David experienced his own weakness, and cried to God for mercy. “I am faint” Ps. 6. Many expressions in the Psalms remind us of our frailties. This psalm of David expresses our weakness graphically. David, aware that he had no strength left to face life’s challenges, described his feelings of weakness. His bones were in agony, his soul in anguish. He was worn out from groaning; he flooded his bed with weeping and drenched his couch with tears. His eyes grew weak with sorrow. These expressions may seem strange coming from a man who boldly faced the giant Goliath and fought fearlessly against Israel’s enemies. But they remind us that there is nothing unmanly about tears, and nothing shameful in feeling helpless. They also remind us that we have complete freedom in our relationship with God to express our feelings to Him honestly. David’s words also help us understand why he is commended as a man after God’s own heart. David was totally honest with himself and with the Lord. He was realistic about his weaknesses, and honest about his fears. Dishonesty—an attempt to maintain a “macho” image—keeps us from acknowledging our weaknesses. And keeps us from full dependence on the Lord. Psalm 7: A Call for Judgment. God’s sovereign rule is partly expressed in His judgments on mankind. David called on God to judge (punish) the wicked and to make the righteous secure. “If there is guilt” Ps. 7:3–5. David did not fear to call on God to judge, for he himself had been careful to do what was right. It’s dangerous to ask God to judge others if we are guilty of their sins! “Arise, O Lord, in Your anger” Ps. 7:6. The Scriptures do teach the anger of God. But God’s anger is unlike ours. (1) It is provoked by sin and injustice. (2) It is righteous, in that it never overreacts nor is vindictive. (3) It may be expressed in present judgments on sinners, but most often is reserved for the final judgment to take place at history’s end. David’s call for God to arise in anger and judge is rightly motivated. David did not rejoice at the prospect of the wicked suffering. His concern was to “bring an end to the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.” We too can call on God to express His anger at the sins in our society. And we can work to implement just laws, intended not to punish so much as to end violence and make the righteous secure. Psalm 8: God’s Majestic Glory. God’s glory is glimpsed in creation, but is most clearly revealed in the Lord’s amazing decision to love and care for humankind. “What is man?” Ps. 8:3–5 David was impressed at the glory revealed in creation (vv. 1–3). Yet what stunned him was the realization that God has chosen to be “mindful” of mankind. The word means to pay compassionate attention to. Secular man scoffs at the notion that earth is any more than a tiny speck in a minor arm of 1 galaxy of 100 million stars in a universe estimated to hold 100 million galaxies! Yet David identified the greatest wonder: God bends down and pays close attention to this particular speck, for it is the home of humanity, and God has chosen to make human beings the focus of His loving care. “You made him ruler” Ps. 8:6–8. It is to man’s honor and glory that God has made us “ruler over the works of Your hands.” This position implies creation in God’s image, for God is ultimate Ruler of all things. It’s important to note the distinction between “rule” and “exploit.” Too often people have taken authority as a right to use things or others for one’s benefit. Here “rule” is actually “responsibility to care for” what God has created. Because God exercises loving care over us, permitting mankind to exercise loving care of the creation is a magnificent gift. It is what David here calls crowning “with glory and honor.” Psalm 9: In Praise of God’s Reign. God is known by His justice. His rule was revealed in the fate of the wicked and David’s enemies. “You have upheld my right and my cause” Ps. 9:1–6. David praised God, for he saw the defeat suffered by his enemies as evidence that God is sitting on His throne, “judging righteously.” Here David may be remembering the military victories won over surrounding nations, which enabled him to extend Israel’s territory and influence. “He will judge . . . in righteousness” Ps. 9:7–10. David celebrated the Lord, for he knew God not only reigns forever, but “will judge the world in righteousness; He will govern the peoples with justice.” Christianity is not, as has been suggested, a faith of “pie in the sky by and by.” It is a faith rooted in the conviction that God rules, and will surely judge. The conviction that God rules enables a person who is oppressed or in trouble to find refuge and hope now. Trust in God may not change our circumstances, but it changes us! The mere fact that we can experience peace despite persecution is the most convincing evidence that God is real. “The Lord is known by His justice” Ps. 9:16. Those who do not know God by faith will learn of Him later, for God is and will be known by His justice. The moral order of the universe means that the wicked will fall into the pits they dig for others, and their own feet will be snared in the traps they have hidden. Hitler’s Germany illustrates this. By treating others brutally, the Nazis became the cause of their own downfall and a vivid illustration of retributive justice. Psalm 10: The Psalm of the Victim. Because God takes a hand in human affairs, the victim can commit himself to the Lord as King. See DEVOTIONAL. Psalm 11: Righteousness Affirmed. The believer can take refuge in God, because God is righteous and will surely punish the wicked. “The Lord is in His holy temple” Ps. 11:4. This phrase is no call to worship, but pictures God standing in the place of judgment. The psalmist identified the “holy temple” with God’s “heavenly throne,” and said that from it God examines the sons of men. Because God hates the violence which the wicked perpetrate on the innocent, we can take refuge in Him. Even though the foundations of our society seem to crumble, we can be sure “upright men will see His face.”
Psalm of the Victim(Ps. 10)
The Greek philosopher Plato argued that it was better to have wrong done to us than to do wrong. Few today would agree with him. Being a victim seems somehow shameful, weak. But in Psalm 10, the poet explained far better than Plato ever could why victims are more blessed than persecutors. If at any time you feel like a victim-misused by your boss, by a friend, family, or even by “the system,” this is a psalm you might turn to. If you do you’ll find no prescription for changing circumstances. What you’ll find is a description of what happens inside the perpetrator, and inside the victim. The perpetrator (vv. 1–11) is described by words like pride, arrogance, and boastfulness. His apparent success feeds these attitudes, and prosperity leads the victimizer to assume he is safe. Others are dismissed as weak, and God either fails to know or doesn’t care. On the other hand, the victim (vv. 12–15) experiences his helplessness. This leads him to commit himself to the Lord. In his suffering the victim has nowhere to turn but to God. God, “King forever and ever” (vv. 16–18), hears the afflicted. The Hebrew concept of “listen” implies not only hearing but responding. God as Ruler of the universe will act to judge the wicked and to defend the oppressed. This psalm of the victim recognizes the fact that injustices may exist for a time. But it reminds us that the people who persecute us do so out of a deadly pride and arrogance, and will surely be punished. On the other hand, being victimized brings us closer to the Lord. How much better to be a victim who knows God, than a victimizer who scoffs at Him!
The next time you suffer as a victim, thank God that you are not the victimizer.