Psalm 11: The LORD Is in His Holy Temple

This one just says it’s “Of David” and I’m not sure if that means it’s written by him or that it uses his chord.

Psalm 11

1In the LORD I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
2for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
3if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”a

4The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5The LORD tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7For the LORD is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

This one gave me the same feeling I get listening to someone being all judgey. I don’t like anything that tells me God hates anyone, even the wicked. I can go with wicked deeds or even thoughts, but hating people for their mistakes?

Then again, there do seem to be some pretty strong lines drawn along the way to this point that delineate the difference between people who aren’t perfect and “the wicked”. The wicked ones are those who actively work against God and God’s relationships with the people. People who aren’t perfect are everyone. Still, I have a hard time with it. It just makes me feel wrong. I know that’s not a great place to have a theological discussion from, but these are psalms and songs and poetry and they have as much to do with the feelings the invoke as the words that they are written with.

I don’t want to sound like I’m defending people who love violence either. That’s an interesting choice of words there. What constitutes loving violence? Some would say that God Himself loves violence, given how much He orders it in the Old Testament. Then again, loving violence and feeling the need for it to be acted out sometimes are different things. I get how that’s not a great distinction for some, but even self-defense is violent.

I also didn’t particularly feel like the two halves went together. It took me a second read through to realized that the first half was a quote from someone else who seems to be trying to scare the person who is writing it. The second half doesn’t feel like a reply, but I do get why. He wants the reader to remember that the righteous are to do nothing but take refuge in God. It starts off feeling a little defeatist but it’s meant to remind the reader that it’s not up to them, they can’t stop the wicked from being wicked.

Coincidentally, I recently heard a similar response to a question about what women can do in the workplace to keep men from sexually harrassing or assualting them. The speaker that it was asked to paused for a long moment before saying that there was nothing that women could do for that. Saying that if she were to tell us there was something we could do implies that there was something that we do that causes it, which is not the case.

So maybe the psalm isn’t as defeatist as it originally seems either. Perhaps the point is to appropriately assign blame to the people who do wicked deeds rather than their victims.

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